Saturday, 27 February 2010
You look famous
Now installed in London hotel. Very full day with workshop in the morning, prize presentations in the afternoon, and reading straight after. All seems to go very well. In the lunch break I wander down a few old York streets full of tourists then drop into the Minster - which is quite magnificent. All three periods of Gothic densely and superbly represented and, having been used to Norwich Romanesque it all looks soaring and arrow-like and full of light, It's a central crossing and the choir is practising. Beautiful sounds - I can't identify the piece but it is a twentieth century work and the organ heaves in with its virtuosic thickness, sea-depth and star-height.
After the events we walk back part of the way together with Margaret, Rose and Peter, core organisers. The river is exceedingly high and it is expected to rise yet. The embankment is partly flooded already. The rain has stopped but the river is still on the swell.
The previous night we had gone for a meal and talked about local farming and the difficulty, they tell me, of finding good reliable British labour - the Latvians and Poles etc work hard, the British lads come late, slope off and don't return. I try to explore why that might be because I suspect the reasons are far from simple - class, history, the sense of respect the young male craves and how he might get it - and I think we come to some sort of common view on that. They themselves are good hard working honest people. I can see it breaks their hearts a little.
On the train home I am beset by Queen's Park Rangers supporters, just returned from Middlebrough where they got beat. Across the aisle a family, then a very big drunk man called Dave comes on and briefly snogs the wife. He is a threatening presence but the threat is latent rather than imminent - I don't mean for myself alone, I mean for anyone in his vicinity. He's a plumber. He claims to have drunk thirty cans of beer during the day. I doubt it as does everyone else. He starts talking to me, getting me in on his jokes. I feel surprisingly sanguine about all this. Then another supporter comes, nowhere near as drunk, in fact a calming presence. He inspects me and declares:
You look famous. Are you?
I tell him I'm not famous, but he insists I must be, and now the family and the big plumber are all interested.
What do you do? the sober one asks. I tell him. They look a little awed if sceptical. So I produce the big collected which does at least have a photo of me on the back as proof. I wish I could show them an airport novel or a book of crime fiction. Poetry? But it doesn't matter to them. It's a fat book. The wife, a nice put-upon-woman (especially by the fat slob drunken plumber, I think) wants to see it, so I pass it over. The big plumber doesn't know quite what to do with the famous looking bloke who is a poet, and he moves on amiably enough and doesn't return which is a relief to everyone including his fellow supporters. I decide I am in for a conversation and we talk about football and Queen's Park Rangers for half an hour or so.
The sober one tells me of the other famous person he once saw going into a match at Portsmouth. It was Claire Grogan, of 'Gregory's Girl'. He says it's his second favourite film of all time, and he wishes he had talked to her, seeing as she was there, because he thinks she is gorgeous and wonderful. But his wife wouldn't have it, he says.
We are getting to the liking each other stage, now that the fat dominant plumber has gone, but we live in different worlds. He is very happy to have met me, he says. I am flattered and touched. I am pleased to have met him too. The supporter, his wife, and their little son say a very friendly goodbye when they get off.
When I get to the hotel I look in the mirror to see whether I look famous or not, or why anyone should think I look famous. But all I see is the same old mug - a legend in his lunchtime as they say. Perhaps I should try to look more famous as this seems to be a generally good thing in society, but I don't really know how to go about it. I suspect it would be the end of me if I started looking distinguished to myself, so I leave it there. The QPR supporters are on their way home to the south coast. This trip will have cost them big money and big grief.