Thursday, 2 October 2014

Disappointed, in myself

Like most people, I have agonising moments of failure. That time when you think "I could've tried harder" or "why didn't I do better?"

This is how I feel when I remember my visit to Nantwich Bookshop.

I'd set off on a drive north with a long list of bookshops to visit on the way to stay with friends, but bad traffic on the M25, followed by worse on the M1 and M6, meant I gradually had to draw a line through every destination as I wasted valuable bookshopping time sat in a stationary car. Eventually, I left the motorway in frustration at a random junction, thinking I'd skip a stretch of traffic jam by navigating the backroads.

Instead I got lost, ending up in Nantwich, a place that meant absolutely nothing to me. Until I remembered I'd seen the name on Twitter.

Stopping in the first car park I came across, I walked to the nearby high street, which conveniently opened up right next to Nantwich Bookshop. So relieved was I to stumble upon a bookshop by chance, I didn't engage my brain enough to consider turning up at 4.55pm on a Saturday – having spent approximately seven hours in traffic jams – wasn't the best of times or states to arrive.

I practically ran in, using up what was left of my energy in my excitement at finding the place so that by the time I actually stepped in front of a bookshelf of new fiction I was an exhausted, incomprehensible mess. I stood, looking at the colourful spines, barely able to focus on the words in front of me but desperate to make the most of my surroundings.

A friendly bookseller came over to say hi and tried to help but, still focussed on the road, I struggled to make the most of her knowledge. She politely gave me some space, realising that for the moment I needed some time to reorder my brain. Having failed so spectacularly to make conversation I decided to explore this large bookshop, which was when I realised how badly I'd failed in my time of arrival.

Making my way upstairs I found a (closed for the day) stunning cafe, with beautiful period features, sunlight flooding through the windows and the remainder of the day's cakes not yet cleared from their stands. All next to a broad selection of secondhand books. At that moment I'd've liked nothing more than to sit at a table with tea and cake and forget about the road with my book.

Returning downstairs I selected my purchase, Small Island by Andrea Levy - one of the titles recommended to me during the earlier attempt at conversation, and headed to the till. Thankfully, the bookseller didn't hold my previous vacant expression against me, and having become myself again during my exploration I was able to talk about the bookshop properly.

As is a common story for independent bookshops, times have not always been good for Nantwich Bookshop, but diversifying to include the coffee shop and events such as their regular supper clubs – with a menu that made me particularly hungry – appear to have made a big difference to this lovely bookshop's fortunes.

Which is good for local bookshoppers and good for me – because I know it'll still be around when I make a return visit. And next time I'm determined I'll arrive early enough to experience and appreciate it all.


Nantwich Bookshop
46 High Street, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW5 5AS
Tel: 01270 611655
@NantwichBook

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