I once found myself in Brecon, deep within the Mountains of South Wales, when I got knocked of my feet by the most perfectly intense smell. It was a warm, autumn day and I was on an urgent search for supplies when I passed the doorway of an otherwise non-descript shop. Wham! The glorious must of a thousand old books slapped be in the face like a haddock in a fish-slapping dance. Naturally, despite my haste, I had to go in.
Too often today we take the easy option when it comes to books. We click on ‘buy’ and wait for the brown cardboard envelope to drop through the letterbox, or, worse still, we download 80,000 words and read them from a hand-held screen.
We have lost many of our bookshops – especially the independent sellers who cannot compete with the chains. But here and there, down sidestreets or up narrow flights of stairs, remain shelves full of proper pages. In the better book shops, lazy perusal is actively encouraged, while the very best will offer tea (and even cake) without any obligation to buy. Nothing can match the beauty of a book, and as it ages, so it matures. If it is a particularly good piece of literature, or just well loved, then those sentiments seem to absorb into the spine and paper. Breathe deeply – it is simply the best smell in the world.