The Oxfam secondhand bookshop in London’s Portobello Road is one of my favourite haunts. It has a great stock of books on a variety of topics and the people who work there are very friendly.
Recently, I entered the shop ad headed towards the ‘History’ shelves. Near them, there was a male customer speaking with a female shop assistant. They were standing next to a cardboard box filled with dictionaries.
“Which of these dictionaries do you reccommend?” the customer asked, “the Collins or the Oxford?”
“It’s a a matter of taste. Both are good.”
“But which do you prefer?” asked the customer.
“I prefer Oxford.”
“I have always used Oxford. I like its approach to spelling. I used it a lot when I used to work in a publishing house,” responded the lady, edging away to escape her persistent questioner. He turned to me.
“Which do you prefer?” he asked me.
“And why do prefer that?”
“No good reason, ” I replied,”it was the first dictionary we were given at school. Maybe, that’s something to do with my preference.”
“And which authors do you think are good?” he asked me, adding, “I have just given away my television.”
I could not reccommend the books I have written, as that would be immodest and likely to prolong this conversation.
“Thomas Love Peacock,” was the first author’s name that entered my head.
“You could also try John Buchan. You know the chap who wrote the Thirty-Nine Steps,” I suggested.
“Never heard of him.”
“Balzac is also good in translation,” I added.
“Hmm. What about this one?” the customer asked me, holding a novel by George Orwell.
“He’s also good.”
At that point, I was ‘saved by the bell’. My fellow customer’s mobile ‘phone began ringing at a very high volume. It sounded as if a fire alarm had gone off. He rushed out of the shop.
I went to the cash desk to pay for my latest purchase. When I had finished, my new acquaintance came back into the shop, and said to me:
“Sorry about that. You are real gent. It was nice talking with you.”
I left the shop and will probably not visit again for a long time as viral considerations are forcing it to close indefinitely.