Monday, 11 June 2018

Join me on a bookshop crawl

Okay, so the headline of this post might be ever so slightly misleading, I'm not suggesting you all drop everything and join me in my car, but it would be good if you all joined in with a bookshop crawl.

We are just a few days away from one of my favourite times of the year, Independent Bookshop Week, which runs from 16-23rd June. Launched in 2006, this is a week to highlight the important part indies play in their communities, including the excellent – some would say heroic – service they provide.

To mark the start of this celebration I'm going on a bookshop crawl. And not just any bookshop crawl. This one is going to last three days and cover I dread to think how many miles as I travel from town to town to meet 11 indies in the Cotswolds, all supported by Books are my Bag.

My bookshopping adventures begin next Saturday, 16th June, when I'll be heading over to Gloucestershire to visit four bookshops, then on Sunday I crisscross the border with Oxfordshire for three more, before completing my travels on Monday, with more border-hopping to include Worcestershire. If you'd like to see the full route take a look at the list at the bottom of this post or admire my superhero character in this lovely graphic:

Books are my Bag has drawn me as a superhero because the theme of this year's IBW is bookshop heroes. They're asking book lovers to shout about their favourite bookshops and bookselling heroes, while the bookshops themselves are also asked to share their own bookshop heroes, all using the hashtag #BookshopHeroes. I'm really looking forward to following these tweets to find out about bookshops I should be adding to my must-visit list – perhaps for my next bookshop crawl.

Join in

As I said, it's not physically possible for you to join me in my car (although it would be fun), so I'm instead inviting you to follow my adventures as they happen on Twitter; come back here and read about them afterwards; or – and these options aren't mutually-exclusive – set off on your own bookshop crawl and have your own adventure. Just make sure you remember to join in using the hashtags #IBW2018 and #BookshopCrawl.

The 'official' bookshop crawl day is 16th June, but mine will be taking place over three days and many bookshops will be holding special events and promotions throughout the week, so there's no limit to the possibilities of taking part.

In the past I've celebrated bookshop week by walking across London, driving around Essex, walking around London and driving around the south, so don't feel restricted if you only live in a one-bookshop town. Part of the fun of bookshop crawls is about getting out and 'meeting' places you perhaps wouldn't usually encounter. These are new beginnings that might just become a more regular part of your life.

I write from experience, because although I can't easily re-visit the hundreds of bookshops I've met through this blog, I have gained friends and favourite places in some unusual corners of the country.

While I don't pretend to say five minutes in an independent bookshop will change your life (it might), I do believe becoming a bookshopper, meeting booksellers and buying books in the real world has made my own life richer.

So join in the fun and see where a bookshopping adventure takes you. It could be the start of a new way of life, but even if it isn't, you'll still have a new book!

Erica's bookshop crawl


Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Tetbury
Cotswold Book Room, Wooton-under-Edge
Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, Nailsworth
Octavia’s Bookshop, Cirencester


Madhatter’s Bookshop, Burford
Jaffe and Neale, Stow-on-the-Wold
Woodstock Bookshop, Woodstock


Jaffe and Neale, Chipping Norton
Borzoi Bookshop, Stow-on-the-Wold
Blandford Books, Broadway
Courtyard Books, Bishops Cleve
The Suffolk Anthology, Cheltenham

Thursday, 31 May 2018

What we found when we got lost

After a winter that seemed to cancel out most of the spring, with the appearance of the sun we’ve been lucky enough to do a little travelling around the country. For me, more travel means more bookshop visits.

Whenever we go anywhere, I begin by researching the bookshops in the area – which ones do I already ‘know’ through Twitter and the like; where has been recommended; and what other treats are nearby? Then I move on to the surrounding area, is there another bookshop within half an hour of travel? Before finally planning the journey.

This last stage of travel preparation is the hardest because I try to balance the number of bookshops visited in relation to miles travelled, breaks, possible diversions, four or five random routes that might appeal to either of us at the time AND to consider what we might find after getting lost. Actually, it would all be a lot easier if we didn’t both have a knack for the last two.

For this week’s bookshop it was something along those lines that saw us accidentally end up in the right place at the wrong (or right) time, as we made our way from east to west across the south of England.

I’d picked out Archway Bookshop in Axminster as a possible stop off point on our long drive home from holiday, thinking it would be a good half-way point to stretch our legs and reinvigorate our minds. Instead, we ended up finding the bookshop by accident on the way to our holiday, when a random whim saw us follow a road sign thinking we were heading to the town famous for the Hovis advert. Which we later realised is actually miles away in Shaftesbury. Geography is not my strong point. In fact, we didn't even realise we were in the wrong place until we were walking around the town and Archway Bookshop came into view across the square.

