Beyond Books @ The Whistling Fish Bookshop & Coffee House, Robe SA

A few months ago I read an article about The Whistling Fish Bookshop & Coffee House in Country Style Magazine, and made up my mind to put it on the list of must-see places. So when my family planned a weekend away in Robe, on the Limestone Coast in South Australia, I knew that I would have to visit.

With the gang rounded up and determined to spend a couple of hours wandering the main street, we went in vain search for The Whistling Fish – despite having an address, we couldn’t see anything resembling a cafe and bookstore along the street. Then, as luck would have it, my plan to have coffee there was overthrown by the mutinous relations who were already breezing into another cafe by the time I’d finally located the bookshop. Damn.

So I contented myself with thoughts of a visit there, camera in hand, after a pot of Earl Grey tea at another fine establishment. On my way to the front door I stopped to chat with a handsome whippet and his owner – I find it hard to walk past any sight hound without a bit of gratuitous ear scratching; then I entered a delightful world, where books – old and new – cohabited with collected vintage china and tasty treats (though this was only ever hearsay, as – alas! – there was no room in my belly for tasty treats by this time.)

Now, although I am always happy to be in a place where books feature, my work in a public library makes me loath to actually buy any; for me the real joy was in examining – and snapping – the many touches the owner – JJ Aitken – had added to the store, from the shelf signs created from scrabble pieces, to the whimsical bookish decorations on the tables.

Usually I find the owners of such establishments are quite comfortable with a weird girl taking photos in their stores; but it’s always good manners to check with them about this. Happily, there were no problems on this occasion, either, and it gave me the opportunity to speak to JJ – mostly in tones of great admiration for a Job Well Done.

You can find The Whistling Fish online here; better yet, take the weekend off and find it on the corner of Smillie and Davenport Streets!