Special thanks to Neil Paul for a wonderful interview! A joy getting to know you!
“Travel is the key to a life well spent.”—Anonymous
Smiles and Stories
by Kate Rod
Leaning back in his teal blue chair, Neil Paul lets out a hearty laugh as we chat and drink hot chocolate in the land of a thousand stories—or rather the local Books@One.
Though we are surrounded by hundreds of books, it is Neil who is full of the intriguing stories I’m interested in today. Neil himself, seems to fit Roald Dahl’s BFG to a “T.” The tall and friendly Louisburgh local is comfortable and at ease; sporting snazzy red sneakers with a pair of golden stripped socks, lazy blue jeans, and a t-shirt that reads “Spectre Mexico Crew.” You know instantly that you will want to get to know this cheery Louisburgh local.
The Westminster-born native is spirited as we discuss his life growing up in England; where even his childhood experiences were nothing short of an adventure. “Back then, my friends and I used play on the grounds of the Buckingham palace,” he says, his accent a tell of his roots. “We also used to play in old bomb shelters from the war.”
However, as much as he enjoyed his childhood and life in London, Neil had always longed to see the world. So, he set out to do just that.
“I started working in the film industry, training to become a film editor,” he explains,“and I wanted to make money so I could travel.”
Setting out on an adventure of his own, Neil would eventually quench his thirst for travel when he took a bus to Israel at 18 years old. “I traveled on what was called the magic bus—which was actually the tragic bus,” he jokes, recalling the tumultuous ride.
Currently, Neil has traveled to well over 50 countries, and has even lived in the states for three and a half years, travelling to New York, Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco, and Los Angeles just to name a few. When asked his favorite place he’s traveled to, Neil said, without a doubt, India. “I loved India—it’s the maddest place on earth!” He says with a laugh. “I loved the history, architecture, the little things, the little experiences—the people moments.”
He even had the opportunity to stay in a stunning Maharaja palace, most certainly an experience one would never forget.
Armed with an enthusiastic and outgoing personality, it comes as no surprise that Neil would have had once in a lifetime experiences, one of which being his role working on films. He has worked on lighting for a variety of movies ranging from war flicks such as In Love and War (1996) and Saving Private Ryan (1998), to thrillers such as James Bond (1995), and blockbuster hits such as Harry Potter (2001-2011). The opportunity has allowed him to meet a variety of celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Daniel Radcliff, and Pierce Brosnan, just to name a few. When asked how many celebrities he has met, Neil’s response could not have been more perfect, I had to laugh: “Let’s turn the table—you should be asking how many celebrities have met me!”
Yet, it is the personal experiences that mean the most to Neil. One such experience eventually leading him to finding a home in Louisburgh. While filming scenes for Saving Private Ryan (1998) in Wexford, he was going to visit a friend in County Mayo with his wife, Brid, when they got lost along the winding road to the pier, following the beautiful Irish coastline. However, everything seems to work out for a reason. After taking the scenic route near the beautiful Clare Island, they stumbled upon an old school house high in the bluff. “I just went, ‘wow, this is amazing,’” recalls Neil. “So I rang up the man in England who owned the place and bought it. A spur of the moment type of thing.”
Indeed, a “spur of the moment type of thing”—who would have guessed that it would lead him to be sitting in the chair across from me in this bookshop today?
Since then, Louisburgh has certainly become home for Neil, and he, certainly a local. One of his favorite activities to do in the Louisburgh area is climbing his favorite mountain, Mweelrea.
“Let me tell you, when you’re on that mountain on a clear day, you can see Boston,” he chuckles.
“There’s something lovely about being on a mountain and being the only person up there. I just sit up there with my cup of tea and think, ‘how cool is this?’”
Among his other interests, Neil enjoys his work at the Books@One, where his tasks include a bit of everything, from organizing events to the ordering and selling of books. An avid reader ready to be lost in a new adventure at a given moment, the shop seems to be the perfect venture for Neil, himself.
“I’ve never run a shop before and its fun,” says Neil. “I designed everything in here and in the back room.”
As I look around the shop I’m surrounded by white walls and shelves filled to the brim with books just waiting to be opened. The bookshop is cozy and bright on this clear Irish day, as the sun shines in from the large windows; but even on the dreary rainy days, the shop never fails to be warm and inviting. Very Neil inspired neon signs above the shelves depict a wide range of genres, from “Irish Literature” to “Science Fiction” and everything in between. A warm couch and plush chairs greet the visitors, inviting them to stay a while—that, paired with the smell of fresh brewed coffee, cocoa, and books is enough to get anyone hooked. The outdoor patio is a simple, yet miscellaneous area; complete with tropical looking trees, a golden Statue of Liberty, and an outdoor picnic table. The backroom is another cozy spot; posters from the Harry Potter and Star Wars films hang on the walls among other cool and eclectic hodge-podge items. Filled with children’s literature, including oversized bean bag chairs, are scattered on the floor to encourage the next generation of readers to stay and read a while. Neil certainly put a great deal of thought into the design of the shop, and it shows.
When asked about his favorite part about working in Books@One, I had to laugh again at Neil’s cheeky response,
“Getting to talk to lovely girls from Minnesota,” he says giving another hearty laugh. “Honestly, simply having the opportunity to get to talk to people.”
This is certainly evident throughout our time chatting, local friends and visitors pop in out of the bookshop while we casually continue our conversation. Neil offers each person, a warm smile and a cup of tea or coffee as they come into the shop, making each person feeling welcomed to pull up a seat and stay for a while. Neil, at ease in the shop, is more than willing to share a joke, story, or recommendation of a good book.
Though Louisburgh has become home for Neil, he still holds the desire to travel. In fact, he’s off to Rome for the weekend and is planning to take a trip to Spain for the summer. When asked if he had any advice for a new traveler craving adventure, Neil offers a nice slice of wisdom:
“Take in every sight, smell, moment, as you may never go back, meet as many local people as you can—but I think the most important thing is to open your mind to different experiences and to just smile.”
Always up for a new opportunity, adventure, or chapter, Neil certainly has that much figured out.
A Story by Molly McCracken
This is a story about Assistant Manager Taz-the-Dog. It's a real page-turner...no, really, you have to click to turn the pages (sorry, this won't really work on your mobile phone...just a little bit of silliness...but if you insist, here's a )