Friday, September 14, 2018

Christina Hollis—England's Finest Traditions

A parade of Morris Dancers, followed by tea, cakes and chatter in front of a roaring log fire. What could be more English? Rain of course—but more of that later. A lot more...

While the Romantic Novelists' Association has local groups all over Britain, its administration is mostly carried out in London.  The association's Summer and Winter parties are held in the capital, too. Using the trains here can be a trial, with lots of strikes and continuous engineering works, so a couple of years ago the RNA's York chapter decided to hold their own get-together once a year for all those "Up North" who might not otherwise get to meet fellow members. The York Tea is now a big event in the RNA's calendar.

On your marks, get set...
My daughter is an archaeologist who spent a lot of time training in York. She loves the city. Despite being Softy Southerners, we got such a lovely welcome at last year's York Tea that we booked our tickets to the 2018 party as soon as they went on sale.

We spent the morning before the party investigating York's shops. It's one of the few English cities which wasn't flattened, first by bombing during the Second World War, then by over-enthusiastic planners during the 1960's. York's little alleyways and quaint shops make it heaven for any writer in search of inspiration. There was an extra novelty the day we were there—a national assembly of Morris men—and women—plus other traditional dancers, all in full costume.

Just the thing on a wet day!
This year's York Tea was held in the Merchant Taylors Hall, a medieval guildhall. It is a stunning building, with beautiful stained glass and a log fire roaring in the hearth. The hall is so close to the city's famous wall that when we looked up through one of the high windows, we could see people walking along the rampart, almost within touching distance!

Catching up with fellow writers was a great way to start the afternoon, and the party got better and better as time went on. First, several delicate china cake-stands were delivered to each table. They were loaded with dainty sandwiches and delicious slices of cake. Next, waiters delivered a tiny cone of pretend newspaper filled with a little piece of fish in batter and a giant chip—a novel take on that British favourite, fish and chips. There was limitless tea and coffee, and a glass of prosecco for everyone.

Tea and cake is one of my favourite treats, so I was in heaven. That wasn't the end of the fun. Top author and stalwart of the RNA Jean Fullerton gave a brilliant speech inspiring us all to stand up and be counted as Romance writers. It's a genre that is always misrepresented in the press as "bodice rippers" written by Ladies of Leisure. We all know better, and Jean encouraged us to spread the word. 

After several hours of fun, DD and I said our goodbyes and stepped out into...the mother and father of an English downpour. Our hotel was less than a mile away from the hall and as both DD and I are used to being outdoors in all weathers, we decided to risk doing the journey on foot. That was a very bad idea. We had an umbrella, but in such heavy rain we needed the waterproofs and walking boots we'd left at home, not high heels and party dresses. We arrived back at our hotel looking like two drowned rats! 

Apart from our soaking, there was only one disappointment over our whole long weekend.  Before I left home, I'd searched everywhere for the book of walks through York's "snickleways" (historic alleys and byways) I'd bought in the city last year. I never found it, and we were so busy while we were in York, we never had time to buy a replacement—not that we had enough time to go for a walk! Still, when I eventually find my copy it'll be the perfect excuse to head back to York for another long weekend.


dstoutholcomb said...

sounds like a delightful event!

it's been raining here for about a week. might see the sun tomorrow.


Christina Hollis said...

I hope the weather cheered up in time for the weekend for you, Denise. Thanks for commenting!