The event was part of the Books on the Beach festival held in Scarborough It is a really fantastic festival, superbly organised and always very popular. I was last there a couple of years ago and I had a great time, so it was good to be able to support the event again.
But the most exciting part was that it marked the first ‘in person’ event I had attended for over a year. At last, I would be able to talk to an actual audience, rather than the pixelated and remote faces in boxes on a Zoom screen, to which we have all become accustomed. Instead, there would be the human interaction everyone needs to thrive.
Where there is a live audience there is an atmosphere. Even though these events are not a natural environment for me, I couldn’t wait.
Last year’s festival had been cancelled, for obvious reasons. It was rearranged for the spring, but this too had to be postponed.
There were multiple crossings out and scribbles in my diary and I had almost forgotten about the whole thing. But, two weeks ago, an email arrived from my publisher reminding me that, at last, it was going ahead. The email gave me more details of the event, timings and postcodes.
The uncharacteristic typo in the first line of the email did not fill me with confidence. It said, “Boos on the Beach”. I hoped it was a typo and that the audience would not be subjecting me to disgruntled heckling.
After so long with nothing happening at the weekends, it turned out I had a clash of engagements. Our kids were rowing in Durham Regatta. Again, it was one of the first sporting events for over a year and I didn’t want to miss that either.
Luckily, the racing was held over two days, so my departure shortly after lunchtime on Sunday meant I only missed three out of the 18 races in which Jack and Archie were involved.
The next job was working out a sensible route from Durham to Scarborough. This was no mean feat, even with the aid of the internet. In my head, it was reasonably close. In reality, it was nothing of the sort.
Having circumnavigated industrial Teesside and traversed the moors, the sea eventually appeared. It took almost two hours. By the time I arrived, Anne had sent me multiple updates of the results of heats, semi-finals and finals, so I was abreast of the progress in Durham.
What I didn’t know at this point was the size of the audience in Scarborough.
Would it be worth the journey and missing the racing fun, or would there be five people and a dog? On a sunny Sunday, wouldn’t people be actually on the beach, with their books, buckets or spades? Would the rules of the people/distance equation mean the auditorium could only be one third full?
But I need not have worried. The audience was as replete as rules would allow and I chatted beforehand, even signing some autographs. Gerry, my interlocutor for the afternoon, asked probing questions and provided a perfect springboard for anecdotes and amusing stories.
The hour flew by and before long it was time for questions from the floor before signings of my recent book All Creatures: Heart-warming Tales from a Yorkshire Vet (available from all good bookshops!). It was good to be back and, thankfully, without a single boo!
There was good news from the tail end of the regatta, too, with two firsts and four seconds from the younger Nortons.
■ The Yorkshire Vet continues Tuesdays on Channel 5.