The bookshop's blue sign just poked above the top of the raised area in front of us, bright enough to catch our eye, subtle enough to blend with the historic wall it's set within. The bookshop's name comes from its archway entrance, which is believed to have once been part of the walls of the abbey. In respect of the conservation area, the frontage is understated but that doesn't appear to matter in this market town. We soon discovered Archway Bookshop is popular with local readers.

Behind the subtle exterior is a wealth of books and bookshop knowledge. The first room opens into a second, larger and brighter area, where you have a choice of continuing back to the children's area or taking a striking metal staircase to the floor above. I'd never have imagined so many books could be found inside. I wandered between those first two rooms, where various fiction selections are housed, before exploring the non-fiction upstairs and soon realising I could get carried away during what was only meant to be a brief stopping point.

A recommends table with particularly unusual stock caught my attention for some time, before I eventually returned to the general fiction to pick up Matt Haig's How to stop time. Upon arrival at the counter the good sense of my choice was immediately confirmed when the bookseller commented how much he'd enjoyed this book. It's always nice when someone starts a conversation about the book I'm buying, and this was the introduction to a very pleasant chat.

We'd already been witness to many customers popping in for a browse, chat or to order/collect a specific title, so it was nice to be welcomed as warmly as if we'd been regulars. This gave me the confidence to perhaps be nosier than I'd usually be before explaining why I was there, but I don't think the bookseller minded as he introduced me to Archer the dog and happily chatted about the history of the bookshop. Our conversation even roamed to recommendations of other bookshops to visit nearby. The nature of our journey meant we couldn't follow these up at the time, but they have been noted.

Archer was a friendly addition to the bookshop and I was particularly grateful of our unplanned arrival because it happened to coincide with the start of his shift behind the counter. Tim the bookseller did admit sometimes the customers are more interested in talking to the dog than him, but I found both to be good company. As was a random customer who joined the conversation, singing the bookshop's praises when she overheard my questioning.

It was this friendliness, from staff and customers, that I took away with me as we left Archway Bookshop to continue our journey. To be welcomed as a friend by a whole group of people who you've only just met – and may never meet again – is a rare treat, I'm very glad about what we found.

Archway Bookshop
Church Street, Axminster,
Devon EX13 5AQ
Tel: 01297 33744

Sunday, 6 May 2018

A dream come true

Sometime around the age of ten I was given a book. There was nothing unusual about this choice of gift, except that rather than the usual paperback with a brightly coloured cover, this one was a hardback with a dust jacket. I looked at the cover and decided it must be boring, so I left it on my bookshelves and forgot about it.

Time passed and one day the 1970s film adaptation of the book appeared on TV. I have a feeling I only watched it to please the relative who'd given me the book, but the moment the 90ish minutes were over I raced upstairs and started reading.

Swallows and Amazons became one of the most-read books of my tweenage (and later) years and is still a book I regularly turn to today. It's the reason I learnt to sail as a teenager, and since that first reading I've dreamed of sailing a small dinghy in the Lake District.*

I'm yet to sail there but, finally, around 25 years after that first reading, I can now say I have visited the area. We were only there for a few days, and it being April there was a fair bit of rain, but my excitement and joy at being in such a beautiful area of the country, one that is so important to me, meant I wouldn't have cared if it snowed. I was in the Lake District with my boyfriend and I was happy.

Our hotel had a view of Windermere, a short walk from Ambleside, which is conveniently where the Coffin Trail begins, an easy walk taking novice explorers to Grasmere. Having been tortured with Wordsworth's poems as a student, I couldn't care two hoots for him, his sister or his various homes, but I was very keen to visit the town for other reasons: Grasmere is the home of Sam Read Bookseller.

The walk was pleasant, included the odd gentle climb, some lovely views and – most importantly of all – the option to visit more than one tea room during its less than two-hour duration. We passed two/both of Wordsworth's former homes and some lovely little cottages, arriving at Grasmere in time for lunch. Choosing what was possibly a mostly vegetarian cafe, Green's, we realised we were the only visitors without a dog and so quickly befriended the woman at the table next to us. It was a lovely half-hour and the food and drink were delicious before we walked to the end of the (very short) road to explore the bookshop.

