Keohane's bookshop will be missed this Christmas
If I could have one wish this Christmas it would be to walk into Keohane's Bookshop, spend a while browsing and to come out with the essential Christmas package. Christmas is only Christmas with the smell of new books.
There's something about a fire, new books, a mince pie and a glass of port that conjures the warmth and expectation that the end of a year brings. There should be a good handful of novels and then the books bought just because it is Christmas..
I want a book that I know someone has chosen to sell with care and with a feeling for the people who are buying them. I want to relive the intimacy of Christmas past.
This was the beauty and the lure of Keohane's. I remember asking a bookseller once what a book I had picked up was like to be told "I don't read them, I only sell them". Not so with Michael. His eyes would light up if you asked him what was good and off he'd go. "You can bring them back if you don't like it." I never had to.
Reading a book is a very personal experience, it both captures and creates memories, it awakens dormant senses. A bit like madelines. I realise that I can mark off my life with books bought in Keohane's.
I see them and remember their touch and smell. Reading Hound of the Baskervilles long ago as a child at Christmas, Brideshead Revisited in Greece as a teenager, the Sun Also Rises in the Summer of 1989 when the Fleadh came to Sligo.
I read books that fundamentally affected my world view; Birdsong; sitting in bed in winter eating oranges while expecting my second child; I have read books that are simply beautiful; Gilead, Memories of My Melancholy Whores, Embers.
I have books that I read because the world is divided into those who have read them and those who have not; The Lord of the Rings, The Three Muskateers, and the books with the touch of madness; The Crow Road, The Butcher Boy, The Famished Road. I have read books to make me laugh.... and books that made me cry and probably everything in between.
There is nothing like being lost in someone else's story, to learn, to explore, to think new thoughts, to revel in the joy of words strung elegantly together.
These are the gifts of writers and booksellers. All around Sligo there are books sitting on shelves bearing witness to changing times, changing lives and changing minds.
Michael, wherever you are this Christmas know that there are many of us who will miss the red bag and the dickie bow this year.
Eileen Gillen "The Black Cat" Sligo Road Manorhamilton