A Saturday Jaunt to Bath

img_0875We heard that The Bookshop Band would be playing at a free seasonal concert on Saturday night, so on something of a whim we planned a daytrip to Bath. Even though it wasn’t exactly on the way (my husband’s regular, feeble refrain), I take any opportunity of being in the Bath/Bristol area to make a pilgrimage to Bookbarn International. This was a delightful surprise since I’d been in late July and never thought I’d get to go again this year.

This turned out to be our best trip yet. We were unrushed for once, so had plenty of time for browsing. I had particularly good luck in the orange-spined all-Penguins section, and even found three books I wanted from the “Unsorted” shelves, which was something of a miracle. We finally tried out their newish café and got a darned good cup of coffee and a cake each.

All told, we came away with a better haul than on any previous visit: 13 books for me, 10 nature books plus a River Café cookbook for my husband, and eight books to give away as presents. And for all that (books + refreshments), less than £40. Add on a couple of books from a charity shop in Bath and I got some real steals – no book more than £1.

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I’m particularly pleased with:

  • Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde
  • Writers & Company, a collection of Canadian radio interviews with authors
  • A signed copy of Francis Wheen’s How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World
  • An Actual Life by Abigail Thomas – I love her memoirs so have been looking forward to trying her fiction.

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Bath Abbey

This was my fifth trip to Bath, which was looking lovely and golden in the wintry afternoon light but was certainly bustling, to put it politely. More accurately, you could barely move through the main streets, particularly around the Christmas market. At one point we weren’t sure we were going to get any hot food for dinner – it had never occurred to us to book ahead, and the brasserie and pub we tried were both full. Luckily the Real Italian Pizza Co. had a table for two, and I enjoyed a gloriously doughy calzone before we headed up to St Swithin’s Church for a holiday concert featuring Songways Choir and The Bookshop Band.

St Swithin’s has had a church on site since the tenth century, a sort of age we Americans can barely get our heads round. Jane Austen’s parents married here; so did William Wilberforce. It was something of a bittersweet occasion because the couple who make up The Bookshop Band are moving to Wigtown, Scotland’s town of books, in January and expecting their first booklet in May. So this was most likely my last chance to see them for quite a while. They only played a mini-set of five songs after the choir performance. Most of these I’d heard before, but “Wagons and Wheels,” based on Carol Birch’s Orphans of the Carnival (which I have on my Kindle and have been meaning to read), was new to me and a highlight.

Earlier in the evening we’d had a chance to stop by Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, the independent bookshop in Bath where the band got their start. It’s such a cozy and welcoming shop, and I added a goodly number of books to my wish list while I was there. It’s something of a shame that we never got to see them perform in situ (though I don’t know how more than 20 people could fit in the upstairs space!), but I’ve managed to see them live three times and by funding their 2016 recording project have had excellent music streaming to my computer the whole year.


Thanks to last night’s holiday concert and the university carol service we’ll be attending tomorrow evening, I should certainly be feeling in the Christmas spirit. Look out for my two posts on seasonal reading coming up this week.

Picked up any secondhand bargains recently?

Are you feeling the Christmas spirit?

17 responses

  1. Sounds like a wonderful day. So happy for you.

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  2. What a splendid day trip and a fabulous book haul, I miss being able to do this kind of thing! There is a once a year book sale here, but not coming any time soon sadly. The Christmas spirit and the markets have arrived so, so plenty of festive cheer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do love European Christmas markets. The German one in Leeds when I was a postgrad student was especially nice. It was just too crowded in Bath to enjoy it, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually Bath is one of the sister cities of Aix-en-Provence and every year, we have a ‘twin cities’ Christmas festival as well, so a little bit of Bath festive cheer will be soon on its way here!

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    2. Oh, how fun! We keep meaning to get involved with our town’s twinning association.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Lord, that sounds dreamy. Your haul looks great—Hilary Mantel’s Fludd is a wondrous book, as is Ali Smith’s The Accidental. (Also, I love “expecting their first booklet”! N’awww.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read much of Mantel’s fiction apart from her Cromwell books. Fludd looked refreshingly short (186 pages), and I liked the idea of a Church novel set in the 1950s. Interestingly, the Godwin novel I chose also has a clergy theme, but is set in America. I’ve only ever read Godwin’s memoir, Publishing, so it will be good to try her fiction.

      I’ve heard The Accidental is Smith’s best, so I hope it will be the one I finally love. Her other fiction has been kind of hit and miss for me (though I haven’t read How to Be Both).

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      1. Ooh, I’ve only read The Accidental and How to be both, but I absolutely loved the latter and (to the best of my knowledge; it was a while ago) really really liked the former. I hope they both work for you!

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    2. I’ve read two of her story collections and three of her novels, and the only one I would rate higher than 3 stars was Artful (which is not exactly fiction). Actually, I’m going to be reviewing her latest novel here later this week.

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      1. Ooh! I’d like to read that one. But I guess it didn’t really do it for you?

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    3. Autumn? Meh. I have mixed feelings.

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      1. I will look forward to reading them 🙂

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  4. Perfect day out, lovely. Bath is one of my favourite places.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mine too. I did all the regular touristy stuff (the baths, the Jane Austen centre, the abbey, the Royal Crescent) on my first visit as a study abroad student, but I keep going back to soak up the atmosphere and architecture.

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  5. Sounds like a great day and kudos on the books. We went and got our tree this morning and it is snowing here, so definitely feels like Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I envy your snow! We hardly ever get any in this part of England. We plan to get a tree on Sunday.

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  6. What a lovely day – love the pic of you and your piles of books! I have done well in the charity shops as you’ve seen from my blog, now pausing for Christmas and my birthday in Jan so I don’t get any clashes. And about 9 books have already come in via Secret Santas, so …

    Liked by 1 person

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