Even though I knew I was on the hunt for a barn, blindly following my (evil, horrid, abominable) sat nav through the country lanes of Shropshire made me nervous.
I'd lost mobile phone signal a while back and road signs were few and far between. It was also a miserable, wet day and I needed the loo.
Then I spotted a small, home-made sign with the word 'aardvark' written across it and all was once again well. I was on the right road to warmth, the safety of books, a cafe and, thankfully, a toilet.
Naturally I thanked her, took the map and promptly got lost as I was too busy looking at the shelves and shelves of books to take any notice of where I was actually going. I may have been lost, but I was having too much fun to care.
Leaving 'reception' – itself larger than many bookshops I've visited and filled with new and antiquarian books, postcards and a basket of baby aardvarks – I found myself in the cafe. While people relax at a table with a cup of tea the books flow into and around this area, blurring the edges of the two sections. The cakes on offer looked particularly appealing, but being part-way through a long drive meant I hadn't time to sit and relax.
Instead I moved on through the cookery books (perfectly placed within the cafe area) and a range of other non-fiction and into the book burrow for children. Crammed with books, a castle, pirate ship, princess seat, trees, more books and colourful pictures drawn by young customers, my only disappointment was that I was visiting on a weekday and therefore unable to see all the youngsters enjoying these wonderful surroundings. In the absence of children I may have played in the castle a little myself...
I may have felt as out of place as an aardvark while wandering the Shropshire countryside, but once inside this warm and friendly bookshop I was perfectly at home and happy as Larry. Or should that be Ethel?
Tel: 01547 530744