Friday, 16 March, 2012.
My second week of working in Canberra had come to an end. Like the first week, it had been demanding and at times grueling, but rewarding.
I had been asked to stay a third week, which didn’t bother me, and so instead of going home for the weekend I had decided to stay in Canberra again.
To make that stay even more exciting, I would be spending tonight and tomorrow night at the Novotel Canberra right in Civic.
And not only was Friday night late-night-shopping night in Canberra, it meant that Clouston & Hall Booksellers would be within easy walking reach.
The treat I had been planning for myself since last weekend was looking better and better.
Shortly after 5pm, I finished work at my client’s office down in Woden.
I grabbed my luggage and hefted it to the Woden Bus Interchange.
Less than 20 minutes later, I was in Civic.
I checked in at the Novotel Canberra, went to my room, unpacked and assembled my gear for the raid on Clouston & Hall.
I considered taking my empty wheeled suitcase because of the expected big load of heavy books, but in the end I considered it too clumsy, especially for where I was planning to have dinner beforehand.
In the end, I decided to rely on my two Woolworths Cool Bags – blue canvas insulated shopping bags with zipped covers that are primarily designed for refrigerated groceries, but which I have found very useful for shopping in general.
I flattened and folded the Cool Bags, tucked them into my backpack and left the hotel.
My original plan was to first have dinner at the landmark Happy’s Chinese Restaurant and then take a short walk across Garema Place to Clouston & Hall.
It was just after 6pm, though, and I feared that Happy’s would be packed – not only because it was Friday night in Civic, but because of what I’d previously witnessed there. Before, I’d always gotten to Happy’s just after 5pm when it opened and I was often the first customer that night – but even by 6pm it was amazing to see how quickly it filled up.
And sure enough, when I got myself down that narrow flight of stairs to the lower-ground floor where Happy’s resides, I saw and was informed by staff that all tables were full.
I was disappointed – but I could return later when the crowd of diners had died down, so with hope in my heart I went back up that narrow flight of stairs to Garema Place (those stairs were why I had decided not to bring my suitcase with me).
Outside the ground-level entrance to Happy’s, I looked across at Clouston & Hall…
…but I decided that I should hold off going there for now, as I wanted to give myself some time before returning to Happy’s, and perhaps lugging around two Cool Bags stuffed with heavy books for the next hour wasn’t very inviting.
So instead, to kill some time, I decided to check out the nearby Canberra Centre…
…where a few minutes later I laughed to myself as I made an unexpected discovery.
Canberra Centre used to have a large Borders.
Now it’s a large AllBooks4Less.
And almost all of its books, regardless of shape and size, are only $5 each.
About an hour or so later, I re-emerged from AllBooks4Less.
One of my Cool Bags was filled with nine books that had set me back $45, although if I had bought them at regular Australian retail prices of $20-$30 per book…
Here are seven of them (the other two are extra copies of one title I have bought as gifts for two friends):
There were a few other titles I had considered, but I decided to give them some more thought and perhaps return to get them the next day.
As well, I now had something else to think about perhaps buying, especially as I still hadn’t gotten to Clouston & Hall yet.
I had checked in to the Novotel Canberra with a suitcase and both Cool Bags packed to the brim with both my gear from home and a good amount of fud and drink left over from Woden.
For my return to Woden on Sunday afternoon, and even with some of that fud and drink gone by then, there would definitely be no room for my book purchases – and of course I would have to eventually return home to Sydney.
So, another suitcase would be necessary.
Fortunately, a few doors away from AllBooks4Less was a Strandbags, and a few minutes later I found that as always they had some amazing specials that I mentally filed away.
Next, I checked out a nearby Big W to see if they had anything similar or even cheaper, but they didn’t.
I could have ventured further to the nearby Myer and David Jones as well, but I decided that that could wait until tomorrow.
Instead, I left Canberra Centre and crossed Bunda Street to finally walk into Clouston & Hall.
A few minutes later, I took out my notepad and flipped it open to the list I’d made the weekend before.
Next, I unfolded my second Cool Bag.
And then I went to work.
I followed my list around Clouston & Hall to where I’d remembered, or thought I’d remembered, the locations of the books I’d listed that weren’t available as ebooks from Amazon.
Some of those books had been moved, one I didn’t re-find, and there were a few that I reconsidered and decided not to get after all…
…but in the end I made my way to the counter with my second Cool Bag filled with the following titles:
This pile set me back $177.50, although if I had bought them at regular Australian retail prices of $30-$60 per book…
I paid my cash, the shopkeeper wished me a happy weekend of reading and I walked out of Clouston & Hall with my two Cool Bags filled heavily with books.
It was now around 8pm.
Night had now fallen, and Garema Place was still lively.
I headed back over to the ground-level entrance to Happy’s and went back down that narrow flight of stairs…
…to find that Happy’s was still full, and to be told that it was “take-away only”.
Ah, well. As an (in)famous Anglo-Australian once sang, you can’t always get what you want.
I headed back up that narrow flight of stairs to Garema Place, began thinking about other dinner options, and headed off.
But I wasn’t sad, because I knew that I would definitely be returning tomorrow for another suitcase and so I could be at Happy’s just after 5pm when it first opened.
As well, even long before dinner at Happy’s tomorrow, I could get myself to nearby King O’Malley’s for lunch and spend the rest of the afternoon there unwinding with a jug of diet cola, and perhaps also writing my next post for Black and Blue Man, until Happy’s opened.
I smiled as I already looked forward to tomorrow, forgetting what 17 March meant at an Irish-themed pub…
…and until next time, stay well and take care 🙂