I am a football widow.  I am OK with that.  With the Euros running from 10.06.2016-10.07.2016 my free time is my own, and I haven’t got a minute to spare!

What Lizzy did

I’ve been shadowing the Walter Scott Prize and last weekend saw me go to the Borders Book Festival to hear the shortlistees and attend the prize giving.  I am absolutely delighted that my favourite won!  This tends to suggest that this year’s judges and I have a lot in common.  Here’s Simon Mawer at his moment of victory.  (Rather grainy photo, taken with mobile phone from back of marquee.)


That was Saturday evening, but that was half way through my long weekend and  a lot of water had flowed underneath the bridge by then.  A lot – I got soaked as I wandered through the grounds of Abbotsford – home of Sir Walter Scott – on Friday afternoon.  OK so that’s an occupational hazard in Scotland and I had the survival kit – raincoat and prerequisite brolly, which are always, but ALWAYS kept in the car boot.  It wasn’t windy and and it was warm.  All in all it was a wonderful afternoon.  Scott had a lovely home and a magnificent library.  Of course, having lost his money in the financial crash of 1825, he had to work his butt off to keep his creditors at bay and keep his hands on Abbotsford.  But the fact that he paid back 50% of his debt (approx 5 million pounds in today’s money) by the time of his death in 1832 speaks volumes for the man.

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The two Walter Scott Historical Fiction Prize events were taking place in Melrose on Saturday afternoon/Saturday evening, so the morning was mine to do as I pleased.  A stroll into Melrose along the banks of the River Tweed in SUNSHINE was a rare and glorious treat.  Saturday 18th June coincided with the start of Independent Book Shop Week and, being in Melrose, gave me the opportunity to start a #bookshopcrawl to celebrate.  (Usually I don’t – home being 40+ miles away from an independent book shop.)

Cue visit to Masons of Melrose – a small, but classy shop, beautifully designed to take advantage of every square foot of space.  When you walk in, you might be forgiven for wondering where you are.  The candelabra says this shop has aspirations beyond its square footage!  Floor to ceiling bookshelves positioned around a central counter, replete with greetings cards of the kind that enticed me to spend a small fortune, and keyrings that I now regret having left behind, the wall-to-ceiling book shelves are filled with a judiciously curated selection of books.  Off the main area there a little cubby hole for the kids too. Kids will also love the bookshelf in the main area (although parents might not) stuffed with cuddly toys …..

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As I was making my purchases, and asking for permission to take the photos you now see, the lady at the counter recommended a book shop 1o miles down the road in St Boswells.  I’d never heard of St  Boswells, never mind the Main Street Trading Company, but I set out on Sunday morning to investigate ….

Well,  I fell in love.

A gruffalo, a book burrow for kids to listen to audio books (and adults, including Lizzy to shamelessly misappropriate for a photo opportunity), a book bag with matching note book to die for,  a selection of books for which overdrafts were created, and a cafe with a strong brew to calm my fluttering heart, it’s no wonder the place was heaving …. on a Sunday morning.  Unfortunately (or should that read thankfully?) Main Street Trading Company is located 73 miles from home.  It cannot be my new local (unless I move to St Boswells …..)

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Following this (expensive) reconnaissance mission,  it was time to cross the border into England.  Heading for Alnwick (pronounced Annick) in Northumberland, I was on my way to the mythical Barter Books.  A busy place in a converted railway station, I wouldn’t have gone, had I known about the nightmarish car park .  (I am a nervous driver, unused to busy single-track car parks …).  Regardless, the pain of parking was rewarded once I entered this cornucopia of used books.  It is massive, and I decided to walk the periphery and circle inwards to get my bearings.  This is the view once you get to the far side.


Where to start and how to survive this overload of 300,000 potential acquisitions?  With rules – very strict rules.  No novels (I have more than enough in the TBR) and books must be as new.  90 minutes after entry, and having bartered a bag of books, I walked away with 3 non-fiction titles for my reference library.  (Folio Society edition of The Thrty Years War, biography of Robert Louis Stevenson, Taschen Art Volume on Wiliam Morris.) They cost me a fiver.   I am a happy bunny and I may just brave the nightmare parking once more.

Because I will return to Alnwick.  If only to return to my first literary crush …. Hotspur!


King Henry IV Part One – O-level English text.  I was sweet16 and bedazzled by Henry Percy. Flawed hero of the piece … or perhaps even tragic hero?  Certainly not villain. My English teacher organised a debate and was worried I might win it! I didn’t – my classmates had more sense – but here I am 4 decades later, meeting my hot-headed Hotspur in the metal in the grounds of Alnwick Castle for the first, but not the last time.  Others may return to the site of Harry Potter’s quidditch tournaments or the site of Downtown Abbey’s 2014 Christmas Special, but Hotspur’s the man for me!

What Lizzy Will Do

This was the trip that kept on giving, and you might think that I’ll start reading my new acquisitions.  Not a bit of it, because today was the day Edinburgh Book Festival tickets went on sale. So now I’ll got an immediate baker’s dozen TBR, including Don Quixote!  Add in a couple of (short) titles to cater for Spanish Literature Month in July and the odd bit of whimsy, and I might successfully complete a #TBR20.  (Possibly at the 9th attempt so far this year.)

P.S I’m in dire need of more free time.  Could someone extend the Euros 2016 beyond 10.07.2016?