I think I’ve already mentioned ConstructoBoy’s obsession with Zeppelins. All through the holidays, and our many outings and pop-ins to bookshops (believe me, I’ve not mentioned them all in my posts), he had been searching in vain for a book about Zeppelins. Just Zeppelins. Not a book that had a random picture of the Hindenburg, or a book about balloons that mentioned Zeppelins in passing. No. He wanted a book just about Zepplelins, with all there was to know about Zeppelins, including lots of pictures of different Zeppelins. Blimps. Airships. Whatever 🙂
You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find. Several bookshops we went to had decent selections of books about fighter planes, bombers, seaplanes… you know, all the glamorous, heroic aircraft that it’s trendy to be interested in. But no books about Zeppelins. He was close to despair by the day we went to Hay-On-Wye.
Now I could spend all day in Hay-on-Wye. Possibly all week. And if you don’t know why – where have you been??! Hay-on-Wye is the bookshop capital of the UK. But I didn’t have all day or even an hour – because Hay-on-Wye, like many other tourist areas in the UK, does itself no favours.
We had gone to Tintern Abbey that day and the trip there -and back – had taken a lot longer than we expected. Every tractor in Shropshire and Herefordshire seemed determined to get in our way. Caught in a traffic jam, it was 4.35 pm by the time we hit the streets of Hay-on-Wye, on a gorgeous summer afternoon.
And most of it was already shut.
Every cafe we saw was either closed or on the point of closing. We walked past so many closed bookshops, to begin with, that I nearly suggested we turned round and headed back to the car park. People were drifting home in their droves – because there was nothing left to do. Come on, Hay! People still want to buy books at 4.45pm, it’s not that radical! And after an afternoon of book-hunting, what about some tea or a meal? Where are your tearooms, cafes, restaurants for the person who wants to eat at that outlandish time of 5pm? Or even, perish the thought, 5.30?
However! We did find a few shops that deigned to open for something-approaching-standard trading hours. The queen of them all, though, has to be the Hay Cinema bookshop. I admit that as I came up the road and saw the sign, I thought – ‘ah – a bookshop that stocks books about the cinema’ followed by ‘and that’s a shame, because it’s open until 7pm. 7!!!!’
But as I got a good look at it, I saw it was a perfectly normal bookshop, except for 1)it’s huge 2) it lives in a building that used to be a cinema. (I know. Who’d have guessed?). And once inside, the internal architecture that’s been preserved makes the building’s history very obvious, enhancing your book browsing experience no end. Plus this marvellous place is open, to quote their website : ‘every day of the year, except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Monday – Saturday 9.00am – 7.00pm, Sundays 11.30am – 5.30pm’.
Not only that – the lady at the counter was very helpful and superbly knowledgeable about the books they had, even though there must have been thousands and thousands and… you get the idea. She assured ConstructoBoy that they definitely had books about just Zeppelins, please, and his expression swung continually from dubious pessimism to fragile hope and back again as he trotted upstairs and ‘nearly to the back’. She signposted ArtyDaughter to two places that would house graphic novels and manga.
And bless the woman, she was on the nail. They had around eight books just on Zeppelins. They had more than one copy of three of them!! A few were quite expensive, but luckily the one that could have been written for ConstructoBoy – it fitted his requirements so perfectly- was £3. It was a moment of pure happiness. Which we shared in – until he tried to download all the information he learnt from it directly into our brains by Continuous Verbal Input at every available moment thereafter.
ArtyDaughter was happy too as she found graphic novels to satisfy her exacting it-has-to-be-the-right-style-of-manga-and-not-just-a-sloppy-love-story specifications. Both offspring failry Bounced back to the counter, and there was Much Thanking of the Lady and Much Gushing about the Wonderfulness of Ye Bookshoppe.
So well done, Hay Cinema Bookshop. We award you the Runham Award for Really Ripping Bookshops. 10 out of 10.
If you go to Hay-on-Wye, go there! You’ll find it in castle Street.
“Welcome to the world famous Hay Cinema Bookshop for the best in secondhand, remainder and bargain books. If you like a lot of books for your money, then come and see us and browse in what must be the world’s largest open-air bookshop situated in the garden in front of Hay Cinema”