Bookshop Tour: Exploring Addyman Books

A visit to Hay-on-Wye wouldn’t be complete without a trip to our favourite bookshop in the town – Addyman Books.  We visit every time we’re in the area and love the cosy, creative feel of the shop with it’s many themed rooms so we made sure that we had time to pop in during our time at the Hay Festival.

The Vintage Penguin area at Addyman BooksThe most famous nook has to be the much-photographed vintage Penguin book shrine which is beautifully decorated with antique panelling from a Transylvanian church. It’s crammed full of fascinating titles and one of the highlights of this wonderful bookish town.  If you can tear yourself away, there’s also a children’s book room and a well-stocked science-fiction and fantasy s section on this floor – enough to keep everyone happy while you browse to your heart’s content.

The adventure continues upstairs with plenty of alcoves and corridors to explore (and almost get lost in!). The shop stocks every single genre so I recommend factoring in some time to work your way around the different zones. For me, the spooky Bat Cave and Celtic corner stood out because I love all things mystical whereas Al found his ideal spot in the comfy classics room.

But that’s not where it ends! Climb higher and you’ll find a true adventurer’s cabin (a model of Captain Scott’s) at the very top filled with books on exploration. I found an excellent copy of French caver Norbert Casteret’s Ten Years Under the Earth under the eaves so if you’re looking for inspirational journeys, then do venture up there.

A replica of Captain Scott's cabin at Addyman Books

After our quest, we all came away feeling as if we’d found hidden gold. The shop sells a selection of new as well as old so we bought a good cross-section and then went to the Addyman Annexe and bought some more! On this occasion, we didn’t manage to make it to the third Addyman store, Murder and Mayhem, but it’s a must-see for crime lovers.

All three shops are open 10 – 5.30 every day of the week and if you are on Instagram, then I highly recommend following Anne’s account – @addymanbooks – which has to be one of the best bookshop pages in the world.  You can also buy stock from them online (I have bought a few and the service is fab), and contact them via Facebook but nothing beats an afternoon in the shop. We’re already planning our next visit!

 

10 Tips for Planning a Successful Visit to the Hay Festival

Hay Festival LettersImagine a whole site dedicated to books – a programme filled with talks by your favourite authors, the biggest bookshop tent ever, deckchairs made for lounging, fresh food from all around the world…well that’s the Hay Festival and if you’re a book lover then you have to add it to your travel plans immediately!

We visited this year after dreaming about it for decades. There always seemed to be an excuse – not enough cash, a small child, other holidays, but now that we’ve been it’s going to be a firm fixture in our family calendar.  This time we only booked a few sessions over three days – Cressida Cowell, Andy Stanton, Joe Todd-Stanton and Judith Kerr – all child-orientated but fun for adults too.  The loose structure also gave us a chance to work out the logistics of the event – not quite as easy as the venue can get VERY busy.  Here are my top tips for making your visit as enjoyable as possible:

