One day, many years ago, myself and a friend were in-between accommodation in London, so booked to stay the week in an inner city hotel/hostel. The room was small but functional. The hotel, a mix of grandeur and chaos.
One evening we were each sat on our beds reading. There were noises outside in the corridor, which we attempted to ignore. Thankfully, a lull turned eventually to quiet. Then, KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK. We looked at each other, and said “Come in”. In walked a guy with a large belly, wearing shorts and smoking a fat cigar.
“Hi guys, how’s it going?”
“Fine. Can we help you?”
“You’re reading I see.”
“What are you reading?”
“He’s reading Jane Austen and me, Winnie-the-Pooh”.
“Winnie-the-Pooh!? The kids book? You’re reading a kid’s book?”
“Can I have a read?”
I handed him the book. He crouched down on his haunches and proceeded to read one of the stories out loud – and very well.
“That’s pretty good!” he said, handing me back the book.
“Glad you liked it,” I said.
“I’ve just read a fabulous book if you’d like to read it.”
“What’s it called?”
“I’ll go get it for you.”
And he leapt up, out the door and away. Five minutes later, he was back.
“In The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco.”
“Any good?” I asked.
“Fucking amazing. Here – borrow it.”
“Well, we’re probably going tomorrow so I wouldn’t be able to return it.”
“Oh no problem, just read it and give it to a friend.”
“Ok, guys, been great to have a chat.” – and he turned and went, leaving us cigar smoke, the book and the memory.
He was right about the book.
Umberto Eco RIP