Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Discovery of Belle Books ~ a play

I need to gush about a bookshop that I discovered in the enchanting book town of Hay-on-wye when I visited in the last week of March. Hidden away behind Broad Street through the passage beside Outcast Books, lies a modest house with a charming sign, Belle Books.

It's the experience upon entering that warmed me to my core. So much so that it's best I share it in the form of a scripted play. *proceeds to write a play after five years*

The Discovery of Belle Books

- a play


Sahiba (Rima's friend)
Brian (Belle Books owner)
Customer 1
Customer 2
Customer 3
Customer 4
Customer 5

It is thirty past eleven in the morning. Rima and Sahiba, finding the bookshop next door closed grow curious about Belle Books. Sahiba enters first while Rima holds back to take a photo of the clocktower at the centre of Hay town that stands behind. Rima then hurries in and finds Sahiba mid-conversation with an elderly, tall man with shocking white hair. 

Sahiba: So I was looking for books by her; do you have any?
Brian: (moves to the shelf behind her). Agatha Christie! Oh yes, I have some right here...let me see...oh yes, here we have some.
Sahiba: (walks over to browse the Christie shelves). Oh I already have some of these.

Brian stands around. Rima's eyes roam everywhere, feeling overwhelmed by the many bookshelves to begin looking. She faces Brian.

Rima: I was looking for vintage books on Robin Hood or King Arthur. Do you know if you have many? (half-muttering to herself). I don't know where to start looking...
Brian: Robin Hood? King Arthur?
Rima: Yes, I really like the legend of Robin and King Arthur...
Brian: Robin Hood? (rapidly walks to the fantasy section) I have some here I think... I placed it here on Tuesday...Robin Hood...oh! perhaps it may be in the science fiction...
Rima: (following him, she looks to the shelves on her right). yes, I can see some Lord of The Rings books...
Brian: Or, maybe there may be some in Classics...hmm. Oh, that's Joyce...Austen. Let me see... I may have something here... (walks to the counter that is adjacent to the shop's door) This is...ah yes, this is Robin Hood and His Merrie Men.

Rima, who has followed behind him, is taken back by the beauty of the simple yet elegant hardback that Brian has handed to him. Crimson in colour. It's light-weight. Short despite the hardcover. It feels like leather to the touch but whether fake or real, she could not tell. 

Rima: Oh my, thank you so much. This is beautiful! 
Brian: (without registering the gratitude and looking around the shop). There will be more books on King Arthur. You can try the classics and science fiction but also check between the maps and Penguin paperbacks. 
Rima: I will, thank you very much.
Brian: (noticing people approaching the shop though the large panes of the door, Brian leaps out to greet them). Welcome! Welcome to Belle Books. 

Smiling, Rima turns away from the door and walks towards the bookcase filled with orange and blue Penguin classics against one wall. Not recognising any of the titles, she fleetingly glances at the science fiction books. She had spotted several editions of the Lord of the Rings wedged in between more familiar and unfamiliar books earlier. Another bookcase stands perpendicular to the wall of bookcases. Agatha Christie at the top and a few Young Adults at the very bottom. 

A group of young people entered the shop. Sahiba and Rima had left them in the book passage earlier. The shop grows louder with several voices. Rima moves to look at the Classics again.

Customer 1: (glancing over everything slowly) Oh this place is very neat!
Customer 2: (slowly) It really is.
Customer 3: (browsing the Classics, he picks up a book) I found this for you Danielle.
Customer 2: (excitedly) Let me see...oh, I already have that, I probably shouldn't add more...
Customer 4: (smirking) Or how about Fifty Shades of Grey?

All laugh. Rima smiles to herself and goes to find Sahiba. Brian is reading out loud from a book to Sahiba. Rima takes her a phone out and begins recording.

Brian: (fist clenched and moving animatedly). 'Jesse feared to say, 'I hope I will go see the safer bridge of Tay!' But when the chain came nearer to Burmed's Bay, Boris he did a loud and angry bray that shook the central girders of the bridge of Tay. Last summer was 1879.'

Rima and Sahiba applaud him, amazed.

Rima: That was amazing.
Sahiba: It really was. (takes a book out of her bag). I'd love it if you could read something by Agatha Christie.
Brian: Of course I can. (looks up to see both girls posed with their phones) Oh, what's this now? I can't read it!
Rima: Oh please, will you? Your reading is great.
Brian: (with a smile on his face but fingers fidgeting). 'Wednesday's special chip day returned. Miss Marple, thought precisely... (noise in shop overpowers his voice) collected certain data. Currie, Louise and I corresponded after a fight when there's been a large matter of Christmas cards, oak calendars.'

Brian finishes reading, looking rather embarrassed as more customers joined in to listen.

Sahiba: Thank you for that.
Brian: You're very welcome. (looks at something behind Rima) Shall I help you price these up?

Brian serves customers. Sahiba and Rima gush about how lovely Brian is. Rima spots a shelf full of Sherlock Holmes books. Browses them. Sahiba is busy on her phone.

Rima: Oh, I think I'm definitely going to buy some of these Sahiba. I already have an old edition of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
Sahiba: (looking up). They look good.
Rima: (contemplative). See, I have the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that Penguin published. I bought it for class when I studied Victorian Fictions last year but it's really big and I'd like to own individual, smaller books.
Sahiba: You should definitely get them then. He has 10% discount if you spend more than £10.00.
Rima: Okay, I will. (looks at the large shopper's bag at Sahiba's feet) Have you paid for your books?
Sahiba: (excitedly). Yes, I have. But...look how am I supposed to carry this back to England?
Rima: Hah.

Rima goes to pay for her books. Brian is talking to another gentleman with a farmer's cap on. He pauses to count her books.

Brian: That will be £11.70, thank you.

Rima hands him money.

Brian: (resuming conversation). And so you see, I'm the last of the Teviotdales.
Customer 5: (laughs) But there is the sheep... Teviotdale sheep. And there's a pie named after you is not there?
Brian: (nodding). Yes, there is the Teviotdale pie. But I am the last. You see... brings out a map of the Border Marches of England and Scotland; he taps the centre of it). This is where my ancestors lived. They were driven out by the Northerns and scattered everywhere. And I am the last one of them.
Sahiba: (listening). That's a very interesting story.
Rima: (nodding). And now we shall be off. But thank you for everything Brian. It's been a pleasure to meet you. You own a beautiful shop.
Brian: Thank you for coming by!

Rima and Sahiba thank Brian several more times and proceed to leave the shop. After snapping pictures of exterior, they walk down Broad Street Centre with the widest smiles on their faces.

The end ~

I hope you can see how charming Belle Books was, made brilliant by it's enigmatic owner, Brian. He is one of those individuals that you never forget. His passion for the books is so clear and pure in the way he's driven to help you find something or recommends books in such a passion, you know he's read each one. 

If you're ever in Hay-on-wye or passing through Wales, I urge you to stop into Belle Books**. Alternatively, you can come down to Hay for 10 days between March 30th and April 8th which will see the largest gathering of book bloggers. More information on the event page, Bookstagram Hay. Brian is expecting to close his shop this September for personal reasons and I really hope that won't be the case. Everyone needs to know about his bookshop!

Do you have a favourite bookshop? Is it in your hometown or in another part of the world?

* The Bookshop Spotted series is where I share bookshop discoveries. Check out the previous 'Spotted': Jambala Bookshop! 

** Belle Books address: 15A Broad St, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford HR3 5DB


  1. I knew Brian when I lived there. Do you know if his shop closed?

    1. Hi! I'm not sure but I hope to enquire when I go down in May this year hopefully!