  1. Book your accommodation early.   Staying in Hay can be expensive so unless you are camping, it’s best to look outside of the town. We booked a weekend at the lovely Canal Boat Cottage in Crickhowell and were glad of the peaceful surroundings after the buzz of Hay.  Sugar and Loaf have a whole selection of cottages on their website (2019 Hay Festival will run 23 May to 2 June).Canal Boat Cottage Kitchen Crickhowell
  2. Join the Hay Festival mailing list for ticket notifications. We booked as soon as the programme was released as big names sell out very quickly. Prices average at £7 – some more, some less.  If you want to get in before the crowds you can pay extra to become a Friend of Hay Festival.
  3. When packing for the festival include wellies, umbrella, sunglasses and suntan lotion. We saw all sorts of weather during our short stay. Take fold-up tote bags to minimise baggage.
  4. There’s plenty of parking in town, but we booked the parking via the Hay Festival website when we purchased tickets.  It’s more expensive than other options but part of the fee is donated to Macmillan and it’s right next to the venue.
  5. The festival suggests that you arrive at least half an hour before an event, but I’d recommend getting there an hour before if you’re driving.  Traffic can be slow-moving near the town and there are bag checks at the entrance.
  6.  If you need to buy books for signing then visit the shop straightaway and purchase all of them in one go.  The queues can be long, especially after headline talks.  The signings take place in the book tent too so try to get there quickly after the author session has finished.  You can buy pre-signed copies but the big names sell fast!hay book tent childrens
  7. If you have kids then there are free crafting activities available in the Make and Take and Mess tents. Our daughter is 5 and was just old enough to enjoy the experience, but I’d say that kids aged 7+ would get the most out of the programme.
  8. The food hall is fantastic with dishes ranging from pizza to paella to falafel but incredibly busy.  If you decide to go, then try to avoid peak times and find a seat beforehand – either in the tent or under one of the canopies outside then send out a foraging party!Food Hall Hay Festival
  9. If it’s simply too busy to order in the food hall, there are little snack shacks on the road into Hay-on-Wye. There are also water fountains on site so you can fill up bottles.
  10. You have to visit Hay-on-Wye while you’re at the festival.  It has tons of fantastic bookshops and is very pretty.  My favourite is Addyman Books and everyone pops into Richard Booth’s bookshop at least once.  The town is a good 15 minute walk from the venue but you can catch a shuttle outside the festival entrance for £1.50 each way.Hay on Wye StreetWe are already excited to start planning for next year.  Do you have tips that you’d like to share or questions you’d like to ask?

 

A Penguin Book Pilgrimage to the Ironbridge Bookshop

Vintage Penguin Books

We’ve wanted to visit The Ironbridge Bookshop for ages after hearing about the legendary Penguin book wall (see photo) and chatting with Meg the owner via her Instagram account so last weekend we finally made the trip to this picturesque Shropshire Town.

The bookshop is located opposite the famous Iron Bridge which crosses the River Severn. The bridge was covered for renovation when we visited but we didn’t mind as it gave us a good excuse to return! We were warmly welcomed by Meg, who has created the perfect space for bibliophiles. The downstairs room is packed with a staggering array of second-hand books – from classic to contemporary, plus lots of non-fiction including a stack of vintage Observer guides which I passed quickly knowing that I’d want to buy them all if I looked too closely!

secondhand classic books for sale in the ironbridge bookshop

I’ve been looking for a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! for ages and luckily found a copy in the sizeable Pratchett section,  as well as pretty paperback edition of The Go-Between by LP Hartley.

To reach the second room you climb the best bookish stairs ever. I’m afraid I couldn’t get Martha out of posing mode but you get the general gist!Processed with VSCO with l4 presetThe upper room contains the vintage Penguin bookshelves, the children’s area and a small selection of modern collectables such as the Vintage Minis, Penguin Mugs and Journals.  Meg also sits upstairs so we had a chat while poring over all the amazing titles. If you love the older Penguin editions, as well as Ladybird books then you HAVE to come here – it is a collector’s feast.  While we were having a field day, we were concerned that Martha would get bored. No fear! She made herself right at home.

little girl sits in book corner

Meg’s prices are very affordable so we ended up buying more than expected and were  very, very happy with our book haul. We didn’t have anything particular in mind when we went, but if you would like something specific then Meg will try to source it for you.

vintage book haul ironbridge bookshop

There’s plenty more to do in Ironbridge if you are staying for more than a day. We didn’t have time to see everything on this visit, but will definitely be returning to the bookshop and the town when the bridge is unveiled.  For lunch we ate in the White Hart Pub which is only a few minutes from the bookshop and found the staff friendly, and the food tasty.

The Ironbridge Bookshop is open every day of the week 10am to 5pm.  You can also follow the store via Instagram,Twitter and Facebook. We highly recommend a trip – it is now one of our very favourite bookshops and we thank Meg for making our visit a great one.

Ironbridge Bookshop Exterior

 

 

 

Getting Featured on the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP)

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Last week, the unimaginable and hugely exciting happened – my photo of a book tree was featured on Instagram after I entered the #whp🌲 challenge.  Since then, nearly 600K people have seen my hallway (and Martha) which is mind-boggling!  My personal account has also received a boost. I’ve gained over 2000 followers since the photo was posted and have had lovely comments from all over the world. I am so grateful for each and every one especially after taking such a creative leap this year.

But the real reason I’ve written this post is to shed some light on the challenge itself so that others can join in and have a chance of being featured too.

The Weekend Hashtag Project (#WHP) is announced by Instagram on Fridays (late GMT) so first of all, you need to follow their main account.  Each week, they set a new prompt with an accompanying photo or video as an example of what they’re looking for.  The rules do change for time to time so keep checking, but here are the guidelines from last week:

PROJECT RULES: Please add the #WHPoddlysatisfying hashtag only to photos and videos shared over this weekend and only submit your own visuals to the project. If you include music in your video submissions, please only use music to which you own the rights. Any tagged photo or video shared over the weekend is eligible to be featured next week.

You then have the weekend to post material which matches the theme.  After this time, Instagram then selects up to 6 entries to be featured. If you’re new to the WHP, I recommend looking back over past features to get a feel for the successful content. Creative shots often get picked, but so do other styles – and captions count too.  Account size doesn’t make a difference – I had just over 2500 followers when I was chosen so tiny by Instagram standards.

I think my biggest piece of advice for the WHP is to have fun with it. Use it to view the world in a fresh way. Anything goes so be playful and free – find your voice. This was my 9th attempt so it’s worth persisting.

As always, if you have any questions about the challenge, get in contact with me via the comments or the contact page.

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I’ve Learned in a Year of Instagram

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To say that Instagram has changed my life isn’t an overstatement.  Joining the community has given me courage to leave my traditional job and try to live in a way that’s a lot more satisfying. When I started posting @thebookfamilyrogerson back in April 2017, I had no idea what to expect and what came out of that initial leap was a lot more exciting and meaningful than I ever anticipated. Here are the top ten things that I’ve learned in a year of being an instagrammer:

  1. Instagram is the most positive social media application on the web. I also hang out at Twitter and Facebook and both have their merits, but neither can match Insta when it comes to supportiveness , creativity and fun.  I count my Instagram followers as real friends.
  2. Bookstagram means you can be part of an international book group and read the same book at the same time with friends all over the world! I know that this sounds obvious, but it blew my mind when I was comparing notes with pals in the US, New Zealand, the Philippines and the UK simultaneously.
  3. If you want to take the pressure off producing for the main gallery then post in the stories instead.  The content is only temporary so it doesn’t need to be perfect – plus you can play with GIFs and stickers.
  4. You get out what you put in. Very rarely can you simply post photographs and expect everyone to react.  Treat people as you would in real life, appreciate it when they reach out to you and reciprocate with goodwill.
  5. Snapseed is a great free tool for editing photographs. If you’re up to paying, then check out other apps like VSCO where you can store presets.
  6. Feel the fear and post it anyway.  Instagram is a great place to stretch your creativity. If you don’t like what you’ve produced, you can always archive it.
  7. Don’t compare yourself to others. This one is really hard sometimes, but everyone will have their own doubts. Better to focus on your own vision, values and aesthetic.
  8. Likewise, try to ignore the algorithm. I’ve had all sorts of mad theories about how to beat it since I’ve been posting but none of them work! One thing I would mention is that quality will get noticed in the long run though.  Share your best and the likes will come eventually.
  9. If you want to develop your account, there’s lots of free quality advice out there. I recommend following Me and Orla, Bookish Bronte, Allthatisshe and Herinternest for valuable tips.
  10. Don’t let Instagram rule your life.  It’s addictive so keep it contained. If you want a break , take as long as you need.  The people who enjoy your company will be still be there when you return.

What are your thoughts about Instagram? Do you love it, hate it or somewhere in between?

Book Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

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It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.

I expected love, jealousy and nostalgia from Tin Man. And I found all those things, yet not in the guise I’d imagined.  The novel is short, less than 200 pages, but Winman manages to encapsulate entire minds and lives within this compact story.

