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Finding my home. Saturday August 12, 2017

Are you worried that books and bookshops are an endangered species?" asked a customer, clutching a Kindle.

I knew a place where books were treasured not threatened.

Books had always been a love of mine, I was always reading at least one and had one in my bag. As a 21st birthday present, I was given a beautifully illustrated book about books, bookshops and book collectors. The story that fascinated me the most was about a town in Wales, Hay-on-Wye, that was full of bookshops.

The more I learned about the man and the town, the more I wanted to go and visit the place, but life happened – marriage, three children, divorce, elderly parents, and small business. It wasn't until a hot summer's day in July a few years ago this year that I finally made it to Hay-on-Wye.

As soon as saw all the bookshops on my arrival, I felt at home. I had never really felt like I fitted in anywhere but in this town, smelling of old books and knowledge I felt wrapped in a comforting welcome blanket.

The first place I visited was the shop Richard Booth opened in 1962 but no longer owns, the Cinema Bookshop, which is by far the biggest bookshop I have ever seen with close to 200,000 books.

There was a book centre with 20 different dealers selling a wide variety of books, including many antiquarian ones. Old leather books inhabited the shelves, their famous and lesser known writers beckoning me to examine forgotten works.

It was hard to know where to start. After perusing the abundant shelves, I sat down with a stack of books, smelling the beauty of the knowledge surrounding me.

"Kindles banned in this shop," a banner proudly proclaimed. This was my town, a place where books were honoured and respected, not vulnerable and disappearing.

"Books are not an endangered species, I have 40kg worth of books to prove it," I answered, smiling at the memory of my trip to Hay-on-Wye.

Have you found a place, or a group of people, that you feel at home with. A place or a community where you can be yourself?

If you have not found this place or community yet, can you describe what it would be like?

Is there something you always wanted to do, always wanted to visit, always wanted to experience and you finally achieved that plan?

What was it like - did it leave up to your expectations?

A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Eva Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:52am

Hi Leah, I met Richard Booth on my trip to Hay on Wye, it is a fantastic place. I guess I have found my niche in the painting world. I was inspired by an artist in my teens and despite a few paths down other routes I am finally on the right track - fingers crossed. I love the flow state when painting, there isn't anything else like it, I like coming up with the concepts and finding the right balance in layout, and it's pretty good once I've finished to look at a piece and see all the radio shows and books I have listened to staring back out at me from bits of my paintings. And then I get to share them with friends and strangers too, some who 'get' them and some who don't. And that's fine too. I love it!

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:55am

Eva, What a lovely reply. I am glad you found your niche in painting. It is wonderful if you find something that gives you pleasure.

Sarah yellow rose Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:54am

Hi Leah, thank you for your inspiring blog today. I too love books and agree with you. I grew up with parents who had hundreds of books. Walls with many many shelves as my mother inherited her fathers books , who had been a teacher. As for your question, over 30 years ago I made some friends through the National Childbirth Trust. Now every week we ( 6 of us) play canasta ( cards) drink tea eat fruit and chat but mainly laugh. We've all had our struggles over the years. This is the place I feel safe to be myself and I carried on going through grief and low mood. Not sure why but even if we are really tired it perks us up. Maybe the combination of chatting and counting.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:58am

Sarah yellow rose, Thanks for your reply. It is great you have found a group where you can be yourself- it sounds wonderful. I love chatting and counting perks you up. For me it would be chatting, reading and eating!!

Jul Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 7:52am

What a lovely blog Leah as usual. I could smell the books. My son gave me a room diffuser recently with the sticks, and the perfume was paperback books. It really smelt like them! I love books, touching them and reading them of course. I love bookshops too. I would never own a kindle. I can't stand them and am pleased that they haven't replaced real books as was the prediction.In fact young people, adolescents and teenagers in particular are reading more real books than ever before so all good! I can't think of anywhere I've been where I really feel at home in the sense you describe. I do feel at home though once I cross the channel and arrive in France but that's not what you meant I don't think. Something might come to me later! Jul xx

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:24am

Jul, Thanks Jul, what a lovely comment. Yes I love the smell of old books. I would love adiffuser of paper books- not sure hey sell the here. I think if you feel at ease in France that is what I meant if you can relax and be yourself. I know people who have a kindle and they also buy books. Thanks for your comment it made me smile to think of the smell of books.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:33am

