Victorian Fair

I’VE BEEN at the Victorian Fair in Wakefield for a few hours each day on the Tourist Information stall, launching my new paperback Wakefield Words. When the morning fog has melted away it’s been sunny enough to make Wakefield look just as it does in the publications that the Tourist Information people are handing out. A pair of stilt-walkers in crinolines and a three-piece oom-pah band come strolling by today. We’ve seen dozens of people we know and met people keen to discuss the old local words that are the subject of my book. One man, an ex-councillor tells me that one of his ancestors from Barnsley had a business card describing himself as a ‘Sparable Maker’.

Sparables, he discovered, are the small nails used to fix the sole of a shoe in place. There’s a Sparable Lane in Sandal.

Out of the sun, on the stall, it isn’t all that warm when you’re just sitting there for any length of time. There’s dampness in the air after the morning mist so I’m sitting there in
Victorian costume – top hat, black coat, paisley scarf – concentrating on keeping my hands warm in my fingerless Scrooge-style mittens, when I hear a woman answering a question that her friend has just whispered to her;

“Of course he’s real!”

I decide that I better keep active so that people don’t mistake me for a mannequin and I draw the Cathedral tower and porch as seen from our stall on the precint.

Like most of my drawings, this started as pen and ink line, but it was when I added that patch of blue – French Ultramarine – that I could see between the sandstone finials of the Catherdral porch and the awning of the stall, that the drawing came to life.

A large flock of town pigeons were soaking up the sun on the roof of a shop on Upper Kirkgate and we saw a Sparrowhawk circling briefly but I didn’t hear or see a Peregrine, a falcon that has often been seen around the Cathedral and blocks of flats in the centre of the city.

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