Monday, 19 September 2011


This is an article I published for my wife - in a Sugarcraft Magazine....she's an author and a Sugarcraft Tutor. We travel quite extensively and i thought it would be a nice idea to provide a light hearted insight into some of our travels....

She also has a blog: Here and a Facebook page; HERE

I think you know how it is: The Talent receives the praise and acclamation, while The Crew works frantically in the background trying to ensure that things work as smoothly as possible.

Frances McNaughton – my wife – is the talent.

I’m the crew.

Of course there are benefits to being The Crew, not the least of which is the travelling to wonderful places and meeting so many marvellous people. And to be honest, there aren’t many drawbacks to this side of the job either – but there are times in our travels when we feel that we are actually, for real, living in a soap opera and the script writer – who has just suffered a mental breakdown in the middle of a mid-life crisis – has been carted off to the asylum leaving us at the beginning of a scene which has no end. Like Midsomer Murders – but without the murders – well most of the time anyway.

I wouldn’t necessarily want to be The Talent either. There are definitely times when situations conspire against you and The Talent, naturally, has to smile and continue as if nothing untoward were occurring.

The Crew, however, walks serenely out to the car, removes the hand brake, lies down and allows the vehicle to run over his own head.
Ah, The Car. This could also be loosely construed to be part of The Crew as it is long suffering, under serviced and constantly in need of attention, but more of that later.
Satellite Navigation, however, is most definitely NOT part of The Crew.

A relatively recent innovation, Satellite Navigation can be a wonderful work tool. I bought our first one in Harrogate in 2005, I believe, for the princely sum of £365 – now you can buy them for around a quarter of that price. It has managed to get us to most of the places we need to find, but the occasional electronic collapse has caused us a few concerns. Once we were driving into Weston-Super-Mare for the annual Exhibition at around 8am in the morning after a very early start. The Sat Nav was telling us we still 72 miles away – we were actually in the Town Centre!

But at least we were where we needed to be on that occasion, not like the journey through Holland when for some reason the Nav Man told us to leave the main motorway just so we could drive along a more minor route to sit in road works…it still tries to do that every time we go – no wonder I’m starting to lose my hair! And what is it about Satellite Navigation that makes it never want to operate late at night when we’re leaving a demonstration with a journey of an hour or more ahead of us. It won’t work! We have to find our way out of a strange town, in the dark and the Sat Nav won’t show us the way.

“Locating satellites” it says.

“Locating satellites?” I whisper, hoarsely, “They’re in the sky. Look up; Look up, for goodness sake.” Franc pretends she’s asleep.
Anyway, talking of Harrogate, I really must relate an appalling story of horror that occurred right in the middle of Betty’s Tea Room the day before the Harrogate Exhibition in 2007.

It had been an awful week, starting with the funeral of a 21 year old lad we knew. There was a horse drawn white hearse, red Ferrari and the whole works – a very sad occasion. We somehow managed to follow this with two long haul evening demonstrations and long work days. By the time we arrived in Harrogate on the Friday, we were pretty much exhausted so we decided to walk into the Town Centre to treat ourselves.

Betty’s is a lovely Tea Room – expensive – and very busy – but a special treat for us. The food had arrived, so had the tea and I was beginning to relax – always a mistake for a married man! I looked across at the love of my life, the trauma and travel of the week was showing in her eyes, and lovingly, I smiled took her hand in mine and said “How are you doing? You look very tired.”
At least, that’s what I said in my mind, what my treacherous mouth actually said was: “How are you doing? You look very old.”

The busy Tearoom silenced instantly. Everyone looked at me as if watching the condemned man in the tumbrel approaching the Gallows. Married men sadly shook their heads and the women glared at me. The waitress dropped her tray and all the flowers in the vases wilted. The ground, which must have been female, refused to open up and swallow me.
I yelped...“Tired, I mean tired!” but it was too late. Fortunately Franc was too weary to hit me, but I’m sure she really wanted to. Naturally, she has never forgotten it, nor has she ever missed an opportunity to tell anyone who wanted to listen. For months I was the main topic of conversation at her Demonstrations and occasionally laughter would ensue, but sometimes a shocked silence greeted me as Frankie’s tale drew to an end. Ladies would give me a steely glare and whisper to one another.

