You know when you aren’t specially looking for something, and something looks for you? It often happens in a library. Or a bookshop.
This one was the famous Shakespeare and Company, 37 Rue de la Bucherie, Paris, opposite Notre Dame on the banks of the Seine.
You can read its lovely story here: http://shakespeareandcompany.com/35/history/36/a-brief-history-of-a-parisian-bookstore
Early on this blowy Easter Saturday, the shop was already rammed with visitors, and the prospect of coffee in a quiet backstreet was almost more tempting.
But I was on a pilgrimage, and Paris isn’t so close, after all – so I squeezed my way through the door, barely able to move, and like Alice, felt myself growing smaller and smaller as tourists crushed me from all sides so I could hardly lift my arm to reach a book until, until – I saw the magic word ‘Flight’ on the shelf nearest me. And right there was the book I didn’t know I needed …within seconds of my arrival. The sign of a brilliant bookshop.
Books will find you in the end.
Every few inches, a colourful book cover drew you in and you just had to reach out and touch it, hoping the old bookshelves wouldn’t collapse. Fighting my up the tiny staircase to the rabbit warren of rooms above, I found a tiny cubicle housing an old typewriter – children had been having some fun with it. Nearby, a fluffy white cat slept on, oblivious and purrfectly at home by a battered upright piano. Sprawled on old velvet cushions, a handful of youthful writers were scribbling on their tablets – George Whitman’s young Tumbleweeds blown in, perhaps? But now I could hardly breathe, so very soon ‘What it’s like to be a bird’ had been captured in Shakespeare and Company’s brown bag and duly stamped with their golden stamp.
Then out into the chilly pavement I tumbled where a long queue of hopeful fellow pilgrims shivered in the wind, waiting their turn to enter - one by one, as customers emerged.
I hope they were as lucky as I was!
Now where was that quiet café we passed earlier….?