Sunday, 25 May 2014

We are all children of the Revolution

Another Sunday afternoon trip to a library, this time Horsforth. I’ve never really been around Horsforth, the part nearest to where I live seems disconnected to the main part near the park, so this trip is something we’ve put off.

The library is nice, a big airy space for books and information. I didn’t check, I think the building had a dedication to the Brownlee boys and their trainer. At first there didn’t seem many books though the room seems to widen towards the back, with chidren’s books almost furthest from the entrance. This is the second time I’ve actually noticed this, why are children’s books in the back and ‘romance’ nearest to the entrance? Doesn’t matter really, there’s a reading space and lots of books (again, I didn’t check though I assume there is an Artmis Fowl book or two, there had better be, children need to learn the truth about fairies and criminal masterminds, read early and read often).

I came away with Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth and Peter F Hamilton’s Great North Road. Behemoth because when I was reading the first book in the series, Leviathan, Westerfeld pulled a fantastic trick on me, in the last few chapters I went from not caring what happened to the two characters to I must know the very end or I will not sleep. Westerfeld’s books are steampunk and mostly young adult, though if genre really matters to you there is also revolutionary politics and gender equality. The point I am making is that it is a good read regardless of being steampunk, young adult, or anything else.

I picked up Great North Road because I got excited about seeing it in the library.

Peter F Hamilton, Great North Road, Scott Westerfeld, Behemouth,
Horsforth Library

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Happy Hour Again

Like Wah Wah Records in Wakefield, Earworm Records is new. And they sell old records. It was initially hard to find (though that’s probably more to do with me not paying attention to signs), though once you do find it it is a treasure trove. I was a little short of time so only did a cursory flick through (which still took fifteen minutes, my wife tells me). There were so many records that were calling out that familiar refrain, “take me home”.

What I eventually came away with was the Housemartins’s The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death. I was rather chuffed with my purchase, and was quiet proud to show off to my wife, while doing so I noticed that the bench outside the shop offered wifi. Earworm Records was a good shop, there was a collection of hi-fi equipment to buy, a friendly staff and enthusiastic customers. Interestingly of all (to me) the payment method was a Paypal chip and pin reader, something a little different from Visa and Mastercard and their ‘service charges’ (independent coffee shops take note).

The Housemartins, The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death.
Earworm Records, 1 Powell’s Yard, off Goodramgate, York

This is radio freedom

As mentioned in my earlier post about York, I found some out-of-date information. Not all out-of-date information is useless, from one comment on a student guide to record shops in York (not the BBC one, I might add), I was put on the trail of the ‘Man on the Market’. The market is the area between Parliament Square and the Shambles, and is full of market type things (hats, t-shirts printed with (un)humourous slogans, sweets). It also has a record stall.

I had explained to my wife that it might be worth looking around the market on the off chance the record stall was there. There’s an art deco café where you can people watch from, and suitability refreshed with coffee, we followed the music. The stall was great, lots of different things in a vague order that rewards flicking through rather than looking for just one artist. On one side there’s cheaper lps, on the other more expensive ‘collectors’ lps.

Personally, the first record I picked up was collectors to me. KLF’s What Time Is Love? Live From Transcentral is something I’ve been looking for for ages. All of my KLF 12inches and lps were destroyed in a flood, so this was the first purchase to replace something lost. I paid £8 for three records, and would probably have paid more than £2.66 each for KLF, Elton John best of and Emmerson Lake and Palmer’s Tarkus. The Man on the Market explained that they rotate the stock regularly so it was more than worth it coming back.

Emmerson, Lake and Palmer, Tarkus, Elton John, Best of, KLF, What Time Is Love? Live From Transcentral
‘The Man On The Market’, Market Place, York

I have never been more ready to do this write now

One of the reasons I wanted to start writing about book and record shops was the difficulty I have found in finding up-to-date information on them. While researching this trip to York I found one BBC student guide to the record shops from 2004 (including a good write-up for Borders) and a list of booksellers in York the majority of which appeared to be private homes where one had to request a catalogue before arranging a visit. The list of booksellers turned out to be doubly useless when the first entry on it turned out to have closed.

Rather than going through the twenty odd shop names I pulled out, here is where we wandered and shopped. The first bookshop we visited was Fossgate Books, which had lots of books though nothing to tempt us. After that we found some books in an antique centre around the corner (I didn’t check the name, they had about 400 records at £2 each if you fancy finding it). Then it was our first crossing of the city centre, via the Shamble Market to Goodramgate.

On Goodramgate there are a number of decent charity shops with both books and records. There was also a man who checked every hardback copy he could find to see if it was a first edition. Uncharitably we thought he was trying to find something to sell on at profit. From Goodramgate, across the river to Micklegate, where there were a lot of race goers. There is also a very nice Oxfam with a little cubbyhole of records in the back. And then off towards the minster, for Minster Books.

