When everything is open to you: opening hours, displays, shelving even, where do you start? Not with a rhetorical question, according to one of my old English teachers.
The name of Wigtown may not trip off the tongue in the same way as Hay-on-Wye, but since 1997 the former county town has been designated Scotland’s national booktown, with a host of secondhand bookshops and book-related businesses bringing regeneration. I visited not only to peruse the bookshops for myself, but also for the unique experience of managing one of the bookshops for a week.
I have to confess to feeling rather a large amount of trepidation as I headed downstairs from the flat, keys in hand, to open for the first time on Monday, though my commute was a pleasant ten steps. I think it took longer to lock one door and unlock the other than walk the distance between the two doors. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I guess my expectations did include some customers, which were thin on the ground my first day, perhaps because the weather was so good and everyone was out travelling around the region while they could.
Travel is my passion, and my job. I’m able to break from the norm and experience adventures others aren’t necessarily able to have (unless in this case you can wait two years for the chance to work in The Open Book yourself). So when I heard about The Open Book’s bookshop holiday residencies, I jumped at the chance, having dreamed of owning and running my own secondhand bookshop one day. At least for a week I would be able to.
I took advantage of my travel knowledge to raid the shop’s fiction, history and travel stock for a display by the door, topped with some inflatable globes I’d found, and cheekily including my own travelogue. It worked well with a pre-exiting ‘travelled far?’ map pin-board opposite. I found, and sold, some absolute gems.
That is perhaps the glory of the adventure that is The Open Book. It may not be trekking in the Himalayas, but every week or two the shop can completely change its outward appearance to the world, while maintaining its overall function as a bookshop. One week the temporary manager may choose to advertise travel, while another’s passion could equally be gardening or politics. Anything goes.
For me, ‘anything goes’ is the unwritten (but oft said) ethos that runs The Open Book, but also adventure more generally. Seeking out the unknown, challenging ourselves and our preconceptions is what travel and adventure is all about. And this week, you can read all about it at The Open Book.