If you give a Sam a bookstore…

…she’ll want a book to go along with it, and she’ll probably get carried away browsing through said bookstore, which means that she’ll end up with a stack of books in her arms, and subsequently start to cry because she knows that she can never read all of the books in the world.

I don’t remember where I was going with this.

Oh. I went to Oxford this past Saturday, and even though it was raining and chilly, I was still having heart palpitations over walking the same roads as my literary heroes who lived and wrote there (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll). While on a 2-hour walking tour (yeah, I don’t know what it is with me and walking tours. You could call it an obsession), I saw what the tour guide claimed was the doorway that inspired C.S. Lewis’s Aslan and Mr. Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia. But when the guide whirled around and pointed to a random lamppost, saying, “THAT is the very lamppost that appears in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” I got a little skeptical. Still, it sounds cool, so here’s a few pictures.

See the pipe in his hand? Could be Tumnus. Could be.

See the pipe in his hand? Could be Tumnus. Could be.

Aslan door?

Aslan door?

Yeah, I don't think so. But maybe.

Yeah, I don’t think so. But maybe.

Further proof of my geekdom: I saw the Blackwell’s and that was pretty much the end for me. After the tour, I grabbed a cupful of chocolate-dipped churros from a street vendor and spent the rest of the day in a bookstore.

Doesn't look like much, right? JUST YOU WAIT HENRY HIGGINS JUST YOU WAIT

Doesn’t look like much, right? JUST YOU WAIT HENRY HIGGINS JUST YOU WAIT

Not just any bookstore. To help you understand what I saw, Blackwell’s holds the Guinness World Record for having the largest single room selling books. Three miles of shelving in 10,000 square feet.

I had an emotion. Three miles of an emotion.

Here’s a link to a panoramic view of the room, in case you happen to be half as much of a nerd as I am: http://www.trekwireless.co.uk/blackwell/oxford/flash/pano6.htm

And that was only the bottom floor. There were three more. It was by far the most impressive bookstore I’ve ever been in. The supply of books never ended (AND THEIR NOOK SECTION WAS SO TINY HAHAHAHAHA *eh hem*), and I now understand what Belle felt like in that scene where the Beast takes her to his library. If you haven’t already, put “Stand in Norrington Room at Blackwell’s and absorb smell of paperbacks” on your bucket list. 

Needless to say, I came out with a book, even though I said I wasn’t going to buy any books while I was overseas since I’d have to lug them all back. However, I’ve never owned a copy of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Panand even though he was Scottish, I still feel like my copy is somehow more authentic because I bought it in the UK. In Oxford. In Blackwell’s. *flails*

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Friday was Red Nose Day 2013 in the UK, a day where everyone fundraises their butts off to transform local lives and lives in Africa. It’s sponsored by a UK charity called Comic Relief (hence the red nose), and this year we got Jessie J shaving her head (on purpose), Simon Cowell marrying himself (saw that coming), and David Tennant making out with a comedian on national television (typical).

I went out into the city for a walk along the Southbank of the Thames. There were a huge amount of street performers out on Friday, much more than usual. I passed by at least five living statue performers, a carousel, and a couple of mimes, but my favorite performer was a guy who was blowing these massive bubbles with butterfly nets and a bucket of soapy water. Check this out:

bubbleman thames bubble rearview bubble kids playing bubbles

I walked all the way from the Southwark Bridge to Westminster Abbey, which is around two miles. I got to the abbey and there was a small crowd of people in the street and a truck parked up on the median. The road was mostly blocked, but I could see that only a few minutes before I’d arrived, a tourist had gotten clipped by a truck while crossing the street.

If I haven’t mentioned this before, people in London as a general rule do not pay attention to traffic signals. They walk whenever and wherever they jolly well please, because they’re British gosh-darn it. I think it’s a side effect of having been an empire.

I, however, happen to be one of the most nervous jaywalkers in the history of the universe. There’s an art to illegally crossing the street, I’ve learned since coming here, and even though I usually just go when other people go (you can actually tell who the Londoners are and who the tourists are by when/how they cross the street), I still hesitate. I can’t commit to it. And that’s the way you DIE.

Anyway, an ambulance came and whisked the guy in front of the abbey away, and everything went back to normal, but now I can safely say that I am even more nervous about crossing the street than ever before. I need a Girl/Boy Scout or the UK equivalent to help me. Screw old people*, I am the citizen in need here.

Maybe there’s some kind of self-help book for people with an unnatural fear of crossing the road. (At this point I muttered to myself, “Yeah, it’d be right next to the book on chicken psychology and behavior,” and then I started laughing and I can’t stop I’ve been laughing for like five minutes that joke was so lame hahahaha SNAP).

Also can I just say that this is my LAST WEEK OF ACTUAL CLASSES.

Samantha Chaffin

*Sorry, old people, I like you. I really do. But I like not getting hit by a car more.

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8 thoughts on “If you give a Sam a bookstore…

  1. thejaneite says:

    1. AHHHHHH OXFORD!!!! *dies* That’s the spiffiest thing ever. I’m so jealous that you walked where so many Greats did. I had never heard of that door before, actually, so I’m also thrilled to see those pictures.

    2. I am such a book nerd that when you described the bookstore I instantly thought “WHERE IS A FLOOR PLAN OR GREAT BIG IMAGE?!” and then you provided the link in the next paragraph. OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH. I need to visit that place. I actually *did* just add it to my bucket list- is that pathetic? No. No, I don’t think so.

    3. Those are the most fantastic bubbles ever. I’m impressed.

    4. I like your joke about chicken psychology. Now I’m laughing. *affirmation, affirmation* Funny story: I’m not what anyone would call a hugely bold person, like 75% of the time. But I don’t know what it is, when it comes to jaywalking, I’m always the one who’s like, “GUYS WE CAN MAKE IT!” and charging out into traffic and nearly getting killed. So maybe that wasn’t a funny story, fine. But I felt like mentioning it.

    Anyway, ENJOY YOUR LAST WEEK OF CLASSES!! And do plenty of walking tours, because they’re actually kind of fantastic.

    • samchaffin says:

      Haha Lydia, you crack me up. And I’m glad that you found the interactive floor plan as wondrous as I did. *nerd alert* You would totally love it. You know what I’ve been finding since I’ve been in the UK? Most bookstores here have a section JUST for fairytales. Like, not even just children’s fairytales. But heavy-duty anthology collections and retellings. I actually can’t even handle it. I go a little bit insane. XD

      See, I need people like you around to make me just run across when jaywalking, because I’m more of the freeze-in-the-middle-of-the-road-and-hope-the-car-stops type. I’m semi-surprised I’m still alive at this point.

  2. Kim says:

    OMG, Blackwells is like a dream! I didn’t get to visit Oxford (though I managed Cambridge) and I feel sad that I missed out on getting lost in such a beautiful bookstore. I’m impressed that you walked out with just one book – but the cover is awesome! That’s the thing about England: the books I caved in and bought while there had pretty, unforgettable covers. I would have lost sleep if I didn’t bring them home, haha.

    Awww, the walking tours! They’re always so corny, but very inspiring too. I took the Jack the Ripper tour, led by this crazy old man who made some of us lay on the ground where the murders * supposedly* happened. Freaky.

    I’m also wary of crossing streets! *high-fives* I’m usually the one running across… when there’s literally no danger. Ugh.

    Your blog posts are always, always amazing. I need to read some old ones and comment. AND, of course, once IK gain my bearings I’ll be back to reading The Privateer. I’ve been completely behind on everything Figment-related as graduation looms ever closer. Gah!

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