Birthday booksIt’s that time of year when my TBR goes **POP** and I don’t mind at all, because there are worse addictions, aren’t there! There’s Christmas, then there’s my birthday, and in between, for the last few years, I’ve seen my friend Elaine, from Chicago, who I met in the LibraryThing Virago Group – she comes over for a Shakespeare conference in Stratford every January, and we seem to alternate between meeting in Stratford and meeting in Birmingham. Some other Viragoites tend to come up as well, so we have a nice little gathering. This year, there was a meetup in London, too, which I couldn’t fit in, so it was a small group of four of us (Claire, Luci, Elaine and me) who met in town and took the bus to Kings Heath.

Liz, Claire, Elaine

Once in Kings Heath, we “did” the charity shops, and had lunch at the lovely Kitchen Garden Cafe, where, incidentally, I’d been for a birthday tea on Saturday and had received several suspiciously book-shaped parcels. We also visited the Kings Heath Village Square and “did” the labyrinth, which is a lovely meditative experience, reading quotations by wise people from different traditions and looking at the lovely mosaics (done by a friend’s sister, in a classic of Two Degrees Of South Birmingham). Unfortunately, it was so sunny that my pictures of the four of us came out with me looking very odd indeed and all of us with our eyes shut. This is me, Claire and Elaine, plus the rather menacing finger of my glove.

Kings Heath Village Square LabyrinthBut here we all are, standing in the middle of the labyrinth. There you find a smaller version of the labyrinth set in metal into the pavement. And can you see? In the middle of that labyrinth, there’s another teeny-tiny one! Anyway, there in our sensible shoes, from 12 o’clock, are Elaine, Luci, me and Claire.

On to more charity shops … Because of those book-shaped parcels, I was verrrrry careful about what I picked up for myself , concentrating on books that nobody was likely to have bought for me already. In fact, I had a near miss, as I picked up an Ann Tyler I hadn’t yet read, wondered if I’d like it, *immediately* regretted leaving it, then unwrapped it the next morning from a lovely book parcel! The Oxfam Books in KH, usually a good source of Viragoes, was closed for refurbishment, so we popped on the bus up to Moseley and visited the lovely big one there.

So, what did I come home with?

Charity shop book findsWell, first of all, Luci had one of her bulging sacks of books with her. It’s always exciting when she does this, and this time I picked out a copy of E.R. Braithwaite’s “To Sir, With Love” in the Windmill edition in which I first read it, and “The House in Norham Gardens” by Penelope Lively, which I haven’t read for years. In the shops, I selected a Georgette Heyer I didn’t yet have (“The Black Moth”) and New Statesman writer Laurie Penny’s “Penny Red”, which is signed. Then we have the next best thing to a first edition of Iris Murdoch’s first novel, “Under the Net”, in the first Reprints Society edition from 1955 (actually, the price of the proper first has now dropped and I’m seriously considering springing for a copy or maybe asking my friends to contribute to a copy next birthday …) and Pagan Kennedy’s novel, “Spinsters” – I read Kennedy’s book about her zine a while ago, so it was nice to find this – also signed! And that was it!

I took my friends back into town on the bus, where we met Genny and Ali, two more Birmingham Viragoites. They all went off to see the Cathedral and go to a lovely cafe, and I went home again, tired but happy wending my way etc. etc. to find that I hadn’t quite got away with it and a couple of my clients had noticed I was skiving off. They were OK about it, though!

I had saved the gifts from my tea party until the day itself, so I had something to open. And what a lovely array of Things to Open I had. This is a book blog, so I’ll concentrate on the books …

Birthday booksI knew about the Mollie Panter-Downes “Minnie’s Room” because I bought it myself when I went down to the Persephone bookshop in November, then passed it to Ali to wrap up for my birthday. Ali also chose me “Bombay Stories” by Saadat Hasan Manto, which has The. Most. Beautiful. cover ever (which I will share when I come to read it). The Vintage Classics are a lovely series. Gill gave me “That Dorky Homemade Look” by Lisa Boyer, which looks hilarious and is all about learning to quilt and accepting if you do it badly. As More Sewing is one of my “things” for 2015, this will be both amusing and instructive. Jen put together a lovely square parcel of three books, Anne Tyler’s “The Beginner’s Goodbye”, Susan Cain’s “Quiet” which is that one about introverts everyone’s been reading, and David Bellos’ “Is That a Fish in your Ear?” which is about translation. What treats!

birthdayIn addition to various lovely book-related and Boots tokens and some pampery treats, I also opened a lovely Banned Books bracelet from Meg, a fab Scrabble mug from Sian, Scrabble coasters and tea from Laura (did they coordinate on purpose?) and amazing mugs from Linda. I’m so pleased to be able to move away from my tatty purple mugs and have something lovely to choose from each tea time! I’d actually seen one of these personalised authors’ mugs on someone else’s Facebook feed and had a twinge of jealousy, and there one is, and with my married name, which is lovely!

APA StylebookAs I’m sharing book acquisitions here, I feel duty-bound to add in one more that arrived on my birthday – not as thrilling to everyone as the others, but exciting for me. So exciting that I wrote a blog post about it over on my business blog! This editing style is one I don’t use that much, but I’ve got a big project using it and it’s quite different, so I picked up another book to add to my reference shelf.

Phew. A long post full of STUFF. Have you read any of these books? Do you have a different mug for each kind of tea you have? (I’m thinking of pairing mugs and tea now, officially!). When do you think I’ll reach these January acquisitions and review them here, given that I read my TBR in order of receipt?!