The Bibliophile’s Excursion #writephoto

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Photo: Sue Vincent

 My response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt Lights #writephoto.

I thought I’d deviate from my usual offerings to spin a tale of wonder, adventures and retail therapy, lots of retail therapy. The view from the bridge presents a world of possibilities, many of which my hero grabs with gusto. It is rather magical and stirs childlike wonder within me, why not the same response in someone else?

The little troll looked at the twinkling lights with wide-eyed excitement. He’d heard stories of the beautiful and strange lands beyond the bridge. How he dreamed of travelling through its narrow, cobbled streets, peering into the windows of shops. Apparently there was even a café selling the best hot chocolate in the region. What captured his imagination the most was the number of bookshops in this little town. There were ten of these sacred buildings. How his heart raced at the prospect of walking through their doors! He’d packed a rucksack with extra shopping bags, a packed wallet and notebook. He’d waited decades for this day. His people were long lived, some being remnants of an age before humanity gained the power of speech. Humans had the wrong idea about trolls, considering them brutish and nightmarish creatures. To be fair, this viewpoint can be applied to some tribes. They’re dark, nihilistic beings that are avoided by the majority of trolls.

At this point of the story you may be wondering how little troll knew so much about the locality. His favourite cousin had sent him a Lonely Planet Guide of the town. It was filled to the brim with useful information, amazing. It was time to set off. He applied factor 1000 sun block, put on sunglasses, woollen hat, scarf, boots and thick overcoat. His little heart was beginning to race. The last time he’d ventured from the bridge was, about 600 years ago. He was attending a workshop on introductory medieval alchemy in Prague. What a city! It combined sublime architecture, great-learned minds, intrigue and magic. What a wild week it turned out to be. Those alchemists knew how to party. He’d managed to obtain a few rare books during his stay. Just as well, as the Inquisition was going through its periodic cleansing of undesirables, human and of the literary variety. That dread collective had lingered on for centuries, too deeply rooted in its soil to be totally eradicated. He’d briefly glimpsed Dr Dee and Fulcanelli, who luckily managed to get out of the city. The timeline may seem a little skewed but for otherworld beings it’s just the norm.

Little troll carefully put out a foot. It felt safe to go forward. Whistling a cheery tune he made his way towards the lights. His human friends met him at the end of the road. Figures bundled up in warm clothing, their breath rising in vapours through scarves covering their mouths. They were old friends and book club members. What a joy seeing them again. They kicked the soft snow in their path and threw snowballs at each other. There was something special about this time of the year. The ancestors ventured forth through the thinning veils between the worlds. It was a time of recollection, of death and subsequent rebirth. The old ways and cycles hadn’t been forgotten at all. Little troll looked at the elaborate window displays with a huge smile on his face. He was considered a child in troll years and overflowing with childlike enthusiasm, energy and curiosity. Saying that, his intellectual curiosity was second to none, as was his voracious love of knowledge and books. Talking of books, the group stopped in front of the first of many bookshops. They peered into the shop, minds racing and mouth salivating. Everyone trooped in and wandered around the eccentrically laid out shop. The owner nodded at them with a discreet smile on her face. They knew that she knew who they were. It seems the book community has the most efficient grapevine ever known.

Our hero wandered round as if in a dream. He looked at his wish list; which consisted of a few fantasy and science fiction titles, grimoires and cookery books. The bookshop owner peered at the list and muttered ‘eclectic’. She then nodded at him and carefully navigated the shelves, knowing precisely where each tome was. Meanwhile he perused the relevant sections on the apparently rickety shelving. They were sturdier than they looked. He handled each book with loving attention. They were bound in a wide variety of materials, from cardboard to the finest vellum. The fonts ranged from eye-wateringly small to beautiful scripts. The books smelled of adventure and mystery, they had unique personas. He hoped kindles would never replace paper books. The electronic devices were a marvel and could hold a huge number of titles, but, books didn’t have batteries that needed charging. This scene was repeated in each bookshop they ventured into. In the last place the owner served them with the divine hot chocolate he’d heard so much about. She used dark chocolate and creamy milk in her concoctions, crowning the top with whipped cream, not from the ‘squirty’ cans. They all sat round a table in the window and watched the world pass by. Little troll felt truly alive at this moment, not even a near empty wallet could dent his good humour. This was retail therapy at its best. Apart from books he’d one bag filled with culinary goodies, which would last months. He was looking forward to treating his parents. They were visiting relatives somewhere in Norway and wouldn’t be back until the Winter Solstice.

They wandered out of the shop, filled with hot drinks and pastries. It was time to go home. Little troll was escorted back to the bridge; his friends deposited his bags and hugged him tightly. They’d arranged to meet him again in the New Year. He watched their figures disappear into the distance. Such a pity the human lifespan was so short. Best not to wander down that road again he reminded himself. Enjoy the time that you have and live life to the full dear humans. The front door opened into his cave and his bags followed him in. Outside, the lights glowed brighter for a moment.

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