I acquired that pile of goodness last weekend at a lovely town called Sedburgh which lies within the scenic lushness of Yorkshire Dales National Park. Winding cobbled streets lead you past stalls selling beautiful sheepskin rugs, vicarage lanes and cottages with twee names. Then you trundle down the lane further past book shops called Sleepy Elephant, spectacularly green cricket grounds and shop facades that seem to be peeling away at leisure, till you arrive at the point of why Sedburgh declares itself the book town of the Blighty.
You may ask the question of the cheerful lady at the till of a charity shop and she would smile (because she must have answered this one a few times) and say: “Every cafe, shop and store in this town is stocked with books, and if you go up the street, you will see Westwood Books. It is worth taking a look into because it came from the Welsh town, Hay-on-Wye. They have done a fair bit in promoting Sedburgh as a town of books.”
Now my dear readers, you must have heard of the Hay Festival which for bibliophiles is supposed to induce a Christmas-in-the-mind-at-any-time-of-the-year feeling. It is takes place in the book town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales which boasts of a dozen bookstores. My husband should thank his lucky stars I have not set foot inside that market town yet. But the point of this is that Westwood Books is indeed a jewel of sorts. I entered it, I read inside it (a Gertrude Stein book which was thoroughly mind numbing because boy that woman knew how to pile on the negatives in one sentence – forget double negatives), then I did not know how to leave it behind.
Even Adi, who is not a reader, bought a book and browsed inside the store. Usually he takes a quick look and then hangs around my neck with the look of a bored child who demands to be entertained.That is what a book store worth its salt should be able to do – convert a non-reader/browser into one. Don’t you think?
Sedburgh and Hay-on-Wye are not unique really with their book town status, keeping in mind the fact that there are 40-odd book towns spread out across the world, but here’s how a book town can charm you.
Finally I leave you with the words of a writer, Eric Robson, who makes me nod vigorously (here you have the Indian head nod), as he says this: “First, a confession: I spend far too much on books. Which is why this idea of creating a Book Town in Sedbergh is a thoroughly bad idea. Until now my nearest Book Towns were Hay‑on‑Wye and Wigtown, which meant my obsessions were held in check by sheer distance. Now it’s going to be far too easy. I can already hear my bank manager turning in his vault. I won’t be able to resist. And there are thousands of other bibliophiles holding their heads in their hands as we speak. ‘Not Sedbergh!’ I hear them cry just before they get into their car and are drawn slowly but surely towards the Howgills.”