It’s my last day in Yorkshire and I’m sitting on a bench in Hull train station, feeling somewhat wistful whilst staring into a milky orange sunset. It feels like I’ve been on the most bizarre and wonderful odyssey over the past ten days. It’s been a magical, endless, golden time and I genuinely feel a little piece of me will remain in this beautiful county forever.
Today I auditioned the most wonderful musicians; players with incredible faces, personalities and staggering levels of musicianship which made my heart beat like a machine gun. A folk band sang to me from the darkest pits of their souls. A samba group played such infectious music, I wanted to jump up and down like a child at a wedding. The drummer from the Housemartins jammed with the BBC Young Folk Musician of the year, who was playing the accordion whilst tap dancing on a knackered wooden board. There was a Klesma band and a ukulele orchestra, a jazz pianist and a man with a voice like chocolate and the silliest hat in the world and all the time there was brilliant banter from a genuinely fascinating set of people. I felt so proud and grateful and thrilled and excited about the thought of bringing them all together in one piece of music. I kept having to pinch myself. “I’m in Hull” I kept thinking. “Why are all these fascinating people in Hull?”
I was up with the lark this morning, doing a series of interviews to announce the winner of our poetry competition. Her name is Doreen and she’s from Harrogate. When told by a roving reporter that she’d won, she made all the right noises, which became a series of squeaks, clucks and “gollies”! She was immediately bundled into a taxi to Leeds to meet the Look North camera crew and I finally got to say hello to her at about 3pm. What I hadn’t realised was that Doreen is 98. 98 years old but her watery blue eyes reveal the sharpest mind and the most wonderful sense of humour. We sat on the Look North sofa and she was asked to read out the last verse of her poem. It’s a sad verse and she read it so beautifully that the entire studio burst into tears, including all the butch cameramen!
The poem seems so heartfelt and genuine and it reminds me a little bit of Danny Boy, which can't be a bad thing. Meeting the wonderful, proud woman who wrote it has raised the stakes, almost to a level of terror. If I don’t do her lyrics proud I will have failed her and I desperately don’t want to do that. As she hobbled out of the studio, she said “wouldn’t it be lovely to know I’d left something of me behind when I’m gone.” and my God I’m gonna try to do my best by her. Although, that said, one felt perhaps she was already having one of the most exciting days of her life.
Her poem is as follows:
Sing a song of Yorkshire from the Humber to the Tees;
Of horses, wool and terriers, of pudding and of cheese.
I know no other county where the land is quite so fine.
England’s lovely county and I’m proud to call it mine.
When the shining purple heather stretches far across the moor,
And the lapwing’s cry above you takes the place of traffic roar.
And peace comes drifting gently, there’s no place I’d rather be
Than this land on hills and valleys ‘twixt the Pennines and the sea
So when I’ve done my roaming and when my step grows slow;
When heart and mind and body assure me that t’will soon be time to go,
Then let me rest in Yorkshire for it’s there I want to lie
‘Neath the sun and winds and heather and a gleaming Yorkshire sky.
1660, and news had reached the Nazeby of a re-shuffle in the House of Commons. I won’t bore anyone with the details, but the man with the most ridiculous name before Dickens put pen to paper had been elected as speaker of the house. Sir Harbottle Grimstone. How fabulous is that? Praisegod Barebones eat your heart out!
During the afternoon, Pepys went on a bit of a naughty school boy adventure with William Howe to the lower decks of the ship, more specifically the storerooms where Montagu kept his wine. Whether he stole a bottle or two, we’ll never know, but he spent some time gazing at the timbers down there, astonished that they were already lower than the level of the sea, with a whole deck still beneath them.
Pepys-the-unkind makes a brief appearance at the end of the entry for after supper there was a spot of “musique” and Mr Pickering played the bass vial “so like a fool” that Pepys “was ashamed of him”. Steady on, Samuel! Not everyone in the world can be a gifted musician. That said, I had to bite my tongue yesterday when a lad came in with his bass guitar and played so badly that I didn't know where to look! So, perhaps Pepys and I are on the same wavelength, trapped in our miniature fantasy worlds away from London...