Books have always been a big part of my life. When I went to my 10 year high school reunion in 2008 several people were polite but bewildered as to who I was, so I reached into my bag and pulled out a book. Yes, dear friends, I was known as “the girl that was always reading a book”. It could’ve been worse, I suppose. I could’ve been “the girl that blew up the chemistry lab”. Or “the girl that brought a horse to senior picture day”. Actually I was the girl that brought a horse to senior picture day, but that’s a story for another day.
For someone who was known as” the girl that was always reading a book”, I somehow didn’t discover Neil Gaiman, or Terry Prattchet for that matter, until fairly recently. In fact, I didn’t read my first Neil Gaiman book until about 2 years ago. The book was Neverwhere and I adored it. Not only was it an amazing story and amazingly written, but it also took place in London and I was newly arrived in the city. It may seem a funny way to learn about a city but I found great joy in finding myself in places mentioned in the book.
When I heard that Amazon Prime was making a series based on the book Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter I was beyond excited because A) I hadn’t yet read the book so, yay, good excuse to buy the book and B) David Tennant, enough said. So I bought the book on my Kindle and proceeded to read it in less than 2 days. Need I say that it was epic? Then, lo and behold, it turned out that there was a pop-up Good Omens event in London this past weekend. Need I say that I was excited to go?
As with Neverwhere, Good Omens is based largely in London and when we looked up the location of the event I knew exactly where it was, which is always exciting for me. You see I am the kind of person that can get lost in her own back yard (or back garden as they’re called here). I’m hopeless with directions. Once, many years ago, I took a road trip to visit a famous mountain in North Carolina. I drove for hours and eventually decided to stop at a hotel for the night. When I got to the front desk of the hotel I noticed that there were quite a few brochures for Tennessee. Yes, I had completely driven past (or possibly over) the mountain that I was looking for and ended up in another state. I didn’t find the mountain on the way back either (I think that particular mountain may actually be a myth), so you can see why I was happy to know exactly where I was going for once.
My husband and I took the tube to the Tottenham Court Road station and I walked out with a purpose and turned left. My husband, who clearly knows me well, took my arm and turned me the other direction and lead the way. We were heading for Greek Street in SoHo and within a few minutes we were walking down what seemed to be a quiet (for the center of London) street. The only clue that we were actually heading in the right direction was an overheard bit of conversation about rude people wearing angel wings. My husband was confused, but I knew we were on the right track.
Somewhere in the middle of the street we came to A.Z. Fell and Co. Antiquarian and Unusual Books, which lets be honest, I would have visited even if it wasn’t a Good Omens pop-up. The 1926 Bentley parked across the street was also a clue, as were the demon and angel standing out front (with white and black wings respectively. One was calling out rude things to passer-by and one was calling out nice things. Guess which was which). Upon entering we were greeted by a dour sort of man, well dressed but not happy to see someone entering his little shop (perfectly in character with how horrified he was to see us), who informed us not to touch anything and that no smiling was allowed. Which of course made me smile even more. With a sigh he waved us up the stairs and greeted his next visitor with even less enthusiasm.
As is typical of older buildings in central London, the space was narrow but three or four stories tall, with the worlds steepest staircase (with bookcases added for extra potential death traps. Although there were lemon sherbet sweets in bowls, sort of like lemon drop candies, on the book cases so if you were going to trip and break your neck on the stairs at least you would be enjoying something yummy.) The second floor (or what they call the first floor because they like to confuse Americans) was dedicated to artwork done by Neil Gaiman and the team behind Good Omens. I was particularly taken with a drawing of Crowley’s Bentley done on a newspaper.
The third floor (or second floor. Now I’m confusing myself) was full of costumes and objects associated with each character, including a “Them” flag, Witchfinder weapons and the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter. There was another brooding attendant but he was the silent glare type rather than the rude type, and would answer questions if you asked nicely. We spent quite a bit of time examining everything before heading back downstairs. When we reached the entrance the charming attendant had been joined by a demon topped with a giant frog that was having fun insulting a young Japanese couple, calling the man a LEGO and Ringo (to be fair, he did have a bowl haircut). The demon granted me permission to take a picture with him but claimed not to know what a website was when I asked permission to put it in this article. He’d died in 1791 after all, they didn’t have websites back then.
Once outside the young demon and angel also took pictures with me and the demon actually offered to take a picture of my husband and I in front of Crowley’s Bentley. I thanked her and she seemed to remember that it was her job to be rude so she insulted a woman for walking in front of the camera (honestly, I want a job that allows you to be purposely rude to people). Up close the Bentley was a treasure trove of Good Omens props including a Velvet Underground CD, and playing Queen on loop.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience visiting A.Z. Fell and Co. It was very well put together and the folks working there were absolutely perfect. It’s just one of those fun things that London is so well known for doing and it was a pleasure to attend. Good Omens is available now on Amazon Prime and I also recommend reading the book, both are wonderful.
I invite you all to visit London sometime and I’ll be happy to show you around. After all, Britain is an island and eventually we’ll run into water when I get us lost …
Sidney Fraser is an American transplanted to a new life in London, where she explores fannish and geeky places, events and creations, which she relates in the continuing True and Proper Adventures of Sidney Fraser.