Jul Just thought about the amount of reading young people are doing , and how the demise of the book has been predicted but has not happened,. I wonder where books feel like they fit in and belong- hopefully my shop. Leah xx

Jul Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:45am

I was about to send another reply as my brain got into gear after my first reply..just to say I know where I feel at home and that's in second hand shops particularly in France at the Trocs/ depot ventes but also in my home town in England where there are many antique shops of the newish kind i.e not much mahogany. I hope you attract young readers to your shop Leah , You will know what books they love to read and can't stop buying. In our local bookshop there is a huge section for teenagers and young teens. I think fewer people use Amazon for books now as local bookshops can be cheaper. I had time the other day to compare prices and Amazon, crafty devils, use some very misleading techniques to make buyers think the book they are buying is very cheap. Our local bookshop was only very slightly more expensive for about 6 books than Amazon and some of the bookshop's books were cheaper. Jul xx

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 9:10am

Jul, I was going to ask whether you liked markets. I also love second hand shops especially the smell of them and the ability to lose oneself in them. I have a big range of children's books . Bookshops can offer personal service that Amazon and other internet sites cannot offer, Thanks for replying again.Iam sure many moodscopers can retaliate. One of my things to do is to go to FRance and Uk and browse through secondhand shops and markets. Leah xx

Bearofliddlebrain Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:35pm

Aw....please don't hate me, Jul...I have a kindle and read every night in be...I can't always hold a book as my hands are getting arthritic! But I still buy books to read during the day!! Bear hugs x

Bearofliddlebrain Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:36pm

...I read the kindle in bed (left the 'd' off bed above! x

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 9:55pm

Bear, I find my old eyes find reading a screen tiring but I can see when traveling kindles are useful. Curling up with a book is fun, not sure how one curls up with a kindle!! Thanks for your comment.

Oli Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:08am

Thank you Leah -- I love books however yesterday I made a start to de-clutter -- to get rid of them. For over two years I've had the paralysis of indecision and been unable to begin a task which seems too big. But yesterday I started. And today I intend to carry on. The philosophy books are going; the anatomy books are going; the fiction is going -- they're all going. And I can't wait to be free of them.
Yesterday I got the boxes and the parcel tape. Last night I cleared the shelves. As I write this the floor is cluttered with books. They're going.
I want to move, I want to breathe, I want to be free of them. I want my floorspace back, I want a room upstairs back.
Somehow I let books overtake my life. I've had enough and I want my space back and my life back and it feels really good!
(I still love books but just not so many of 'em.)

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:30am

Oli I am so glad you made a start to declutter that is a huge achievement. I am glad you can breathe and hopefully your decluttered place will give you a place to be relaxed in. Thanks for your comment.

Ach UK Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 9:15am

Hello Leah, what a lovely blog to start my day with. Books are great companions. My bookshelves host a variety of old friends I can turn to for advice,instruction,comfort,knowledge and pleasure. Mr Google is very useful for coming up with solutions, but I do like to pluck a book from the bookshelf and be able to leaf through its pages. And I am fortunate to have a local library where I can make new aquaintances and bring them home to tea and biscuits :))

Finding some place or community to feel at 'home' has not always been easy. I remember a long time ago being told of a man who said " . . . In my father's house there are many mansions, . . . I go to prepare a place for you there" and I took great comfort in that. But over the years I have come to realise that I can feel comfortable in many places, and do.

Oh and more lightheartedly, I wanted to visit,and did this year, Monkeyworld in Dorset. And it did indeed live up to expectations.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:12am

Ach UK M0nkeyworld sounds amazing. We don't have that in Australia. Thanks for your comment . Local libraries are great places.

Jane SG Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 1:16pm

I love Monkeyworld. My daughter sponsored a monkey there

Lacey Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:26pm

Monkey World!! I'm hoping to take my Mum who is 88 and my bro there in September,thanks for the recommendation!

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 9:57pm

Jane and Lacey, I will have to google monkey world. When my daughter was a toddler she loved monkeys so much we had a huge collection of soft monkeys and toy monkeys and spent hours at the zoo watching them,

Poppy Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:23am

I think, to answer your question, Leah, that bookstores and antique/junk shops (as we call them this side of the pond) are some of my favorites.

I must tell you that your blog inspired me with your commentary on Hay-on-Wye! I am visiting the U.K. for an entire month in October. I absolutely adore books and small, charming towns that have allowed time to pass them by. The combination is irresistible. Hay-on-Wye is now on our itinerary. I suspect it will fit the bill as someplace I can feel at home far away from my usual living space.

