A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail telling me that I’d won one of the top three prizes in this year’s Calderdale Short Story Competition, out of 420 entries. So last Thursday we headed off to Halifax (the one in Yorkshire, not the one in Nova Scotia) for the prize-giving. Despite turning up a quarter of an hour late (and walking in during Sarah Holman’s reading of her story – sorry, Sarah!) we had a great time. I was more than a little apprehensive about reading my piece, “Possible Side Effects”, because it contains a fair smattering of strong language, and it’s a bit peculiar to walk into a roomful of strangers and start swearing like a trooper. Fortunately, it seemed to go down reasonably well, and it even got a few laughs – although some of them sounded ever so slightly nervous.
In the event, I came third, behind two excellent stories from Sarah Holman and Sylvia Anne Jones, but the very slight disappointment was tempered by the fact that apparently mine was the only piece that was on both judges’ final shortlist of six. And it was good to meet the two judges, Ra Page and Jane Rogers, as well as several members of the audience.
Halifax is a fascinating and slightly scary place on a Thursday night, mainly populated by young girls with orange fake tans wearing dresses that look smaller than the average T shirt. Amidst the febrile atmosphere, Mrs P and I eventually found an excellent Turkish restaurant, whose only drawback was the lack of an alcohol licence. So I was sent back out into the night to track a bottle down. I eventually succeeded, although I think that paying £9.50 for a bottle of Echo Falls red counts as some kind of benchmark in desperation. Although, curiously, after the thrill of the chase, it didn’t actually taste at all bad.
We thought we’d make a short break of it, so we stayed a couple of nights in nearby Hebden Bridge – a lovely place, mainly populated by ageing hippies. On the Friday we left the car behind and took the bus over to Haworth, into Brontë country, where we went on an eleven mile circular walk up to Wuthering heights and back. Wonderful, and I didn’t break out into a Kate Bush impression once.
The icing on the cake came later on, when we were taking a stroll around Hebden Bridge after supper and we heard music coming from the cinema. It turned out that The Dhol Foundation were playing a gig there to kick off the local arts festival. Woo hoo! Ever since we saw tham at WOMAD a couple of years back, we’ve both been big fans of the Dhols, and as there was only an hour to go, we managed to get in for a fiver each. Oh, and they were ace as ever.