Monday, 18 March 2013

A Bookish Day in London...

I had a bit of an accidental literary day in London last weekend, which was most enjoyable. Although I have lived in West London my whole life, I still have a huge list of places I have yet to visit. On this particular day I finally went to the British Library - I can't believe it has taken me 28 years!! I have walked or driven past so many times and it was so exciting to finally enter through the doors and see this massive bookshelf before you...

There is currently a free exhibition called Murder in the Library: An A - Z of Crime Fiction - a fascinating journey through the development and popularity of crime and detective fiction. There are original drafts, manuscripts and first editions on display from the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers.

I really enjoyed reading these rules of Crime Fiction and they inspired me to have a go at writing my own mystery one day.

The Treasures of the British Library is a permanent free exhibition which is home to many important, historical and beloved items. Highlights for me included Jane Austen's original hand-written A History of England and her writing desk, a nonsensical Edward Lear manuscript and a Shakespeare first folio and copies of Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor. There is also the chance to listen to readings on the headphones and I chose to listen to wonderful extracts of Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, three Wilfred Owen poems including Dulce Et Decorum Est and Sir Laurence Olivier in Hamlet.

There are also some fascinating historical documents including an order of execution signed by Elizabeth I as well as her prayer book and one owned by Lady Jane Grey. Other items include illuminated and sacred texts from around the world, maps, scientific sketches and book bindings as well as a room dedicated to the Magna Carta.

Possibly my favourite part of the exhibition was a collection of hand-written lyrics by the Beatles. My favourite one was the lyrics hand-written to A Hard Day's Night by John Lennon on the back of his son's birthday card. I could almost see him sitting in the kitchen, busily scribbling on the back of this card composing the lyrics. There were two Italian women next to me chatting away in their home language, then they suddenly both burst out into Beatles songs in perfect English which really made me smile!

I could have spent hours in the British Library, especially in the gift shop which is AMAZING! I could easily have spent hundreds of pounds on books, bags, mugs etc but was very good and didn't buy a thing! But, we had lots to do so we sadly left, but I will go back again soon!

So, we left to make our way to Covent Garden for lunch and on the way, near Euston station we found the road that is used as Baker Street in the BBC series Sherlock! Here is a photo of the entrance to '221B Baker Street' and Mrs Hudson's cafe!

Unfortunately the cafe was shut so we couldn't enjoy a coffee or the famous Sherlock wrap, so we went on our way to Wahaca in Covent Garden. There is no literary link here, but it is worth a visit for the salsa served with the tortilla chips alone - delicious! And we did look for Street Cat Bob down Neal Street on the way there!

After scoffing lots of food, we made our way to Forbidden Planet in Shaftesbury Avenue to explore the hundreds of books on the lower floor. Saw lots to add to my wish list, plus some Harry Potter and Hobbit merchandise! We also paid a quick visit to Fopp, where I have purchased some brilliant books (plus DVD and CD) bargains previously.

After another stop for tea and amazing crepes at Creme de le Crepe in Covent Garden Market, we made our way to the New Theatre to see War Horse - we were extremely lucky to find £12 tickets! Yes, there were in the balcony to the very far left of the stage with the safety rail in sight and we couldn't appreciate the amazing projection in full, but at least I have now seen it, even if I spent most of it crying! I loved Michael Morpurgo's book and I have been wanting to see this in the West End since it opened five years ago! I will write my review in full in another blog update, but it is a very powerful piece of theatre and the puppets are amazing.

So that was the end of our book-themed day! Let me know your favourite literary places to visit in London or your secret reading places...

Murder in the Library at the British Library is on until 12th May. You can keep an eye on new exhibitions at

You can browse some of Forbidden Planet's stock online

Find out more about War Horse and buy tickets at


    Ive read and been meaning to visit the british library and this post has made me really wanna go now! Excellent piece about the sherlock holmes bbc street...that is another place I will have a visit to!
    you write really well about the unusual parts of london, maybe you could a semi-regular piece for the blog?
    as always, excellent stuff holly!

  2. Thanks! I have had so many other days that I should have written about - will aim to write more in future!
    I watched the Agatha Christie doc last night and now want to visit Greenway so much next time I am down in Devon! x