12 March 2009

Of Bath and bagels

As I've mentioned once or twice before, I have no illusion that coincidences mean anything ... but I am attracted to them anyway.

A couple of days ago, I happened across a charity book stall. All of the books were crime fiction, and none of them appealed at first glance; but, keen to support the vcharity to some extent, I looked diligently. Eventually I found one which seemed a little different: Upon a dark night, by Peter Lovesey; I bought it, dropped it in my bag, and thought no more about it.

I later discovered that Unreal Nature had, that same day, amusingly satirised Dr C, myself, and Dylan Thomas in one swipe. Included was a reference to "4 Upper Borough Walls". I was puzzled by that. There are no doubt other Upper Borough Walls in the world, but the best known one by far is in the city of Bath – not somewhere I go often or regularly, but...

Today, by chance, between other stops in London and Plymouth, I had to make one of my infrequent visits to Bath. I would be walking within five minutes detour of Upper Borough Walls. As I left, I had just finished a very powerful and compelling novel and was in the mood for a light, easy read so I picked up Upon a dark night to take with me.

On the train, before starting some work, I briefly flipped open the book and read the first few pages. I was surprised to discover that it was based in Bath.

Having finished what I came to Bath to do, I went to Upper Borough Walls where the reason for the reference was immediately clear: number 4 is a bagel shop. Fairy Nuff, as my late friend Mac used to say. I did ask Dr C where I could buy his microbagel...

Having solved that mystery, and having some time to enjoy, and it being a mild day, I stopped off in the abbey courtyard to sit awhile, read, and watch people go by. Parking myself on a bench I flipped open Upon a dark night and found the amnesiac character Rose ... sitting on a bench in the abbey courtyard, watching people go by.

Upon a dark night is as I've described it: a light, easy, undemanding read, a police detective fiction which just happened to hit the spot for the moment (though the lovingly drawn secondary character, serial shoplifter Ada Shaftsbury, will dwell in my memory for some time). But the following fragment seemed to say something more enduringly insightful:

People steadily crossed the yard carrying things that gave them a reason for being there - shopping, briefcases, musical instruments, library books, city maps or rucksacks...

  • Peter Lovesey, Upon a dark night. 1997, London: Little, Brown. 0316639710