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England: Day Five (Part Two)




Andrew wants to “throttle” me because I manage to outscoop him on a book he has been hunting for years. He and at least one other person on earth claim I have a knack for finding previously overlooked books on the very same shelves they themselves browsed not fifteen minutes earlier. Andrew says it’s annoying, I say it’s a gift. To the thoroughly meticulous victor belong the spoils.

We reconvene at the B&B later in the afternoon where, after successfully squeezing an extra 20 minutes out of Hay’s regular business hours by playing ignorant tourist, we lay out our respective hauls: sacks-full of wonderful-smelling, early 20th-century books. An old book is my version of comfort food. While showing off, and comparing (yes, and sniffing) our book acquisitions in a sort of awkward chest-thumping bibliophile display of bravado, I notice a shadow pass over my friend’s Swedish face as I reveal the coup de grace: a dust-jacketed 1945 first UK printing of C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. Having not known Andrew has been on a years-long search for a copy in this state, he most certainly lets me know. I feel bad. But not too bad.

I don’t know if it would be melodramatic to claim that there could be but few rooms on earth at that very moment in which could be found such a collection of first printings of titles by G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Rosemary Sutcliff, Noel Streatfeild, George Macdonald, Elizabeth Goudge, Edith Nesbit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Charles Williams, Anna Sewell, and Marchette Chute, to name a few. We are breathing rarified air. We are also hungry.

An obsessively compulsive book hunter (The Book Mole is a side biz of mine), I willfully skipped lunch because eating food would have been time wasted. Instead, in hindsight, I found those precious minutes much better spent hunched over, nearly to the floor of Boz’s Books, where I found an elusive 1st printing of Maisie Ward’s 1940 biography of G. K. Chesterton. Our hunger at last too much to bear, Andrew and I carefully put our books away, reluctantly leaving them alone in the room, and we walk the block or two to an Indian restaurant where we dine on tikka masala, garlic naan, and beverages.

Returning to the B&B, we once again scrutinize the book bounty. I keep a close eye on The Great Divorce. The next day, we are scheduled to play a show in Birmingham, but according to our itinerary, AP and I have enough time in the morning to get in a few more hours in Hay before we must depart this wonderful town. Yes, I say, to more books.


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