I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent here, book-crew. I got engaged at the weekend. ‘NOT RELEVANT. BOG OFF TURNER!’ I hear you cry. And you would be right. But please bear with. For this was a BOOK-RELATED PROPOSAL OF MARRIAGE.
On Saturday I woke up very excited as I thought my boyfriend-who-I-must-remember-to-now-call-fiance (BWIMRTNCF) and I were going to a book fair at my favourite spot in London, St Dunstan-in-the-East. I was totally pumped for a book fair. I gave clear thought to how many books I could reasonably buy without my BWIMRTNCF feeling inclined to remind me that we are moving house in less than two weeks’ time and that this was all Extra Stuff For The Removal Van. I thought deeply about the number of cloth bags required, based on potential book purchases. In front of the mirror, I reminded myself of the classic book fair moves one can employ when a bargain is spotted but other book-fairers are in the way (elbows) and practised the ‘hands off that one’s mine luv’ face that has wrought terror in many an Oxfam bookshop. I made sure I had casherooney. Jason put on his shirt with the book print to display dedication to the cause and thus help with the intimidation of other bargain book hunters. Bargain book fairs can feel like battle. In my mind, as I walked up Cannon Street, I could hear the referee bloke off of Gladiators hollering ‘Book-Fairers, READY! Three! Two! One!’ I was READY.
So we got to St Dunstan-in-the-East, but I could not see any book fair. Anxiety kicked in. Perhaps we had the wrong day. Perhaps we had the wrong location. Perhaps, elsewhere, there were jammy bookworms getting their greasy mitts on the books that my pre-book fair battle talk had convinced me were rightly mine. The dreaded FOMOOB (Fear Of Missing Out On Books) kicked in. You know the feeling. It’s not very nice at all.
But we had not made a mistake. The reason I couldn’t see any book fair was because the ‘World ‘O’ Books’ fair, with its Facebook page, the confirmation email, the details about second-hand books about 20th century female authors, was a complete ruse dreamed up by BWIMRTNCF – ok that acronym is becoming tiring, I was trying to be all undercover and secretive, but he is called Jason (not Jason Donovan, as my mum genuinely asked when I told her I was seeing a man called Jason, just under four years ago). Instead, what I could see, was a bench full of roses and champagne, accompanied by Bryan Adams blaring out of an iPod (don’t judge me; you know full well that Everything I Do is the greatest love song ever written, and its international resonance meant that it was appreciated by the surrounding tourists) and Jason getting down on one knee to propose. The tourists, clearly moved by the scene and the rugged tones of Bryan Adams, all applauded, and then in turn came up to congratulate us/tell us they had been crying for twenty minutes/offer to take our picture. The City of London gardener, who I expected to have seen it all, given the strange things I’ve seen happen on London park benches, told us that she had been crying too and that we must come back for the wedding. We made the gardener cry, and we were engaged. Not bad for midday on a Saturday.
So I asked Jason how he had got all this Romance Stuff here without my knowledge, and he said his dad and sisters had helped, and that we were going to meet them in a pub round the corner. However, when we got to the pub, it wasn’t just my new in-laws, but a humongous group of our family and friends all ready for a surprise engagement party (see pic below). Because it turns out that as well as a fake book fair, there was a secret Facebook page called ‘Operation Blow Brontë’s Mind’ and family and friends had known about this plan for months. At that stage I sobbed like a baby too, but told myself that it was ok to be emotional, as if a hard nut like a City of London gardener can cry too, then I am in good company and my tough nut image may remain unblemished. To top it all off, my mother, knowing me so well, had even baked me a cake of books (see below) ‘to make up for the fact you didn’t get to buy any books today!’ The womb connection is real even after 35 years, my friends.
What a weekend. Apologies for the diversion. But as you can see, this whole engagement thing is (kind of) relevant to a book blog. Plus I really need to get the message to Daniel Day Lewis that I’m officially off the market and I’m hoping this might help. Please tell him to stop calling.