Thursday, 16 February 2012

Vintage Penguins in Lyme Regis

I didn't come to Lyme Regis to find old Penguins. In fact there were moments yesterday morning while I was dragging my suitcase and assorted bags containing the 170-odd books (mostly Penguins and a few Enid Blytons) I have found so far through train stations and up staircases when I wondered whether I even wanted to continue searching. Perhaps 170 books is enough for anyone, and I could now turn my focus to the scenery. I managed to walk through the streets of Exeter past more charity stores than I have ever previously seen in one location without feeling even slightly tempted to see if there was a Penguin waiting on the shelf.

But I didn't manage to walk past The Sanctuary, an enticing book store in Broad Street, Lyme Regis. Even though neither of us planned to buy anything, we spent about an hour browsing the shelves and coming across loads of Penguins priced between one to three pounds. And then I spotted a book I have been searching for since reading The Last Tresilians last year: it was no. 1960 A Use of Riches, one of the two other novels that Penguin published by J.I.M. Stewart. Amazingly, I found the other one (no. 2037 The Man Who Won the Pools) a few minutes later in a charity shop across the road for 25 pence.

The trip to Lyme Regis was really about John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and Persuasion: it was something of a literary pilgrimage. And yet walking on the cobb has proved a much more difficult ambition to fulfil than you would expect. Last time I tried to get there I walked through dark streets and falling snow and arrived at Waterloo station to find all trains cancelled. This time I made it to Lyme Regis, but was stopped by a policeman 200 metres from the cobb because it was believed that a digging child had unearthed a landmine.

It turned out to be a rubber tyre, and so this morning after breakfast I headed to the cobb again, and I was rewarded with a beautiful winter's morning and a calm ocean, and the opportunity to experience the cobb in the best way possible: alone, and in complete silence.


  1. Very much enjoying reading of your travels.

  2. Glad you're enjoying the trip to England. I visited Lyme once with my brother, in his aged Reliant Robin three-wheeler car. We each collected a huge box full of books, which upset the balance of the car & made the journey home even more hair-raising than usual!

  3. That's lovely. I'm so glad that your trip is going well.

  4. 170 books? I'm impressed. Glad your trip is going so well.

  5. I really like this entry from one of John Fowles’s diaries or letters - I hope you got a sense of where it’s coming from.

    “The French Lieutenant’s Woman. I started writing this today. Not so much with a plot as a mood and a language I wanted to use. It was really just one visual idea: a woman standing at the end of the Cobb and staring mysteriously out to sea.”

    And I hope you liked Wales!

    Cheers, Welshman Jim

  6. Landmines in Lyme Regis, well I never, thats brilliant. As are the finds that you erm found.

    My jaw almost dropped at 170 books, but then I would use the excuse that these are small and so arent that much to carry, bet your arms are telling you different though ;)

  7. 170 books is quite a load but luckily it was one great find for you! Enjoy the rest of your travels!


  8. What a fanatatic trip, although you've put me to shame slightly as I've never visited most of the cities you've been to (I need to devise a book-related quest to explore the UK).

    I'm glad that you managed to visit to Cobb - it's much nicer out of season.

    If you're heading in the Sussex direction, I'd recommend Camilla's Bookshop in Eastbourne, which had an impressive range of Penguins last time I was there.

  9. I meant to say 'What a fantastic trip', but my typo looks more like 'fanatic'.

  10. I love your blog. This post appealed a lot as I've just finished a Lyme/Persausion/FLW related blog myself. If you have time, please check it out



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