Doing A Turn

2 May 2014

I’m “doing a turn” at the Dales Festival of Food and Drink – http://www.dalesfestivaloffood.org - in Leyburn, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday, promoting The Inn at the Top. I’ve done a few similar country shows before and they’re always an interesting experience. The first issue is a sartorial one. I normally try to cut a bit of a sartorial dash – slick jacket, white shirt, silver cufflinks, etc, but a tweed jacket – with or without the Dales farmer ‘s traditional baler twine accessories – seems to be pretty much de rigeur and the temperature in Yorkshire in very early May probably makes it a very sensible choice.

Footwear is more tricky. To use the horse-racing terminology, the going at country shows at any time of year and especially in Spring can vary from “good to soft” all the way through to “bottomless” and the passage of hundreds of pairs of feet does nothing to improve it. If you wear your country footwear of choice – brogues, estate agent boots, or whatever – you may find yourself floundering calf-deep in the mire, and then having to make a mud-encrusted, slipping and slithering grand entrance into the marquee where the “Speaker’s Corner” podium is sited. On the other hand, a pair of wellies, while eminently practical, doesn’t really set off a sharp suit the same way…

The size of audience is always weather-dependent. The perfect weather from the speaker’s point of view would be a beautiful, sun-drenched morning to draw as many people as possible to the show. That should be followed by a sudden, savage thunderstorm about ten minutes before I’m due to go on, to drive everyone into the shelter of the marquee, followed by a continuing downpour to keep them trapped there while I do my “turn” and sign a few books afterwards.

There’s a Q&A at the end too, so I’m confidently expecting to have my “townie’s” lack of knowledge of farming and sheep breeds mercilessly exposed by a succession of local experts.

The marquee is known as “The Richard Whiteley Pavilion” in memory of the former Yorkshire Television and “Countdown” presenter. My fondest memory of Richard is a dinner party at his house where after the meal, he suggested we play that silly parlour game where everyone writes the name of a celebrity on a Post-It note and sticks it on their neighbour’s forehead. You then take turns at guessing who you are supposed to be. I made my choice and stuck the name on my neighbour’s forehead and as I looked around the table, I discovered that we had all made the identical choice: all eight people, including Richard Whiteley himself, were sitting there with “Richard Whiteley” on their forehead!