This morning I finished reading ‘The Remorseful Day’ by Colin Dexter. This is the final novel in his series about the cerebral Chief Inspector Morse. A pleasant and intelligent detective story which ends appropriately, if far less dramatically than the acclaimed television series. I found it impossible to read without visualising, and indeed, hearing, John Thaw in the eponymous role; Kevin Whately as Sergeant Lewis; and James Grout as Chief Superintendent Strange. A superb piece of casting if ever there was one. Indeed, I am told that the author himself began to write with John Thaw in mind.
For a number of years now I have been playing a little game with future readers of my collection of books. I leave a bookmark inside. This can be a train ticket; a boarding pass; the visiting cards of restaurants, hairdressers, or any other profession; even a shopping list. That will give them something to think about, I imagine. A couple of times I have been hoisted by my own petard. This is only one of the beauties of second-hand books. One paperback I had had for some thirty years before actually reading it contained not one, but two bus tickets. One was the old stiff card type of ticket issued on country buses, from a route in Surrey; the other the kind which came off a roll dispensed by the conductor on London transport. He (always a he in those days) would wind a handle to produce the printed ticket. The blanks were like minature toilet rolls. These were given out on the trolleybuses mentioned in my post of 17th. May. If you were lucky a generous conductor might give you a whole roll to take home to play with. The ticket in my book was for the 52 bus which ran very close to Sutherland Place in W2 where I was living and the time and finally reading the book. Frances once knew a librarian who found the weirdest objects in returned books, perhaps none so mind-boggling as the rasher of bacon.
My copy of E. Annie Proux’s ‘The Shipping News’ contains a postcard written in German sent to a woman in London soon after the novel was published. As I know no German any confidentially is preserved until the book is picked up by a German reader. ‘The Remorseful Day’, however, contains something potentially more intriguing. This second-hand hardback purchased in the charity bookshop in the grounds of Morden Hall Park (all hardbacks £1, paperbacks 50p) has no need of a bookmark because it has a ribbon attached to the binding. What it does have, however, inscribed in ballpoint pen, is an outer London telephone number on the penultimate page. So far, I have resisted calling the number. Will the next reader be able to refrain?
Soon after mid-day rain set in for keeps and I gave up composting the final prepared beds. We all decided to troop off to the antiques centre at Wickham, only to find it closed. Every visitor to the village had had the same idea, namely to take shelter in one of the two tea rooms which were open. We were unable to get into Lilly’s but managed to squeeze into The Bay Tree Walk tea rooms where various beverages were enjoyed until we returned to The Firs and Jackie and I continued planting in the rain. Trooping around Wickham I had used a folding umbrella. It takes me so long to work out how to open and close these things that there is hardly any point. I did of course leave it in the tea rooms and then again in Chris’s car. By this method I never normally manage to keep an umbrella for more than one trip, unless, of course, I am as well chaperoned as I was today.
In the evening, when everyone else had departed, Elizabeth, Jackie, and I ate out at Eastern Nights in Thornhill. Just up the road, this Bangladeshi restaurant was very good. We have tried many in the area and this was one of the best.