COBWEB CORNERS: An English village like Manitou

By Mel McFarland

       Over the years I have visited a particular village in England. It is called the English Second Hand Book Capital, and the name is Hay on Wye. Strangely enough, it reminds me a great deal of Manitou!
       Some 30 years ago, I was riding from Wales back into England with a friend when he said, "Over there is Hay on Wye, the second hand book capital of England." My reply was, "And why are we going past it?" I have been there every visit since!
       Like Manitou, it is built on a hillside with narrow, winding steep streets, and it has interesting characters from all over the world. It has no arcade or railway, but its castle is truly a castle, sitting at the top of the hill overlooking the village.
       Years ago Hay on Wye had a couple dozen little book shops, a couple of big ones and a book shop in the castle! Now many of the smaller ones are owned by the larger ones, and they specialize in their subjects. Mixed in are shops you would find in any little village. It is fun to go into those shops and see what they are selling.
       It is also fun to visit the pubs and have a rest from walking up and down the hills. You will not find cold beer there (only warm)! In fact I remember when I was there during an unusually hot summer day about 20 years ago. As I walked up the street near the town clock, a young lady with a little four-wheel cart with an umbrella was selling fruit and soft drinks. Right there was a can of Pepsi! I had not had one in about two weeks, and quickly reached for it. She stopped me, "Wait, I have them cold." Ah, my mind saw a cooler with a great chunk of ice! No, it was merely a box, to keep the sun off!
       I usually come back from Hay on Wye with an armload of railroad books. I usually find one or two American books, even ones about Colorado railroads at prices much lower than around here. Over the years I have also purchased some nice old books about English railways.
       I enjoy my visits to the English countryside. I used to give my fellow teachers who only saw London a hard time. It is like judging Colorado by only visiting Denver, and the only road you traveled was 1-70!