Tuesday, August 6, 2019

5 Days With Books In The Land Of Kings & Queens

Image result for british flag images

I am happy to report back that after a vacation to Great Britain the world of books is doing just fine over there.  Not only were many bookstores open for business, they were busy.  Used. New. People still read and they enjoy paper books.

I was also happy to see that books are sold at a zillion gift shops that are attached to museums and historical attractions.  They were not small offerings either, but huge displays of treasures.

I also noticed they had many different local newspapers for sale, not just one or two.  The editions were thick and not just filled with ads.

Something can be learned here.

London, though big on being proper, traditional, and reserved in its manners, is not out of touch with modern society.  But somehow, as people embrace their tech and cell phones they didn’t forget to read reliable information sources like newspapers and books.

If only this trend could catch on in America!

Now, that isn’t to say the UK completely has its act together aside from driving on the other side of the street with the steering wheel on the other side, I noticed cars parked forward and backwards on the same side of the street.  Pretty confusing and dangerous to me.

They also are weird with how they number buildings.  Instead of the American style of having numbers go up or down on both sides of the street – in the same direction – they have two separate numbering systems across the street from each other.  Demerit for that!

However, they seem more in tune with conversation.  They have two different flushers, depending on whether you did a 1 or a 2.  Restaurants tend to serve small glasses of water that are not filled high.  And many grassy areas looked a bit dry.  Though they have some skyscrapers in selected areas, they are not wasting energy on lighting them up the way you see in some big American cities.

I guess I can’t fully praise the UK – they were dumb enough to support Brexit and vote for a Trump-like prime minister, Boris Johnson.  But they seem to have a good way of preserving and sharing their history without being shameless or cheesy.  It is a cultural mecca.

I was in London right after Lady Diana died. It was 21-22 years ago, I believe.  I loved visiting Buckingham Palace, walking by Big Ben and red phone booths and double-decker buses, and going to the Tower of London and taking day trips to places like Windsor Castle.  This time around I saw mostly things I hadn’t seen before, with one re-do:  Kensington Palace.

It’s a city you just want to walk through or take a train to get around.  I did both, not needing a famous black cab.

The weather in late July was a bit odd.  Upon arrival from the red eye via NYC's JFK, I was hit with 100 degrees – a record for a July day in the UK – and then the next day it dipped into a high of 70 rainy degrees.  By the time I left it settled on sunny and 80.

Strangely, I didn’t really need to exchange US money for the British currency, the pound.  On day three I changed $100 but only because I wanted to buy a magnet from a vendor that didn’t take credit cards.  Everyone else took credit cards (though some shied away from AMEX) and so no reason to do anything with cash.  Their currency, due to Brexit, hit a two-year low but nothing was inexpensive there.

Their prices include a big tax called a VAT, which subsidizes many things.  Their college tuition at all schools is the same only $11,000 a year!  Shit, I’m moving there before my two kids need to go to college.  Many of their restaurant bills include a tip – a 12.5 % standard, as opposed to the more common 15-20% in the U.S. They don’t even have an extra line on their credit card bills for a tip, but in the U.S. Did you ever notice when they add the tip in for a party of a certain size, they’ll still have a line for a tip, in case you’re too stupid to see they already took an 18 percent cut?

This trip allowed me to make the most of four and a half days.  

I hit the Design Museum (building structure is better than its contents), The Wallace Collection (where cool pairs of Manolo Blahniks were showcased), Jack the Ripper Museum (good if you love Criminal Minds or Dexter), The Portobello Market (good for gifts), The Tate Modern (art), Churchill War Rooms (excellent for World War II or Winston Churchill buffs), the oldest continuous Jewish synagogue of London (from 1701), a play (The Lehman Brothers Trilogy, about the famous Wall Street brokerage that collapsed in the Great Recession), and a walk over the 125 year-old Tower Bridge of London.  (good view by the Thames River). However, my favorite day was spent in Oxford, a 65-minute excursion by train from London.

This entire place is ancient. So many structures dated back 400 + years.  I toured the tower of an old church, visited Christ Church (which inspired a number of Harry Potter scenes), several buildings of Oxford University (which is not one campus but a series of three dozen scattered all over the place), and a pub that dated back to the 12th century (Turf Tavern).  

I walked through little alley ways that ended up revealing access to marvels of architecture. Cobble-stoned streets took me to castle-looking buildings and huge wooden doors with iron trimmings that looked like they held Shrek at bay.  Many street corners were curved and would lead to forks in the road and a city of puzzle pieces that seemed to all connect throughout time.

On the plane home I already pined to re-discover the world of the past, to open doors to history and find fodder for the imagination.  I also missed having high tea and scones (a must for visitors and natives) and I miss a nation that reveres the written word and the embracing of books.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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