bunn (bunn) wrote,

An Unearthly Bookshop

We went to Bere Alston today, in search of a second hand bookshop.   Bere Alston is a large village in the middle of the Bere Peninsula, which is an oddity in that it is a sort of fully-retracted peninsula in the middle of a land mass.  It is separated from Cornwall and the rest of Devon by rivers that bend round to make it almost an island.   So Bere Alston has oddly few connections to the outside world, and feels quiet and isolated.   The core of the place is tiny nineteenth century miners cottages, all huddled together around the few shops, and then around the outskirts there are sprawling estates of ugly twentieth century bungalows.

When we arrived,  a small group of children (the girls dressed in oddly timeless long skirts and boots) were cheerfully flying supermarket plastic bags on the end of long strings, like kites.   But this was not the odd part.

The bookshop is called 'The Victoria Bookshop' and it has a large bust of (I assume, although it didn't look quite as I expected) Queen Victoria, wearing a huge black hat, in the window - although you could hardly see her for all the small adverts stuck to the windows.  Inside, it was quite dark and very untidy.  There were a couple of strip lights illuminating the area nearest the door, but further into the shop there was no illumination, just bookshelves loaded with books stretching into darkness.   Random bits of paper, broken book covers, loose pages and torn photographs  were strewn all around on the floor.  Several brightly coloured women's blouses were hung on hangers across the front window.   There was a large desk in a state of considerable chaos, with a large but filthy Apple Mac embedded in the middle of it.

There was no sign of anyone about, although somewhere upstairs, a radio was playing. We wandered around looking at books, assuming that at some point, someone would hear us and turn up to see if we wanted to buy something.  Maybe they would even turn the lights on?  But nobody did. We turned on some lights when we could find the switches.   Pp found one book that was from the mid-eighties, but most of the books were from the sixties or earlier - I think most of them were pre-war.  On one shelf, hiding the books, I noticed a photo of an eager, smiling freckled girl with Sixties bobbed hair in a silver frame.  No name or date on it though.

By the door, there was a pile of huge disintegrating books, and on top of them, a pile of newspapers. The newspapers were The Times from 1927.  I went through a few of them: they were roughly in date order, and piled loosely, as if someone had come in many days running with their paper under their arm, and chucked the paper down on top of the heap.

At this point, we concluded that whatever story this was, it was liable to end badly for the inquisitive couple who blunder into it with no idea what is going on, and fled.  It was hands down, the weirdest and most creepy shop I have ever visited.
Tags: devon, retail therapy, tamar valley
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