You know those days when you're in a mad rush, have a million things to do and not nearly enough time to get them done? Okay, so things weren't quite that bad, but I was in the middle of a bookshop crawl and panicking about how long it would take me to complete my journey. I was in a hurry.
The problem with being in a hurry is that you don't necessarily take everything in.
So while I'd noticed the big blue skies reaching out above me I'd not let myself stop to enjoy them. Equally, the countryside had passed in a gorgeous green haze touching at the edge of my consciousness with no pause to smell the roses.
Then I arrived at my destination. It was closed for lunch. And I was still in a hurry. Or I at least felt I should've been.
Thankfully, instead of panicking, I stopped, thought, and realised I wasn't really in a rush at all, I was on a relaxing day out. Admittedly it took an enforced pause to make me stop and realise that, but once the sign was spelled out at eye level I realised how important it was to just slow down and enjoy the beautiful village I found myself in. And have some lunch.
Knowing nothing about Wivenhoe in Essex – beyond that it's home to an independent bookshop – I had no idea where to find a cafe and so decided to simply keep walking along the road. As luck would have it this was very much the right thing to do, as within a minute I found myself at a riverside. A friendly family directed me to the nearest chippie and I was soon settled on a bench, with a portion of chips (lots of salt and vinegar) and a can of Cherry Coke. The sun was shining, there were just enough people around to create a gentle buzz and the view was gorgeous.
It was the perfect pause on my bookshop crawl, and helped to re-set my brain to the gentle pace of life in an idyllic village.
Refreshed, I returned to Wivenhoe Bookshop and some welcome shade. A lovely little shop, my first thoughts after being greeted by the friendly bookseller by the door were that the two rooms of this establishment were exactly perfect for village life. Small enough to be manageable, while large enough to stock a good range, it really felt like the epitome of the local bookshop.
In the backroom where I dawdled away most of my visit the bookshop feels like the living room of a bibliophile, complete with comfy red sofa, large coffee table, interesting paintings and what looked to be a former fireplace full of non-fiction. From my seat on the sofa I could relax with a book from the coffee table or simply sit back and enjoy the wall of fiction in front of me – a wall that was close enough to read the spines without generating feelings of claustrophobia. I could also enjoy the myriad conversations between visitors to the shop, not listening in as such, more browsing and overhearing as they floated through from the front room: snippets of village life, book conversations, book events, reading, writing and friendly hellos. Everything you'd expect from a bookshop at the heart of its community.
Had I been in a hurry, the dreamy pace and leisurely conversations would probably have been a frustration, slowing me down as my frustratingly British manners would've forced me to wait rather than interrupt a conversation. Instead, it all added to the charm, reminding me why it's good to get out of the city and relax every once in a while.
In fact, so slowed down had I become by village life that when I did speak to the bookseller I continued to dawdle, enjoying our booky chat and dithering over my selection. Then I spotted Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery and impulse grabbed me. Often recommended by a friend – and a sad omission from my childhood reading list – it seemed the perfect reminder of my rural retreat.
23 High Street, Wivenhoe, Essex, CO7 9BE
Tel: 01206 824050