Think about a happy place. Somewhere you love to go. Somewhere like nowhere else. Somewhere special to you. A favourite place to spend some time.
I have several happy places. At home with my girls. Walking around the spectacular S&A links, especially as the sun sets. Sitting in the stands at Anfield or Fenway. Having a walk on the beach at Ainsdale, hand in hand, in hand with my girls. Walking down Newbury Street in Boston or sat outside Tatte on Charles Street having a coffee and watching the Beacon Hill world go by.
I have another special place; another favourite spot. I am lucky to find two excellent ones walking distance from my house. I write of fantastic local book shops.
In Southport we are lucky to have an excellent Waterstones and a brilliant independent shop, Broadhursts of Southport – although sadly it doesn’t open on a Sunday. Today, we went to Waterstones; me, Miss J, Dr J and Uncle Bri. It was part of our brunch out and quick mooch around Southport but for me it was the key part of our visit. I could happily wile away hour after hour slowly walking around a book shop. The magic of picking up book after book; holding it in your hands; examining the front and back cover; the pristine finish; the picture; the title; the font; the beauty of it. Book after book; picked up as if a precious stone and returned to the exact same spot on the shelve; as carefully as if it was a rare book or a family heirloom. The words examined as if in a laboratory; weighing up the buying decision.
Even in a friendly and welcoming shop in Southport I am always a little self conscious – I feel a sense of respect and deference to my surroundings; to the books; to the life’s works that has gone in to producing them. I am also always unsure about the etiquette. I always worry; do library rules apply? Is it a “shhhhhh” situation? Will I be asked to leave if I answe my phone?
Today, I picked up two books and helped them make a new life in a new home – the new Maggie O’Farrell (which I heard read on Radio 4 last week); “I am. I am. I am” and an old one from Colm Toibin, who had just become Dr J’s boss’ boss’ boss as the new Chancellor of the University of Liverpool. I am about to finish my current book – just two dozen pages to go and I hate the prospect and not having something to open as soon as this one finishes.
Like all trips to the book shop it was a joy today; made more wonderful by the excited look on Miss J face as she entered the premises. If we achieve little else I hope we guide her towards words and books – the most powerful thing in the world – the biggest force for good. If Aoife doesn’t share our passion for the world of letters perhaps she could still find some simple happiness in one of my happy places, where every book has its place and everyone is special for their own work, their own story, their own message.