They said it was an Indian Summer.
Me? I didn’t quite know what to call it. All I knew was that I was transfixed. It was one of those days, I pondered, that I would always find myself drifting back to; striking colours in my mind’s eye that would forever enchant me.
Flame-faired oaks wrapped their arms around the town, shedding plentiful kisses in show-stopping shades of orange ablaze, sunset-rich gold, and chestnut-brown.
It was one such day that I’d remember tiny little insignificant details about, such as the exquisite shine of the perfectly rounded conker I picked from the path and stored in my coat pocket. Or the combination of the silent river and the strike of midday.
So perfect was this day, and the place I got to share it with...
Technically speaking, the town dozes peacefully on the Welsh side of the Welsh-English border. In reality, Hay practically floats within the clouds; a held breath in the form of a truly unique fable-land. Quite literally, a castle in the sky.
Hay-on-Wye is not just... Hay-on-Wye.
Hay-on-Wye is, in-fact, a million different places, all a product of the most powerful tool the human race often forgets that it possesses... The imagination.
Imagination, fed on the tanned pages of well-read books - books passed between friends, and books gifted by strangers. All of us connected, without ever really knowing it, by the stories we inhale.
All of those books... The hundreds upon thousands of books. Endless escapes. Infinite worlds, shimmering with the desire to be discovered. Eternal words to interpret, ponder, seek strength within, or adopt as weaponry.
Castle Bookshop 😍
As an avid book lover, Hay-On-Wye has always been high on my ‘to-do’ list.
In early October 2022, on arguably one of the most stunning days of the year, I was lucky enough to finally visit with my Mum.
Suffice to say, I was spellbound.
Maybe it was the vibrant clash of Autumnal hues that initially caused my heart to skip a beat, or perhaps it was because treading the pavements of Hay was comparable to walking on a dream. Whatever it was, I was instantly, completely and utterly in love.
The town giggled playfully under the sea of words whispered from the roaring Black Hills, read straight from the pages of a folklore fairytale.
I was under its spell from the moment I devoured that very first word. I yearned for more; more of Hay, more books, more words, more magic. And I got it all in plentiful abundance.
Hay Cinema Bookshop - I found the stars on the ceiling especially dreamy 😍
I knew deep within me that I would feel a sense of incompletion until every single book shop had been marvelled at. I vowed to explore every shelf in every shop, standing on my tiptoes and sitting cross-legged on the floor.
I wistfully ran my fingers across a thousand spines, in awe of the bones of each and every story within.
The Hay Castle Bookshop was a miraculous staple of pure perfection, and the Hay Cinema Bookshop was a veritable trove. Murder & Mayhem was a wonderful canvas of curiosity, and the Book Passage was a teeny-tiny slice of blink-and-you’d-miss-it paradise.
I danced along the aisles, allowing myself to evaporate into the blurbs.
Was it selfish of me to want to bathe in the pages of each book I allowed myself to be enticed by? It was love at first sight, over and over again, until my brain danced giddily on an overdose of those blurbs. After all, the blurb is nothing if not the window to the book's soul, and indeed a teasing temptation.
Murder & Mayhem - gorgeously unique! 😍
For me, free-falling into those delicious first few pages of a new book is comparable to Christmas Eve. Those Christmas Eves of yesteryear: the distant whisper of sleigh bells, the fight against the night as sleep came to call, the tantalising stillness that seemed to capture the world in the palm of its hand as midnight graced, and the beautiful, beautiful belief.
Somehow, Hay encapsulates that entire feeling. Somewhere between the soft, flowing laughter of the river and the emerald carpet of meadow that embraces it like a force field, Hay just blesses one with that breathtaking revelation that anything could happen.
The lines between fantasy and reality so joyously blend, and the result is almost nostalgic.
The spectacular Book Passage! 😍
Armed with bagfuls of books, Mum and I strolled along the river. We soaked up the unexpected autumn sunshine on an upturned tree trunk under the mesmerising dapple of a weeping willow.
We sat for an hour.
Time was a meaningless element, and how blissful a revelation.
One by one, I took out my books and turned them over in my hands.
There was one especially that filled my eyes with stars: It’s Another World, by Leslie Scrase.
The blurb alone sent shivers down my spine: ‘There is something we have known ever since we came to this house, without ever understanding what it was. From the very beginning, we have known that there was a rightness about this place which went far beyond anything we have experienced before. It goes way beyond the simple matter of being pleased with a house and buying it... Everything in our lives is about as perfect as life can ever be. But why?’
Dubbed a ‘West Country fantasy,’ the book promises a deliciously quirky combination of autobiography, myth and folklore. I don’t know what it was about this particular book, but it drew me in. I’d never heard of it, hadn’t had it recommended, and wasn’t familiar with the author, yet I just had to have it.
I think the magic of Hay strongly influenced my fervour for this particular book.
The title resonated with me so deeply in a way that I just couldn’t explain: It’s Another World. And it certainly was, that day in Hay.
Alexa - play 'At The River' by Groove Armada! ❤️
The smell of old books – years between their pages.
The feel of those treasured pages.
The sound of the unspoken words seeping into your veins.
The characters that you know – know in an instant – will forever be by your side. A growing army.
The multitude of worlds at your very fingertips. Humble teleportation made possible...
All of this richness, all of this wealth... Because you chose to read.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©