On rising this morning, far too early for reason and common sense to prevail, after another restless night spent in the tropics of West Sussex! (Some of you will know exactly what I am referring to) I take my rather damp and sweaty self off to indulge in some illicit dawn reading. My chosen tome is Alan Bennett’s Keep On Keeping On. The fact that he has selected the very line (Dylan of course) as a title, that is one of my very favourite mantras, adds to the delusion that our great minds think alike.
What we do have in common, however, is Yorkshire. A place I called home, and raised a family for the best part of twenty five years. So, strolling through AB’s diaries takes me meandering down lanes, and towns, and places of interest that I know and love, and give me full permission to indulge in nostalgia whilst seeing it all from someone else’s eloquent perspective. The day in question that has inspired this spontaneous sharing is November 5th 2005. The location is Harrogate. The destination, Betty’s Tearoom.
If only I could remember what I was doing on that day. Perhaps I too, was in Harrogate heading to Betty’s (not completely out of the realms of possibility) where I might have jostled with AB over a fondant fancy, but actually, now I think about it, I was on tour in a play called Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton (also starring my wonderful “brother” Peter Amory as my husband). And not for the first time in my career, nor the last, I was playing a woman whose sanity and emotional resilience was called into question.(No comment) It was my first job post-Emmerdale, my first time back on stage in 17 years, and I just adored it. But I was likely many miles from Harrogate: Stevenage? Crewe? Darlington? Who knows.
But, I digress. And return to Mr Bennett’s conjuring of the Yorkshire Fat Rascal that awakened and indeed inspired this reflective pause in my day.
For the uninitiated, I have attached a picture. Note the almond smiley mouth and cherry eyes. But it is just a large flat fruit scone, I hear you think. True, but within its grin lies memories of days out at Betty’s, which is a tea room styled exactly as it would have been in the 1920s when it was first opened. Waitresses in black dresses, frilly white pinnies, and little white caps. Acres of Deco inspired mirrors. The refined chink of teaspoon on china. Long before vintage became cool and commercialised Betty’s served mouthwateringly indulgent delicacies on tiered plates, with a million side dishes, spoons, tongs, & jugs, so when your meal arrived there was no room to spare. Fun days, family days.
So, the Fat Rascal – and you really do need to pronounce it so that the A in “rascal” rhymes with Fat, or it just doesn’t taste the same – is both a lovely warm nostalgic hug and an inspiration and motivation. Fat Rascals (the edible sort) are off the menu for me currently, being as sugar is a massive no no.However, having lost a little more weight than I’d care to, what with the radical change in diet over the last few months ( still working it out, what a confusion and occasionally contradiction it all is), one of my intentions for the new year is to BE a Fat Rascal in every sense: To smile at life, to raise a smile, to taste the sweetness, and be mischievous, spirited and enduring.
So, thank you Mr B, for being the rising sun in my day. In fact as I look out the window now, the sight that greets me is divine: a scattering of frost like icing sugar upon the ground, and the winter sun dazzling over the downs and through the trees.
What will the day bring, I wonder, where will it lead? I am grateful for the excitement I feel about the approaching day. No plans. Blank canvas. Perfect. I check my glass – it’s half full. So, all that’s left for me to do now, is, in the words of Bob and Alan, is keep on keepin’ on. If that’s a challenge. I accept.