The Town of Books

A recent visit to Hay-on-Wye, a town world-famous for its second hand and antiquarian bookshops has reminded me of how much I love books and shopping.

If you need a book, on any subject, and you have the time, you can find it in one of the bookshops of Hay. As well as the 30-plus bookshops, there are numerous galleries, boutiques, vintage and charity shops, and lovely cafes/restaurants – some might say the perfect shopping environment.

It is all too easy to just shop online these days, with the pressures of long working hours and ensuring you enjoy quality family time. It’s easy to find and purchase absolutely anything online, but then acquiring the things you want and need simply becomes a task ticked off the list rather than the pleasurable experience shopping can be.

I’d definitely recommend a visit to Hay, even with the ‘mini-Fairbanks’ in tow. They were relatively well behaved, running up and down the book stacks in the Old Cinema Bookshop, searching for the kid’s books among the shelves, rows and stacks, exploring the nooks and crannies, going upstairs/downstairs on creaking wooden staircases, all under the promise of ice cream.

We duly delivered and it was fun to ‘people watch’ while occupying the window table at Shepherds Ice Cream Parlour and Café. Lunch involved the ‘minis’ waving and pulling faces at the passing shoppers, which brought lots of smiles and double takes. The people of Hay and those that visit are a big part of the ambience; flamboyant and colourful characters quietly enjoying their time, no rushing or pushing.

You can let your everyday stresses melt away for a few hours, turn off your phone (that is if you actually get a signal) and get lost among the bookshelves. Then relax, refuel and ponder your purchases over coffee and cake.

After wandering around just a few of the bookshops and conscious of my overloaded bookcase, I limited myself to just one purchase, a very timely find among the myriad of books on the shelves in Richard Booth’s Bookshop.

With a fourth birthday party looming and the planned picnic at Margam Park potentially rained-off, inspiration for a housebound birthday lunch leapt off the shelves – Annabel Karmel’s Complete Party Planner. Now I have lots of ideas for kid’s party food, games and the all-important cake!

Some of the shops made me feel very nostalgic, reminding me of hours spent in my local library when I was a child, the old stone building, wooden floors, the smell, the peace and quiet, lots of stories and adventures just waiting to be picked up and discovered. I really want the ‘minis’ to be inquisitive, open-mined, to dream big and to treasure books and all the magic they contain.

I fully embrace the wonders of the digital world and when shopping for Christmas and birthdays or when I need a book (or actually anything else) urgently, I love Amazon Prime (courtesy of my Dad-in-Law, thank you). However, when browsing for books (and shoes) nothing beats going to a real-life shop, handling the merchandise and finding that unexpected yet perfect addition to your collection!