Sam Read Bookseller appears traditional and unassuming from the outside, blending perfectly into the historic countryside feel of the area. The windows could be those of a house and it could easily be missed if visitors taking the same walk didn't continue to the other side of town. That would be a crying shame because this bookshop proved to be a wonderful discovery.

Its three rooms make the bookshop larger inside than the front implies, and for an indie in a small northern village the quality and variety of stock is incomparable.

I have to admit, given the nature of the area I'd expected a raft of Wordsworths, a few Beatrix Potters and Arthur Ransomes, maps and general holiday reads. Instead the first thing I noticed was a highly intelligent recommends table in front of a bookcase of science, philosophy, biography and all manner of books to encourage people to think about the world around them. Between here and the Faber carousel next to it my boyfriend was pretty much engrossed, so this is where I lost him.

The next wall along was filled with fiction, so Sam Read Bookseller isn't a place to feel daunted if you are simply after a relaxing holiday read. The usual genres are there, with a mix of bookshop musts, bestsellers and unexpected gems to reflect the bookseller's preferences. There's even a shelf for science fiction, making this browser's smile grow even wider.

Through to the next room I was pleased to see a large selection of audio books (my new go-to entertainment in the car), as well as more non-fiction, which included a good few books on running (Parkrun is slowly turning me into a runner), and again a wide variety of subjects and titles I've not seen before.

Heading to the third room, the first thing I spotted was a row of Arthur Ransomes (see low on the shelves in this picture). Turn a corner and this takes you to a cute children's area with picture books and colour and a chair for young visitors to get comfy. It's a small space but still very well-stocked. Although how anyone would manage to look any further than the Swallows and Amazons series is beyond me.

I was in Swallows and Amazons country and the next book on my way to collecting the series was the only option for me. My only regret with that choice was how many other excellent reads I had to leave behind – if only I'd brought a bigger suitcase. Contrarily, the next book I needed isn't set in the Lake District,* but Coot Club is still a part of the series and gets me a step closer to my aim to collect and read the whole series in order. My boyfriend's browsing also paid off, with him choosing Intuition Pumps by Daniel C Dennett.

We'd not yet been in the area a full 24-hours, but one thing that had already caught my attention was the lack of Swallows and Amazons references, so this was one of the things I asked about when talking to the bookseller (a fellow blogger) about books, the bookshop and anything else that crossed our minds.

I'd known Coniston Water was home to Wild Cat Island, but the gem of information provided by the bookseller was the Ruskin Museum. Not somewhere I'd expected to be directed to for Ransome, but I'm very glad I took her advice.

The next day we drove across to Coniston to explore the museum, which was worth the entry fee and more for one single exhibit. The Ruskin Museum is home to Amazon, previously Mavis and one of the two original boats which inspired the series. I'm not ashamed to admit I was brought to tears by this encounter with one of the two boats I've long wondered about. To be in her presence and to imagine sailing her myself was surprisingly moving. The Ruskin Museum may not be a bookshop, but I couldn't leave this experience unrecorded so I bought Pigeon Post from the gift shop.

The main reason for our journey on day one of this particular blog was to visit Sam Read Bookseller, but thanks to the kindness of the bookseller the experience became so much more than that and I hope my words have helped to give some indication of how happy all of this made me.

Sam Read Bookseller
Broadgate House, Grasmere,
Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 9SY
Tel: 01539 435374

*The series is also the reason I'd love to visit the Norfolk Broads, but that's an experience for another day.

Monday, 9 April 2018

In which the boy falls in love with a bookshop

When it comes to bookshops I'm a bit like a puppy. I see the word 'bookshop' and I get all excitable, race off towards the door and mentally run around the shop trying to enjoy as much of my surroundings as possible all in one go. In contrast, the boy sees a bookshop and is a lot more reserved. He'll point the place out and will generally enjoy exploring and seeing what treats he can find, but instances of full-blown excitement are few and far between.

Kemptown Bookshop is one of those instances. I pretty much lost him to the books, as he first explored every inch of the ground floor before progressing upstairs and down to make the most of everything on display. From popular science to art, poetry and a wealth of high quality fiction, I don't believe there was an area of the bookshop he wasn't engrossed by and even though we were on a bookshop crawl there was no way I could possibly consider rushing him out of a bookshop he was so obviously enjoying. When someone's as happy that, it should be considered illegal to disturb them.

