1:45 I’m sitting in Wetherspoon’s in the Old Winter Garden in the center of Harrogate. I rather like the Wetherspoon concept for buying  historic buildings and turning them into bars/eateries while endeavouring to keep as much as their former glory as possible. I’m currently enjoying a pint of Ruddles and waiting for my Tandoori chicken wrap. I was a bit taken aback when they asked me if I wanted chips with it but . .  .there you are.


Lunch in Wetherspoons

This is the first time I’ve taken the bus from Birstwith for the 20 minute ride to Harrogate. I couldn’t believe it when it cost 5 pounds 50p. Yikes! Twice on the country lanes the bus had to stop to let lorries negotiate the inches between us and them. There was only one lady at the bus stop and I struck up a conversation with her, initially as to whether I was on the correct side of the road for the bus to Harrogate. It turned out that she used to live in  . .  .Truckee, and was quite familiar with the Donner party story. It’s a pity I didn’t have my Donner party hike hat on! She lived for 23 years in the US, including Las Vegas and returned to the Harrogate area seven years ago.She prefers village life to the hustle and bustle (where?) of the big (?) town. Like me she’s been ancestry hunting for the last seven years. Initially she believed she was the first member of her family to go to the US, but no. Aren’t these coincidences weird? It reminded me of Keith who said that the first time he ever visited Bath he felt as if he was going home – but he’d never visited it before his Jane Austen trip. The ‘Truckee lady’ exchanged a ‘Have a nice day’ as we got off the bus and I set of to wander the streets of Harrogate. The stores are predominantly upscale women’s clothing stores, chic tea rooms and coffee shops. There’s even a Jamie Oliver restaurant. High fashion is here – summer frocks abound and I’ve seen more high heels and maxi dresses in the last 2 hours than I have on the rest of the trip combined.


Elegance in Harrogate

The Tandoori chicken (rather dry) and salad (rather sad) were adequate but my table just by the open door to the garden area was lovely. “Are you a secret shopper?” came from over my shoulder. It took me a minute to understand the question but someone on the adjacent table thought I was writing a review of Wetherspoons. She commented that sometimes the food took an hour to arrive! I must admit that when I ordered and they told me  that the food would be at least 20 minutes I was somewhat taken aback. But I wasn’t in a hurry and the 30 minute wait gave me time to write up my journal.


Wire in the Blood author, Val McDermid

Next stop was the Oxfam book shop where Val McDermid was to hold a question and answer session at 3 p.m. I’d helped Judith write a brief press release for the event and the author’s name seemed familiar but when I saw the display I realized that she was the author of Wire in the Blood – that wonderful psychological profile series with Robson Green. About a dozen people showed up and I don’t know how many of those were the book shop staff!  Currently Harrogate is hosting an international music festival and a crime writers festival. I’d though about getting a day pass for the writers festival for tomorrow but the 97 pound price tag made the cost prohibitive (!). Here I was getting a very up close and personal chat with the author for free . . . and she was happy to sign a used copy  (the only ones Oxfam carry) of that very book for me. It was great to hear sentences like,’When I was chatting to Coin Dexter he told me he’d never set foot inside a police station until he’d completed the first five Morse books.” and she related how J. K Rowling came to review her rewrite of Northanger Abbey, bringing it into the 21st century.


Judith had joined me for the book talk but she needed to return to work – this time her job doing some bookkeeping at a vet’s in town, so I settled myself in an upper room at the surgery for an hour or so while she completed her work. We had dinner at The Old Spring Well in Killinghall on the way home since she’d had a particularly taxing day.