I went looking for fiction – and found a calamity-in-waiting

Have you ever walked into a place that just felt right? Trinity Books in Carrick on Shannon wasn’t on my list of places to visit. Its street sign caught my eye on the way to another store. So I turned left, walked down an alley and opened their door. I was immediately absorbed into a Dickensian bookshop smell of years ago.

Despite being in a ground floor location with lots of windows, Trinity has that catacomb feel of old books, of ancient ink on old paper that’s been soaking up atmosphere since long before we were born. It’s a magnetic scent and feeling that’s indescribable to someone who hasn’t grown up with it. To my right were shelves of leather-bound collectibles. To my left a roomful of well-worn paperbacks priced at €1- €2. In a chair between them, a man with a welcoming nod invited me to browse in peace.

I was intrigued. While pawing through a stack of well-thumbed discount books whose previous owners undoubtedly had their boats docked on the nearby River Shannon I listened carefully to the conversation/negotiation between the shopkeeper and a patron. At the prices they were discussing [three and four figures without decimals] I feel that patron – or perhaps client – is a more appropriate term than customer.

I’m not a collector but I appreciate those who devote themselves to a particular passion. Even if I was, the Trinity inventory that might have appealed to me is beyond my reading, decorating or investment budgets. And their used book selection was wonderful, but nothing in the “have to have it now” category. Guess I’ll need to return one of these days.

Reluctantly I left. Now, at home, I’ve taken a look at their website. You should do the same. Even if you never set foot in their door or order a book from their stock, it’s wonderful to know that people like this exist. While the smell of old books permeates the store, there’s a smell of love that permeates their web page.  https://trinityrarebooks.wordpress.com/

Back to the reason I came to Carrick on Shannon: I walked across the street to The Reading Room, my original destination. They had a nice selection, where I chose a hitherto-unknown to me Booker Prize Short Lister. But it was their children’s display that intrigued me. A side wall in their display window is covered in caricatures – the perfect attraction for whatever books they’re featuring. They take kids seriously, running three different age-appropriate book clubs on Saturday mornings. Should the tech giants be warned that there’s a bookstore in Ireland that’s giving pre-tablet/pre-phone kids an immersion in the printed page?  That’s in addition to the numerous adult clubs the store supports across the county. And if you’re old enough to remember the book-of-the-month clubs, you’ll be glad to know that the Reading Room offers gift subscriptions, tailored to your own tastes – or to the tastes of someone on your gift list. And if you’d like to know more about how things work in The Reading Room, click on this link to last week’s Irish Examiner, where they profiled the store and its owner, Orlagh Kelly – https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/lifestyle/we-sell-books-the-reading-room–small-bookshops-curated-by-people-who-care-make-a-difference-977834.html

Oh, and there’s one more shop you’ll want to visit: Just down the road you’ll find Boyle – home of Ireland’s smallest bookstore. You can stand in the middle of shop and reach every book on every shelf. I made things a bit roomier when I bought a pair of books. https://www.facebook.com/Bookladyboyle/

And now back to listening to our feelings. Just as old books, Christmas trees or certain foods trigger particular memories, so do cityscapes. In the future I think we’ll be calling the town Carrick IN Shannon. Crossing the bridge into town I instantly noticed a lot of new construction.

https://thereadingroom.ie/

Something just felt wrong.

All the new buildings were between the historic town and the river – on the Shannon’s flood plain. Locals told me of the fields and floods that were there in years past. One of them told me that older people were known to say, “Leitrim wasn’t sold by the acre, but by the gallon.”  Flood plains and wetlands are for water, not new construction. Want to develop them? Create parks and playing fields that can absorb the water and be inexpensively restored. Paving paradise costs money to do, money to rescue, and lots more money, heartache and finger-pointing to repair and replace.

So…after a wonderful surprise, a satisfying visit, and a view of future headlines, I recalled the Gospel of John [Lennon]:

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

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.

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