Walking in to the bookshop, you discover a good-sized, square-ish ground floor of floor-to-ceiling fiction. Colours are muted, leaving the smartly shelved books to do the talking, and talk they do. From an aesthetic point of view they look perfect, all the same height on pale grey shelves reminiscent of the beauty of Persephone, while the content is varied, intelligent and packed with books we both love, own or want to read.

Everywhere I looked was something I've long had on my to-buy list, accompanied by others I regularly recommend. More unusually, everything my boyfriend looks out for was also on a shelf somewhere in this room of fiction. There was no way we were only buying one book here, and that was just looking at the bookcases along the walls. Cast your eye across the recommendations – including a book first aid kit – and tables of miscellany and there's even more to appeal.

Upstairs we find art and travel, with stationery bits and bobs and a selection of discounted books (the only hint of disarray in this immaculate bookshop), while downstairs is children's and more non-fiction. The stairs themselves are also variously graced with art and tasteful children's toys, meaning something for everyone without offending anyone's sensibilities. All levels continue the general feeling of lightness in look tempered by intelligence in stock, and I felt certain I was likely to find any book that might come to mind, so well-filled were all the shelves. They even have signs advertising free coffee for browsers. Kemptown Bookshop is obviously a very civilised place to visit.

We eventually had to think about leaving, so I chose Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson as my purchase. This author's massive books aren't often found on the shelves of indie bookshops so I was pleased to see not one but two of his titles here (I already owned the other or I might have broken my one book per shop rule). As for my boyfriend, he has no such limits and picked up Ted Hughes' The Crow, Steffen Kverneland's Munch and The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. It was the latter that saw him delay us longer, as the boy and the bookseller ended up deep in conversation about Mann and other much-loved books. As it's usually me who holds us up I wasn't really complaining.

Kemptown Bookshop
91 St George’s Road, Brighton, West Sussex, BN2 1EE
Tel: 01273 682110

Want a second (third after the boy) opinion? Here's a Your Bookshops guest post.

Friday, 30 March 2018

M40, Junction 11, where to find bookshop heaven

Bookshops are the answer to most of life's problems. From discovering magic, learning to make tiramisu, or even just finding out What Katy Did Next, there's generally a bookseller who'll be more than happy to put the answer into your hands.

Another thing bookshops are the answer to is finding somewhere to relax and take stock when you're nearing the end of a 120-mile drive to visit your old school.*

Books & Ink Bookshop in Banbury – found less than 10 minutes from junction 11 of the M40 – was exactly what I needed, in the form of a warm and cheery safe haven to calm my nerves. Terrible M25 traffic earlier in the journey meant I didn't have long to enjoy the bookshop, but the brief time I had there was a treat.

This is another of those destinations I've wanted to visit since the early days of this blog, so I admit I was a little annoyed with myself that I didn't have longer to spend there this time, but Books & Ink was so lovely, so big and so easy to get to that I know this will be the first of many visits. So what was so special?

This bookshop sells new, secondhand and antiquarian books, but walk through the door and it's impossible to pigeonhole. I knew what kind of bookshop I was visiting but my eyes didn't necessarily believe it. The first thing I spotted was a case of antiquarian books, but the bookshop was bright and colourful and I was soon distracted by a good-sized children's area, followed by the overall mix of new and secondhand books. I'd venture to say I'm yet to see any other bookshop that so successfully balances the three offerings without any one overwhelming: the new, secondhand and antiquarian are in perfect harmony here.

There were Ladybirds, Pelicans and Penguins. Observers. A range of travel. Secondhand children's books in stunningly good condition. Shelves for a pound and a great selection of subjects or book styles. For example I was impressed by the "newspapers/journalism" area, while the effort taken to bunch together the fiction criteria of "archaeology/history/mystery in the style of Dan Brown" is surely more than any bookseller should be asked to go through, and yet that effort had been made. There are also lots of nice details, from bunting and tote bags in the air to Bagpuss, poking his head out from one of the high shelves as he quietly observes us all.

The bookshop is maze-like but open, crammed to the rooftop but light and spacious. If you want to wander and get lost, you can, but the layout also means each area felt like an individual bookshop while remaining part of the whole. It also covers two floors. There's a lot to see. Yes, this paragraph is rather rambling, but this is how my mind was working as I wandered around, admiring details, marvelling at how cheap some of the books were and generally de-stressing. I was calm, I was happy, I could've stayed all day.

