A heavy cold, an extra stone in weight, and a lot more books.
Stratford on Avon - birthplace of Shakespeare apparently, though they're very reluctant to make a song and dance about it - is slightly odd: half ancient beauty beloved of coach tour brochures, half run-down trap. It has an awful lot of charity shops, and we visited all of them, plus one bona-fide secondhand book shop.
We bought Dan the 3-DVD John Lydon's Mega Bugs (yes, the Sex Pistols' John Lydon), and I bought a few books: Julian Barnes's England, England; Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur: The Seeing Stone, Emma Donoghue's Stir-Fry, Frederick Buechner's The Return of Ansel Gibbs (lovely 1950s Penguin), Thomas Disch's The Genocides, a classic Panther SF title with a stunning cover (Disch managed to write both the children's book The Brave Little Toaster and The Businessman, in which a man gets his murdered wife pregnant with a hideous foetus ghost), and Robertson Davies's philosophical/historical What's Bred in the Bone.
After that, we lunched at the revitalised Swan Theatre: deep-fried breaded strips of pig's ear for starter then a quality steak, washed down with a non-alcoholic mojito for me, a fine Riesling for Ben, who also found room for pudding. No wonder they treated us like a couple. Then it was off to Paxton and Whitfield, where we both purchased ridiculous quantities of fine cheeses, before meeting the Map Twats in Brum for even more food and a stupid pub quiz. The evening was rounded off with - yes - a cheese-eating marathon. At this stage, liposuction is the only thing that will save me.
Ben didn't arrive empty-handed: he brought me a huge stack of politics books (mostly Readers Union reprints from the 50s and 60s, and a Millennium Falcon, which Ewar claims is for his brother.