It was obvious I couldn't go near a steady succession of bookshops and not buy at least one book, so by the time I reached Topping & Co in Ely in the company of RevCheryl, who is a regular, almost part-of-the-furniture customer, I was really a lost cause.
In the run up to Ely we'd done a raid on Heffers, Oxfam and The Haunted Bookshop in Cambridge where I was delighted to finally lay hands on a copy of a book I had been on the lookout for, more on that another day because it needs space of its own.
Heffers yielded a couple of books transferred to my possession by and about an author I have been meaning to investigate for some time and can't put off much longer, Elizabeth Bowen.
I love books of essays, they offer a real insight into a writer's thinking and everyone including A.S.Byatt seems to see Elizabeth Bowen's writing as quite a challenge; A.S.Byatt suggesting in her introduction to The House in Paris, that Bowen learned much from Henry James and Virginia Woolf, writing 'with a harshness that is unusual and pleasing ', making this 'a very elegant and a very melodramatic novel.' Paris is just where my reading is right now, currently very deeply embedded in the mire and slush of the 18th century streets in the run up to the Revolution, so I think this one will fit that Parisian reading trail nicely too. The joy of reading around a place is the ability to travel to and fro in time too, so I'm bound to add some more Emile Zola while I'm there and who knows what else.
RevCheryl also had a pile of books to pass onto me, urging me to read Siri Hustvedt
and also suggesting that my reading journey is incomplete without having at least tried Margery Allingham.
On to Topping & Co at Ely (and by now forgetting that I have to carry all these books home on the train) the bookshop with the stock to make you really really swoon and drool. I had quite thought bookshops just didn't even try to stock like this anymore in the face of internet competition, but that all seems to have passed Toppings by.
This bit of the shop might look empty but this was 10pm, after the event. In the afternoon it was fair buzzing with activity as everyone geared up for that evening's Year of the Flood extravaganza with Margaret Atwood and you could feel the tension and anticipation mounting, yet still customers were offered complimentary pots of Earl Grey tea (this IS my type of bookshop) and encouraged to sit and browse the books in a quiet corner, on window seats or scattered book-laden tables, and it wasn't in the least bit difficult to find three books I really couldn't live without a minute longer.
What better place than Ely to buy Roger Deakin's Waterlog - A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain.
To Siberia by Per Petterson caught my eye in the certain knowledge that having enjoyed Out Stealing Horses and In the Wake, I'd probably enjoy this one too.
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose has been on my must-have list too, a book that takes you into literature and its masters for an in-depth look at just how that sleight of pen happens.
So then you hit that moment when you try to pack your bag for home and realise what you've done.