We came away from York with about ten books. Unfortunately I didn’t make a note of which came from where, though all the prices seemed fairly reasonable. Particularly in Fossgate Books, staff were happy to offer advice and see if there was something we were looking for. What I did come away with was a reason to continue exploring the city for its literary treasure.

Fossgate Books, Fossgate
Books for Amnesty, PDSA, British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, Goodramgate
Oxfam, Micklegate

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Blood-sucking buccaneers in Whitby

What kind of child grows up in Whitby? That’s right, Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Westenra. Maybe the question should be ‘what kind of literary child grows up in Whitby?’…

Anyway, our tour of North Yorkshire has brought us to the outer limits, the extremis to Leeds’s centralness, Whitby. I like Whitby a lot, it has a relaxed air of a town that does its own thing regardless. An example of this would be the seagull nest I found. In the middle of the station car park, the day after a motorcycle rally had met there. After all of those noisy motorbikes it squawked at me.

Whitby is at the end of the heritage railway line from Pickering and has a lot of attractions. One might be of the opinion that the Dracula aspect is played up an awful lot, though to be fair what is a lot more annoying about the place is the endless stag and hen parties. Yes, you’re wearing an L-plate, did you know that this is the town that a young Sherlock Holmes was sent to for holidays?, no, I didn't know that shot was £1.

There are a number of secondhand bookshops in Whitby (Endeavour Books being the one we shopped in, my wife picking up some detectives), a fair few charity shops, and at least one record shop. I don’t know what it was called, I found it in the Shambles Market, tucked way behind sweets and charm bracelets. I didn’t know what to expect, there was some very nice looking records (as in, if money was no object they would be coming home with me) though the pricing seemed a little hit and miss. For example, there was an Elton John lp that I’ve been umming and ahhing over for a while which was easily double the most expensive I had seen it previously.

In the end I found a Bread record. Again, I am not sure what to expect, my mother-in-law said that she rather liked it way back when, so for £2 I thought I’d give it a go (even if I would be fixing the sleeve myself).

Of the charity shops they proved yet again the random nature of the books you might find. In Mind, up near Sherlock’s Café (home of the best scones I’ve ever had), I found Vampirates. It’s a children’s book and book two in a series, so I put it to the back of my mind for another day. I mean, who can pass up the first book in a series called Vampirates? What I couldn't pass up any longer was the first book of Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin. I remember the TV programme on C4 (well, the publicity for it) and have always wanted to read some of it so this was the perfect opportunity. The book itself is okay, for my liking it probably works better serialised, though there is something about the characters that have stuck around in my mind (except for Mary Ann Singleton, she better make a better impression in book two). The other charity shop I noted was the Oxfam overlooking the quay. It’s snook away behind pubs and fast food outlets, so it is worth remembering that it is there and worth a look.

Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City, Bread, The Sound of Bread,

Note: Aside from the scones, which are lovely, we had fish and chips in Hadley's, which is equally lovely even when there is a group of stags from London who are quite proud to announce that they are from London loudly every minute or so. Oddly, the people of Whitby have encountered Londoners before, and commenting about how cheap beer prices are up north only really highlights how overpriced they are in London.

Adventures in Boggle Hole

There are many reasons to enjoy youth hostels. They are convenient, relatively cheap, offer lovely accommodation and the staff are lovely. I have not stayed in hostels outside of the UK, or independents yet, so far it has only been Youth Hostel Association and I've not been upset.

Boggle Hole has to be one of the best. This is our second stay, a hastily booked break after our original planned stay ended with our car breaking down inside the Leeds metropolitan borough (we had not got far), and it just feels right and comfortable. We even had the same room as before.

My favourite bit has to be the Cthulhu sign in the toilet informing children that he will be unhappy if they do not wash their hands. I always thought Cthulhu was a little indifferent to the hygiene of children though I am not a parent so this might be some part of the mythos I have previously missed.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

When The Rain Comes

Stop two on our weekend tour of North Yorkshire is Pickering. Pickering is home to many lovely attractions including a castle and many cafés though when we arrived it was in the middle of a bucketload of rain. The rain fell hard enough for it to be running up hill (due to an optical illusion and a speed bump). Soaking ourselves to fetch cash, drying ourselves in a café near the entrance to the heritage railway, we were here for a reason: Yorkshire Quality Paperbacks.

How we came about this recommendation I do not know. Most likely during a news report about the town we saw the shop and thought we would like to test its quality. It might even have been on Countryfile. So, having found the shop it was with a little trepidation that we climbed the steps to the door.

