Friday 3 June 2016

Making friends in Wales

One of the many reasons I often cite for why bookshops are brilliant places to visit is the people. Not just the booksellers, but everyone you meet there: it's the only place where you can safely talk to a stranger without making them think they should run away.

At this week's destination I met both a bookseller and a bookshopper. I say met, it was more that I invited myself to join in their conversation and they didn't mind.

First let me set the scene. It was a dark, cold, winter night and I was nearing the end of a journey stretching most of the length of the M4. I had just one stop left before arriving at my sister's for Christmas to begin* and I was more than a little lost on the outskirts of Cardiff.

Festive traffic after a long drive is possibly one of the worst kinds of hell you can inflict upon a person, especially when your destination is a bookshop and it's almost closing time. Which gives you some idea of exactly how tired and grumpy I was when I arrived outside the bright and welcoming window of Griffin Books in Penarth. My photography really doesn't do it justice, but the warm glow and the mystery of what was hidden behind those red drapes was enough to start thawing my mood.

Considering Griffin Books is outside of Cardiff it's still a good-sized bookshop. At the time of my visit there were bundles of books on offer and a general buzz to the bookshop. Fiction is varied (including a sci-fi section to keep this geek happy) and there's an attractive children's area. However I'm not going to dwell too much on the interior because the bookseller later informed me it's due to be updated**, and as regular readers of this blog, you already know how great the stock is too. Instead I'll tell you about the people.

My arrival coincided with that of another bookshopper who was looking for something fun for a friend. As I was still recovering from my drive this was the perfect opportunity to be nosy and pick up a recommendation for myself. I began by listening in.

Then I joined in.

Now's when I have to confess my reasons for joining in weren't entirely innocent. Yes, I wanted to talk books to these interesting people, but I also wanted to buy one of the books being recommended. I couldn't do that if the chatting bookshopper bought them all. So I was cheeky and made a few suggestions of my own.

The bookseller took them in good grace, bringing me into the conversation and enabling me to further benefit from her knowledge, while the customer was equally friendly, enjoying sharing the fun. Which is what bookshops are all about. It was a great way to forget about my long day while also learning about this brilliant local.

We laughed, we chatted, we compared loves, likes and hates and we bought books. In my case it was Laura Barnett's The Versions of Us, while if memory serves the other bookshopper was much less restrained with her purchases.

We may not be popping around to each other's homes for cups of tea, but we were friends for the duration of this visit and were I to live nearer to Griffin Books I'm sure I'd continue to encounter such friendships. It's the bookshop way.

Griffin Books
9A Windsor Road, Penarth,
The Vale of Glamorgan, CF64 1JB
Tel: 029 2070 6455

*Apologies, I can't always write about every bookshop the moment I've visited and promise it's no reflection on the destination.
** And probably has been by now, given how late this post is.

This bookshop also appears as a gust post on Your bookshops.

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