Creative Inspiration at Octavo’s Bookshop by Jessie Cahalin



A vast, grey building stood proud amongst other worn buildings.
Cardiff Bay discarded its gloss, as I walked through an alleyway to reach Octavo’s Bookshop and Bar. A vast, grey building stood proud amongst other worn buildings.  A large bar dominated the entrance to Octavo’s Bookshop and Bar. Confronted with: a coffee machine, rows of cakes, books and a selection of alcoholic beverages,




I had found heaven. Seating was placed in every area of the shop thus combining reading and socialising.  I couldn’t decide whether to install myself in one of the lazy reading areas or sit at a table.
I had found heaven
A table near a shelf of gifts for writers beckoned me.  Having ordered my Americano, I read the lunchtime menu and selected A Tale of Tuna Cities: a tuna melt.  The blank page of my notebook glared at me. I attacked it with a confessional statement: ‘I need to start another story’.  Time to move on from debut novel.  ‘Where do I begin?’ I asked my notebook.

Pearl’s letter to Jim appeared on my notebook. I have sent my characters out into world, but they haunt me. Remnants cornices, the bar and size of the rooms prompted me to visualise Pearl in this place during the seventies.

Where do I begin?’ I asked my notebook. Sat at a battered table, she removed her red gloves and started to tug at the beer mat.  Her sleeves soaked rested in a puddle of beer.  Though she waited to find out more details of the audition, she thought of Jim reading her letter.
A familiarity about the place transported me into Pearl’s world. I couldn’t get Pearl out of my head.  I had to find out more about the history of the place.  I felt certain the building must have been a pub at some time in the past; a sense of history nudged my imagination.


I searched for a seventies photo of Bute Street and it looked familiar. Indeed, the street looked exactly like the place Pearl visited in my book.
I discovered the building is the oldest surviving building in what was known as Tiger Bay. Tiger Bay was also the home of the wonderful legend – Shirley Bassey.  Originally, the location of Octavo’s Bookshop was the Bute Dock Hotel.   I searched for a seventies photo of Bute Street and it looked familiar.  Indeed, the street looked exactly like the place Pearl visited in my book.  I could hear Pearl’s footsteps echoing down the alleyway, as she searched for her B&B. I stumbled on the place I created for my book, and Pearl asked me to go back and tell her story in another novel.


Octavo’s Bookshop is a welcoming, calm bookish environment that invites the customer to linger, read and create
Before paying, I looked around the shop and spotted a poster telling me ‘We are on the same page’, perhaps this was another message from Pearl.  On leaving, I received a new bag and a gift, because I spent over five pounds. Octavo’s Bookshop is a welcoming, calm bookish environment that invites the customer to linger, read and create.  I had a wonderful time exploring the books on offer.  The staff are proud and enthusiastic about the bookshop.


Handbag clasped at my side, I strode with confidence from Octavo’s Bookshop and back to Cardiff Bay. My literary travels often take me down numerous side streets and alleyways that echo with past lives.  Two young men stubbed out their cigarettes before commencing a conversation. Darkness lingered in the alleyway and puddles.  Looking ahead, I refused to shiver.  A seventies mini pulled up, and I spotted Jim, Pearl’s husband.

‘On opening the car door, Jim called, ‘Pearl.’ A passing truck muffled his voice.  Heavy traffic prevented Jim from crossing the road for a little while.  Jim peered in each alleyway.  Then he heard the clip, clipping of heels on the pavement.  Distant echoes stopped.  Where had Pearl gone? He increased his pace.  Loud voices echoed.  As he got nearer, he recognised Pearl’s voice, but it was shrill and ugly and strangled with fear.’ (Extract: You Can’t Go It Alone)

Maybe, Cardiff Creative Quarter inspired me.  Who knows?  The calm, bookish atmosphere certainly inspired me to retreat to my characters’ world.
Meet Pearl and Jim on Being Anne’s Blog
Love, music and secrets are woven together in this poignant, heart-warming narrative.
Set in a Welsh village, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships.
The reader is invited to laugh and cry, with the characters, and find joy in the simple things in life. Listen to the music and enjoy the food, as you peek inside the world of the inhabitants of Delfryn.
Let Sophie show you that no one can go it alone.
Who knows, you may find some friends with big hearts…

Please see all my adventures at Handbag Adventures and my website and blog at



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