The Teahouse of the September Moon

There are far more coffee shops where I live than there were twenty years ago. Many of these are run by chains such as Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero. But there are independents too, some of them excellent. In the past, patrons used to gather in coffee shops and discuss burning issues of the day – the use of gas for street lighting, the benefits of laudanum in the creative process. On occasion, they even discussed books. But now, as far as I can tell, the emphasis is on coffee, pastries and other such delectables.

These three Chinese girls are at the counter of my favourite independent, the Kilimajaro in Edinburgh, clearly suffering from the existential agony of choice. So many goodies to choose from, what should we have?

And did I just mention Chinese? In the past three or four years, there has been an noticeable increase in the number of tea shops here. This is very evident in the part of the city I inhabit, the south side. And I am amazed to find the great variety of teas on offer.

The reason for this increase in tea shops seems clear. The south side is home to the University of Edinburgh which, every year, recruits a large number of Chinese students. And where there is a market, someone will try to cater for it.

So the next time you visit us here in Edinburgh, don’t hesitate to pop into one of our new tea shops. You don’t have to speak Mandarin or Cantonese, you can always point to the picture of your brew of choice.

Bookshops changing with the times

They don’t have it easy these days and are obliged to follow certain trends to stay in business.

The bookshop I know best has a lower ground floor which used to be full of books – not surprising in a bookshop. Now, though, it hosts a large selection of games ranging from Monopoly through Harry Potter to Star Wars. And there are models of X-Wing fighters for those into Star Wars to assemble. Hours of joy all round.

So shelves which used to be full of books are now full of games. I can’t say a single intelligent thing on this subject because I have never played any of them.  What I notice, though, is the astonishing amount of packaging these games come in, a level of waste that books can’t compete with.

When all the packaging is ripped off where does it end up? I’m reminded of a store specializing in children’s toys (no longer trading) which was even worse. The ratio of packaging to toys did not favour the toys, most of which – to make matters worse – were made of plastic.

So if we aren’t following the trend, not playing the game, we can always stick with something safe. A book hot off the press.


So many books on the shelf

I took more books to a charity shop today, but that made a very small dent in the total. There are books in the study, the kitchen, and both bedrooms. There are also several on the desk, which is  entirely covered by a variety of objects including a lamp, a framed photograph of the better half (looking rather fetching), a camera, a lamp, and various stray bits of paper.

Bookshelves Web

Have I read them all? No. I haven’t read several drama books belonging to my wife. But even if I had read every one, why would I keep them? A few are reference books, so having them to hand makes sense. This one, for example.

Swedish Dictionary

And several are annotated, so even a charity wouldn’t want them. But if I’m not going to read them again, why would I keep them? And would a detective, looking at these shelves, be able to deduce anything at all? The answer, sadly, is yes.

1) The suspect is remarkably untidy. Look at the various objects parked on the shelves in addition to the books. He’s probably forgotten half of them are there.

2) The suspect has no standards. Check the top three shelves, they bend like the ocean waves. What was he thinking about?

3) The suspect is into old technology. Take that turntable, for example – definitely old school, not one of your trendy DJ jobs. And what is this? Surely not! A stand-alone CD recorder. Has this throwback never heard of computers?

4) And what’s that keyboard doing there? Strange place to put it.

5) The suspect’s into sound. Why else would he have a mixer, small though it is?

6) Are the books arranged in alphabetical order of title, by author, by genre? If anything at all, by author, though that seems to break down a lot. The suspect has a weak desire to be systematic but fails to follow it through.

7) The suspect is mainly into literature, classical music and oriental art. Which suggests that he may not require therapy since food for the soul is provided by his interests.

8) Tempting though it is, it may not be possible to obtain a read-out of the suspect’s taste in literature since some of the titles on display may reflect his taste as it was in the past, not as it is now. After all, if he ever was, he is no longer young.

So much for the detective. Yet now I am turning to some of these books again. From time to time I come across a review I have written myself and am amazed both by the detail and by how much I have forgotten. I knew the book once, I don’t know it now. It’s almost new. It is new. Turning to page one . . .