My targeted bookshop for the week doesn’t have a web page. Not a big deal, since like many other small businesses a Facebook page does the job they need. But FB’s map and guidance put me in the middle of a town that’s 14.4 km/9 miles away. It even showed a bus stop across the street, which reinforced my preconceived notion that I’d been there before, grabbing a quick takeaway coffee while waiting for my bus.
But you know those times when that voice in the back of your head tells you that things may not be quite as they seem? And those times when you actually listen to it before the fact and not in a regretful afterwards? That’s when I found out that Gadai Dubh wasn’t where I thought it was, or where all of FB’s maps think it is, either. Glad I did my homework again. That extra twenty minutes of riding would have been a long walk, no matter how nice the day. I sat there thinking of the stories we’ve all seen about people zealously following their GPS instructions off a cliff or into a river.
And when I finally arrived…
How many bookshops do you enter to be greeted by a tail-wagging dog, a cup of coffee and an owner you’ve never met before who trades stories with you like a long-lost cousin? And I can’t forget the eye-level road-kill taxidermy and other fossilized critters and century-old weaponry scattered around the store. Oh, and did I mention it’s a bookshop with two floors of fantastic reads?
One of the many “feel right at home” parts of the store was a stack of old type cases – the kind I used when I was learning to set type in a galaxy long ago and far away. [Is it true that bce really means “before computer era”?] Conor, the owner, uses their flat drawers to store various artifacts he’s picked up in his travels and digs around the planet. We could have spent hours comparing notes on what we’ve learned from things that others leave underfoot in places we’ve travelled through the years. But he did have other customers to tend to and I was beginning to feel a tad guilty with the amount of his time I was taking. Two books and another cup of coffee later I bid him adieu with a threat to return again. See the links below for some more background on this wonderful shop and its more wonderful owner.
Now back to Macroom, to the bookstore I initially thought I was going to because that’s where the internet’s maps wanted to send me. I stopped into Fitzgerald’s, to a selection of chocolates to die for. You know those gift boxes with the cover sheet telling you what’s in each pocket? [I usually ignore it and go for what looks good at the time.] Their counter is a holiday gift box gone wild. More chocolates than I could count, digest or afford. So I settled for just a few and sat down to admire the scenery I’d never paid much attention to before – chocolates to eat & drink, baked goods, wool and knitting goods, a selection of children’s books overfilling a space larger than my home – oh, and a new book for me, as well. After a few weeks of nonfiction – and two nonfiction books at Gadai Dubh I chose You-jeong Jeong’s Good Son. Until then I was oblivious to the book or its author, but the woman who sold me my chocolates and coffee saw me with it and told me how her husband, who gave her grief for reading it, now couldn’t put it down. Like the chocolates she helped me with, how could I resist the book she was recommending?
We’ve just talked – way too briefly – about why I prefer independent retailers of all stripes over chain stores of any kind.
I see a pattern beginning here. My plan is to buy a new book in each store I visit from the Irish Times list. At the end of the day I’d been to two stores and bought three books. Do I need a vaccination?
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.