It has been said that if you can’t find the book you want in Wigtown, it doesn’t exist.
And for two long-lost friends separated by 40 years and continents, such a find brought tears of joy in the town last week.
Kelly Watts and friend Jenny Bates, who now lives in Pennsylvania, USA, met as children living opposite each other in Kent and became firm friends with their birthdays just five days apart.
On Jenny’s 16th birthday, she was given a cookery book by Kelly, meals from which formed the basis for several memorable evenings held with great affection.
The two soon headed to college and later lost touch – but not before Jenny was Kelly’s bridesmaid.
Jenny eventually moved to the US with her American husband. Kelly went her own way too and retired from Norfolk to North Balfern, Kirkinner, with her own husband in January. But the two dear friends reconnected recently thanks to the internet.
Kelly was delighted to hear Jenny and her husband were planning to pop over to Kirkinner during a recent visit to Kent to see family.
Kelly said: “I didn’t think they’d manage it given the distance but there they appeared at the door.”
Most of Jenny’s old books had been lost during their many moves around the globe, but she was most upset about losing one particular book.
Kelly continued: “We spent the evening reminiscing and got talking about this book, The International Cookery Book, that I had given her and which had proven difficult to get a copy of since.
“The next day we went for a look around Wigtown and called into the charity shop on the corner. We started rifling through a pile of books donated that morning. Then we couldn’t believe it – the third book down was The International Cookery Book.”
Jenny, overcome with memories, welled up.
Now home in the US, she told the Gazette: “It took me back to when Kelly and I were young, our whole lives in front of us and the sadness that we had lost years between. To say there was a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes is no exaggeration. From that book, I was to cook my first grown-up dinner – for Kelly and her then boyfriend.
“Kelly is still the better cook and her meals were incredibly good. However, she did have some serious competition at the cafe in Wigtown where we enjoyed one of the best mushroom soups we have ever had.”
Jenny visited various other shops in Wigtown and stocked up on a few more old cookery books. And then, in a second serendipitous find, a visit to Traditions led her to a replica of a ring given to her mother by her late father for their 30th wedding anniversary.
She said: “Kelly and Peter made a good choice in their new home, and you can never be bored with a good book.”
Book festival – page 9