There’s something about Harrogate. As you leave York and head along the busy A59 you start to notice a change: it’s all a bit more ordered and respectable. And there’s no mistaking when you’re near the town – the Mercedes coefficient goes off the scale. The poorer folk drive around in large BMWs and Audis while traditionalists (87% of the population) opt for the Jag. I felt like I’d be pulled over at any time by the police (Range Rover Vogue, of course) and told to get my mucky Mazda off the highway, pronto.
But, hey, I actually love Harrogate – it still has a feeling of 1950s nostalgia about it, mixed with a rather grand Georgian elegance. There are posh shops, impressive buildings (like the International Conference Centre), those wide open spaces and, of course, Betty’s where a cup of tea requires collateral, but is worth it.
I was there yesterday speaking at the Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch in the spacious Pavilions complex where The Great Yorkshire Show holds forth. There were 150 guests, mainly ‘mature’ it has to be said, and two other excellent speakers: Rob Cowen, a journalist with the Independent who spoke about the importance of connecting with the outdoors (a subject I feel strongly about myself) and Louis Barfe who has a new book about the wonderful Les Dawson and who regaled us with amusing tales of the comedian’s antics. I sat next to the honourable Mayor of the Borough of Harrogate (ooph, don’t ever call him the Mayor of Harrogate) who was jolly company and gave me a slap on the back and thumbs up for my 20 minute talk about ‘All Teachers Great and Small’. It was a relief as just before I stood up he said, “Don’t worry, lad, I’ll tell you if you’re rubbish.”
During the second speaker’s talk I observed the audience, most of whom were fighting to keep their eyelids up after a generous 3-course lunch and the effects of a 6800mW central heating system. Several nodded off as the afternoon went on and I was impressed that a number even managed to clap while asleep. Our hosts were lovely and the convivial atmosphere was much appreciated – all we needed to finish off a top-drawer day was to sell lots books.
We three authors scurried through to the signing table by the exit, as we’d been instructed, and we sat down expectantly, with pens poised, next to piles of crisp hardbacks. The audience pulled on their expensive coats and headed towards us. We armed our grins. We made eye contact. They smiled and walked past. Not quite all 150 but nearly. I sold a few but, hey, what can you do?
At least I could reverse out of the car park without fear of hitting one of the Mercedes…
|Andy Seed, Louis Barfe and Rob Cowen|
You can read a bit more about Rob’s and Louis’s talks here (but not an awful lot about mine):