I had a wonderful time yesterday, hunting down the literary book benches in Bloomsbury. I love the Books About Town initiative – a real celebration of books and reading. If only the benches were a permanent feature, but at least their auction will raise money for the National Literacy Trust.
This was the first bench I found, a lovely evocation of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The little boy enjoyed it as much I did. One of the great things about doing the tour was meeting loads of brilliant fellow-enthusiasts.
My next stop was Jeeves and Wooster in the Brunswick Centre.
I was enchanted by this juxtapostion of football and everyone’s favourite Jane Austen character (though Elizabeth Bennet looks nothing like this in my mind). A moment later the boy came up to me to tell me about the pictures on the back of the bench. He was very proprietorial! I used to teach English literature evening classes at the lovely Mary Ward Centre just yards from here. It was great to go in for the first time for ages, and talk to a member of staff there.
I visited this Peter Pan bench next, where I met someone who knew nothing about the scheme, and was very inspired by it.
Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly came next. I didn’t get to see the front of this one. It was clearly comfortable!
The James Bond bench was also in use when I arrived, and I felt very bad when the occupants insisted on getting up so that I could get a picture of it.
This is the Day of the Triffids bench. I loved John Wyndham’s books when I was in my teens. I met a very enthusiastic extended family here, enjoying the newly released reading packs that accompany the scheme.
After that I dived into a bookshop for a while – impossible to resist. I emerged to find The Importance of Being Earnest bench. I was just enjoying working out the references when a kind woman hurried up to alert me just in time to the fact that I was standing right in the middle of a busy cycle path.
Maybe that was the reason that I totally forgot to search for the 1984 bench, which was a shame, but I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes one.
Last on the trail was Mrs Dalloway. In my imagination she does not look like this at all. Seeing some of these benches was a bit like watching a film of a favourite book and being taken aback by the director’s take on the characters. I taught this amazing book by Virginia Woolf at the Mary Ward Centre as part of a couple of terms I did on the literature of London. We explored loads of superb stuff on that course.
What a fabulous afternoon. The trail isn’t really very long, but it took me ages because of all the lovely conversations I had. Can’t wait to do the other trails.