Pages of Hackney

There’s something so exciting about opening the front door to an Amazon delivery (except when it’s not for you. One of the problems of being home full-time is that delivery people tend to ring every doorbell in a flat just to get that parcel out of their life. Back when I was pregnant and the size of a house I would open the window and yell down to them to find out who it was for. If it was for me or my middle neighbours, who I like (Hi, E!), I’d waddle down. If not, I’d tell them I had a bad leg. Right at the end I’d tell them I was in labour).

But there’s something even better about buying a book from a bookshop. I tend to do this more when it’s a gift for someone (and books are a great gift – small, enjoyable and easy to donate to Oxfam if you don’t like them). Plus, you can buy one on the way to seeing the person it’s for. Buying a book on Amazon for a gift is just that little bit too organised. Bugger, baby awake. To be continued.

Um, baby asleep again. Peacefully. In bassinette, not over my shoulder. Is this the magical twelve-week change, when your newborn turns from a wild screeching Angry Tomato into the kind of sweet-faced cherub you see in nappy ads? F***, I hope so.

Anyway, bookshops. My latest discovery (for feral newborns sometimes the only solution is to strap them to your chest and walk. You don’t get any rest yourself, but at least you don’t have to listen to their howling, the subtext being ‘What the hell am I doing here? It was nice and warm and dark where I was, you bastards’) is Pages of Hackney in Clapton. And they are well and truly honed into the present-buying benefit of bookshops. They have lovely wrapping paper, papercut cards by local artist Rob Ryan, and I’m sure they’d let you wrap it right there if you needed too – when I went in the bloke behind the counter was very pleasant, even when my Angry Tomato expressed his outrage at the sudden lack of movement.

My fallback gift book lately, and my favourite book of 2010, is Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. It really is the most perfect novel – beautiful writing, tragedy, a ghastly ferry journey from Ireland to New York, a decent amount of sex, plenty of romance, a gripping changing room scene and an enchanting main character. Plus it’s short, so you can read it in one sitting. Everyone I’ve given it to has loved it.

Apart from that, though, I spent far too much time last year reading books on pregnancy and labour. What To Expect When You’re Expecting is far more useful as a doorstop, horrible brick of a thing that it is. So my advice if you’re expecting (or if you’re not), would be to stuff the pregnancy books, go and buy a novel and put your feet up instead.

PS Weirdly, I just got an email from someone having a particularly shitty 2011 who just received an Amazon delivery from me in the post. Which reminds me, my other book buying advice if you want to cheer someone up is Staying Alive – Real Poems for Unreal Times, published by Bloodaxe Books.

PS thanks to Hackney Post for this image… will try and take my own soon.


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Filed under Books & words in general, Shopping

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