I realized with a gulp as I checked my bank balance at Euston station after paying for my ticket to Lancaster that I had 40 pence to my name, meant to last me til Friday (mongers, I'd be willing to wager, are far more likely to know the start date of the next pay period than that of their own menstrual period). Graham had mentioned a cheap B&B, and I was intending to pay for drinks and dinner. A significant problem, we'll agree, was at hand.
(Ironically, the nearest person to me at the time was none other than Richard Goddamn Branson, who was posing for a photo op near the ticket office. I tried to avoid drowning both of us in the flood of rejection slips that spouted from the cash machine).
Wisdom holds that the farther up England you go, the nicer people become. Well, Martin Tkalez hails from Morden, but other than that, the theory seems to stick. When I got to Preston, Graham told me sheepishly that the cheap B&B was full, so he'd made a reservation at a slightly posher one, down the road. And paid for it.
Well, slap me on the bottom and call me Betsy, I do know how to wield a credit card properly and told him so in no uncertain terms, but he'd have none of it, bless.
I was on my way up north to see Martin Gott's new lambs, new cheese room and new baby, and to go shooting with Graham Kirkham, a man who, when I first met him, must have spoke for forty minutes before I understood a single word he said. To get a feel for the Lancashire accent, imagine the offspring a Canadian park ranger, Dallas cheerleader, and Glasgow cabbie would produce after nine months spent stuck in an elevator. Add the laugh of a rhino and the heart of an angel and you've pretty much got Graham Kirkham, sine qua non. I called him from the train station. "Where are you?" I said. "I'll come and get you," he answered. "Oh shit, wait, I've still got my smelly wellies on. Forget it. You come here, it's too embahrahssing!" When I climbed into the refrigerated van, I was too excited to speak properly. "What are we going to shoot?" I asked him. "GIRLIE, WE'RE GOING TO SHOOT THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYTHING!" roared Kirkham. He's way louder in person than over the phone.