Wednesday 9 September 2015

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

This summer one of the kindest men I know finally tied the knot. He's one of those rare people who are absolutely 100 per cent lovely and you can't ever imagine will meet someone who appreciates them for what they are.

I say finally, because he did meet such a girl many years ago, but life kept refusing to play ball and they only recently managed to say I do. It was worth the wait. At least, this wedding guest certainly thinks so.

The ceremony was in a beautiful village church somewhere near Chichester and of personal importance to the bride, with the reception a few hours later in Worthing – at a venue the groom had actually campaigned to save some years before (I told you he was a good 'un). And the day was glorious.

Terrible traffic meant I arrived late and snuck into the church during a hymn mere moments before the vows were exchanged, but grabbing the nearest free seat I found myself surrounded by old friends and everything was suddenly rosy. The bride looked beautiful, the groom really did dance for joy, and – as you'd expect at a wedding – everyone was grinning like idiots.

The distance between the church and reception, and allowing for a select wedding breakfast, also meant the happy couple had considerately allowed time for me to go bookshopping. And so, in my wedding guest finery I found myself at Heygates Bookshop & Paperback Exchange, Bognor Regis.

The end of the road, in the last resort (their words, not mine), it feels like one last reminder of all that was good about the traditional secondhand bookshop. From the £1.50 'parcels' bundled up with string in the entrance, to the piles perfect for rummaging, this bookshop is crammed. It even has that wonderful faint whiff of secondhand bookshop smell. I loved it.

Timid book buyers could happily find a book or 20 in the front room, where the standard fiction genres are shelved and piled, however it really is worth exploring the narrow corridor behind.

Once again organised by genre, there's an area for the romance fans looking for Cookson or Steel, then there's crime from the likes of Deighton to modern day, classics, and a further section for non-fiction if you're not too distracted to reach the back of the shop.

Personally I 'stumbled' halfway down, finding a number of James A Michener books which enabled me to add The Novel to my collection. It's a rare treat for me to find his less popular titles.

Noticing a sticker on the cover of my purchase, I continued exploring until all was explained with the 'exchange' prices. Okay, so it's not quite borrowing a book, but given how overflowing my shelves are I love the idea of being able to return books to build up exchange tickets and get a discount on my next read.

Happy with my find (both book and shop), and having chatted to the bookseller, it was time to return to the road to visit another bookshop* before the wedding reception got under way.

More smiles and reunions with old friends occurred, and it was here that I also encountered my something new of the day. Please forgive the name-dropping digression as it's nothing to do with books, but mid conversation with the groom I was introduced to another of the guests, who also happens to be the bass player in one of my current favourite bands. Starry-eyed groupie perhaps isn't the best of looks I could've gone go for, but he was perfectly charming as we compared notes on our experiences of my current home town before he politely escaped from my enthusiastic praise.

Old friends, new music, borrowed books – something blue? The sky, of course, adding sunshine and warmth to an already beautiful day.

Heygates Bookshop & Paperback Exchange
67 Little High Street, Bognor Regis, West Sussex, PO21 1RY
Tel: 07812 683440

*That bookshop's a story for another day


  1. This is my fave shop in the whole world. I've been going there on and off since I was a kid spending my summer hols in Bognor. I live in Bristol and don't get back to Bognor nowadays as often as I would like but when I do I will always spend some quality time in Heygates. They were awesome 30 yrs ago when I first visited and remain so to this day. Pure book heaven.

    1. This is a lovely thing to share, thank you Nick. It's always great to hear when people return to a bookshop they love. This sounds like an important part of your holidays (and rightly so).


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