Five Photos, Five Days…Day Five

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My Happy Escape

For nights when your mind is racing 100 miles per hour, every worry of today, every task of tomorrow refuses to rest in your head. You lie in bed staring into the darkness, you’re both wide awake and completely exhausted. The thump, thump, thump of heartbeat pounds in your ears and you’re not entirely sure how your body can feel all of this at once.

For these nights we all need an escape, a place we can visit by just taking a deep breath and closing our eyes. Some imagine rolling fields where the clouds drift over the hillside and the gentle breeze makes the grass dance in time with the birdsong. Others think of tropical climates, the sand giving way to weight of your bare feet, the warmth of the sun massaging your skin and the taste of salt in the air.

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For me? I close my eyes and travel to an old second hand bookshop in the village of Hay-On-Wye. It’s a sunny day and I can hear the upbeat fiddle of the busker who stands just around the bend of the street. In the window of the shop there are stacks of books, I scan through the small selection of orange penguin classics they have on display, “would my Dad like any of these for his collection?”

I open the white wooden door and the tinkling bell announces my entrance, my eye is immediately drawn to the left. A large bookcase filled with very old and precious editions of books, so coveted are these books that they sit proudly behind glass in an attempt to protect them from admiring fingers. I know this place like the back of my hand and continue on the route I’ve taken a hundred times, swiftly past the glass display case, I know these books are beyond my means and lingering by them would be too torturous. I mount the staircase and no matter how slowly or delicately I attempt to be, these steps always creak and groan under my feet.

A large paned window behind me showers light on the faces that hopefully wait on the spines of biographies. “Who shall I learn about today?“

Next, a room full of war heroes and stories of their triumphs. Although I don’t often read these books I do like to stay here a little while. If you squeeze through the bookcases you’ll find a corridor lined with shelves that lead to a huge window with a deep sill. It’s quiet down here and I can sit in this window for an age, watching the happy holiday makers bustling along the streets below. But I must carry on.

From here the shop becomes a little maze like, it took me a while to figure out how best to traverse through here but now I’ve got it sussed. Leave the war room and head left, past the religion and health room, straight through music and entertainment, down the other staircase which isn’t quite as noisy as the first. Rush past the sports section, slowly through the photography books (perhaps pick one up if it catches your fancy), now just along the children’s section and at last we’re in my favourite part of my favourite place. Fiction, the corridor stretches on then winds off into a room which is floor to ceiling of paperbacks and hardbacks. I have never left this room without nursing an armful of books I intend to devour, there are so many titles here I could spend years and never come across the same one twice. I run my fingers along the spines and admire all the colours and fonts before me. I take my time and select a book that catches my eye then I sit, not on one of the chairs provided but on the floor. I rest, the book on my lap and my head nestled against the shelves behind, this is where I feel peace. To open my eyes and see books towering over me, to breathe in the smell of old pages and enjoy the stillness around me.

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When I lay restless in bed this is where I take myself, there’s something about books that relaxes me, just to be near them can make me feel happy. In my daydream I never read a book, I’m usually fast asleep belong before then.

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