The trepidation evaporated once we were inside. The shop is packed and there are so many rewards to be found if you have the time. For some reason I got stuck on the thought that I needed to find Neil Asher’s Parador Moon so it took me a while to actually notice what was available. There was Robert Graves, lots of Penguin Oranges and Greens, lots of contemporary and women’s fiction; a quantity of quality for when one fancies just browsing.

It took me a while to shake Neil Asher. I eventually came away with a Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Glamorous Ghost. I like detective fiction, I like Perry Mason, I like reading, though I mostly bought it for the cover.

Eric Stanley Gardner, The Case of the Galmorous Ghost
Yorkshire Quality Paperbacks, Park Street, Pickering

On the road to Tadcaster

Ages ago there was a Jasper Carrot joke where the comedian (and future TV quiz show producer) explained that touring to Hull was the worst because once one is in Hull there is only Goole left to visit. Even as a child I knew there was something wrong with this statement, though not yet having developed any means of separating good comedy from lazy generalisations based on geographical prejudice.

For a very long time I felt that Tadcaster was York’s 'Goole', you have to pass one to get to the other (assuming that you are travelling from the A1). For so many years I’ve passed the John Smith brewery from the outside wondering what Tadcaster was actually like, though not remembering enough to visit next time. That is until now…

There’s a secondhand bookshop in Tadcaster on Bridge Street. Also on Bridge Street is a a lovely café overlooking the brewery (which doesn’t look quite so modern from the inside), so after a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake we make our way to Tadcaster Book Shop.

The shop window proudly announced that the proprietor was interested in crime and detective fiction, as well as Westerns. There is order to the shop, two-floors worth of bookshelves in defined though not restrictive sections. What caught my eye from the start was the large section of science fiction and fantasy books and from there it was only two steps to find horror and the aforementioned Westerns.

I like Western fiction. I know next to nothing about it, and tend to buy only Louis L’Amour, though Tadcaster Bookshop had a lot of the authors and books I had seen elsewhere. What I like about the books are the potential of discovering new stories and authors, Louis L’Amour was one of my grandfathers favourite authors so I tend to stick with him though I know very soon I should branch out into some of the others.

There can be a pressure when trying new books, particularly if the book has received good publicity or someone strongly recommends it. It can be hard to shake it but the reward of knowing that one does not have to enjoy every single book they read (or finish it for that matter) makes reading more enjoyable.

The prices were very reasonable, and the three books I bought could have been supplemented with so many more, but we left Tadcaster thinking that it would not be long before we travel back to have another look.

Lindsey Davis, Shadows In Bronze, Louis L’Amour, Flint, Brian Lumley, Vampire Word 1: Blood Brothers
Tadcaster Book Shop, Tadcaster

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Brattleby telephone box library

In a tiny corner of Lincolnshire, round the back of a RAF base and in a side road in a small village north of Lincoln there is a telephone box library.

Brattleby's telephone box library is a little unloved when we visited. I didn't go in though could see two motorcycle books and little else inside. Nonetheless, my wife left two books there to be bookcrossed. Book crossing is a way of sharing books with absolute complete strangers. I don't know who will pick up the two we left but the Book Crossing website will let us know if anyone logs them.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Where a startling discovery is made and the blogger offers advice

I work for Leeds Metropolitan University (soon to become Leeds Beckett University in September 2014), and as a member of staff I have access to the libraries and materials therein. In two and a half years I've not had a proper look around the library in the Headingley Campus. Even though I was there today I still didn't manage it.

On the way back home I did pop into Headingley Library. This time there's school children seemingly everywhere, though not in young adult (where I found the first part of the Hunger Games) or science fiction (where I picked up Johannes Cabal and the Fear Institute). I only popped in on the suspicion that Johannes Cabal was in.

The Johannes Cabal series is a great series of books. The central character, the necromancer of some little infamy, is rather likeable in a terrible way (if he were to meet me I am sure he'd probably want to do away with me, quickly, for my own good, obviously) and the books are wonderful constructs. Certainly, stop what you are doing at the end of this sentence and read the first book, Johannes Cabal the Necromaner; to paraphrase Ford Prefect, your brain will thank you for it.

The thing is the Johannes Cabal need to be read in sequence. Book two relies on knowledge of book one, book three a combination of both; the forthcoming fourth book will continue this pattern. The fourth book is intriguingly titled The Brothers Cabal, Johannes's brother not making an appearance since the first book.

When I first picked up The Fear Institute I was drawn to the content's page references to the Cthulhu Mythos (sometimes a book just needs tentacles and I'd give it a go). Once home I realised it was book three, so on an off chance I asked the author Jonathan L Howard via Twitter if it was best to start with book one. Yes, for the reasons above.

This is another reason why libraries are good. You can try so many things out, explore landscapes that might be previously unknowable, and if it's not to taste, three weeks later the book is returned.