The eastern side of Vincent Street shivered; the shops on the western side were ablaze in the late-morning sun. It was the morning after thge coldest night this year, cloudless with brittle stars frozen in an icy universe. Of course we had chosen the night to stay in Blackwood. The caravan park was little more than a creekside campground, and Blackwood is possibly the coldest place in Victoria outside the alps. We split between an ancient caravan and a Kmart tent.
We were walking north on the sunny side of Vincent Street trying to defrost. I pushed open a shop door and found myself in cavernous semi-darkness. When my eyes adjusted to what might once have been a goldrush era hotel, I saw passageways vanishing into darkness, staircases winding out of sight, and shelves stretching to the ceiling, valiantly bearing thousands of books waiting in stoic mute silence for someone to read them again.
I crept up some dark-stained stairs, moved along a narrow hall and came into a small space, possibly once a tiny bedroom, at the entrance of which a sign read Music. On the mantelpiece over a gently murmuring gas heater was a set of pale blue cloth-bound books: a ten-volume Grove Dictionary of Music. At $100, a treasure. Inflation has never happened in the book industry. Someone - a distant relative - once cavilled after promising to buy my last book which had a cover price of $49.95. I suspect the relative, like many, thought writers handed out copies of their books free to friends, relatives, family, admirers or neighbours. Yet people will spend $120 on a tank of petrol and blow it on an afternoon drive to an out-of-town restaurant where they'll pay a $200 bill for a meal that they'll ... I'll stop there.
Apart from the Grove, there were several hundred mainly out-of-print books on ballet, opera, rock, jazz, soul, blues; biographies, autobiographies, scores, sheet music, yearbooks, best-ofs, lists, everything. As always in these places I completely lost track of time, and when I finally stepped into a narrow staircase, I moved over for some people who were coming the other way. "Oh," I said, realising. They were my children.
We left with a book about natural remedies, an original hardback first edition at a mere $15 of The Fireside Book of Favourite American Songs edited by Margaret Bradford Boni and with a foreword by Carl Van Doren (Simon and Schuster, 1952), a Philip K. Dick and a Ken Kesey. By that time the west side of Vincent Street was in shadow and the east was warming in the afternoon sun. We crossed the road.
Paradise Bookshop, 46 Vincent Street, Daylesford.
PS: Lunch before the bookshop reverie was at the Harvest Cafe, more expensive hipster than frugal hippy these days but still exploding with local produce, cruise liner-size cakes, coffee and sandwiches etc. You can't know Daylesford without eating at the Harvest.