Thursday, July 17, 2008
Three men were aiming shotguns at me the first time I stepped out of my hotel in Wakefield. A small crowd was egging them on. I took it well, casting a cold eye on life on death, and smiling with the kind of cool unconcern that Yul Bryner did so well in The Magnificent Seven. In the event, they fired but I did not die. These were electronic shot guns and they were aiming not at my head but at a plastic version of the clay pigeon. It was all part of a Yorkshire Water management jolly. But the hotel being in Walton Hall, violence was always going to be in the air. From here Chieftain Ailric began his campaign of resistance against the Normans. It's also on an island in the middle of a lake. I was puzzled at first to see two blokes pushing a raft towards the hotel - Normans? - but it turned out they were restocking the bar. The whole mise en scene - fake guns, management jolly, Ailric, rafted booze - was so northern I burst out laughing. I was brought up in the north, but, as a child, I wouldn't have noticed its eccentricities. These slowly dawned on me when I went to Cambridge and found myself being mocked by Nige among others for my accent and for my habit of keeping coal in the bath and pigeons in cages in the garden. I did neither, though I did build rafts. The wonder of the north is that in spite of everything - motorways, superstores etc - it remains so defiantly northern. Standing in the rain, Ailric is still resisting the Normans and telling anybody who cares to listen that we're having no summer again this year and he just had a go with an electronic shotgun.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 2:31 pm