It should be of no surprise that the next morning as soon as I had showered and eaten a little breakfast, as German K (who I was staying with) left for her hair appointment, so I did walk and go to Arkadia, my long Finnish used bookstore love.
I've tried to find a replacement for it in London, but somehow it just doesn't exist. Call it the prevailing use of charity stores for easy and cheap book buying or the amount of used books that end up in the weekend markets...but somehow this just isn't the same. It's not even the same as my San Diego used bookstore love, Pennywise, in Pacific Beach.
And so I came prepared for my visit there: I brought 6 books with me that I'd finished reading. As a token to the old days. It was also my intention to trade again like old times and reminisce about what I no longer had and missed.
The shop had transformed while I was away, becoming increasingly popular with expats and locals. I still get the email notifications when they have events going on so I know that they are busy every night they're open now with new artists, performers, philosophers...everyone part of the fantastic literary crowd who is interested in sharing their work. There were several exhibits showing when I finally walked downstairs after catching up with one of a partner of owners, Ian:
A small collection of framed illustrations. This was the selfsame place I'd seen the medieval instrument performers. Seems like a lifetime ago now.
The quite spaces were the same though; hidden in the back of the shop there was still the bottle of wine and bread that you could help yourself to as long as you brought up the dirty dishes.
But somehow it felt a little different this time. Like it had expanded. The place was bustling with youngsters and regulars. There was even a book club meeting happening later that day. I was sad I'd have to give it a miss.
I suppose most notably was that Ian's wife, the other shop owner, was pregnant. They were expecting a surprise sex baby in another few months. The world keeps on turning and changing.
There was also a hilarious dog that was following everyone around the shop. Apparently an adopted dog from the owner's sister, who came by, dropped off the dog, then continued travels around the world. Seems everyone is doing this now.
My favorite sections were still the same though; still packed with novels of all sorts. And as I struck up conversation with those sitting there, wanting to spend as much time as I could squeeze out of my schedule in this delightful atmosphere, I got more book recommendations.
I ended up getting 7 books in total. More than I'd brought with me. And Ian seemed to have forgotten about the ones I'd brought by the time I came up to the counter, having taken my time to get through everything. I was more than fine with paying him for the books I'd taken though, instead of just my normal trade. I love supporting local businesses like this and I could not think of a better place to put my money. Not in Helsinki, anyway.
The warm atmosphere was wonderful; so many things had stayed the same while changing in this place, a rare luxury for me, having come back more than a year later. Ian incorrectly thought I'd only been gone a few months. I guess it just goes to show that time passes quickly when things are going well. I definitely felt like some time had passed.
Ian said they thought of me, from time to time, wondering where in the world I was at that exact moment. I thought it was so sweet to be thought of, even if only in passing.
So I made them a promise; I'd send them a postcard at the shop wherever I am, so they'd get a taste of where I was, exactly at a moment. I've made a silent vow to myself also to tell them about the books I've finished since last writing to them, so they can stay current with what I am diving into. Ian has always been so impressed with my reading rate, despite my travels and full time job. I even surprise myself sometimes, I guess.
Things are always changing, but I'm glad some things still stay the same. Arkadia is one of those things. I hope I can continue coming back over and over again.