ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



January 2018



Clapham Books

Written by , Posted in Bookshops

It is freezing in London. Or at least, I’m freezing. Alright, it’s in the high 30s but still. It’s cold. I tossed my knee-high boots when I moved here because they were falling apart (despite multiple resoles), and I figured that I’d purchase new ones when I got here.

Alas, it was not to be. The season for boots (in shops at least) is winding down, and someone as tall as I am has some particular needs when it comes to clothing in general, including shoes. Instead, I’ve chosen what appears to be a common fashion choice in London at the moment: tights and booties.

Both were procured from Marks & Spencer (they have clothes and household goods, but also the best gummy candy) yesterday, and in an attempt to break them in, I decide to walk to a new part of town today. We’ve gotten word that our application for an apartment nearby was accepted, so I can relax a bit while waiting for the lease and instructions on sending over an ungodly amount of money.

Ijeoma Oluo is a Seattle-area writer. She writes about many topics, but her focus is primarily centering Black women. Her interview with Rachel Dolezal received national attention, and was a masterful essay.

Ms Oluo has just released a book: So You Want to Talk About Race. I’ve decided to find it. I check my new bookshop book, and decide to walk the mile or so over to Clapham Books.

It may be cold and windy, but it’s also sunny out, which makes London feel crisp and clean. There are no leaves left on any trees, and it hasn’t rained in a day or so, which means the ground is free of puddles and most debris. I decide on a route that will take me through a couple of neighborhoods, passing what I consider to be quintessential London: row houses made of brick with round smokestacks coming out the top. The roads aren’t really straight; everything seems to have a curve. And each time I want to cross, I have to double-check that I’m looking the right way.

Literally, the right way. Not left-right-left again, as those of us in the US were taught, but right-left-right again. Thirty-eight years of conditioning won’t be gone in a week, so thankfully the government has thought it a good idea to paint on the crosswalks “look left” or “look right” so that we don’t inadvertently turn into Regina George and get flattened by the 77 bus to Tooting.

When I arrive at Clapham Books I’m disappointed that they don’t have Ms. Oluo’s book in stock. It was a long shot, however, as this bookshop is also tiny (though probably a smidge larger than Brick Lane Books). They do have a few good choices, and a cute children’s section. I decide that for this visit, I should see if they have anything specific to learning more about London, or England.

And they do. They have a small shelf devoted to that topic, although I find my pick in the politics section. Watching the English claims to be an anthropological study of English behavior. I’m not entirely sure what that means, and who she means by “the English” given how many folks from all over the world call this nation home, but I’d imagine there are some tips to be gotten from this book. Yes, I’ve lived here before, and know not to refer to jeans as pants, for example, but beyond that there are some things I’m not entirely clear on.

So, while the visit to the bookshop was not successful in the way I’d planned, it certainly was a success. I’m not sure if I’ll find myself back at this bookshop very often given its size, but it will be close to my new apartment, so maybe it’ll become a favorite.

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