I was, however, much taken with one topical tableau called "Farewell to Hong Kong", which consisted of a bevy of local beauties wearing samfoos and satin slit-skirts accompanied by a pair of pukka chaps in Royal Navy uniforms pretending to be Messrs Patten and C Windsor. The complement was completed by a colourful, if anachronistic, figure dressed as Fu Manchu with a long pigtail and dangling moustache. He explained afterwards that he had intended going as a Scots piper, but the extortionate pounds 60 charged by the costume hire shop prompted a swift switch of nationality to the more modestly priced "Chinaman" (pounds 9). On this float, at least, Sino-British relations were harmonious in the extreme, undoubtedly assisted by the presence of an on-board bar.
After the parade, there was a display of line dancing in the village square. Unfortunately, the younger spectators misinterpreted the bales of straw intended to impart a touch of Texas to the Wolds. Within seconds, they had been ripped apart to provide ammunition for a straw fight.
We had scarcely recovered from these high jinks, when the Garden Produce Show was upon us. I thought the vegetables, tenderly primped and burnished to catch the judge's eye, looked great: football-sized cabbages hiding coyly within their exquisitely-veined outer leaves; immaculate pea-pods curled downward like glum mouths; burly onions with top-knots of wiry white roots like a clown's wig. But, in time-honoured fashion, the local horticulturalists shook their heads over the displays.
"It's been a difficult year for perfection," tutted one green-fingered sage. "The humidity has been a disaster for potato blight, and we've had no dressed onions entered at all. It's been poor for garden peas, quite why I don't know. Broad beans have been hopeless and the runner beans have been very late maturing." Asked if there were any bright spots, my informant rasped his chin for a moment. "It's not been too bad for marrows," he eventually conceded.
I was surprised to discover that a similar annual variation prevailed in the domestic section of the show, which is devoted to the Yorkshirewoman's renowned prowess at baking. "It's been a very good year for sausage rolls," said one keen-eyed critic, surveying a tempting flotilla of plump savouries, each filled with a generous slug of pork. "And the jam tarts are quite acceptable." Indeed, the brilliantly coloured confections glowed like traffic lights. But the score or so of Victoria Sponge Sandwiches (raspberry jam filling), always a fiercely contended category, were not up to par. "To me, this winner looks on the insipid side," sniffed my arbiter. She was equally scathing about the loaves. "I thought one of them was a cake." I think it was the region's proud culinary tradition rather than the prize money (First 50p; Second 30p; Third 20p) which prompted this razor-sharp assessment. On the other hand, we were in Yorkshire.
The other day on Radio 4's Natural History Programme, I learned that, as a result of global warming, alien species such as the octopus, the Spanish mackerel and the hammerhead shark are venturing into British waters. I can now extend this list with another exotic lifeform, namely the Weasel. This year, for the first time, I have found the North Sea to be warm enough for an extended swim. On a sublime day, I took the plunge at an isolated spot between Filey and Bridlington, where a cliff-edge field is transformed into a parking lot for the summer season. Though the farmer must know that his land will one day be engulfed by coastal erosion (thereby following Holbeck Hall Hotel, which disappeared into the drink at Scarborough a few years ago), his misfortune must be mitigated by the pounds l.50 per day he charges the 200 or so cars which occupy his meadow.
Before we made our way down to the beach, Mrs Weasel checked that I had a towel. The last time I took a dip in these waters, I had to borrow her Liberty print handkerchief when I emerged and it proved less than adequate either to dry myself or preserve my modesty. Having installed Mrs W on a limitless expanse of golden sand, I stomped off to the verdigris-coloured waves. They were ripples really, each growing a white pencil moustache before flopping exhausted on the beach.
Rarely a user-friendly ocean, the North Sea was as flat as a jelly, though it still delivered a chill nip to the region twixt knee and navel as I waded in. But soon after, it felt warm as the Med. Ladling the briny past my shoulder in a stately breaststroke, I was as happy as a clam. However, the shallow shelving of Filey Bay holds a few surprises for the unwary mariner. After chugging towards Holland for several minutes, I barely managed to avoid a collision with a bright pink dinosaur. The master of this inflatable, a pensive toddler, paddled off unconcerned, while I staggered to my feet. The water barely covered my knees.
After completing my maritime constitutional, Mrs W and I wandered along the beach. With a heat haze blurring the outline of distant seaside cottages, it could have been Malibu. At a seafood stall, we snapped up a quartet of excellent lobsters at pounds 2.50 a time. As they sizzled on the barbecue, a local friend expressed amazement at my aquatic exploit. "What?' he gasped. "You went swimming? In t'sea? Never known that before."
"Yep," I swaggered. "This could be Cap Ferrat in a couple of years." But the North Sea still has a trick or two up its sleeve. On the following day, we were submerged by a local meteorological speciality known as the "sea fret", an opalescent mist which goes strangely unmentioned in adverts for the Yorkshire riviera. While the rest of the country toasted in the sun, we dug out our woollies.
During my spell up north, I have become a devotee of "Sally-Anne's Diary" in Yorkshire Life magazine. In June, the "society columnist" waxed lustful about a new car showroom ("I have many passions in my life but as long as I can remember Range Rovers have been among my greatest loves"), sought advice from a wardrobe consultant ("I was particularly interested in how to disguise big bottoms and pear-shaped hips") and lauded a new shopping centre outside Leeds ("You could almost imagine yourself on the Kings Road, SWl [sic], not by the side of the M62"). But this month, her entire column was devoted to "the most important event of the year" - her wedding to Simon, "the man I love". A pro to her fingertips, she noted "the radiant smiles on every face, which became even more radiant as I promised to 'obey' in my wedding vows". Of course, she "bounced away from the church in the back of a Range Rover". All heartwarming stuff, but if I were Simon, I'd keep close tabs on the number of references to Range Rover dealers in future columns.Reuse content