Last week my publishing company, Biteback, hosted a launch for Gillian Shephard’s new book KNAPTON, which is a social history of the village in North Norfolk in which she grew up. Our London offices have a fantastic view over the river to Parliament, which the coachload of North Norfolkers very much enjoyed. I was amused at how many of them knew me because of my fortnightly column in the Eastern Daily Press.
They had all read about the death of Gio, my Jack Russell, and were all keen to offer advice on how to get over it. One man at the launch was a face I instantly recognised from my youth. It was that of David Richardson who used to host the Anglia TV Sunday lunchtime farming programme. My Dad, who still farms in Essex, wouldn’t miss an episode and was a huge fan of the programme. How sad it is that such programmes are no longer made. Oh for the return of proper local television. Maybe one day it will happen – on the internet.
Anyway, back to Knapton. Yesterday lunchtime we held the Norfolk launch in Knapton Village Hall. It was the first speech I had made in North Norfolk since the one I made on election night in 2005, when I conceded defeat to Norman Lamb at Cromer High School. Well, I didn’t have much choice. He had beaten me by 10,000 vote. OK, 10,606, if you want to be pernickety. This time I carried it off without tears in my eyes!
Gillian’s book features anecdotes and memories of village life in Knapton stretching back many decades. It reminds me of the German TV series Heimat, which traced the history of a Knapton-like village from the first world war to the present day. It was very slow moving but wonderfully filmed. I wonder if we might see Knapton – The Movie. I wonder who would play a schoolgirl Gillian Shephard? A very naughty girl, I imagine.
We’ve been organising booksignings for Gillian all over the place, but have so far struck unlucky with Jarrolds in Cromer. “No, we don’t think it would work here,” said the shop events manager. “Knapton’s too far away from Cromer. No one would come,” he reckoned. Well, my North Norfolk geography may not be quite what it was, but I reckon it can’t be more than 8 miles. Sometimes there’s just no point in arguing. He might as well have said “computer says no”.