Sunday 17 July 2016


On my Books To Be Read shelf, there’s now a most interesting title: NIGHT WALKING by MATTHEW BEAUMONT: A NOCTURNAL HISTORY OF LONDON: CHAUCER TO DICKENS”, a book which isn’t, I think, likely to be sitting in your local Waterstones.

I haven’t read the book yet so it’s waiting like a little treasure-box waiting to be opened. I found the title about a week ago in an independent bookshop I’d been meaning to visit for a long time: THE NEWHAM BOOKSHOP in East London.

It wasn’t the most thorough of viewings. I'd driven all the way from Oxford-shire, got caught in the late afternoon traffic and arrived way too late on a Thursday afternoon.  The youthful staff were very kind and polite. I’d heard good things about the bookshop from children’s author Catherine Johnson and others and I’d been following the bookshop on Facebook for a while. I hated turning up that late in the day, not that anyone expected me. My hurriedly low-key visit took hardly twenty minutes - but what a joy it was!

One side of THE NEWHAM BOOKSHOP is crammed with a wide range of children’s books. I picked up THE COLOUR OF DARKNESS by RUTH HATFIELD (who I’d met earlier that week) and, planning ahead for the summer holidays, a pleasing and well-designed Usborne Activities book of General Knowledge Quizzes that was just the right size for a bag or pocket. I did ask if they had a copy of the word game TABOO (because I'd played it a a couple of days earlier) but was sweetly and firmly told “We only do books.” Good for them!

I could have looked at the children's shelves far longer but the other side of the shop beckoned. A curved passage from one side to the other offered an excellent selection of teen & young adult books and was just where such books should be, well-placed to lead the older teen through to the stacks, piles and shelves of intriguing books on offer for grown-ups. 

I wish I could name more of the titles spread around that small room. The display wasn’t artistically elegant but I’m someone who finds a big generous book-hoard beautiful enough in itself. I glimpsed a good spread of novels I’d like to read, several (non-celebrity) cookery books, some poetry books and a very wide selection of non-fiction books on social issues and a host of books about aspects of the East End and London. I’m sure I spotted a poster for a book of photographs mentioned in The Gentle Author’s SPITALFIELDS LIFE blog

For a moment, gazing around, I fantasized about sneaking in with sandwiches and a sleeping bag so I could stay there till morning. But I couldn’t. By now, it was definitely four-fifty-nine o’clock and the staff were, discreetly but unmistakeably, needing to close. Murmuring my apologies and thanks, I left, cursing the road-works that were holding up all the traffic around East London and left me with so little time. 

Yet the quick trip wasn’t entirely wasted. Now I know where the shop is and what's inside, I hope to make another visit when I’m next in the area, and in funds. THE NEWHAM BOOKSHOP is one of those rare and special bookshops that deserve support. And besides, the bookshop puts on a variety of talks and events around the area, including The Wanstead Tap at Forest Gate, so this is definitely more than just a shop.

Meanwhile, here back home in Yorkshire, I'll soon be NIGHTWALKING the London streets alongside Chaucer, Shakespeare, Blake and Dickens, and all from my own warm and comfortable bed.  

That’s enough blog for today, so bye for now. Will try to be back soon . . .

(The Newham Bookshop website is . The shop is at 745 - 747 Barking Rd, London E13 9ER. Closed Mondays and most Sundays. I suggest allowing time to find parking space.)

Penny Dolan

1 comment: