A Trail of Discovery Through Small Independent Bookshops in the Cotswolds

Over the past couple of months, at the suggestion of my publisher Matador,

Passionate Spirit cover design
Passionate Spirit cover design

I’ve visited a number of small independent bookshops throughout the Cotswolds (where my new novel A Passionate Spirit is set).

The Yellow Lighted Bookshop Tetbury
The Yellow Lighted Bookshop Tetbury

I’ve introduced myself and my novel, offered each bookshop manager a copy of my advance information sheet and asked if they would be willing to stock my book when it comes out in November.

Not only have I found the managers of the shops very friendly and encouraging, and have won several positive responses to the idea of stocking my book, but also I’ve had a wonderful journey of discovery among small independent bookshops.

Madhatter Bookshop, Burford
Madhatter Bookshop, Burford

For a small town to have its own independent bookshop is a great blessing. I’ve now visited bookshops in Stow-on-the Wold, Burford, Chipping Norton, Tetbury, and Woodstock.

The Borzoi Bookshop, Stow-on-the-Wold
The Borzoi Bookshop, Stow-on-the-Wold

Among the bookshops I found one that also sells hats; and another that sells tea, coffee and cakes at the front, in amongst the book displays. All of these shops have individual, fascinating and eclectic displays of books; none are the same, and none are dominated by the current blockbuster or most-hyped new publication. In several I found books that I wanted to buy, and I did make a number of purchases; among them, not a few Christmas presents!

I still plan to visit bookshops in Stroud, Abingdon, and Oxford.

Jaffe and Neale Bookshop, Chipping Norton
Jaffe and Neale Bookshop, Chipping Norton

In particular I loved this quote which I found in The Yellow Lighted Bookshop, Tetbury:

So often, a visit to a bookshop has reminded me that there are good things in the world.  (Vincent Van Gogh)

I thoroughly agree with Van Gogh.

A Spiritual Journey Starting on a Perilous Mountain Road in Queensland

a view of the Macpherson mountain range
a view of the Macpherson mountain range

On the border of Queensland and New South Wales, behind the Gold Coast, you may find the Macpherson mountain range, part of the Great Dividing Range – one of the places I love. The road leads from Southport via Nerang up through Mount Tamborine to the town of Canungra where you may continue your journey to one of two mountain resorts: Binna Burra or O’Reilly’s. I was negotiating the mountain passes on the way to O’Reilly’s. In the passenger seat was my18 year old niece Caroline, who was visiting Australia for a month (where I lived at the time).

Caroline had mentioned that she and her friend Jo (her fellow traveller to Australia) had gone to Sydney to stay in a house of students who they knew nothing of. And discovered that they were all committed Christians – just like Caroline and Jo. Caroline found that wonderful. I said, “Well, like attracts like” – for me as a New Ager I believed that this apparent coincidence was the operation of the Universal system / the principle of  “reality follows thought.” But Caroline was having none of this. “No, it was God,” she said.

I didn’t want to argue with her. Especially as I was driving up a perilous mountain road at the time. My own beliefs were a mixture of NeoPaganism, Pantheism and Eastern Mysticism. I pursued gurus, tried Buddhism, practised eastern forms of meditation and various esoteric philosophies, teachings and techniques.

I prepared to go into “indulgent tolerance” mode whilst we climbed higher up the mountain range. It was because of that very black-and-white “certainty” that I had long mistrusted evangelical Christianity.

But Caroline then launched into a full exposition of the gospel and of the fact that Jesus Christ had come to bridge that divide between God and humankind; and when we reached our cabin in the resort, she drew for me a picture of a cross bridging that chasm. All the time I was in tolerance mode. I didn’t need evangelising. I considered myself knowledgable about the bible, & had been good at R.K. at school. So I just let Caroline do her thing, until she at last got distracted by a  snake lying in the path.

For the next year I continued in my usual way, following my own spiritual interests, occasionally thinking of this episode. OK I hadn’t liked being evangelised. But I was impressed by her conviction, by her belief that her religion wasn’t a private matter, it was to be shared; and by her courage. I thought, “I wouldn’t do that.” It’s a personality thing too, but I actually believed everyone has a right to their own beliefs & it was no business of mine to try and convert someone else to my beliefs. But Caroline believed she not only had a right but a responsibility to tell me what she believes. I was impressed by that. But I didn’t do anything about it until 1991 a few months after I’d returned to live in England, with my parents in their Kent village near Tonbridge – and it changed my life.

Have you ever changed your life as a result of a conversation with one person? Or was it a long process, involving several people, covering a number of years? Please share your own stories with me!