In the supermarket I'm having a look at the selection of World Book Day Books. Our local supermarket tends to have a very small selection of books. Usually they’re very popular paperbacks at less than half the actual price, which is a terrible idea. People get used to the idea of having very little choice and treating them like junk – but what can you do? That’s how publishing is run these days, and I’m sure these people know what they’re doing.
There’s a Paddington collection for World Book Day, for a pound. The three stories are all reprints, of course, but I have to buy it anyway. It’s illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and the stories are from Michael Bond’s heyday. It drops easy as anything into my basket: irresistible.
There's an older, large lady working at the checkout. Calling me ‘lovey’. When she scans and beeps ‘Paddington Turns Detective’ she says, with mock sternness, ‘I hope you’re not going to be reading this yourself.’
I give her a hard stare. ‘Why ever not?’
She laughs at me. ‘Isn’t it for kids?’
I shrug. ‘I’ve no idea. But I’ve got a collection of Paddington books going back to 1970, when I first started buying books. I’ve got everything he appears in.’
She beeps the rest of my shopping. ‘I bet they’d be worth a fortune.’
‘I doubt it,’ I say hotly. ‘Not only are they not for sale, but they’ve all been read a hundred times. They’re not the kind of thing people sell. They’re my reading copies.’
‘Oh,’ she says, looking thoughtful. ‘Didn’t they make a film out of Paddington recently? Did you go and see it, lovey?’
I tell her that both the film and its sequel were great and more than lived up to my expectations.
‘Oh, that’s good,’ she says, as I pack my bag. ‘Because sometimes you go and see the film and it’s no good at all, compared with the book and the way you imagine everything inside your head.’
‘Quite,’ I say.
She sighs. ‘You can have all your illusions squashed.’
Squashed? I assure her that that’s something I never want to happen to me.
‘You have a nice afternoon, lovey,’ she tells me, as I pay and she gives me my change and then I head back out into rainy Levenshulme.