Posted by: Natalie | May 8, 2012

Books and Birthdays

In December I turned thirty. I wasn’t overly thrilled at leaving my twenties but have gradually settled into my new decade with hopeful new plans and exciting times ahead. Although these are hard to forge at the minute. Like the onset of two day hangovers, trials seem more difficult to dilute on this side of the big THREE OH! Finding time to get together gets harder the more responsibility and change affects our age, but it doesn’t mean that fun, games and the simple pleasures in life evaporate over night – we just need to make that little extra effort for one another. Which is why I was so unbelievably touched over the bank holiday weekend.

For my birthday, my big brother organised a weekend break for eight of us in the book capital of the UK, Hay-on-Wye. And what an incredible time I had. Not only was I immersed in a place more saturated in words than I have ever experienced before, but good friends, food and even sunshine helped celebrate my belated birthday in style. Oh, and to make it even more special, I was whisked back to fond childhood days as we stayed the weekend in static caravans at Black Mountain View touring park. Just over the border into Wales, this was a stunning little corner with an incredibly friendly owner who even left us home made Welsh Cakes on our arrival

Hay itself is beautiful. Old and small and completely crammed with book stores of all styles and variety. Bizarre little curio shops and antiques/junk shops spliced between the booky types made pleasant breaks between the perusing of spines both new and broken. But I am sad to say I did not make the most of the wealth of literature at my finger tips. I only returned with two books; Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean and Child of God by Cormac McCarthy. Not sure I could have picked two books any further apart on the spectrum, but I like that about my reading choices. I like to keep myself guessing as to what will take my fancy next. But I feel as if I failed. I failed Hay! However, being faced with some many, many aisles of books, I was totally overwhelmed. My heart skipped several beats as I wandered slowly along never ending shelves, scented delicately between ancient dust and fresh print, yet I found it almost impossible to know where to begin. As it was also a social weekend with conversations to be had, beer to be drunk and canoes to capsize (of yes, I ended up swimming in the river Wye. Not the warmest day of my life!) I felt incapable of losing myself between the pages.

In one shop in particular, I could have spent days, if not weeks. Richard Booth’s Bookshop is just the holiday destination I delight in. The photo below is of the second floor atrium where comfy sofas and suntrap windows entice you to stay forever. But if you fancy a little more of the creepy sensation, the basement is home to eerie corridors of books not dissimilar from a certain scene in Ghostbusters! Such a special place

Erika took with her a list of some 350 books which she intends to read. Being a fan of lists, I am equally in awe and perturbed by such organisation. I sometimes feel a sadness of reading only short-listed and prize winning books, that perhaps great fiction is passing my friend by. However, with the little town of Hay as her Mecca, I suddenly saw the greatness in her work! With ease and calm her arms became laden with genius pieces of literature and my jealousy spiralled. She had a system. Something I have never really devised when buying books. While I was dithering, rocking and sweating in a corner, totally overdosing on words and pages and print, she casually spent a small fortune without even the slightest hint of over indulgence.

The next time I return to Hay-on-Wye, for there will be several nexts I believe, I will be prepared. I shall have a list. But I do not regret not making the most of this first foray into my own personal wonderland. For this weekend, there were more important things. I shall always find five minutes for a book, a snatched moment between work and life and sleep. No. This weekend was about getting together. Finding a little more than a snatched moment to spend time with those important to me. We do not do it nearly often enough and I hope these short annual jaunts together continue.

Such a shame Erika and Lynne are behind the camera and only Pete’s knee can be seen, but I love this picture. Well done Munchkin!

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