Ian McMillan: Fine art of taking one’s leave, Darfield style...

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It’s a dilemma for every Yorkshireman, and one that I’ve observed over the years as well as being part of the process. I’m talking, of course, about the eternal problem: how on earth do you get out of a room? You know the kind of room I mean: the room full of colleagues or acquaintances or distant family members. You’ve been along to the meeting/gathering/funeral and now you simply have to go. And you just can’t do it. You can’t prise yourself away. You are a statue on a settee.

Southerners would have no problem with this. They would have no idea what I was talking about: they would simply stand up, shake hands with a couple of people, kiss a startled auntie on the cheek, and go. With us Yorkshiremen, I’m not sure if it’s shyness or deference or some idea of not making a fuss, but it’s different. We simply stay rooted to the spot until the very last minute and indeed we often stay so long that cleaners work around us and we’re eventually left in the darkened room to sleep.

Firstly, announce several minutes before you go that you’re going. This prepares you and the other people in the room for your exit. Look theatrically at your watch or glance out of the window hoping to catch a glimpse of a church or town hall clock.

So here is the benefit of my vast experience as a man who has left many a room over the decades. I hope it helps.

Firstly, announce several minutes before you go that you’re going. This prepares you and the other people in the room for your exit. Look theatrically at your watch or glance out of the window hoping to catch a glimpse of a church or town hall clock. Create an expression of surprise on your face as though you really had no idea how late it was. Announce in a loud voice “Well, I’ll have to be off in a minute!” If nobody takes any notice, say it again with a hint of urgency in the tone: “Nay, I’d love to stay but I’ve got things to do! I’ll be getting off soon!”

Lean forward in your chair as though you are adopting the brace position on a plane or looking for a dropped coin on a carpet. Slap your thighs; it’s a funny thing, this thigh-slapping, but it really is a universal expression of the idea that you’ve got to go. I’ve observed it all over the world and indeed in a hotel bar in South Korea I saw a mob of businessmen do it in unison and then leave together as though the movements were choreographed.

So, slap your thighs and say, loudly, “Reyt then!” Lean further forward. Cast around for objects that you need to pocket to show that you’re ready to go. If you’ve got a hat, prepare to put it on. Lean even further forward, to the point where onlookers think your back has gone into spasm. Slap your thighs again and repeat “Reyt then!”

Stand up. Not too quickly, or the blood will rush to your head and you will stagger. Stand and gaze around the room. Pretend to wave to somebody at the other side of the room, point to your real or imaginary watch and make a regretful face. Repeat several phrases until somebody notices you. These can include: “I’m off”, “I’ve got to go now”, “Sorry but my bus is due”, “I’ve got to feed the dog/cat/fish/Uncle Frank” and that old staple “Reyt then!”

Now go. Just go. Trickle 
out of the room like water down a plughole. 
Don’t get caught up in any handshaking or kissing. Just go. Reyt then, I’m off.

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