Northside - Andrew Martin so wants to be an Ilkley celebrity
My border collie would have a sort of crimp in its coat and would be called Bob
To Ilkley, for the literature festival. Well, I was trying to get to Ilkley, but the train in from Leeds was delayed. "There's a train broken down on the line," the guard said. "But it should be sorted pretty soon." I absolutely had to be in Ilkley within the hour, and was looking agitated, which is probably why a man on the train came up to me and said: "Take my advice, mate, I know this line . . . Get off the train, and get a taxi." I thanked him, said I would think about it. A couple of minutes later, the guard was offering further assurances. "We're still being held here at a signal, not sure why, but I'm confident we'll be away before long. They're working on the broken-down train, and . . ." The stranger came up to me again: "You're not listening to me, are you? Take a taxi."
So I took a taxi, but when we got to Ilkley, the driver couldn't find the centre of town, so we stopped alongside an old bloke sitting on a roadside bench. He could have been 90, looked positively encrusted on to the town, but when we asked for directions he said: "Sorry, I'm new here myself." I did get to my event in time, but the stranger on the train turned out to have been as blithely optimistic about the local roads as the guard had been about the railways, because he'd sworn the fare would be no more than £14, whereas it came to £27.
Ideally, these problems would not occur, because ideally I would actually live in the beautiful West Yorkshire town of Ilkley, ideally in one of the black stone villas on Wells Road, at the foot of the moor. I assume that if I lived in the town, I would be invited to speak at the festival every year, and that after a while it would become known as "the Ilkley Literature Festival (with Andrew Martin)", later still as "Andrew Martin (with the Ilkley Literature Festival)".
I would walk on the moor every morning between seven and nine, and I would have a border collie, like the man who runs the Bolton Abbey preserved steam-railway station, just outside Ilkley, where I did my reading. He told me that border collies come in two categories: the neurotic and the calm. Mine, like his, would be in the second group. It would, again like his, have a sort of crimped, blow-dried effect on its coat. It would be called Bob.
At my death, I would be found stretched out on a couch as peacefully as the old lady (not herself dead, I believe) whom I saw through one window in Ilkley. Pressure would gradually mount until the whole area round about became more or less formally known as "Andrew Martin Country", and there would be a special act of parliament stating that any rail operators running late within that territory would be . . . Well, let's just leave it like this: they'd be in big trouble.