The Fantastically Amazing Library Inside A Telephone Box And Other Wiltshire Attractions (And A Bit About Charlie Pepper Too!)
Will I win any awards for having the longest title for a blog post in history?
No? Didn’t think so.
Okay, so I was writing – honestly I was. But I check my phone and there’s a message off Charlie Pepper (Yeah – I know someone called Charlie Pepper and you don’t! Ha!)
“Riaz,” she texts, “are you free sometime this week? I’ve got something amazing to show you. And bring a book”.
So I ring her.
“That’s the most enigmatic text ever Charlie,” I say to her.
“That text is enigmatic.”
“What does that mean?”
“Oh right. Are you coming over now? Bring a book that you don’t want.”
So I pop over and she makes me a cup of tea and sits me down. She then rummages around for a map, finds it, and spreads it out on the floor between us.
She studies it for a while and says “Hmm. I’m not the best map reader.”
I point out that what she thinks is a map, is actually a blueprint of the Hoover Dam.
“Ah, that makes sense then. Anyway Riaz,” she says, “there’s a phone box in Marden, and it’s a library! It’s full of books! There’s a sign inside saying ‘bring one, take one’ so you just need to leave a book there to borrow one!”
“A telephone box? Turned into a library?” I repeat.
“Yes, I was out there walking Buster earlier today and passed it.”
I looked around at Charlie’s bungalow. Everything seemed quite normal in here. Outside though, was a world full of telephone-shaped libraries.
“Okay, I’ll go and explore. By the way, I’m looking for an antique wooden box. Any idea where I could get one from?”
“Try Woodborough garden centre,” suggested Charlie, giving me the directions. “And while you are there, there’s a crop circle information centre there which is worth investigating.”
So I hopped on my trusty scooter and rode to the nearby parish of Marden on the river Avon. And there it was.
I had a browse of the books, took The Borrowers and replaced it with The Joy Of Sex and then left to find Woodborough Garden Centre.
As I rode through the juicy, leafy lanes of bulbous Wiltshire, I reflected on my friendship with Charlie Pepper. When I first arrived in Wiltshire from Wales during the winter of 2010, I ended up in a house share in Graham Street, just off Manchester Road in central Swindon.
I didn’t do my research first.
Manchester Road was often frequented by ‘Ladies of the Night’. These ladies of the night would often be about during the day too. They offered a range of services, from being your personal nanny for one hour – a snip at £375 – to whipping you senseless as they screwed the heel of their stiletto into your one-eyed trouser snake. That only cost £1,350. About the price of an imported Chinese 125cc scooter. I shared a house with a psychopathic paranoid actor. That in itself is deserving of a blog post of its own so I won’t dwell any longer on the five months I lived there. Interestingly though, since I have moved from that destitute hotspot of nefarious night time activities, I notice they are trying to cash in on me.
I left that home for another house share in Calne. I then rented a cottage in Calne for a year and after that moved into another house share with Charlie Pepper. She actually responded to an ad I had put on the internet as I needed to find a place quickly as my current landlady had chosen not to renew my lease as she wanted to sell the cottage. I mulled over whether I should do a ‘full rent’ again and look for a one or two bedroom place for myself. But financially, if you’re lucky enough to find the right person, a house share can be a perfect living arrangement.
So I telephoned Charlie, we met a few times, and I moved into her cottage in Quemerford.
Again, Charlie definitely deserves a blog post all of her own, so I won’t dwell on the five months I shared a house with her either! But unlike the psychopathic paranoid actor, Charlie and I became friends and although in many ways we are very ‘chalk & cheese’, it’s sometimes the chalkiness and cheesyness that draws us to others.
I arrived at Woodborough garden centre. This was yet another undiscovered gem of the area in which I lived. Although I guess undiscovered gem is something of a misnomer as lots and lots of people had discovered it previous to me. It was in fact very busy on the day I arrived. So it wasn’t undiscovered at all by anyone but myself, and I discovered it within thirty seconds of parking. Following that logic, I guess there is absolutely nothing in the world that is undiscovered. There’s simply a lot of stuff waiting around to be found.
So Woodborough garden centre looks a little like this –
I wandered into the antiques shop there, which has the wonderful name of ‘The Antiques & Tat Shop’. It was the perfect shop for me – a mish mash of bric-a-brac, genuine antiques and ‘odds & sods’. I did find a beautiful old antique wooden ‘shoe box’ from the 1940s.
“This is just what I want!” I said to the extremely alluring lady stood behind the counter. “However, I have only driven here on a scooter and I am not sure if it will fit in my underseat storage. Can I try it and if it doesn’t fit, I’ll bring it back?”
“Of course you can,” said the raven-haired mistress of the night, tracing an imaginary line into the top of my box with a long red painted fingernail.
I raised my eyebrows and gulped. Discreetly, I hoped.
So I took the box out to my trusty steed and nope, it didn’t fit.
“Where do you live?” asked Guinevere, casting her myth-like eyes upon my factual face.
“Avebury,” I whispered.
“Oh I have to go to Devizes later so I don’t mind swinging by later to drop it off for you.”
Primeval lust urges aside, I have noticed that the majority of people in this neck of the woods are simply kind and generous. I never found that back in my home town of Cwmbran, where the six year olds used to go around with flick knives. But here, in the little parishes, hamlets and villages of North Wiltshire, people everywhere just seem so, well, nice.
Later that day she did bring it to my current home in Avebury. I know you all like to see pictures of nice boxes, so I won’t disappoint you. Here’s mine.
So anyway, after arranging delivery of this, I then visited the Crop Circle Information Centre that Charlie had told me about. As a teenager back in the late 80s, I had an interest in all things supernatural and paranormal and back then, most people believed that crop circles were either created by aliens, natural weather phenomena or John Noakes. Or even a combination of all three. In recent years everyone has come to realise that they were all man made, and there has even been organised competitions in Wiltshire to see who can create the most impressive crop circle. But to find an actual Crop Circle Information Centre was quirky, odd, bizarre and right up my street. I love stuff like this – things a bit off-centre and away from the normal safe roads of everyday life! So I entered.
It was bigger than I thought. It was like a large open plan office but with alcoves dotted here and there dedicated to different aspects of crop circles. There was even a little room with a sofa in and a television where you could watch documentaries on crop circles. It was a crop circle conspiracy theorist’s heaven.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading about my latest adventures in Wiltshire. And remember folks, don’t spend too long wandering around the stones in Avebury, else your head will shrink due to the cosmic vibes.