Saturday, 22 February 2020

Foyle's War...

Several years ago, Scrobs was living and working in London, in an office in Old Queen Street, Westminster.

Being pretty well penniless as usual, lunchtimes in the pub were almost non-existent, and a 3/- Luncheon Voucher just covered a cheap sandwich and some sort of orange drink from the little shop over the road.

But what to do with the down-time after the quick disposal of said comestibles (about three minutes)?

Well, as Damon Runyon would say, 'A story goes with it'! And it did!

A few years before, my dad had given me a copy of a paperback version of some of Damon Runyon's short stories, like this one: -

Image result for guys and dolls paperback

He was particularly amused by one story, 'A piece of pie', and it being very funny, the seeds for more were sown!

So, with 57 minutes of a lunch hour left, Scrobs decided to find out if there were any more books by the same man. It became a bit of an obsession, and talking in the present tense (like the stories), became a little boring for chums! It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to Charing Cross Road from Old Queen Street, and I used to stride out up Whitehall across Trafalgar Square and pore over the shelves of every second-hand book shop I could find, and there are quite a few!

One day, I was in one of the older shops, and asked the owner if he had any copies of any of the books, and he called down to his chum in the basement, who called back immediately. 'Got 'Runyon from first to last', he said. 'Ten bob'? So another three lunches went south and money changed hands. I remember him smiling and calling out as I left 'Harry the Horse to you'! Luckily I had some 'wit' left and came back 'Nicely Nicely', and we both had a huge smile on our faces, although his was, of course, much older!

A few weeks later, when I'd saved a few bob, I started the search again. This time I started at Foyles Bookshop, which is probably the best known bookshop in the world. Back then they had floors and floors of second-hand books, and all in various heaps, on hundreds of shelves, and stacked on the floor everywhere. It was an Aladdin's cave of the written word.

It took me several weeks of searching for the other main book, 'Runyon on Broadway': -

Image result for Runyon on Broadway

...and I'd got nowhere in any of the heaps, shelves, dusty corners etc., and was getting more than somewhat despondent, especially as I'd spent weeks searching for this book, with no result!

So, in final resignation, a weary Scrobs approached a friendly assistant, and asked, 'Do you have a second-hand copy of Runyon on Broadway', please'?

The assistant immediately looked up and around, and pointed to a shelf, 'No, but there's a new one in the violet cover over there'!

Scrobs experienced several emotions at once - dismay, relief, fear of the price of a new book and fury at not knowing that it was back in print so I had to buy it! It was far too much money back then (£2.10 - we'd just gone decimal), but what an absolute treasure to own! It's still in pride of place on a shelf of real books at home, having been read and re-read several times, and it still has the original dust cover. I think I'll eventually leave it to someone in my will as it's so precious!


goosegirl said...

Having had a massive clear-out of the many books I've collected over the years, it kinds of breaks your heart to just put them into a box and then give them to a charity shop. Then you have a moment and say to yourself, this was one given to me when I was a child which is all about wild flowers and, although I hardly ever look at it, I still love it. There are other well-thumbed childhood ones where I wrote my name in the front, and I still have a little bible that has a picture of an angel. Underneath I wrote "What a Holy Picture." You can chuck out all the unnecessary trivia you want to do from your bookshelf but before you do, look once again at your childish handwriting on the frontispiece and remember those special times when you couldn't wait for the latest weekly Beano comic or one I remember called Schoolfriend. No kindle can ever replace that so loved and well-worn book with all its torn pages that you had to Sellotape together so you could just read it again like you used to do when you we're in bed with the 'flu'. Aren't they all such comforting memories!

Michael said...

I used to be in the habit of leaving old notes and drawings from the children etc.' inside special books, to find some time later and enjoy again!

There's even some stuff in the 'violet-covered book' too, which I'd completely forgotten about!

My dear sister once started a library at home, and numbered all her books, so that if I wanted to read any, I'd have to write the number on a piece of paper, and put it in a small box.

That lasted several days, usually with 'notes' of other writing...

When I saw her just a few years ago, I returned one of the books 'The swish of the curtain', which I'd somehow kept...

It was No 15!

goosegirl said...

I wish I'd done something similar when I lent someone a book and never got it back. When I was living on my own I had a 1970's paper-back book called Cooking For Two" which was a life-saver for someone who could only make a Victoria sandwich cake with a filling of vanilla cream butter, raspberry buns, potato cakes and my mum's stuffing balls she always made to accompany a roast chicken that were made of a mix of breadcrumbs, parsley, thyme and beaten egg. You mixed it all together with your hands, rolled it into balls, then maybe she put them in a buttered tray and put them into the oven. It's so long ago that I can't remember, but I so wish my sister hadn't nicked her well-used Rayburn cookery book.

Michael said...

Senora O'Blene still has her Good Housekeeping Easy Stages cook book, which was a present nearly fifty years ago!

Several pages are stuck together, and I bought her a new version a few years ago, and that's now looking pretty tired...

Her book of cheese recipes still gets a hammering too!

A K Haart said...

I've been a keen book buyer for many years but not since I bought a Kindle. In fact I haven't read a single traditional book since then and so far half of my book collection has been disposed of via charity bags. Almost all the others will go eventually because apart from a few reference books and cookery books I just prefer the Kindle. All the books in my Kindle would take decades to find in bookshops.

Michael said...

Mrs O'Blene used to read her Ipad avidly, but the thing went pop one day, and after a hard reset, it 'forgot' all her books!

I'm still trying to get her stories back, but as she's now re-reading the whole Jalna series (all sixteen), I can't get a word in edgeways!

goosegirl said...

AK HAART. How can you be so heartless to dispose of past books then to say that a Kindle is better than reading all those various ones you bought for whatever reason? You've lost all those dog-eared and well-thumbed pages with their frontispieces where you inscribed your name and date in whatever handwriting you were using at that time. Just do something for me and keep a few to remind you of those innocent times when you could just enjoy play conkers or Pooh-sticks without a Health and Safety warning.

Thud said...

A great writer whose sports writing of the 20's etc is just as good as his books.