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Learning from Film Photography

27 Jan

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A Spontaneous Trip to Rochester

28 Mar

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I’m not the most spontaneous person, I’m a planner; I love to write packings lists, to do lists and make plans. I like to know in advance what will happen tomorrow, in a week or in a month’s time. But you can’t plan everything in life! So it’s really nice to have a boyfriend who is much better at doing impulsive and spontaneous things than I am. It gives me experiences I wouldn’t otherwise get.

It was the same a couple of weekends ago. We had just finished eating lunch one Sunday afternoon, when the sun broke free from the clouds, making our living room nice and sunny. It made Daniel suddenly suggested we should go for a ride, as it was a shame to waste the day inside. So off we went on a little impromptu adventure to a secret location he wanted to surprise me with.

The location turned out to be the historic town of Rochester. Like many other places in Kent that I am still only slowly starting to discover, I hadn’t been to Rochester before. The name of the town did however ring a bell, as I remembered Daniel telling me something about Rochester and what is supposed to be England’s largest second hand bookshop. So when I realised that we had ended up there, you can imagine how excited I was!

The bookshop itself didn’t look very large from the front but once inside it turned out to extend on and on towards the back over several interweaving, maze-like floors. The shop was narrow and it was hard to get around; there were floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with books along the walls, tables in the middle of the rooms weighing under the many stacks of worn hardbacks, glass cabinets with carefully placed, old cloth and leather bound editions from as early as the 18th Century with gilded pages and illustrations, and boxes on the floor with old, second hand maps of every imaginable place in England.

The smell of dusty pages and old ink in the shop could beat most libraries and the floor creaked with every footstep, especially up the steep, narrow staircases. There were signs to guide the visitor and there must have been a logic to how the shelves had been organised but the place with its narrow aisles, tall shelves looming over you and books coming at you from all sides was disorientating, overwhelming and claustrophobic. It was an incredible place and obviously well visited by people spending their Sunday relaxedly browsing the bookshelves, and I am sure there where many treasures to find there but in the end I was so overwhelmed by the gigantic amount of books that I didn’t end up taking one of them home with me. I simply didn’t know where to start looking.

It was a relief to get outside and walk along the high street, noticing all the little details that spoke of the history of the town; a heavy, low wooden door set in a limestone building, an angelic stone head next to a doorway worn by time, a gilded wrought iron gate in front of a serious looking building spelling out a motto in Latin and a secret door set deep into a thick stonewall on a backstreet behind the old crumbling stones of Rochester Castle. There were narrow alleyways lined with old lampposts to get lost in and cute houses with pretty doors that I could easily have imagined myself living in. In an old shop that said “City Books” but which was filled not so much with books as with curious objects like used postcards of places around Europe and old dusty bottles in green and blue in all kinds of sizes, I bought two Victorian pennies dated from 1897 and 1899. And in front of the green lawn facing the high street, I captured a shot of Rochester Cathedral looking grave and gloomy with my Polaroid camera.

The sun did not last that afternoon and we left just as the shops started to close down and the rain started to fall. I would like to come back another time, maybe in the summer when it’s warm and the trees are green with leaves again. Then we can explore the castle.

 

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A Visit to the London Review Bookshop

29 Jan

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One of the absolute best things about living in London is the access to so many cool and different bookshops scattered all over the city. Sure, we have a few cool bookshops at home but most of them are branches that sell the same bestsellers together with stationery. They all look and feel the same.

This is not the case with the bookshops of London and I’m exceptionally lucky to be living in Bloomsbury where there is basically a bookshop on every corner. Okay, maybe not so but it sometimes feel that way.

I thought it was about time that I started blogging about all of these amazing shops that I come across and just before Christmas I walked down to the London Review Bookshop, just down the street from the British Museum.

One of the things that excite me most about this bookshop (besides from the books) is the way it looks. From the outside I love the at the same time both “old fashioned” and modern feeling of the green painted window front and the old-school signs with their neat font and inside it’s all about the wooden floors, the cool, grey bookshelves and the cute, little light bulbs hanging in front of the windows.

Although you won’t find Dan Brown’s latest, this bookshop is seriously well-stocked, especially for someone like me, who absolutely adores modern translated fiction. I’ve become pretty obsessed with books from Peirene Press and Pushkin Press recently and as many books from these two publishers had been laid out on the display tables I was in serious danger of emptying my bank account, as I found all the books that’s been on my wish list lately. It’s also the kind of shop where you will find Chuck Palahniuk along with a good history section (according to the boyfriend).

I thought the staff seemed friendly and when I treated myself to Virginia Woolf’s The London Scene and Veronique Olmi’s Beside the Sea I was even given a free tote bag to carry them home in.

If you happen to be in London and are looking for an alternative to Waterstones, I think this bookshop is a unique place. There’s also a cake shop but I’m afraid I didn’t try it out that day. I will obviously have to come back another day to try it out and maybe find another little present for myself.

 

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