I am drawn to things English/Irish/Scottish. My English roots run deep as my ancestors from many generations back are from the U.K. I anticipate that I will feel quite at home when I visit. It's in my blood.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:32am

Poppy Thanks for your answer. I haven't been for 4 years but I am sure people who know the town will tell you it is great to visit. You will love your trip to UK. I am very envious. I felt very at home in Wales.

Bearofliddlebrain Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:38pm

Oh Poppy...go to Wales to...sooo beautiful! Enjoy your visit here wherever you get to! Bear x

Sally Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:56am

I love books. As a child l'd take one to the park to read as it was next door to where we lived. I can see it vividly. I loved the page turners, and my mother would encourage me to read widely.

Hay-on-Wye is a place my husband and I intend to visit in retirement. Just down our street ( though not literally!) I liked your description of you going there, Leah. How many books is 40 kg ?!

In our bedroom , there's a saying on the wall "A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." I believe that!
I like gardens too, and especially flower and vegetable gardens, preferably walled!
I loved The Secret Garden ( Frances Hodgson Burnett ) as a child, and dreamed of that garden ....
I love the real power of words to transport you to faraway places. A Town Like Alice, which I reread recently evokes both Australia and Malaya...

I love curling up with a book and being in another world for those few hours. The cost of a book is a small price to pay for being afforded the privilege of sharing someone else's world.
As ever, Leah, you got the brain cells whirring. Best wishes and thank you. Sally.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 11:35am

Sally Maybe about 70 books to 40kg. Town like Alice by Neville Shute was a great movie and then later mini series. Thanks for your reply.

The Gardener Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:44pm

Town like Alice was SUCH a good book and movie. Neville Shute brought to life that post-war Australia so well. Got nearly all his books, all old paper-backs, pale ink, small print, brown paper now - he really ought to be in vogue again - and, required reading for the whole world at the moment should be 'On the beach'. Some novelists prophetic - horrors in Africa foretold by Nicolas Monserrat in 'Richer than All his Tribe' (another author little read nowadays, please correct me if I'm wrong)

Sally Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 9:16pm

I agree, TG, Neville Shute ought to be read more! I am reading his " An Old Captivity " at the moment, and enjoyed " Requiem for a Nun" and "The Pied Piper"a lot too. Yes ", A Town Like Alice " was a great film, one of my favourites, as was the mini series.

Sally Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 9:19pm that title a bit wrong: "Requiem for a Wren", not Nun!

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:01pm

Gardener I think there is a Neville Shite fan club. I have many of his old paperbacks in my shop. Alas not many customers seem to appreciate his writing. Also have Montserrat books too, I think I need a TV series based on forgotten writers . The Cruek Sea was popular years ago I think. I also have a lots of Somerset Maugham books just waiting to be rediscovered.

Another Sally Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 11:15am

Morning all. I love books, but am a very slow reader. I seem to fall asleep after about 10 minutes - even first thing in the morning! We have a fabulous bookshop where I live. The people who work there are so knowledgeable and helpful. I would even buy my Harry Potter's from there, even though the supermarkets were doing them cheaper. I would hate to lose that shop. I've read some of HP in French and Spanish. That is the beauty of a children's story, I had already read them all in English and the vocabulary is fairly simple. No need to understand every word. Many of the characters felt like friends to me.
My daughter loved HP too, her sister gave her a boxed set for her 21st birthday and they were amongst her most treasured possessions.
Hugs to all.
Another Sally xxx

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 11:38am

Another Sally Thanks so much for replying at this difficult time. I am glad you have fond memories of your daughter and her love of books. I am glad you have a favourite bookshop and you and your family love HP. Hugs Leah xx

Lou Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 11:40am

I very much enjoyed this blog; I have been to Hay and the wonderful cinema bookshop :)
I must be a rare person here as I have both physical books and a kindle. It is easy to transport and easy to read big fat books on without having to hold then, which can aggravate pain. I think books in all forms are wonderful friends and teachers :)
Thank you for your words :)

Jul Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 11:49am

Hello Lou. I felt bit guilty for saying I hate kindles as I know they have been great for people who don't normally read books at all. I know you are not in that category and I have friends like you who love books but have a kindle too and take it on holiday. I never thought about kindles being helpful for those who find it difficult to hold heavy books. I am completely changed in my attitude to kindles now by what you said. Jul xx

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 11:55am

Lou, Thanks for your comment. I think may people like you who use kindle when travelling and they all read books.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 11:57am

Jul, I think kindles are great for travelling as books are heavy. I have never bought one yet not sure I can but It is good that people have kindles and buy books. Leah xx

Lou Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 2:04pm

Jul, I'm glad I could help. My Kindle means I never have to be without a book. You never know whenever you might chance for a sneaky read ;)

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:53pm

Lou "MY kindle means I never have to be without a book" - think you could sell that to an advertising agency. .

