Woke to a dark glowering sky with thick, heavy clouds gripping the peaks of the hills before us as if fighting to maintain its cold clammy hold on the landscape.
Two good friends had offered to drive us around the Welsh Brecon Beacons but the overnight rain and sodden atmosphere made the prospect a little dull. What could we all do to lighten the mood and raise our spirits? “I know,” said Phil, our guide, chauffeur and inspiration, “Let’s head for Hay on Wye for a wander round the shops and cafés”.
For those of you unfamiliar with Hay on Wye, it is probably the best town for books and reading in the country. We were going to miss the annual Book Festival by a couple of weeks but the town was still thronged with readers looking for that elusive inspirational tome. The town is filled with book shops, sitting cheek by jowl with cafés where you can relax and enjoy your literary purchase; or antique shops offering all things artistic and ephemeral.
MBH and I agree on one thing at least, we both love books. The format is unimportant, we read on electronic media or paper, hardback and paperback – it’s all the same to us. We seldom go into a bookshop without coming out clutching a treasure and heading to a comfortable corner to indulge our passion. On this occasion she was the first to spot a source of delight, a book of music by James Taylor in a quaint little store of vinyl records and music paraphernalia. I look forward to hearing her play some of the well known tunes when we return home.
The second bookshop we entered was like a library that time had forgotten. Meandering staircases led to rooms where the bookcases couldn’t hold all the books and they lay piled on the floor. Sometimes the subject was obvious, often less so and the handprinted labels on the shelves took some figuring out. Whole rooms dedicated to art, religion or the Welsh way of life. I meandered through the narrow rooms, the sunlight catching the waving cobwebs as I passed, the books themselves providing an insulation which deadened the sounds of the shop’s other customers. I spotted a Penguin first edition of an old favourite and a spindly chair by a sunlit window was irresistible. Were it not for a need to find MBH and take in sustenance I would be there still. Would you?