I had a brilliant day attending the 2014 Lakeland Book of the Year Awards yesterday. It was held in a huge marquee in the beautiful grounds of the Inn on the Lake in Glenridding. Mike and I drove over from Staveley on a glorious sunny day. Bucks Fizz in the Orangery started proceedings before we had a fabulous luncheon, and for me a ‘calming’ pint of Marston’s EPA. Then came the real action. The mainman Hunter Davies said a few humorous words of background, and introduced fellow judges Fiona Armstrong and Eric Robson. The awards were in 5 categories, with 15 shortlisted altogether. What the authors didn’t know was what category they were in, but it turned out that it was neatly arranged that there a shortlist of three books per category. One couldn’t help thinking that the odds on a category win were shortening, but that was dangerous thinking, and could lead to unnecessary disappointment. The table I was on had 3 shortlisted authors on it, all in different categories. Weirdly, we had spotted a pile of books on the judges’ table, and thought ‘surely the winners aren’t there on show’. Initial excitement as I squinted, then disappointment as I couldn’t see a distinctly thick green-wrapped tome. OK, relax and be ready to applaud others.
Then, the judges went through each category in turn. The three ‘contender’ books were introduced with some apt summaries (and/or were quoted from) to set the scene, and then one of the event sponsors was called forward to open the envelope and announce the category winner. The first category was The Striding Edge Prize for Guides and Places, which went to Stuart Miller’s Canoe & Kayak Guide to North West England – who was on our table. Then came the Zeffirellis Prize for People and Business category, which was won by Undressed For Dinner, which charts how Simon Temple-Bennett and his wife turned their home into an internationally-renowned hotel. They were also sitting at my table, so expectations were becoming low indeed – what chance, etc. My category was last [I think, the day became a blur around here] and was the Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition. By now it was obvious that the judges actually had seperate piles for each category, so hope was not all lost. Fiona Armstrong started the category off by saying some very nice things about my book, how she wasn’t especially interested in running [she is actually a fisherperson, if there is such a word] but had been captivated as she read through the book. She extracted the story of Malcolm ‘Bighead’ Canmore choosing his messengers on the basis of their performance in a specially arranged fell race (this was in 1064, see p27) as her ‘sample’. Then the reasons why the other two books had been shortlisted, and a few honourable mentions for near misses.
The pause before the sponsor revealed the name after opening the envelope seem interminable, but he said ‘Steve ….’ and I felt a bit like the crowd must have felt when McWhirter said ‘3 minutes …’ when announcing the result of Roger Bannister’s sub-4 mile [OK, that is stretching it a bit, but you get my drift]. I think I might have hugged Mike as I went up to be presented, and certainly thrust my mobile phone into his hand with the implied suggestion that he might record the moment.
All winners were asked if they wanted to say a few words, and I did – no surprise there. I must admit to having thought about whether to have a little speech ready but forced myself not to. So I mumbled something about being a writer and feeling that I should be able to say something appropriate as it came to me. As Keith Richardson was in the audience I told a short anecdote about how I really wanted to write a biog of Joss, but that he got there first and so I had to move to a wider subject. Then I think it was thanks for the recognition for the book, and encouragement to others to go down the interesting path of writing about whatever they were passionate about. I sat down and shook hands round the table. I believe I may have called out ‘top table’ across to the other 2 winners in our group. Then Hunter Davies went through the overall winner shortlist (of 4), before announcing that Simon’s Undressed for Dinner had won.
The formal bit over we posed for pictures with the judges and relaxed. I had a great chat with Rebecca Robinson, who was on our table. She runs for Kendal AC and is an excellent fell runner, with marathon ambitions. Impressively she had just run up and down Helvellyn whilst waiting for the event to start. The picture shows me having a chat with her, and also with Keith Richardson with whom I discussed writery/Naylory stuff.
But the best of all was being introduced to one of my heroes. Himalayan (and big wall) climber Doug Scott was there as a paying guest and he was highly amused by the story (which appears in the book) I told him of being asked if I was him in a pub once and saying ‘yes’ for some strange reason (I may have already had a drink) – and then being plied with more drinks all night as a result by someone thinking I was famous.
A fabulous event, and for me a fantastic feeling of achievement and pleasure at being an ‘award winning author’.