I admit I’m attracted to oddities. They’ve provided me with some of the best material for poetry and stories. Yesterday was no exception.

Barn Books, on Pear Tree Farm, deep in the heart of the Shropshire countryside near Whitchurch, offered us many delights on Sunday, despite rain and gloom. First we couldn’t find the place, even though we’ve been there dozens of times before, because one of the signs was missing and the driver of the party wouldn’t take instruction from his missus. However, when we did arrive Mary, the owner, made us welcome and we spent a delightful hour edging round stacks of books, poring over shelves and boxes and emerging triumphantly with a number of volumes.

Mary entertained us with memories of Barbara Hepworth, whose studio she had visited often as a child, despite Barbara making it very clear she disliked children and would not allow her own inside her studio.

Hearing this, I felt the same second-hand thrill I felt as a child when our neighbour told us she had seen Anna Pavlova dance and an even older neighbour recalled seeing Queen Victoria. The arm of memory stretches further and further back until the seven degrees of separation- or is it connectedness? – begins to make sense.

Among the book titles at Barn Books were such gems as:

Farming Made Easy
The Manual of Injurious Insects
The Complete Fox
Whores of the Devil (a lurid, battered paperback)
The Boy Through the Ages (not a title one would choose today) and
Building the Wooden Fighting Ship.

I defy anyone coming across the Injurious Insect book not to have a peek inside, but Whores of the Devil was a disappointment, as it promised a lot and delivered little, except for the lurid cover. I can imagine local farmers opening the first book on the list and throwing it on the floor. People are struggling here.

As ever, my trusty notebook will be raided for future stories, possibly to include a fox, an injurious insect and a fighting ship, crewed by whores of the devil. You never know.

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