LASTING SANCTUARY

books:glasses2:jpg

Back and forth. The chair rocked gently, back and forth. Years, decades even, I’ve sat here on and off, rocking calmly, the squeak a welcome friend, the worn wood of the arms soft to my caress. Even as a child I sought solace here and closing my eyes, I drifted into a restful doze….

’Williams! Stop that rocking! I swear, I can see grooves on the oak floor. Williams!’

I’d only sneaked in ten minutes earlier and made straight for the rocking chair in its usual gloomy nook beneath religion and travel, navigating my way by memory with my spectacles grasped uselessly in my hands. Those bloody glasses! Bad enough they fogged up a hundred times a day, even worse they were NHS ones.

‘Caught any fish today, Snorkel face!’  That was the kindest thing anyone ever said to me at school. Even my name was a shout and a demanding, irritated one at that.

At last, the glasses cleared and my gasp of awe puffed audibly across the room. A gentleman in the opposite corner tutted disapprovingly, glared at me before returning his eyes to the book in his hands.  ‘Perfume’ if I wasn’t mistaken and one I could recommend to him. Books galore! My usual heavenly delight. The afternoon light shimmered through the windows, the dust danced around the bookshelves, the words within a promise of new worlds, of escape.

The coins in my blazer pocket clinked against each other as I reached for them. Two pounds altogether and well worth saving my 50p weekly pocket.  Who needed sweets anyway? For me it was all about the books. With a push the chair lurched forwards, depositing me on my feet with a satisfying creak and groan. I edged left around historical fiction, turned right at thrillers then stopped by biographies. 

‘What do you want to read them for?’ Dad always asked. Not waiting for an answer he’d reach for a beer from the fridge, his head lost within the cold vault as the muffled one-way conversation continued.

‘You should be out playing football with your mates. Out do you, hear? None of this bookshop rubbish.’

Why did he never realise that the bookshop was my haven, the dark wooden shelves my sanctuary, the books my guardian?

‘Mr Williams! Thank goodness, you’re awake. There was another complaint about that chair yesterday.’ I continued to rock, groggily, trapped in time, my Ralph Lauren glasses on the wonk. I straightened them slowly. ‘It will kill someone, one day, Mr Williams. That young lad, Joe, the one you always tolerate, who’s constantly here, was thrown off the chair yesterday when its arm broke right off. Yes, that one. I fixed it but it nearly killed him. Fell onto the floor, he did and banged his head. Nearly killed him!’

The laughter within me built up gradually, begrudgingly, relentlessly. 

‘Mr Williams, as the owner you’re responsible…’

‘For keeping things just as I want them! As I’ve done for over thirty years. Don’t change a thing! Now, where’s my laptop…’ Still chuckling I nudged it awake and started to tap on the screen whilst inhaling the muggy scent of books with satisfaction.

 A chair that takes people’s fate in its own hands is a story waiting to be published! And added to my bookshelves.

©Annika Perry, 2017

This piece was written in response to a prompt issued by my creative writing group – the options were eclectic and consisted of Lemon Tree Grove, Book Shops or Graveyard. I was tempted to write a short story including all three elements but fear this would become far too long for the group!

bookshop

Images courtesy of pixabay

BLIND DATE BOOKS

brownbooks

I’m always on the look-out for bookshops with a difference. There are the cafe bookshops. More recently the one-book bookshop in Tokyo. However, these still have books and their covers clearly visible on a shelf.

Elizabeth’s Bookshop in Australia is turning the way we often choose our books on its head by wrapping up the books. Instead of ‘judging books by their cover’ the bookshop feels its policy allows the book to be bought for its contents and also encourages a diversity of reading genres by hiding the book covers. Neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string, the book parcels line shelf upon shelf in one section of the second-hand bookshop. Upon each book is written a few key words about the book – its genre, main plot line. That is all. The rest is pot luck.

An employee originally had the idea to have a ‘blind date with a book’ and sales have mushroomed and the concept has been rolled out to all its six stores across Australia. The books are chosen by staff  who also write on the covers. The customers often buy the books as presents for family and friends for special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays or Valentines. One major selling point is the ease and lack of stress in choosing a book as well as the sense of anticipation and intrigue of the ‘secret’ book held within. 

I can just imagine the anguish felt by the publishers and authors. After hours of deliberation and huge expense their work upon cover design and blurb content is hidden by nondescript paper. However at the same time my interest is definitely piqued and I would happily embrace the ‘blind date’ books now and then. Especially since the books can be returned within seven days if they have already been read – the only main drawback I could envisage. 

What about you? Have you ever come across this scenario in a bookshop near you? Would you buy such a book as a present? Or for yourself? As always I look forward to reading your comments.

bookshops1

 

BROWSING BEAUTIFUL BOOKSHOPS

elateneo

Ever long for a good bookshop?

Whilst buying books online is undeniably convenient there is nothing like the mystique in entering a shop filled with floor to ceiling books. The opportunity to hold fresh crisp books in ones hands, to skim through the pages, flicking back and forth, to pause by a particular paragraph. Imagine this experience whilst browsing books in some of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.

Come with me as I explore three of these amazing bookshops.

ateneo2The luxurious theatrical bookshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina is awe-inspiring. El Ateneo, with its gold tiered levels and actual stage was in fact a theatre which opened in May 1919 and later became a cinema showing the first sound films in Argentina in 1929.  It was converted into a bookshop in 2000, although it retained its theatrical features including some chairs and the original box seats. In  2007 El Ateneo welcomed over one million visitors and sold over 700 000 books.

selexyzdominicanenAnother converted building which now serves as a bookshop is the former Catholic Dominican Cathedral in Holland. The Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht is over seven hundred years old but was closed by Napoleon in 1794 and used as a warehouse. It was renovated in 2005 and now houses black bookshelves over three storeys as well as books along the walkways. If you need a rest and a chance to read take a pew in the cafe in the old choir section.

Selexyz-Dominicanen-bookshop-2

Porto shop

The architecturally stunning Livraria Lello bookshop  is located in Porto, Portugal. Its Neo-Gothic facade hides a beautiful Art Nouveau interior. Built over a hundred years ago it opened to great acclaim in 1906. The main feature is the beautifully dipped wooden staircase that stretches across the shop. The wood panelling and red carpet contributes to the rich lush experience of book browsing. Of particular note is the stunning stained glass ceiling with its monogram of the bookshop’s motto of ‘Decus in Labore’ (Dedication at Work). window one

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. Have you personally visited any of these bookshops? I would love to hear from you. Or do yo have a particular favourite bookshop you frequent? Please let me know what makes it special for you.

“It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.”

Agatha Christie, The Clocks