The Gardener Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 12:10pm

Leah, you will be flooded out by book-lovers. So glad you got to Hay. We have a town called Becherel here - same idea - the town is mediaeval, in an awful state, and only the thousands of books hold it up. I have not used a Kindle - realise super for travelling - and for reading in bed when a bedside light upsets the other bed user. My last few travelling years have been spend fast asleep on journeys (both ways to UK last week) or looking at impossible dreams in Vogue. As for 'home'. Comfortable chair, in garden, in sun, good book, glass of Pimms. Dream situation - Club Med - always lovely locations, do anything or nothing, fabulous food, limitless drink - multi-national clientele - and their super rule - you do NOT sit at the same table - ergo you do not get stuck with bores/show offs (conversely, they don't have to get stuck with YOU). Update for those who are interested - I can't lose my bug, no voice, Mr G won't let me sleep, yells at me and when he can't hear my answer calls me 'that bloody woman'. And, I've just cleared up the dead cat as have visitors to the house. Now, that whole episode was seriously traumatic. Sally, I am aware you have suffered a terrible loss - my sympathy - did not get the thread - Moodscope has just been a Greek drama at the back of all the other dramas in my life. Books, just finished, second time, Felicity Kendal 'White Cargo' excellent on the India we know well, and of the agony of sitting with someone suffering a lingering death.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 12:52pm

Gardener Thanks for your reply . I like the idea of a comfortable place and a garden would be a comforting place. I must visit Becherel one day/

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:54pm

Can you read around MR G or do you have to wait till he is asleep? Thinking of you. Leah

Poppy Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 12:41pm

Thomas Jefferson famously said, "I cannot live without books."

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 12:53pm

Love the quote. Thanks

Jane SG Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 1:17pm

Hi Leah, always a book fir me, never a kindle.
Don't seem to have much time to read though sadly. Will have to think about the place. Lovely blog thank you xx

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:03pm

Jane Thanks for kind words. I am thinking there is a time and place for kindles. Did I really say that!! Xx

Mary Wednesday Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 1:18pm

Yes, books. I am so lucky to live in a barn conversion with room for a couple of thousand books. While my kindle is my constant companion, it is no substitute for leafing through a favourite book until you find exactly the quote you want. You can't read Shakespeare on a Kindle (At least, I can't). Reference books are not the same on a kindle. Where I feel at home? Right here, on the Essex coast, with the constant tides bathing the mud flats and the spectacular sunsets and the salt wind in my face. That is home.

Lexi Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 3:58pm

I loved visiting Essex MW. I am very jealous that you get to enjoy those sunsets and salt wind daily. I'm a huge fan of PD James and several of her books have her protagonist Dalgliesh solving murders there. A gloomy subject but the descriptions of the towns and the coast always take me away.

The Gardener Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 6:47pm

Lexi - did you get to see the incredible 'pargetting' squares on patterned plaster - only in Essex, I think. Another crime writer, Dorothy Sayers - portrays further North horrifically in 'The Nine Tailors', Peter Wimsey, of course.

The Gardener Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 7:41pm

Scene was the Fens, of course - the ancestral home was Norfolk - I get Essex scenes mixed with Suffolk - a sadly under-rated county

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:08pm

Mary, Thanks for your comment. Thousands of books in a converted barn somunds wonderful, my kind of place. Idont think kindles have that special smell old books do but they are I am told handy when travelling! I have not been to Essex coast .

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:08pm

Lexi I like PD James books too and glad you liked the Essex coat.

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:11pm

Gardener, Love the alliteration -pargetting squares of patterned plasters. Do you get people wanting Dorothy Sayers books but dont get the books in much.

Lexi Sun, Aug 13th 2017 @ 7:22am

Gardener, I just discovered Dorothy Sayers and will pick up The Nine Tailors - thank you for the recommendation! The pargetting squares are so beautiful. Really beautiful country.

