We’ve had a spat of warm summer days here in the Netherlands – a rare treat, at least when it’s more than 4 days in a row – and, of course, like the masses, I wear shorts and a bright T-shirt and flip flops. Unlike the masses though, I don’t rush to the beach or sit the whole day in the sun at a terrace or at the park. It’s not that I don’t love being in the sun, but its because of my sun allergies. I have to be real careful and smart in the summer. So hats, factor 50 sunscreen and even dressing up with a loose long-sleeved shirt and light jeans are a pre if I’m to be out for a long time. I used to get so bummed out by this but then I figured half an hour sun in the morning in my swimming trunks gives me all the vitamin D I need (which equals a smiling and overactive Samir all day), and it builds up my tan gradually without nuking my skin until I’m a walking radiation ball like everyone I see around me.
Anyway, I’m digressing from what I actually wanted to write about. Sometimes, when its really warm and I feel like being away from home (doesn’t happen often), I like going with my girlfriend to the movies because its empty and the air conditioning rocks. But I only do this when there’s something we want to see and besides, it’s an expensive outing. My other alternative is to visit one of the many wonderful 2nd hand bookstores where I live in the Hague. And I did just that 2 weeks ago with my girlfriend. We visited our favorite one, owned by this quite aged gentleman, in the neighborhood we lived in previously.
It’s such a lovely soothing place, totally overstuffed with books to the point they are thrown in piles on the floor! And you have to watch your step lest you step on them or bump into a stack and topple it over. So with ninja-like stealth, we made our way to the back section where the English lit books were and my sweet girl scouted along for books I’d like. Now prior to visiting, we’d agreed I’d not overspend and I promised myself not to buy anything I don’t intend to read within a year. So I was selective – actually ruthless – while I saw lots of books I’d like to have at amazing prices, 2 euros average (about $2.5) for paperbacks and 9 euros (about $12) for thick omnibus or compilation hardcovers.
And then it happened, I stumbled on a collection of Joseph Conrad books in a special edition publication, hardcovers but without any jackets, slightly worn out but to the point where it was charming rather than off-putting. The pages were all clean and intact with hardly any yellowing – good quality paper. Ten books! They were his rarer works, in fact, some are difficult to find today even in paperback. And they were only 5 euros each… what? Totally excited but worried because that was then 50 euros total – I obviously decided to forego all the other books I’d already picked out – I asked my girlfriend if she was ok with this sum. Oh alright, I first explained what a rare find this was and how lovely it is to have them all as part of the same collection in my library and I blabbed on until she saw how much I wanted them, and being the sweet person she is, she consented on the condition I try and haggle down the price.
I grabbed all ten and, I don’t know how I did it but, I managed to make my way in the labyrinth of books to the owner and said, “These are 5 euros a pop and I’m happy to buy them all if you’ll agree to let them go for 40.” After some grumbling he agreed.
And that’s how I spent an especially hot summer afternoon, in a chilled second hand bookstore with my girl, and walked out with a fantastic collection for just 40 euros ($52).