Christian Aid

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Heaven for an afternoon

I have to start this week with an apology. Yesterday, I summarily dismissed months or even years of work from thousands of writers, purely on the basis of the state of the spine of their book, the picture on the cover or even, in one case, the font the book had been printed in. Even as I was doing it, I felt bad, knowing that my judgement of their work was totally unfair and not what I would have done if they had been standing beside me.

This might tell you why such an attitude was necessary:

Inside building

That, and the fact that I had limited myself to one jute back (in fairness, the largest one I could find in the house), knowing that there was already not enough space for the books I have, and then there were a few in the back of the car already, and some in places nobody else in the family has yet discovered. Sounds like an addiction to me.

There was more than enough to feed the addiction:

Rows of books

This was the annual Christian Aid book sale in Edinburgh. It’s supremely well organised, staffed by lovely volunteers, and the outside stalls have long since been rain-proofed. Yesterday, that alone must have saved thousands upon thousands of books.

This scale of book sale is always wonderful. The sheer variety of books and subject areas means there really is going to be something for everyone there. They even had old dance programmes, but in the end we bypassed them in favour of a biography of Anna Pavlova, another dancer I had never heard of but LoLo knew all about when she saw the book afterwards, and some other dance-related books for her.

I came back with a few novels, a few on philosophy (don’t worry, the lighter end) and psychology (same caveat), and my star find – a huge photo book on East Germany:


As an aside, the white and gold building on the front was the Palace of the Republic which was later torn down after 1990, not least because of the amount of asbestos used in its construction. It had a ridiculous number of lights inside it, which gave it its nickname of ‘Erich [Honecker, the country’s leader]’s lamp shop’.

I suspect there will be limited demand for this book in Scotland, but it was close to a perfect book for me. It’s got hundreds of photos – the ideology is clear from both the text and pictures, but I would expect that – and even came with an insert about an extension to the University of Leipzig (I used some of their facilities, mainly the canteen, when I was living there for a few months a long time ago), and inside that insert was a stamp from 1980 in pristine condition:


The main thing for me was that the book was authentic from the time, it was how the country’s leaders wanted to present it and tells the story they told themselves in the early 1980s when nobody expected the Wall to fall. And all this for £2. In fairness, I suspect that if I hadn’t shown up, they wouldn’t have sold it at all so I think we all went away happy from that transaction.

The good news is that the book sale is on for much of next week – it’s at the East end of George Street (right beside Standard Life Investments if that helps anyone). It’s well worth a look if you like finding random books, but do spare a thought for the poor writers whose wares are being sold off for a song and without any of it going to them. Although I think there must be something about having several copies of your books appearing in second hand sales, it feels like a sign of success!