December 5th 2020

Today I made myself feel better about breaking my £1000 laptop by going into town and buying myself some presents. There’s some kind of twisted logic there that doesn’t really make sense, but just go with it.

Like, mainly it was just an excuse to get outside. I’d been sat around all morning waiting for a parcel to arrive (and it never did), and without a working laptop, I felt weirdly pathetic. Like, I couldn’t watch football. I couldn’t watch Netflix. What else was I supposed to do with my Saturday?

I didn’t like how tragic that made my life look, and now we’re kind of post-lockdown and the shops are open again, I decided to use my day productively instead. And expensively. But fuck it.

Since I moved to Cheltenham almost a year ago, I’ve never really been able to explore it. I moved in December, too close to Christmas to really go out. For all of January I was saving for a holiday, and then for all of February I was in New Zealand. And then in March, just after I got back, a pandemic shut down the entire world. Cheltenham included.

So today, almost exactly 12 months after I moved in, was my first real time walking around Cheltenham.

I had four things on my to-do list:

  • Buy coffee beans from Scandinavian Coffee Pod
  • Return a parcel at the Post Office
  • Buy Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • Go to the Asian supermarket for Gyoza

As you can tell, I committed to my Cheltenham exploration by curating the most Cheltenham to-do list possible.

And so I put a warm jacket on, put some headphones in, and started walking. I definitely, categorically did not do things in an efficient route. I Google-mapsed in a cross-cross across the town, probably passing the same shops multiple times, but it was nice to be out. The air was cool and crisp, and the streets were busy.

Some shops had queues to get in. I avoided those. All shops required masks. There were many brief moments where I considered how absolutely fucking bonkers it is that we’re all wearing face masks. Remember before Covid? No, me neither really.

I decided that because it was my first day out post lockdown, that I wanted to do my bit to support local businesses, so after spending 20 minutes in a queue for the Post Office in WHSmiths, I completely disregarded the fact that they sell the book I was looking for in that shop, and went to find an independent bookstore.

I walked across town twice, to two different local bookstores. One of them was closed. One of them didn’t sell the book I was looking for. So I ended up in Waterstones. Of course I did. I’m sorry, okay. I tried. And to be fair, Waterstones is better than Smiths, because they pair authors a fairer commission on the retail price than Smiths do. And at least it wasn’t Amazon.

So I got the book I wanted, but there was still one local bookstore on the way home that I hadn’t checked yet. And, let me tell you, I found my happy place.

Moss Books is a local, second-hand bookstore like five minutes from my flat. I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before. Second-hand books are the best kind of books. Sure, the author doesn’t get any royalties, but you can get five books for the price you’d pay for one in Waterstones. And I did.

I walked out of Moss with five books. Two Paulo Coehlo, one Thomas Hardy, one D.H. Lawrence, and one Virginia Woolf. Yeah, it’s that kind of bookstore. £14! I paid £20 for two in Waterstones. Plus, that money means far more to Mr Moss than it does to Mr Waterstone. (Yeah, Waterstone is his name. No, the shop isn’t called “Watersone’s”. They ditched the apostrophe at some point for some reason)

Here’s my haul:

Until tomorrow, oh yeah, I bought a hoodie from Urban Outfitters too.


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