Instead I had that school talk to get to so I chose my book, Excellent Women by Barbara Pym for a mere £2, and went to say hello to the bookseller and meet Bookshop Paddington. I was still a little nervous about the afternoon ahead, so rather than enjoy a proper conversation with someone I've frequently talked to on social media, it was more of a one-sided outpouring of words by me, for which I now apologise. I'm only grateful my enthusiasm and excitement didn't send the bookseller running for cover. As for Paddington, he'd taken the day off, so that's another reason for me to return to the bookshop – and next time I'll check it's one of his working days first.

My visit can't have lasted more than half an hour but that really didn't matter. Books & Ink is so well arranged and has such a welcoming feel that were you to pop in for a quick purchase or browse the afternoon away I'm certain your time would be perfectly well spent.

Books & Ink Bookshop
4 White Lion Walk,
Oxfordshire OX16 5UD
Tel: 01295 709769

If you'd like to know more about Books & Ink Bookshop, read what a guest blogger had to say in Your Bookshops.

*For anyone interested, I was visiting my old school to talk to the sixth form about my career and the life experiences that have helped me along the way (including this blog). At least one pupil seemed interested so I feel I achieved something useful. It was both good and strange to be back at school after so long and I really enjoyed catching up with my former English teacher.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

London Bookshop Crawl 2018 – Waterloo and Southwark branch

I'm a bit late in sharing my latest London Bookshop Crawl exploits with you, mainly because the books have been distracting me from blogging, but finally – better late than never – here are the highlights of my participation in the day...

Most of my bookshop crawls have been solitary affairs, walking from bookshop to bookshop, meeting booksellers and occasionally saying hello to another bookshopper as our paths cross. I have now acquired myself a partner in crime to explore with, but before he entered the scene my only crawl in company had been the London Bookshop Crawl.

This year I was able to return to the organised event, accompanied by my boyfriend and also in the company of some of those other bookshoppers who I've met in the past. We didn't cover as much ground as I'd've done solo, but the company and conversation more than made up for that.

As a late-comer to signing up for the bookshop crawl, I was very grateful to be able to get two last-minute spaces on the Waterloo and Southwark guided tour led by Twitter's BookingAround.

Our first stop was Somerset House Bookshop, sometimes known as the Rizzoli Bookshop. It was my first visit to Somerset House, and I'm pretty certain I wouldn't have spotted the bookshop to the left side of the square if I'd not been told it was there. Yes, there is a sign above the door, but it's not particularly visible from a distance and easily lost in the grand surroundings.

Stock is narrowly selected, but interesting, focusing on art and design themes that stretch to include photography, crafts, interiors, food and drink and a good selection of children's books. There's an understated beauty to the three-room bookshop, with cards, stationery and other bits and bobs adding splashes of bright colour. It also has a mind-boggling selection of magazines, with us unable to leave without buying The Life Of Things: Cabinet, a striking publication dedicated to the art and history of, you guessed it, cabinets. Bizzarre, beautiful and unexpectedly engrossing. With our purchase we also received a freebie goody bag, made up for the crawl.

Our next stop was the National Theatre Bookshop. I've passed by or briefly paused at this bookshop many times, but this was the first time I'd properly stopped and looked around. As someone with minimal experience of reading plays, I found it a relief to be eased into this bookshop with a few tables of fiction. There was a good mix of genres and it would've been easy to stay here to find my purchase.

Instead I explored properly, wandering the long wall of plays at the back of the bookshop. My boyfriend and I were determined to resist the urge to stay within our comfort zone of familiar drama, so we loitered by an area of new, recommends and currently showing plays, eventually selecting Sweat by Lynn Nottage.

Continuing with the dramatic, we moved on to The Calder Bookshop & Theatre. Part drama, part philosophy, this is a new and secondhand bookshop with a large selection of cheap secondhand titles out the front and a performance space hidden at the back. It was a busy bookshop and I enjoyed the randomness of browsing the books, occasionally hearing a dramatic outburst from behind the curtain, where a rehearsal must have been taking place. In an attempt to educate myself, here I bought Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus: A brief history of tomorrow. I really need to start working my way through all the non-fiction I've started buying.

Next up was somewhere I already know and love: Travelling Through... Still as diverse and welcoming as I knew it would be, this bookshop is organised by location and encourages readers to look beyond the comfortable boundaries of their daily worlds. With that thought in mind, I travelled to Canada (one day I'll get there in reality) with my purchase of The peculiar life of a lonely postman, by Denis Thériault, while my boyfriend headed to the Caribbean, with V S Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas. I'm pretty certain both purchases were unlikely to have crossed our paths had we been looking at regularly organised bookshelves.

