Sunday, July 25, 2010

No trolls, but lots of (book)worms

South Bank Book Market
Originally uploaded by Miss Gab.

It's a good thing I finally worked out how to find Waterloo Bridge from the station, because just underneath the giant structure is The South Bank Book Market. Every day until 7pm, trestle tables are stocked with second hand books covering just about any subject you can imagine. Given that the day was so nice, and I had no plans at all, I had to go check it out.

The dude in the white hat shadowed me as I wandered from trestle to trestle. At first I thought he was one of the vendors but no, he was just a fellow book worm, trying to find a book to catch his eye.

Along the trestles there were lots of tattered, leather-bound books and some of them were obviously quite special because the vendors had lovingly wrapped them in plastic to protect them. Those books were about 25GBP, depending on the condition. Not knowing anything about rare books, I'm not sure if that amounts to a bargain or not.

I was tempted by quite a few titles, but I settled on "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco (saw the film and loved it); and "The Travels of a Fat Bulldog" by George Courtauld, the story of a Royal Courier who travels to British embassies around the world carrying the Queen's official, confidential correspondence. The blurb assures me that the book is funny, but we'll see. Both of these books were 3GBP each and they were in very good condition, so I considered that sum to be perfectly reasonable.

Given it was such a nice day, I wandered along the South Bank precinct that is very similar to the North Terrace riverbank back home. To my left was the South Bank Centre, home to many arts & festival events in London - big exhibition halls and the like. To my right, the River Thames with loads of boat activity today - I guess everyone wanted to take full advantage of the sunshine.

The South Bank Centre is currently celebrating Festival Brazil, and there were lots of advertisements for music, theatre and dance events associated with it. I stopped to watch a presentation by a circus troupe who were trying to get members of the crowd to join in with them. Some poor schmuck volunteered to learn how to cartwheel and it was excruciating to watch. The poor guy just couldn't do it - but fair play to him; he squatted and flipped the entire length of the rubber mat, encouraged by rows of kids applauding his efforts. Sometimes I am so uncharitable.

I wandered along the riverbank, past Westminster Bridge (Aquarium on my left, Big Ben across the river to my right) and I headed towards Lambeth Bridge.

For reasons known only to the universe, I followed some signs for the Imperial War Museum. I am not interested in warfare of any kind, and even less interested in Britain's role in warfare of any kind, so I'm not sure what inspired me to keep walking. Perhaps it was the prospect of exploring the road less travelled (which given my history is a completely stupid idea as it usually ends up with me getting lost). But on I trudged.

Approaching the Imperial War Museum, I was surprised to realise just how many people were going through there. So many tourists, with so many children, it was a nightmare. I couldn't make sense of the place and the signs for the exhibits were so small, I couldn't work out how the museum was laid out, or how I should approach my visit. I got stuck behind a young family with two kids and the mother decided to read each and every information panel to her kids; it just about killed me. Mum, Dad, two kids and a stroller stopping dead every 6 feet to read - ALOUD - the world's most boring information panels. Yikes.

Perhaps it was the information panels, perhaps it was the crowds, but most likely it was the air conditioning - bottom line was I left the place after about 15 minutes. I will read about it online though, to see whether I should be going back sometime - when the Museum is closed to everybody else but me, perhaps.

I didn't spend a great deal of time outside today but I enjoyed just enough society to say that I have had a lovely weekend. I got to explore a bit more of the city and I didn't get lost. Best of all, I discovered two places this weekend - the Borough Market and the South Bank Book Market - that I suspect will become regular haunts while I am living here. Food and books - easy ways into my heart.

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