Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tracking Down the Books About Town

Well hello! It feels like ages since I was last here when in reality it was just five days ago. The reason for that would be that I took a much-needed break from my studies and work last week to spend time with friends, explore London and Kent and relax on the sofa watching TV and reading. It totally worked because it felt like I took several weeks off, not just nine days.

At first I feared the rain was going to ruin my plans for the whole week but luckily it cleared up towards the end of the week and I went off in search of the Books About Town and the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London.

Books About Town is a summer long initiative by the National Literacy Trust to highlight the city’s literary links. The benches each depict a famous book or author and will be auctioned off at the end of the summer to raise money for the Trust’s work to raise literacy levels in the UK.

If you’d like to follow one of the four trails to track the benches down, you should hurry! The benches will only be displayed until 15 September 2014.

Brick Lane book bench

My walk took me from Charing Cross to Holborn to the Tower of London and back to Cannon Street. The first bench I saw represented was Monica Ali’s Brick Lane illustrated by artist Charlotte Brown. It was in one of my favourite hidden locations in London – Postman’s Park.

Mary Poppins book bench

Next I walked down to St Paul's Cathedral where I encountered P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins illustrated by Darel Seow. The bench was right in the sunshine on a lovely bright day so I must admit that I struggled to take a good photo and avoid glare.

Peter Pan book bench back

Peter Pan book bench

I think most of you know about my Peter Pan obsession by now and I was thrilled to discover J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan illustrated by Laura Elizabeth Bolton. You’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t actually ask the man in the top photo to move off the bench – one of the mums did that! I was part in awe, part terrified of all the mothers that day. They were very assertive in asking people to vacate the benches for photo opportunities but ultimately the benches are there for the benefit of children.

Fever Pitch book bench

I quite liked this photo because I managed to capture the chap in the red shirt too. I’m still very shy to take photos of people but I’m learning to be more casual about it. This is Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch illustrated by Sophie Green. The quote on the bench says, “real life contains less potential for unexpected delirium”. I haven’t read the book but I quite like this quote; it reminds me of why I explore and discover and chronicle my travels. You never know what hidden treasures and unexpected deliria await.

Jacqueline Wilson book bench

Jacqueline Wilson book bench back

Gosh, even the super mums struggled to get this bench free for their precious photo opportunity! These girls were very determined to enjoy their lunch and by this stage I was happy to stand in the shade and watch the interaction between the diners and photographers.

This bench celebrates the work of Jacqueline Wilson and is illustrated by Nick Sharratt and Jane Headford.

Alex Rider book bench

Now I know that I said before that the benches are there for the children but I evidently looked so happy to discover this bench that a fellow bench-tracker insisted on taking my photo with it. This bench represents Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker, the first in his Alex Rider series. Anthony Horowitz is one of my two favourite authors, along with Garth Nix and yes, I was thrilled to discover this bench.

The Wind in the Willows book bench detail

The Wind in the Willows book bench

The final bench I tracked down on this trail was Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows illustrated by Mik Richardson. The bench was located right outside the Bank of England where Grahame worked his whole working career until his retirement in 1908. This bench was an absolute work of art and definitely the most beautifully illustrated of all the book benches I saw that day.

I love it when we get these exciting installations in London and in the past I’ve tracked down the Elephant Parade, the BT Artboxes and Wenlock and Mandeville. I think my favourite was the Gifts from the Olympian Gods during the Olympics but I tragically didn’t manage to track those all down before they disappeared!

I still have to tell you all about the ceramic poppies and all the other things I got up to in my week off but that is a story for another day. At the moment it is back to work and back to studying. I have to admit that I’m more than slightly overwhelmed and not a day goes by that I don’t think about giving up blogging.

What are your tips for when it all gets too much? I worry that if I give up my hobbies then nothing will break the pressure of studies and work. What do you do to make your hobbies more manageable and when do you fit in the time to exercise?

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© 2008 - Mandy Southgate | Emm in London

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