Our guided tour ended with a visit to somewhere I'm ashamed to say I'd never have found (possibly heard of) if it hadn't been on the list: The Feminist Library. Not a bookshop, although it does have a small selection of titles for sale, this important collection of books is hidden away in a very unassuming building near the London South Bank University. It's so well hidden that at first when we stopped to press the buzzer I'd been certain we must be at the wrong place. We didn't buy anything here, but it was a remarkable experience to wander its two rooms, appreciating the many decades of literature that have been collected together. It was a fascinating end to the day.

The London Bookshop Crawl took place across the city at the beginning of February, with a selection of guided walks in different areas, or the option to simply set out on your own and see what you might find. In our case the discovery was a small selection of bookshops I've long meant to visit and a varied group of men and women who had individually paid the nominal fee to take part in the tour.

It was a lovely day of books, conversation and exploration and I can't wait until next year, when I'll get to explore another area of London bookshops (that I may or may not know) with strangers who I'm sure will become friends.

Somerset House Bookshop/The Rizzoli Bookshop
East Wing, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Tel: 020 7845 4600 @SomersetHouse

National Theatre Bookshop
National Theatre, Lambeth, London SE1 9PX
Tel: 020 74523456 @NTBookshop

The Calder Bookshop & Theatre
51 The Cut, South Bank, London SE1 8LF
Tel: 020 7620 2900 @CalderBookshop

Travelling Through...
131 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, London, SE1 7AE
Tel: 020 7633 9279 @Trvllng_Thrgh

The Feminist Library
5 Westminster Bridge Road, South Bank, London SE1 7XW
Tel: 020 7261 0879 @feministlibrary

A few of us from the bookshop crawl posed for a selfie outside Travelling Through...

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Dilly-dally among the books

In my years of blogging I've met many amazing bookshops, each of which stands out for having something unique and special that makes me fall in love with it. This week's bookshop wins the prize for being possibly my oddest bookshop experience (in a good way).

The encounter was part of a bookshop crawl for Independent Bookshops Week, and the destination in question is The Petersfield Bookshop. During the planning stage of the day, I'd looked it up and spotted that it sells secondhand and antiquarian books, its website refers to 'other things to see', but it wasn't until we were fully inside the shop that we realised just what it meant.

From the street the bookshop looks interesting, standing out in its corner position, with flags and hanging baskets for added attraction. There's a light and airy covered entryway, crammed with cheap books and also a couple of plants and other quirks that might be overlooked but should also be seen as an indication of the character to be found within.

It's taken me a long time to write about this bookshop simply because ordinary words fail to do justice to the experience of a real visit. Seemingly endless rooms of floor to ceiling books are a delight to browse, with every genre imaginable to be found somewhere. To start with the obvious: the books are a delight and had me wandering from room to room admiring their variety and number. This was good both as a visual feast and for giving me lots to choose from. I picked up Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome, which was a nice addition to my slowly growing Swallows and Amazons collection.

But this is only part of the story. Within the rooms of books are all manner of knick-knacks, colourful characters and creations that I could easily imagine come to life after hours, getting up to their own mischief and moving from room to room so no two days look the same. From a slightly creepy life-sized mannequin to a fully-furnished dolls' house, a steampunk monkey or Paddington Bear on the ceiling, all kinds of creatures inhabit this bookshop, making it an adventure to explore each room even if (for some strange reason) you're not a book lover.

This is all topped off with the discovery of Dilly the bookshop parrot. He comes with a warning about keeping your fingers away, but what he doesn't have is a warning about talking to him, or yourself. I lost my boyfriend for quite some time, as he browsed Dilly's room, looking at the books and whistling in conversation with the parrot. Until he rounded a corner and realised another browser had been the other half of the conversation. I imagine Dilly enjoys listening to many similar 'chats', probably looking down on the antics of us human idiots.

This was a wonderful bookshop, with so much to choose from and admire, not forgetting the welcoming, helpful bookseller as well as the bookshop parrot. I'd say more, but I'm going to leave the talking to Dilly and my photographs – and once again encourage you to visit for yourself.

The Petersfield Bookshop
16 Chapel Street, Petersfield,
Hampshire, GU32 3DS
Tel: 01730 263438

Apologies, the book is currently hidden in a box of unpacked books since I moved house, but I will post a proper picture of the cover soon. Meantime, here's the steampunk monkey guarding a shelf:

And a few more, because I loved photographing all the randomness on display: