Last week I was on a writing retreat at the Hirst, the wonderful newly renovated Arvon centre in Shropshire (my room was top left). I took a couple of hours off one afternoon to visit Ludlow. It is one of the loveliest small towns in the country with streets of exquisite Georgian houses, the sort of place that used to be stuffed with second-hand bookshops. And yet it doesn’t have a single one (though funnily enough there are two binders!). There are shops to gladden the hearts of foodies, loads of restaurants, posh clothes shops, even a pottery, but no second-hand bookshop. I am quite sure of this, because after some time wandering fruitlessly around I went into the Tourist Information office and asked. Only charity shops, I was told, and sometimes stalls on the market.
How can this be? Although I am all for raising money for charity I still think it’s sad that charity shops have taken over from second-hand bookshops. They are just not the same. They don’t have the same range of books, or the same smell of old paper, or knowledgable staff, or eccentric owners. They just don’t feel the same. I did go and look at the market and found mostly new, discounted books. I bought a jar of home-made marmalade for my husband and came sadly away.