I am always late to the party. Story of my life.
Last week I discovered a magical place that so many others have already found. A treasure trove for book addicts; a place that almost has its own independent time; a sanctuary where you can just relax. Where is this paradise? Hay-on-Wye.
Why we have never visited before, I don’t know. We had, for years, always talked about trying to visit when the annual festival was on, but for various reasons we just didn’t get there. This year we did – not to the festival – but to the town itself. A town overlooked by its castle that is now, finally, due to get a makeover; a restoration project has been agreed.
The town itself seems alive between the hours of 9.30 and 5 pm – and I am not complaining. It’s so refreshing to be able to walk in the evening through a town that seems to be devoid of cars and noisy groups. The town sleeps. The pace of life is slow, unhurried, leisurely. There is a sense of commumity – we even came across a knitting club in a pub garden. Wonderful.
But Hay-on-Wye is the town of books. In its heyday, there were over 20 bookshops, not so many now as market forces and the internet make trading hard. But the bookshops that are there, about 12-15, are amazing. There is nothing like the smell of old books and when you enter you are plunged into a different world, a world full of hidden corners, a world full of books. My sister-in-law always takes an empty suitcase with her when she holidays for her purchases – she loves clothes. I followed her example and took an extra bag which my husband and I filled with newly purchased books.
So, as well as writing the next Mike Malone – I’m nearly half way through the first draft – I now have an extra 14 books on and under my bedside table. Bliss!