“We are walking on up the hill and down the other side to the beach,” my enthusiastic young companions said, after a superb lunch in a tiny restaurant on the promenade.
“Then I will see you later,” I told them, thinking of a bench in the shade, overlooking the bay, and the chance to write and sketch. I had my trusty small notebook with me and it would be enough to keep myself happily occupied for a couple of hours.
We agreed we would see each other later. In this land of late evenings when the sun only went down after 8.30 I did not expect to see them soon, and I waved goodbye as they set off on their beach adventure.
I crossed the road and stood for a moment, drinking in the beauty that spread out before me. Deep blue sea and sky, boats of all shapes and sizes, people swimming, and, across the bay, the hills and tiny homes of our own suburbs. Seagulls swooped and called and a shag stood on a rock, its wings stretched out to dry after a recent swim. What a heavenly place.
Life buzzed around me and, content, I turned to walk back the way I had come to find an empty bench under a tree.
I enjoyed the interlude. Writing was a pleasure, inspired words flowing across the page. The sketches, like all my sketches, were distinctly amateur, but I did not mind. There was little chance of my showing them to anyone and they also gave me pleasure and were a record of my visit.
After a couple of hours, I felt the need for an ice cream – after all I was on holiday and so, gathering my belongings, I strolled on
And discovered a little street that climbed the hill away from the bay. Tiny shops invited me to explore. Still seeking ice cream, I began to climb.
Cafes, souvenirs, designer clothes. I wandered past the windows until I discovered a treasure.
An independent, one-of-a-kind, old-fashioned bookshop. I could not resist the tug of memory and, as I stepped through the door, I was transported back, over fifty years to the bookshop of my childhood when I would spend happy hours browsing, burying myself in the delight of the written word.
This one I had found was a piece of history. Books from floor to ceiling. Not the usual books by the oh-so-familiar authors you can find in any high street or airport bookshop around the world – but treasures, written by men and women of whom I had never heard.
It was a testament to the authors who had poured out their stories, their very hearts and souls. I know their compulsion. As a fellow author, I understood how a story builds and builds inside you until there is no alternative but to write it down and set the words free for the world to share.
How many authors were represented here? How many lives were shared? How many hours, weeks, years had been spent in the writing so this wondrous place could exist? I understood the blood, sweat and tears incorporated in each precious book.
I spent an hour or more exploring its wonders. Touching a book here, picking up one there. Feeling the paper, some smooth, some textured. Longing to buy, to make some of these treasures my own, but knowing this was not possible.
I tried to capture the moment. Unwilling to take photos, I tried to imprint in my mind the look and feel of the place.
And to a certain extent, I succeeded. I look back on that wonderful day and see that hour spent in the bookshop as a moment of burnished gold. A beacon of joy in a day of many joys. A memory I will prize and hold dear.
What an unexpected delight! I did eventually, find ice cream and ate it looking over the harbour, at the sea and the sky, the people and the boats. But the pleasure it gave me was minuscule compared to the glowing memory of the bookshop.
How well God knows me. He could not have blessed me with anything more perfect and as I rejoined my companions at the end of this sun-baked day, I was warmed by the memory of His blessing – His perfect blessing – of the bookshop.