Today me and Eldest Son took a long journey through the Brecon Beacons to one of my favourite places in the entire world. The sun was shining, the spring flowers and lambs were all out in abundance, and it was just me and him together in the car looking quietly forward to the day ahead.
Hay-on-Wye is a small town on the Welsh/English border with over thirty second hand book shops. Even the old cinema is now a sprawling book shop with rows upon rows upon rows of shelves lined with books on every subject you can possibly imagine. You could quite easily become lost forever in there, completely unaware of time slipping by as you browsed through the vast fiction section, breathing in the musty smell of old paper. I absolutely love it.
I took some photos while we were there - although I'm making no claims for their quality - the photographic aspect of blogging was never going to be my strong point, let's be frank. But I wanted to see if I could convey something of the magic of the place to you. I don't know if anyone remembers the Faraway Tree series of books by Enid Blyton? For those that don't, they featured a tree that always had a magical land at the top. Every now and then strong winds would come and blow away the land that was there so that another one could come and take its place. There was the Land of Toys, the Land of Sweets, the Land of Spells and many others. Well to me, Hay-on-Wye will always be the Land of Books.
This picture is of the upstairs of one of the biggest book shops. They must have done it up fairly recently - I'd never seen the tree before - but the new chairs are really comfortable and provide a welcome place to sit and peruse your potential purchases.
Today there were a couple of cats slinking and purring their way around one of the book shops, presumably in the hopes of getting a stroke or two. One of them jumped onto Eldest Sons lap whilst he was sat in the childrens section reading one of his new books. The funny thing is that in Hay the sight of a cat or two in a book shop doesn't strike you as being in the least bit odd. You could sit in one of the armchairs reading and stroking a cat and it would be the most natural thing in the world - no-one that had been there more than once would bat an eyelid.
I know these pictures aren't very clear - the sun had gone in by then and I was standing in the middle of the road in imminent danger of being run over, but the one on the left is of the sign for the shop pictured on the right called Murder and Mayhem, or the 'Who Dunnit' shop as we call it. It specializes in detective fiction, true crime and horror.
The sign for Eldest Sons favourite shop. They have everything from old battered copies of Harry Potter to pristine first editions of things like Rupert the Bear.
Always the last stop on the way home, the fudge shop not only has every flavour of fudge you can think of piled in slabs and displayed temptingly on the counter, but it has shelves almost up to the ceiling of glass jars full of the sorts of sweets that remind you of your childhood, and which you can still buy by the weight.
Full disclosure: I promise I do not work for the tourist board - nor was I given any free books (mores the pity) for writing this post. Hay-on-Wye is just genuinely one of the most wonderful places I know.