Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

From Kenya to Clare

Two weekends ago we were on our way back from Nairobi. Last weekend I found myself in Clare, South Australia.

That sounds like I got lost on the way to somewhere else and somehow ended up in Clare by mistake, but that’s not what happened. Like authors Tony Park, Traci Harding, Melanie Casey, Bronwyn Stuart, Sandy Vaile and Rowena Holloway, I was speaking at the Clare Readers and Writers Festival.

Organiser Nigelle-ann picked us up from Adelaide airport and drove us the 150 kilometres to Clare, so I didn’t have to think about where I was going. That hazy, lazy sensation lasted all weekend and it led to a meandering exploration of Clare’s side streets in between sessions at the Festival.

Clare was founded by an Irishman – hence the name – and the Clare Valley is all about food and wine. A mural on the corner of Gleeson Street, close to the council chambers on the western side of Main North Road, (also known as Horrocks Highway), depicts two prominent 19th century locals – Robert Knappstein and Ernest Castine – sampling a tasty drop, with a large map showing where you can go to sample more. A lot more.

But don’t rush off just yet. Keep walking along Main North Road and before you get to the post office, turn right onto Ness Street. There’s another mural on the corner, this one a rather more sober yet no less inspiring depiction of Clare’s Brass Band in its heyday.


Look straight ahead, past the old Telephone Exchange building on your left, and you’ll get a great view of Clare’s library – an outstanding Victorian building of elegant proportions.

img_3768That’s when you spot the magic. Just before the library, tucked away at the end of Ness Street on your right, is Miss Gracie Taylor’s Pre-Loved Bookstore.


Miss Gracie Taylor’s bookshop, decked out for Christmas

Oh, the treasures on offer in that shop. If I hadn’t had to attend pre-booked sessions I’d have taken up residence behind a bookcase and probably never been seen again.

The name of Nigelle-Ann’s extraordinary shop comes from her children – Grace and Taylor – but I suspect the inspiration is all hers. Nigelle-Ann loves books, and if you’re a bibliophile she will love you too. She buys and sells; she collects and she treasures. Best of all she shares her passion with anyone lucky enough to pop in.


Me and Nigelle-ann and yes, that’s a blanket. It got down to six degrees in Clare

At the last count Miss Gracie Taylor’s Pre-Loved Bookstore had over 35,000 books.

So yes, you can go to Kenya on safari and search for wild animals in exotic locations, but you can also stay at home and find any number of exotic new worlds hidden inside small second hand bookshops.

Thank you to all the organisers of the Clare Readers and Writers Festival – especially Nan, Meredith, Nigella-ann, Sandra and Erin – as well as to Margie and Mark from the fabulous Meg’s bookshop in Port Pirie.

And a special thank you to Nigelle-ann for treasuring books and keeping the flame alight.

4 comments on “From Kenya to Clare

  1. Adele Hughes
    December 2, 2016

    Deb – so thrilled to see you are back blogging!


  2. cathmarriott
    December 2, 2016

    Here, here on the blogging front. Takes me out of this beautiful place to others seen through your eyes Deb. Love the book shop. We have one in Benalla now which was started by a committed group of people to raise money for the new Benalla Library. Just about everyone donates their books to the shop which then sells them on for a very modest sum to others. Becomes a great place to browse and chat and next door to Hides Bakery – I mean what more could you ask for!

    Big hug xo Cath


    • debhuntwasinbrokenhill
      December 5, 2016

      Books and baked goods – what a winning combination! And I love the fact that we all benefit from other people’s passion for books. Hope you and your family are well Cath x


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I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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