Rainy Day Book Shop…

Half term. Raining of course. Oldest child wants to stay in all day watching Supernatural on dvd. 10 and 7 year old want to keep playing their car game on the landing. I’ve got plenty to keep me busy too. Another load of washing. Floors to clean. Wet dogs to rub dry. A baby to entertain. But it’s half term, no school! We should be doing something together as a family…

So we force them out. Into their coats and into the car and out into the world and the empty wet streets that lead down to a favourite haunt. Every time we go looking for it I worry that it has gone. That we didn’t go often enough, didn’t keep an eye on it and it vanished, faded away when we weren’t paying attention. Good things do that sometimes. You forget they are there, and then when you need them you find out they have moved on.

But not so The Crooked Book. Push open the door and the smell brings a smile to my face, and I am carrying in the baby with the feeling that I am introducing him to a warm and wonderful place. Which it is anyway. On first glance, on first smell, old and musty and reminds me of my Nan’s house when we were growing up. Old things well cared for. Ceramic basins and wooden spoons. 1920’s wardrobes. 1960’s coats. An ancient typewriter or two. I wonder how many words were tapped out on its keys… Tables and chairs, mismatched and eccentric, two men in suits chatting about a business plan. Free wi-fi. Tea, coffee, cake and soup. But those are not the reasons we come.

We make our way slowly to the back. Where the books are. Piled high and higher still, on clumsy shelves and scruffy displays. The familiar face at the till says hello how are you? We are fine, and we move on, carefully, trying not to knock over anything precious or valuable. Like the books, I want all of the things…And the smell…

The smell of books and thoughts and feelings and dreams. The smell of pages thumbed and worn. The smell of cracked spines and cricked necks. It makes me sigh. My shoulders relax. I hug the baby tighter, and feel the urge to show him all of the books. A whole world, I want to tell him. In fact a million, million worlds. A million, million, million words and ideas and tragedies and triumphs.

It feels safe here. Close and comfortable and sheltered. We huddle in the kid’s section while 7 year old laments the fact they never have the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid book he is after. But we find him a Doctor Who annual to keep him smiling. 12 year old as ever has an armful and we have to cajole her down to just two. 10 year old finds a book on dragons and a book on vampires. I’m lost. Or is it found?

I suddenly remember that I want to read Toni Morrison, so me and the baby hunch down and find M on the bottom shelf in the left hand corner and there is Beloved. Something I have wanted to read for years. Happy, but not done. I find a book by Roddy Doyle that I have not read, and a whole selection of Douglas Coupland novels catch my eye. In the end I choose Beloved and Girlfriend In A Coma. At the till husband is in a world of his own with Marx and Engels…

Fifteen pounds worth of books, smiles all around, priceless and a collective urge to get back home. Back into the warm with a coffee and a biscuit. Our books under our arms, we run back to the car, jumping puddles, job well done. We came, we browsed, we conquered. I feel slightly bereft as always for all the books left behind. Goodbye The Crooked Book. Until next time.

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