I was meant to hand in the text for a picture book yesterday but I was so exhausted from school visits last week, I decided to take the day off. I toyed with the idea of catching an IMAX film at the National Media Museum in Bradford, but there was nothing in the schedule I hadn’t seen already or wanted to see. So I decided to have a ‘bus’ day. That means getting on the bus and going somewhere interesting to recharge my batteries. I usually take a camera with me, a notebook, and the ifamily [ipad, ipod and – before I accidentally dumped it in a bin on the Portobello Road in London – the iphone].
The destination today was Otley in the West Riding of Yorkshire. There’s never been a train service to this busy market town so if, like me, you choose not to drive, you can only get there on the bus. It’s very busy on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays when the market is on but the rest of the week it’s fairly quiet, even at half term as it was yesterday, which means you can easily get a table in one of the many small tea shops around the market area.
One of the things I love about Yorkshire is that every town, village or stretch of countryside seems to have a connection with the art world. Otley is no exception. The celebrated furniture maker Thomas Chippendale was born here and J. W. Turner visited often when staying in the nearby Farnley Hall. You can see why. The late afternoon light has that sharp quality that makes details stand out. Even today, the narrow streets and cobbled market square somehow look picturesque without being quaint. The shops, most of them independently run, succeed in retaining period charm but are definetely 21st century. Cup-cake shaped bath bombs, anyone?
The rugby player Mike Tindall also comes from Otley, although some might argue he’s no work of art. Apparently, the queen asked him if he intended to have his nose straightened before his wedding to Zara Philips. When he said no, she joked, ‘off with his head.’
If you want to buy collectable books, market days are the days to come. There are some lovely antique book shops in the alleyways snaking off the market square but they don’t open all week. The charity shops do stay open all week though, and three of them specialise in books. One of them had a sale on – adult books for 50p each and children’s for only 10. They were clearing the shelves for Christmas apparently. A brother and sister came tottering down the stairs with piles of bargains as I went in. They couldn’t believe their luck. Enough reading to keep them hooked for the entire half-term holiday! Probably for less than the price of a parkin or a fat rascal. [In case you’re wondering what a fat rascal is, it’s a cake you can only get in certain parts of Yorkshire]
There’s also a remaindered bookshop in the main square but I never go in those in case I see one of my own books there. I did manage to find one of the antiquarian bookshops open, though. It was actually part bookshops, part sweetshop and part vintage boutique, with enough two-tiered cake stands and teacups to kit out a retro do back home in Saltaire. I found a stunning copy of Mary Renault’s classic to add to my collection. It’s a Longmans hardback edition from 1958, the year was I born, and the cover artwork was inspired by the wall paintings in Knossos in Crete. It’s now residing happily next to all my other editions of the book. One more, and it’ll overtake The Bull From The Sea. Looks like I’ll have to go back to Otley on a market day after all!