Sunday 11 February 2018

Dilly-dally among the books

In my years of blogging I've met many amazing bookshops, each of which stands out for having something unique and special that makes me fall in love with it. This week's bookshop wins the prize for being possibly my oddest bookshop experience (in a good way).

The encounter was part of a bookshop crawl for Independent Bookshops Week, and the destination in question is The Petersfield Bookshop. During the planning stage of the day, I'd looked it up and spotted that it sells secondhand and antiquarian books, its website refers to 'other things to see', but it wasn't until we were fully inside the shop that we realised just what it meant.

From the street the bookshop looks interesting, standing out in its corner position, with flags and hanging baskets for added attraction. There's a light and airy covered entryway, crammed with cheap books and also a couple of plants and other quirks that might be overlooked but should also be seen as an indication of the character to be found within.

It's taken me a long time to write about this bookshop simply because ordinary words fail to do justice to the experience of a real visit. Seemingly endless rooms of floor to ceiling books are a delight to browse, with every genre imaginable to be found somewhere. To start with the obvious: the books are a delight and had me wandering from room to room admiring their variety and number. This was good both as a visual feast and for giving me lots to choose from. I picked up Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome, which was a nice addition to my slowly growing Swallows and Amazons collection.

But this is only part of the story. Within the rooms of books are all manner of knick-knacks, colourful characters and creations that I could easily imagine come to life after hours, getting up to their own mischief and moving from room to room so no two days look the same. From a slightly creepy life-sized mannequin to a fully-furnished dolls' house, a steampunk monkey or Paddington Bear on the ceiling, all kinds of creatures inhabit this bookshop, making it an adventure to explore each room even if (for some strange reason) you're not a book lover.

This is all topped off with the discovery of Dilly the bookshop parrot. He comes with a warning about keeping your fingers away, but what he doesn't have is a warning about talking to him, or yourself. I lost my boyfriend for quite some time, as he browsed Dilly's room, looking at the books and whistling in conversation with the parrot. Until he rounded a corner and realised another browser had been the other half of the conversation. I imagine Dilly enjoys listening to many similar 'chats', probably looking down on the antics of us human idiots.

This was a wonderful bookshop, with so much to choose from and admire, not forgetting the welcoming, helpful bookseller as well as the bookshop parrot. I'd say more, but I'm going to leave the talking to Dilly and my photographs – and once again encourage you to visit for yourself.

The Petersfield Bookshop
16 Chapel Street, Petersfield,
Hampshire, GU32 3DS
Tel: 01730 263438

Apologies, the book is currently hidden in a box of unpacked books since I moved house, but I will post a proper picture of the cover soon. Meantime, here's the steampunk monkey guarding a shelf:

And a few more, because I loved photographing all the randomness on display: