I hope you had a REALLY great August bank holiday weekend. Put your hand up if it already feels like too long ago? Because that’s how it feels to me. I’ve been crazy busy since then, but in a good way. And in Ryedale and the surrounds of North Yorkshire I had a lovely time. LOVELY. The best UK break I’ve had since my week of amazing Cornish scones and punishing inclines for my 39th thanks to my friend, Steve.
Good things happened to me in Ryedale; I faced down fears that have held me fast ever since experiencing anaphylaxis in 2013, and, finally did the unthinkable and bit the bullet and contacted journalists about Gunshot Glitter. I’d first visited Pickering ten years ago when I went to see Margaret, and now I was going back to the land that had birthed the Griffin family in my head. And I wanted to tell them about it. How did it feel doing that? Absolutely shit scary to be honest!
But Margaret was so steadfast in her support it gave me the self-belief to get past that frustrating psychological barrier and write/tweet them. And was it worth it? Yes, it was. The day after my arrival, I had a call at 9am on Friday morning. We listened to the voicemail three times, it was Hannah Bryan from the Gazette and Herald, she’d read my email and wanted to interview me. I was delighted as I’d enjoyed her pieces in the paper that Margaret had posted me. Once I’d drunk a protein shake I rang her back.
I had a good chat with Hannah and a photoshoot in Margaret’s home a few hours later with a lovely, freelance photographer with the brightest blue eyes, named Anna Gowthorpe. And it resulted in THIS splendid little piece < Click ME NOW >
Hannah tweeted me to tell me she’d read the opening chapter and the novel was on her TBR list which delighted me. In due course it should be featured online in York Press too, which is fantastic. There were a few teeny glitches, the book is very much out, but in November I hope to launch a print on demand edition and give it a BIG push, but the push is now underway.
It’s definitely given me the confidence to do more. I feel I now have this green light to reach out, ask, contact and offer. It’s been a LONG time coming. I worked out I’ve had a bonus life of 1000 days, it’s time to wake up to that. A friend gently tried to suggest I look at what happened to me that way, now I see what I means.
Back in July, when my Facebook friends Vicky, Tina and drummer extraordinaire, James Garnett heard I was visiting Yorkshire they were effusive with their recommendations. Vicky and I met up in York on Bank Holiday Monday and went to the legendary Betty’s for a swish tea and cake experience, and she showed me her fave hometown spots, including these two buildings in The Shambles, built so closely you could reach across and hold hands with someone (Aw!)
And I saw Whitby, Scarborough, Filey Bay, Malton, Pickering, Thornton le Dale, the gorgeous purple heather in Rosedale, visited the Stained Glass Centre in Cayton,all thanks to my lovely host, Dr Margaret Linton.
A woman I’ve had the privilege of calling my friend for over twenty years. Margaret, I love you. She also showed me you could bake plaice with a coating of mayonnaise and matzo, try it, it’s tasty. And she has a budgie called Toby. I was insanely excited to hold him. She’s taught him to say: ‘I speak Yiddish, Spanish and Chaffinch’.
And I thought the people I met were incredibly chilled out, relaxed and easy going. I met just one grumpy person the entire time I was there and that was because she wanted to go and have her lunch and had a load of stuff to do.
So, today, I decided I want to tell you about the five peeps who crossed my path who made my trip especially memorable. And I’ll begin with David Thomas. . .
David Thomas at the Thornton Scarecrow Festival aka Dashing Captain with a Conscience
While Margaret was off getting her hair done, I checked out Thornton le Dale’s rather fabulous Scarecrow Festival. Walking down a hill, I saw a silver-haired man stood in front of a fetching boat parked on a grassy bank, he was wearing a pirate’s hat. I asked if it was okay to have my photo taken in front of his fine vessel and he said he’d only let me do it if I wore his hat! He plonked it on my head and began talking.
He was an adventurer and an actor who’d lived and traveled in Africa, but on hearing his beloved mum was struggling, had come home to look after her. He’d also experienced something dreadful which had left him so unwell he’d been admitted to Scarborough Hospital for three months. He told me he’d never found himself in a position where his life was in the hands of strangers, but the staff at the hospital had been so amazing, he’d decided to take his boat, Black Pig, and sail it to Venice in May 2016 to raise funds for them. For his confidence and bravado, I could see he was actually a pretty humble man. I told him I’d take his picture and tell other people about him. So David Thomas, this is for you. I’m a woman of my word.
Melanie aka Goddess in an Office Chair, Pickering
I wish I’d taken Melanie’s photo, but it might have freaked her out. So here’s one of me with the behemoth as hardcore evidence that the book got to see Pickering We took this outside Pickering Gifts.
Getting back to Melanie, she was a beautifully made up blonde woman I met, sat in an office chair in the Pickering Tourist office; my first port of call. I felt Gunshot Glitter belonged in her sale stock, especially with the story having local connections, but did I feel confident about presenting my case? No, I did not! I am the Queen of Championing Things for other people if I have the courage of conviction, but it’s way harder championing myself, even though I do believe in my novel. (That’s why I would dearly love your word of mouth support, dear Reader). Margaret dropped me off outside and feeling a tad trepidatious, I went in and spoke to this smiling, attentive blonde and she listened and nodded, turned my novel over and over in her hands, told me it looked beautiful and she would have loved to stock it, but, and there was a ‘but’, but it was a good very fair ‘but’, she said their office was being closed down in a week.
Their existing stock was being split up and distributed to the local post office and the Scarborough tourism office.
But Melanie sat me down and went through places nearby, looked up phone numbers, addresses, websites, names of people. She was really kind and assured me people would be receptive to a conversation. And I felt so, so much better after that. And she told me she was a big reader and that my book had completely intrigued her. She was also a big Lisa Jewell fan, so the cover endorsement hadn’t escaped her notice. They were selling off stock and I was bummed I didn’t have my purse on me, as I saw a Pickering branded pencil on sale, but she was extremely sweet and insisted I take it. Melanie, I hope it works out in the new job. Thank you for being so generous to a London author and putting her at ease.
Scarecrow Festival Ladies aka the Women Who Don’t Do Smartphones
I’m not a fan of selfie sticks. They rob you of one of the most valid excuses to break ice with a stranger. I like offering to take photos for peeps, especially folks on hols or just passing through. My friends are extremely used to me doing this!
I was enjoying the Thornton le Dale Scarecrow Festival, when I came across these two middle-aged women cooing over this fallen Scarecrow Punk. One lady was amazingly made up. We three stood there and admired the fabulousness of his mohawk and the attention to detail, and the lady with the make-up on, crouched down and gave him a cuddle. I asked her to take a photo of me with Scarecrow Punk and she panicked a bit and confessed she’d never used a smartphone or taken a photo on one. I told her I’d show her.
She was really nervous of getting it wrong and eventually when she took it, I didn’t have the heart to tell her she’d stuck her finger over the lens! I asked her if she and her friend would like a photo with him, that I’d be happy to email it to them when I got home. She burst out laughing, thanked me, and said she didn’t use email. I told her I’d take one anyway. So I did and they were both thrilled with the photo when they looked at it with me. So this is for the ladies who are having a blast in Yorkshire and eschewing the seductions of cyber technology and doing very happily without it. I hope they see this one day. It was lovely to meet you.
Les aka the Man Who Runs a Bookshop out of his Home
When I was brooding about Gunshot Glitter stockists in Pickering, Margaret suggested that I talk to a man she’d heard of who ran a bookshop out of his home. I felt a bit shy about approaching him, but she said he’d have local knowledge and might be able to make suggestions. She couldn’t give me an address, but told me the house was opposite the Pickering Railway and I’d know it when I saw due to the piles of books on display. The lady was right. I walked in and was surrounded by a library’s worth of tomes, all priced at £3 and under.
And the dude I clocked stood in the middle of the room was equally intrigued at me as I was at him. He told me his name was Les. Margaret later told me I’d been gone for almost half an hour. But to me, the time flew by. He was fascinating, friendly and effusive. I also made him a sale by convincing a teenage, home-schooled girl browsing for a classic read to try John Steinbeck’s of Mice and Men. I’d read it earlier this year.
The loveliest thing about Les was how comfortable and ease he was at his love of chick-lit, especially Fiona Gibson’s books. When I told him I knew her on Facebook ( she was my fave columnist in my teens) he was quite excited, so I insisted on taking his photo for them both. He also wrote poems, wanted to write a chick-lit novel of his own featuring characters from his generation, and, to the bemusement of his girlfriend, loved scented candles and Wright’s Coal Tar Soap. I felt so much empathy with this man it wasn’t true! He told me all bright eyed, that he’d found the latter on a fantastic promotion and bought almost a hundred bars. I asked him if he minded giving me one, I’d only ever seen the handwash. He chuckled, vanished upstairs and returned to proudly present me with a twinpack. When I went back to Margaret clutching a pack of soap she burst out laughing. Les, you rock. And anyone reading this who is on a budget or looking for a hard to find read please visit his shop. He has great stock. He’s a star.
Rachel at Hoppers in Malton Marketplace aka Woman Who Sent Me Back to London Smiling
I saved the best to last. It was Melanie in the Pickering Information Office who told me about Hoppers in Malton. She was really enthusiastic about the shop. Margaret was too. When I rang the store and told Rachel about Gunshot Glitter I was pleased at how interested she sounded. I decided to visit on Tuesday morning before I caught my train back to Kings Cross. Margaret drove me to Malton, it was a gloriously sunny day. I was also keen to get a Page a Day diary (I get the diary ‘itch’ around September and bang on time on September 1st it kicked in).
I approached a slender, young woman in store and asked her if they had any in stock, she showed me the selection and we got chatting over them. Then I asked her if she could introduce me to Rachel and it turned out I was already talking to her! And then she realised I was Yasmin and we went on to have a really good conversation about Gunshot Glitter: the narrative, it’s relevance to the local area and it all went beautifully.
She looked at a copy of the paperback novel, viewed the reviews and agreed there and then to stock it. We agreed a discount to the store and I sold both the copies to her – numbered, kissed, personalised and signed. We went outside to take photographs and she warned me she often had her eyes closed in pictures, she wasn’t wrong! And Hoppers is a great store. It’s large and situated in a great spot in the Marketplace. Margaret later told me she’d been served by Rachel and thought she had a lovely attitude and found her extremely helpful. Heading back to the car, Margaret took one look at my glowing face and said ‘Tell me EVERYTHING!’ Having Hoppers stock Gunshot Glitter was the perfect way to end a positive visit for myself, for Margaret and for the behemoth.
And I want to say a HUGE thank you to Margaret for having me in her amazing home, and, for her generosity and wisdom. For treating me to a delicious cream tea at Botham’s of Whitby in Pickering ( who told me they’d be happy to carry promo for my novel, thank you, Botham’s!) and revealing beauty spots such as the Quaker Meeting House and the most serene view of Scarborough.
Anna from the Gazette & Herald was entranced at all the unique spots around her home that held photographic potential. I told Margaret her home should be featured in Psychologies magazine. Every meal we ate was in a cosy, lamp-lit conservatory filled with books, orchids and sprawling plants. It was a very special experience.
Margaret saw me off at Malton railway station with a hug and I had an easy journey home. I felt incredibly relaxed. The most I have in years to be honest. The Yorkshireman sat next to me was such a gent he insisted on hoisting my trolley-case at both ends of the train ride. Back in London, in the crowded, rush hour chaos that is Kings Cross, I was still all chilled out smiles. And even when the heavens parted in Hayes Town and the rain fell down on me as I was walking to my flat, I didn’t really mind. Because that’s how good a time I’d had in North Yorkshire.