Do you ever find that things you planned on may not be available? And then stewed on the situation for way too long before learning you were mistaken in the first place?

This is what community is all about – a local supermarket is offering people food for the mind as well as their stomach. They’ve made space for the coronavirus-closed Roe River Books to sell books to their own patrons.

Sure, I’d been through Dundalk before, several times. Every one of them as a passenger without any particular reason for alighting [or delighting] at their bus stop. A few weeks ago, before we began our self-isolation – or saw the need for it – I spent some quality time in town. I arrived after retail hours on the night before I planned to visit Roe River Books. Walking along Park Street I noticed a BIG for lease sign over the store. After skipping half a heartbeat I walked a bit closer to discover it was advertising office space above the store that was locked-up tight behind its roller shutter.

So I continued my wandering in search of some good food. I discovered a nice town with a vibrant square, decent amenities and a wonderful meal. Then the next morning, walking along Park Street from the opposite direction, I saw a corner storefront with a nicely painted wall advertising the book shop. I was a somewhat surprised to find a charity shop with a nice, but extremely modest, selection of used books. That half a heartbeat returned to remind me it was still in me, accompanied by a million-and-one concerned thoughts in the space of about one and a half seconds.

If I had done my homework before – not after – visiting Dundalk, I would have learned of Roe River’s move down the street. But that would have destroyed the excitement of exploration – of discovering new things in a place that was new to me. And even if I had done my homework, I would have noticed and then ignored a two-digit number on Park Street and made plans to find the store while exploring the street. The new location is under the sign I’d seen the night before, with a coffee dock and a lot more space than the old location.

Finally where I’d planned to be, with my bag sitting behind their till and a cup of good coffee in hand, I began searching their shelves and displays. While coffee is always a good idea for my morning metabolism – or lack thereof – it probably wasn’t the best thing to be carrying while checking out all the store’s books. Instead of “you break it you buy it” I was thinking “you spill on it, we get to sell it to you”.

Among the first temptations to catch my eye were a couple of biographies. But they were a bit too serious for my morning state of mind and they were hardcover, to boot. I had enough caffeine in my brain to realize I was on the first stop of an eight-store trip and really didn’t want to carry that much weight. And the other rationalization I used? I’ve read enough portraits of real and fictional people over the past few weeks. So I need a book with a plot that will carry me from page to page and chapter to chapter. The answer? The Andalucían Friend by Alexander Soderberg. I’d never heard of either the book or its author, but the book leapt off the shelf at me. Publisher, please give your cover designer a raise.

And in closing for this week, just remember –

All who wander are not lost, we’re just finding more interesting ways of getting places than staring at our phones.

Check out Roe River’s FB and Twitter pages. Or, if you want to have some fun, open your browser and search Luddite Booksellers. For me, Roe River Books was the first listing after the paid ads, before listings about Ned Ludd. On Twitter they call themselves Luddite Booksellers, which makes them my kind of people.


This piece is just one of a number I’ve written about my long-term love affair with books. If you’d like to see more simply click on the “Books” category below. You can also subscribe, so that you’ll see these blogs as they’re written, as opposed to social media’s algorithms. As the saying goes, if you like my writing, tell your friends. If you don’t, tell your enemies.