Wednesday 24 September 2014

A friendly face in a new town

Avid readers (I'm sure that's all of you) may recall I moved house a few months ago. Well I can now report I'm happily settled into my new town and, more importantly, happily acquainted with most of the bookshops.

One or two you've already heard about pre-house move, but now it's time to introduce you to a third: Oxfam Bookshop, Tunbridge Wells. It was another such outlet that first helped me settle into my previous town, and so when I moved it was as important to me to get to know this bookshop as it was the many others nearby. And what a welcome I've had.

Some people like to be recognised in their local pub or cafe, others at the corner shop, being welcomed into my local bookshop is what does it for me. I may have only lived in Tunbridge Wells a few months, but whenever I go to this bookshop I'm greeted with a smile and a friendly "Hello Erica" - every bookshop I meet is obviously welcoming, but being greeted by name adds an extra level of joy to my visit.

Which is exactly what happened during my 'official' visit for the purposes of this post. I was wandering home from a food festival (feeling suitably stuffed and loaded up with local produce) when, 15 minutes before closing time, I decided to pop in on the off chance they had an obscure science fiction book I'm trying to chase down.

They didn't, but what they did have was a beautiful, pristine copy of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, a book I've long wanted to read but not yet spotted on a shelf. So long have I wanted to read this book I'd even recently bought the DVD, planning to watch it that evening. I'm not a believer in fate, but this visit definitely felt like it was meant to be.

But what of the bookshop itself? Well, the first thing you notice is that it's tiny, the second is how bright and airy the place is thanks to big windows and a high ceiling. Despite its size it's well-stocked, with a window crammed with interesting covers, a wall of various types of fiction and a children's section at the back that makes you think you must've entered a Tardis it's so roomy. Throw in non-fiction, an assortment of greeting cards and a couple of friendly volunteers and you've walked the circuit of the shop in about 30 seconds.

Then you pause and start looking at the books and realise what it loses in quantity it makes up for in quality - the people of Tunbridge Wells obviously have excellent taste in their donated books. As for my failure to find the sci fi novel I was after, the bookshop is sensible in its use of shelf space and doesn't have a large selection of this genre on display, but don't be afraid to ask if there's a particular book you're looking for - the manager happily went for a rummage in their store room to see what she could find for me.

And while she looked out the back I loitered by the till, chatting to the volunteers and browsing an assortment of postcards to feed my Postcrossing obsession.

I'm still new to the town and don't yet have many local friends I can call in on to say hello, but thanks to Oxfam Bookshop Tunbridge Wells I already feel a part of the community.

Oxfam Bookshop Tunbridge Wells
6 Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1YQ
Tel: 01892 616269

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