Story telling from Australia
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.
That’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.
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.
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.