Leah Sun, Aug 13th 2017 @ 9:35am

Lexi, Gardner is good at recommending books and other cultural things.

Mary Wednesday Sun, Aug 13th 2017 @ 4:28pm

Gardener, my barn home is just south of those Fens, and I know them well. Nine Tailors is perhaps DL Sayer's most poignant book; it has a real sense of place. I too love all her books, although I have never been able to really get to grips with Five Red Herrings, and I never feel Gaudy Night is one of her best, although of course, it does unite Harriet and Wimsey. My favourite is still Strong Poison.

Leah Sun, Aug 13th 2017 @ 10:53pm

Mary, Thanks for that information about DL sayer's books, as I have never been into crime fiction or fiction for that matter. I will ok out for those titles but as I said before DL Sayers books are hard to find here .

Lexi Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 3:52pm

Hi Leah, I love reading your posts. They are always so thought provoking and your descriptions of places are so vivid, much like reading a good book. I lived in London for a bit in 1990 and that was the happiest time of my life. My school was in Hampstead Heath and I spent every week exploring London and every weekend exploring Europe, Scotland, Wales. I loved it all - the sights, my new friends, Shakespeare theatre, the food, the coasts. I was very sad when I left and in fact entered into a very deep depression for several years after. About four years ago I finally took a trip to Ireland with my sister. I never visited when I lived in London and my grandmother - my grandparents were from County Mayo and Tralee Bay - didn't speak to me for a bit when I got home! I don't know why it took so long for me to visit. I remember our first stop in Dublin - nice city, loved visiting the College and the library and Book of Kells - but it felt much like a city to me. I was a huge lover of Joyce and Yeats but still hard a hard time connecting with Dublin. Well. Then on to the West Coast, Galway, Dingle, Westport....I felt like I was among my people. They even looked like my grandparents and my mother :) My sister has red hair and we're all tall and it wasn't until Galway when we saw so many tall redheads. I loved that trip and cannot wait to go back. Actually I love to travel but haven't been able to do it for awhile. I loved traveling to France and the Greek Isles as well. There are a lot of places that have meant so much to me over the years at the particular age that I was there. I try not to recreate the loveliness and magic of the past. I just haven't found anything like it for awhile. Right now I don't love where I live - a suburb of Chicago - and I haven't felt at home here but my daughter is in school for at least another 10 years so I am trying to make the best of it. I would love a cottage on Martha's Vineyard. We used to go there all the time. It's a pipe dream as you can't touch anything on the island for less that $1M it seems, but perhaps I can do an air bnb or something. A week's vacation perhaps. Just the sea and the salt air and books. Thank you for helping me to dream, Leah. xo Lexi

Jane SG Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:36pm

I loved reading your descriptive comment Lexi. I've been staying in Dixon this past week, about 2 hours from Chicago. I flew from O'Hara airport to Norfolk, Virginia yesterday. Back to Dixon on Tuesday xx

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:18pm

Lexi Thanks for your comment and kind words. I felt like I was reading a travel book. You were fortunate to live in London and to have ravelled. Being in Australia, means everywhere is so far away and when you and others mention places I think I must add it to the list. Ireland is on my list and Greek Islands. It is hard when you don't love where you live but I hope there are things you like there. Dreaming is what I do lots of. Xx

Lexi Sun, Aug 13th 2017 @ 7:26am

Jane SG I hope you're getting some of this lovely weather in Dixon! It almost feels like fall in the evening. Not that I want summer to end just yet but the break from the high temps is a relief!

Lexi Sun, Aug 13th 2017 @ 7:29am

Leah, I do lots of dreaming and wishing! I love maps and as soon as I hear of a place that I don't know where it is located in the world I look it up. When I get down I try to remind myself that "the world is a big place." I would love to visit Australia one day.

Leah Sun, Aug 13th 2017 @ 9:36am

I love maps especially old maps . Look me up if you come to Australia.

Molly Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 8:07pm

I like books as well, there is something about turning the pages and there is also something about just having them laying around the house, it makes it feel homely. I guess the other thing I like is my many CD's (that I do not even play anymore, because I now play my music electronically) and my many vinyls - mainly 45's which I will never ever part with. Thanks for the blog Leah xx

Leah Sat, Aug 12th 2017 @ 10:20pm

Thanks Molly, Yes books do make a place feel homey. I like turning pages and touching books and the smell- think I have ,entioned that. Xx

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