When you’re standing and browsing in Schull’s Anna B’s, it’s impossible not to overhear things. It felt more like I was at a family gathering than in a retail shop. How many times have you been in a store, theatre or coffee shop where complete strangers are discussing something that you’d love to talk about, but you don’t want to be rude and interrupt them by barging into their conversation?

In Anna B’s they asked me to join them.

A woman [mid 50’s?] and her daughter had just bought a gift in the store and she wanted to send a picture of it to someone on her new phone. They were trying to sort out the settings on the preferred social messaging platform. Soon the two of them, the shopkeeper, myself and another neighbor/customer were scratching our heads. Only one of us under 40, and she was in her 30’s. We were all clueless. The photo remained unsent and we all went about our business.

An hour or so later I was eating lunch next door in Hackett’s and the same two women walked in. They groaned and rolled their eyes when I asked them if they’d had any further success. The barman asked if we needed help. She told him yes, with both phone and food. He paused, listened and told her to wait while he went to the kitchen. He returned with a younger man [late teens/early 20’s] who got it sorted in seconds.

Oh, and by the way, the lunch was delicious, too.

So…what jumped off the shelf at me this week? Actually it leapt off the display table next to the front door [retail consultants take note]. I let serendipity rule my purchase of a book by another author I’d never heard of. The cover blurbs grabbed my attention and wallet so I picked up Colum McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking. [Full disclosure. I finished it in a couple of evenings, before I started writing this post. It’s some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long time. I’ll be re-reading it in a few weeks, after I’ve absorbed some of the other books in my pile. And I’ll be looking for more of his work.]

While I didn’t intrude on the conversation between the storekeeper and the patron in front of me, I couldn’t help hearing a conversation that we’re all familiar with – about weekend plans, dealing with kids who act their age and out-of-town visitors. When my turn came at the till she mentioned that she comes into work at the store so she can relax. That was while she was taking care of inventory management – simply writing down the title of each sale in a notebook.

Oh, and I fell off the wagon again. There’s a charity shop across the street from Anna B’s where a Jo Nesbo book I haven’t read jumped off the shelf at me. For a euro I couldn’t resist. Since his plotting is a bit more complex than most crime writers, I’ll need to save him for a long flight.


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.