A flat cap is not just for t’ ‘ead, tha knows…

09 +00002013-11-05T16:02:35+00:0030 2012 § 8 Comments

Nowt like a reet wild book signin'...

Nowt like a reet wild book signin’…

Ian McMillan, South Yorkshire’s own shrewd and very funny poet (the ‘bard of Barnsley’ and ‘poet in residence’ at Barnsley FC), gave a book launch and signing session at Rickaro Books in Horbury yesterday evening. It was an event that I’d been looking forward to for a long time, having heard Ian perform once before, at a school. He is a performance poet second to none.
I arrived early at the shop with my husband. Ian was already there, entertaining all the other early arrivals. Even Richard Knowles, the owner of Rickaro Books, seemed excited. Richard is professionally lugubrious: his catch-phrase when I worked with him a quarter of a century ago was ‘Life is Cricklewood, not Hollywood.’ Yet he’d invested in a big box of Cadbury’s Celebrations (only slightly dimming the gesture by explaining that they were left over from Trick or Treat night and also instructing his guests to take the Snickers chocolates first, as he doesn’t like them) and shared his special ‘bookseller’s provender’- malted milk chocolate biscuits – with Ian. He had even brought along his flat cap for the occasion.
At this point, I should perhaps explain that Ian’s new book, a collaboration with eminent cartoonist Tony Husband, is entitled 101 Uses for a Flat Cap. Published by Dalesman, whose account manager was also at the meeting – he’d kindly brought along copies of all Ian’s books – this latest offering from Ian and Tony does exactly what it says on the tin… er, sorry, book. It consists of 101 pieces about the trademark Yorkshire flat cap, inserted by its author into every possible historical and practical situation: ‘All made up! Every one of them!’ Ian kept on cheerfully insisting. He read several of these poems as well as, with passion, a more poignant extract from another recent title, The Tale of Walter the Pencil Man. Dedicated to his great uncle, Joseph Fletcher, who died at the Somme aged twenty-four, this is the reflective and touching tale of a Yorkshire pit village lad who tries with his pencil and paper to cope with what is happening around him as he fights on the First World War battlefields. It’s very topical, of course, and I’m sure will enjoy many sales this year and next, as we approach the centenary of the start of the Great War.
Tony Husband, Ian’s illustrator, accompanied him. It was a real thrill to meet him: he’s a very accomplished, not to say distinguished, artist, who draws for several famous publications, including Private Eye (Yobs), and has been Cartoonist of the Year several times. He told me that he and Ian Hislop arrived at the Eye at about the same time, twenty-five years ago (about the same time that Richard and I ceased to be colleagues!). Tony worked fast and incredibly hard all evening: he not only signed every book that was purchased, but drew a picture in it as well; he also drew a picture to accompany each of the poems, simultaneously with Ian’s recitation, and distributed them among members of the audience afterwards. The picture he gave to me, which I shall certainly have framed, illustrates the poem entitled ‘The Flat Cap Scene from King Lear (now lost)’. It’s my particular favourite, not least because it’s arch about Lincolnshire (my home county) and Norfolk (home of my publisher, Salt), though Ian did qualify his comments by saying that he loved South Lincolnshire and even recollected an event that he’d given at ‘one of the Gedneys’ – impressive, as the Gedneys are very small villages in the back of beyond.
Here’s a taster of the poem; the rest is hilarious, but you’ll need to buy the book to find out! (Plug, plug…)
Lear: Oh fool, what dost sport upon thy head?
It seems exceeding flat and dull, i’faith,
As Lincolnshire and Norfolk, two flat places in the East.

This occasion was everything that an event in a bookshop should be: convivial, hospitable (Richard’s wife Carole provided a delicious and warming mulled wine) and humorous, with a great deal of ad libbing from both Ian McMillan and Tony Husband, as well as from members of the audience. It was extremely well attended and I’m sure that, like us, everyone who was there went home happy and enriched by all the pleasures that it brought. Richard also used the occasion to promote BOOKS ARE MY BAG, an initiative that is close to my heart, as readers of this blog will know.
And there was no charge for attending: certain chain booksellers, please take note!
Very many thanks to Rickaro Books, Tony and Ian, for an evening to remember:

The fabulous Tony Husband, putting me in the picture...

The fabulous Tony Husband, putting me in the picture…

Richard Knowles, of Rickaro Books, looking for the 102nd use of a flat cap...

Richard Knowles, of Rickaro Books, looking for the 102nd use of a flat cap…

Visual and verbal, speaking 'louder than a gun'...

Visual and verbal, speaking ‘louder than a gun’…

Tony Husband, finding himself in no-man's-land...

Tony Husband, finding himself in no-man’s-land…

The Flat Cap Scene from 'King Lear' (now lost)

The Flat Cap Scene from ‘King Lear’ (now lost)

A couple of lovely collaborations, by a couple of lovely collaborators...

A couple of lovely collaborations, by a couple of lovely collaborators…

A precious signed first edition!  Love you, Tony and Ian!  :)

A precious signed first edition! Love you, Tony and Ian! 🙂

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§ 8 Responses to A flat cap is not just for t’ ‘ead, tha knows…

  • lynnstime says:

    I enjoyed your blog Christina, and in particular the headline.

    I was born in Oldham and returned when I was fifteen with a strong South African accent. I couldn’t understand a word of what my grandparents said! I found to my dismay that most of the older local people couldn’t understand me either. My cousin had to translate when I went into a shop. I spoke proper English, didn’t I? I had won gold and silver at Eisteddfods for reading and reciting poetry, hadn’t I? I spent the six months we were there in a state of confusion.

    I grew to love my Northern roots. Flat caps? I love them.

    • Thanks, Lynn! What a great anecdote! The thing that really struck me when I first came to Yorkshire was how everyone, especially bus conductors (who don’t seem to exist any more), called everybody else ‘love’, regardless of sex. I do enjoy the richness of dialect, however, and fear that the pervasive influence of the media is gradually eroding local speech into a sort of mid-Atlantic mush, sprinkled with ‘OMG’, ‘like’ and rising inflection at the end of every sentence, as if we are bound to need encouragement to understand statements of the obvious. Long live individuality of speech!

  • Jo Carroll says:

    What a wonderful time you all had – and am deeply envious of you, spending time with Ian MacMillan. I have make the most of hearing him on the radio (what a lovely voice he has!)

  • vallypee says:

    I thought I’d commented here and now see I didn’t – or it got lost in cyberspace – or my senior moments are catching up…well, never mind, I’m here now. This looks like the most fun you could have in a bookshop ever! Everyone looks so very happy and the TH cartoons are just wonderful. As for Ian Macmillan, I know the name, but have been away too long (alas) to remember him. By the way, has anyone told Richard Knowles he looks like Sean Connery in that outfit? I had quite a turn until I read the caption and realized it wasn’t the world’s favourite ‘bit of old’ after all! A wonderful evening, I can see that and the best use of a bookshop after hours I can think of – or even in hours!

    • I couldn’t wish for a more enthusiastic endorsement of Richard’s event. I’ll make sure that he knows of this comment; I’ll be seeing him again quite soon for the Gervase Phinn evening. I’ll ask him if he fancies being the world’s ‘favourite bit of old’! Lovely comment, Valerie, thank you! 🙂

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