It’s told from two perspectives – that of 46-year-old Ellis, who’s dissatisfied with his working-class existence after losing his wife Annie in a car accident and from Michael, his closest friend, whose wistful recollections are detailed in a journal that Ellis discovers.  Both are historical in the sense that the ‘present’ takes place in 1996 – an unusual choice, but poignant for a reason that becomes apparent later in the book.

With the promise of a love triangle, I anticipated drama, but the novel steers away from high action and veers towards contemplation; the pleasure of living life to the full and savouring the moment.  The relationships are complex and sexuality fluid. There is jealousy, but there is also kindness, respect and mutual affection. Love binds the characters together throughout the decades, beyond death itself – finally bringing redemption.

It’s impossible to share this review without praising Winman’s skill as a writer. Her words are brilliantly concise, and her subtle handling of emotion brought tears to my eyes more than once. The patterning was deft too with clear motifs that steer the reader to key themes – sunflowers, Walt Whitman’s line O Captain! My Captain! (also used to moving effect in Dead Poets Society) and panel beating (the tin man). The structure is intricate with many flashbacks but it holds together convincingly, giving a rounded feel to the novel.

Tin Man isn’t for those who seek plot, but if you are searching for a bittersweet reflection on life and love, then this novel is pretty perfect.  As a new Winman convert, I’m looking forward to reading her other books and will relish my summer days even more after following Ellis and Michael’s journeys.

 

 

 

Our Phizzwhizzing Day Out at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

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When I was younger I loved Roald Dahl’s stories and it’s been great fun to read them again with Martha so our visit to the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden has been on my wishlist for a long time.

The museum is fairly compact. There are 3 main rooms: Boy, which details Dahl’s childhood and contains copies of his school reports, an audio recording of him talking about his childhood holidays to Norway and a dressing up box full of vintage school clothes.  The next area, Going Solo, charts his adulthood, first with adventures in the RAF and then moving onto his career as his writer.  His beloved writing shed takes pride of place in the centre of the space with all his possessions laid out in their original places. These were conserved behind perspex but there was a chance to sit in a replica of his chair in the Story Centre (which I took full advantage of to channel those creative vibes!).

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The Story Centre forms the final major section of the complex. This was the most interesting area for Martha, who at 5, was just below the advised 6-12 age range and couldn’t quite take full advantage of the word games but the crafting activities, videos and dressing-up boxes more than made up for it.

All this fun was thirsty work so we took a much needed break at the cafe.  The prices were surprisingly reasonable (around £4.00 for a toasty or jacket potato) and the drinks were brilliant. I tried the Whizzpopper which was a blend of hot chocolate topped with maltesers, crushed smarties, marshmallows and raspberry coulis – utterly delicious!

Processed with VSCO with l4 presetTo round off the visit Al and I paid an extra £1.50 each to see the archives. This was the best bit of the experience for me as we had an opportunity to see some of Dahl’s handwritten manuscripts (all on yellow A4 paper in pencil), letters to his mama, and telegrams from Walt Disney.  The storeroom is fairly small but it was incredibly exciting to know that some of the most-loved stories in the world are contained in those grey boxes.

Processed with VSCO with l5 presetWe were reluctant to leave, but couldn’t say farewell until we’d bought a book to add to our library. The shop is every bit as enchanting as you would imagine and crammed with Dahl merchandise. We had to restrain ourselves but still came away with a limited edition of James and the Giant Peach which I’ll no doubt be bookstagramming about soon. If you’re into Dahl then you’ll find everything you need here.

Processed with VSCO with l4 presetThanks to all the staff for a wonderful day out. I found the whole experience quite emotional as Roald Dahl’s books have inspired me as both a reader and a writer.  We’re looking forward to visiting again when Martha is older so that we can enjoy it all over again.

If you’d like to spend some time at this amazing place, I recommend that you book tickets online in advance.  General opening hours are:

Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm

We didn’t try all the extras, but the museum offers free storytelling sessions and paid workshops, which change on a regular basis. There is a public car park about 5 minutes’ walk away from the centre so it’s very accessible.

Have you been or would you like to visit? Let us know in the comments!