Moving On

sks41aOne of the advantages of moving to a small market town is that suddenly everything is within reach. I no longer have a twenty minute drive to the nearest shops to buy a week’s supply of groceries, accompanied by the constant worry that when I get there they may be no parking. Instead I simply take the ten minute stroll into town each morning and pick up whatever I need for the day.  If it happens to be a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday even better, the fruit and vegetables will come courtesy of the local farmers’ market.

If I don’t feel like going straight home then there are four or five local cafés where I can stop off for refreshments and wile away a spare half hour with a good book. Importantly, given the (for me) too hot weather we are having at the moment, most of them have shady outside nooks where it is possible to catch whatever breeze is available.

The arts centre, where I have access to music, cinema and occasional theatre, including the live streaming from the National Theatre and the RSC, is even closer – less than five minutes from door to door.  I’ve already been to see An American in Paris and An Ideal Husband and have tickets booked for half a dozen more event over the next few months. When the new chamber concert season starts in the Autumn I shall be signing up for that as well.

What I don’t have is a bookshop – independent or otherwise.

There used to be an independent bookshop in the town many years ago.  It was taken over by Waterstones, but that closed when they cut back the number of stores they felt they could sustain in the face of on-line competition.  This left just an excellent Oxfam bookshop.  My experience of these is that they are either rather tatty places or seriously good. This was one of the latter.  However, last December the local rates went up to such an extent that it was forced to close as well, so now we struggle on with just a W H Smith as a source of reading material.

The existence of a local bookshop says something about a place, I think.  Or am I being too nostalgic?  I suspect that in even the best read communities bookshops would struggle to maintain a steady customer flow in the face of so much competition for readers’ attention.  But a good independent bookshop supports so much more than the buying needs of their clientele. I know of several who are the centre of half a dozen  local reading groups and the one here was responsible for starting a regular programme of visiting speakers long before the literary festival scene took off. It was the hub of literary life.  There are a couple of empty properties along the High Street and each time I pass them I think, ‘if only’, but I suspect I am hoping for too much.

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19 thoughts on “Moving On

  1. I was thinking “sounds ideal!” until you got to the absence of a bookshop. Have you ever dreamed of opening one yourself? Probably most book lovers have…foolishly idealizing the whole project, I’m sure. I hope some enterprising person makes your “if only” a reality!

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    • Oh yes! Many times. But, I had a friend who took early retirement precisely to do that and it was a disaster. He had no retail experience and it very soon became apparent that a love of books simply wasn’t enough!

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  2. What a wonderful spot you’ve found for your new home – and just perfect for your interests (with the lack of the bookshop being an exception of course). There are apparently a few brave souls who are opening bookshops. I was reading about one of those at the weekend where one day they sold not a single book. So they have had to go down the path of offering other items which have a higher mark up just to make ends meet.

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  3. I remember my partner suggesting we buy a small town bookshop that we both admired when the owners retired fifteen or so years ago. We’re both ex-booksellers so we know what we’re doing but my experience is more recent than his and I quailed at the prospect. It requires so much energy to keep an indie shop on the road, even more so in these challenging days, I suspect. I take my hat off to those who manage it.

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    • There are various charity shops, Karen, but the offering isn’t great. I do have a Waterstones in Worcester, which is around 12 miles away and a very good hospice based used books outlet as well. It could be worse.

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  4. I’m sorry you don’t have an independent bookshop. Do you order books online from another shop in another town? Or do you have a public library there that you visit? I know that libraries in the UK have been in trouble over the past few years.

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    • I am actually very lucky where libraries are concerned, Laila. I have one in easy walking distance which gives me access to the whole of the Worcestershire stock, but with a short drive I can also reach libraries belonging to two other authorities so one or other usually has what I want.

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  5. Our local library runs reading groups and so on, which is a good thing in one way, but I always feel it means there’s even less likelihood of us ever having a bookshop, since the library means they’d get even less business.

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  6. A library in easy walking distance, along with all the other amenities, makes it sound like you live in a wonderful place. I don’t know if your local library shares a catalog with other libraries as the ones around here do. My town is small, but the area from which I can order library books is large, and that’s a wonderful part of the rural life.

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  7. The market town sounds idyllic! I do think one has a better quality of life in a small town, or an urban neighborhood with shops and cafes within walking distance, than in a city or suburb where you have to drive. I’m sorry about the bookstore, though. That’s very common: we have very few here, and it is sad. Still, overall this sounds much better. There’s much to be said for the walking lifestyle!

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  8. It’s kinda tough to find one’s new bearings after a move. I’m sure you’ll discover plenty of great new places around your new home. The arts center and the market seem great!

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  9. Ugh, I’m sorry, that sucks. It’s particularly sad that you didn’t get to hang on to that excellent Oxfam — one of my favorite things about England was all the lovely book sections of the charity shops, as well as the ALL BOOK CHARITY SHOPS which I still will never recover from being delighted by. I will keep my fingers crossed that some enterprising person opens an indie in your area. You deserve it!

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  10. Well it does sound like a lovely place, and at least you have a library, but still, I agree with what you say and I hope that some enterprising person does open a bookshop soon. I was in East Grinstead a couple of weeks ago where they have a splendid indie bookshop – called The Bookshop – crammed with books but not claustraphobically, and well-chosen stock. It was really special.

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