Malton is the food capital of Yorkshire and yet, on this Sunday afternoon, I am sat in a hotel room, which seems to have been scented with the fragrance of soapy abattoir or robot sweat, eating a Pot Noodle.
The town has many cafes, but this is an English Winter Sunday, so the kitchens close exactly as my afternoon hunger pangs strike. The supermarket had a good range of pot snacks though, probably more than you would find in Ripon or Farsley. I’ve also got cheese spread triangles, salted crackers and peanuts, so it is a solitary party. This is like a Sunday of the Seventies, a vast grey chasm with nothing to do, but rather than three TV channels with nothing on, there are 40. I have been warned that only the boring are bored, so I start to poke around in my head until I find something to write, by 4pm I have another poem to throw away.
I browse the bookshop I am performing for tonight, Kemps, and I am fortunately confused for someone who works there. This is becoming a regular occurrence. I point the customer in the right direction for nature writing and we briefly talk about the artist Laura Knight. There’s a light snowfall before my event and the venue is down a hill. It would be no danger for most people, but I seem to possess particularly slippery feet, I can barely grip gravel.
The hall is draped in thin bunting which I could use as a springboard to explaining string theory if only I knew something about string theory. This is my 93rd talk and my mind is constantly trying to work out if I am repeating what I’ve just said, what I said yesterday or what I said one month ago.
I have worked on Sundays throughout my adulthood, but there is always a different weariness and gravitational pull to a sofa opposite a Columbo episode. I finish in plenty of time before closing time… in Leeds, but not in Malton. Malton gets its Sunday night done in the afternoon if the karaoke version of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire I heard being belted out at 3pm is anything to go by. Fortunately, I find a hotel bar that is still serving. I sit alone with a glass of red wine and a book, hoping I look interesting. In the film, I am played by Henry Fonda.
I am not gregarious at breakfast, but sadly, the other breakfast diner is keen on conversation, and my fear of upsetting people means I listen to stories of his past, present and future.