I’ve not been in Betty’s since.
The lesson has never been forgotten though. Last year we moved from a large town house to a tiny cottage in the country. In the middle of packing I picked up Frankie’s passport and said to her “I’ll put this somewhere safe.” A month later, in February, she was due to fly to Ayr for a workshop and demonstration, but needed her passport, as the airline still required it for flights into Prestwick even though it is classed as an internal flight. Yes, I know, lunacy isn’t it?

I couldn’t find Franc’s passport.

I looked everywhere, I turned everything upside down, I emptied boxes as yet unpacked, I checked pockets, and I even flicked through pages and pages of books. No passport.

Frankie said she would have to go to London and wait for a new one. I was very, very apologetic, but Franc being Franc was very nice and said “It’s ok, these things happen.” I was devastated. As it was February, the weather was dodgy, airlines were disrupted by snow and freezing fog so I told Franc that I would drive her up and back – which I did - all the way there and all the way back. I was knackered.

But as I said, the lesson was learned. When Franc finally found her passport – in her bedside cabinet where she’d put it – I said “It’s ok, these things happen.” Then I went outside and smiled smugly for an hour or two until my face hurt.
Over the years we have never really been let down by The Car. This statement is probably tempting fate, but cars have really been the least of our troubles. We had a year long episode with the CRV when the engine light came on and gradually over a few weeks the car lost power until it became undriveable. The garage couldn’t find out what was wrong, neither could the AA. Even Honda couldn’t discover the problem. So we moved on to a new car – which has been fine.
No punctures, no collisions major or minor, no scrapes or bumps.

The same can’t be said about The Crew. Well at least I’ve never had a puncture! The Crew has, however, been worse for wear and has had a bump or two.
It was Cork in 2003, I think, that Gerry and Marion from Patchwork Cutters led me astray. Well, that’s my story, anyway. Being of Irish heritage, returning to Eire is always a special occasion, although our “real” Irish friends all refer to me as the “Plastic” Paddy. But when Ireland are playing Rugby against England at Lansdown Park, then it’s even better. However the evening before the Exhibition, the four of us decided to go out for a few drinks and find some good Irish music. Both Gerry and I are musicians and like all musicians we just love a pint and a good band. But perhaps not 5 pints and not Murphy’s when The Crew is mostly used to Guinness!
So The Crew was in a terrible bad state the following morning and not an awful lot of use to The Talent. In fact The Crew had to have a lie down to get rid of a headache, but somehow he landed up back in the bar to watch Ireland trounce the English good and proper. (Well, hair of the dog, and all that.)

Just last week, The Crew smacked his head on the tailgate of the Car in Salisbury, hard enough to make his knees buckle, but the most damaging collision occurred in our old house when The Crew was unloading stock from The Car into the garage. I had opened the garage door and picked up a box of books from the boot. I turned back to the garage and walked smack into the up and over door with my forehead. It was a heck of a crack and I fell solidly on my backside, biting my lip as I hit the ground. My head was cut, my lip was bleeding and my coccyx was in agony. I was a mess – I hadn’t opened the garage door fully. I was an idiot and I was laughing so hard at my idiocy that Frankie gave me no sympathy at all. Oh well, no change there then.
But as I mentioned earlier, we have made wonderful friends all around the country and all over the world. We have friends in Israel, Holland, Belgium, USA, Ireland and of course Scotland.
But not Liverpool.

The Crew told so many jokes about Liverpudlians when warming up the crowd there with Karen and Barry Davies that he will never be allowed near the place again, probably. They are very nice people though and I’m sure they will forgive me, eventually.

There is another wonderful bonus for both The Crew and The Talent and that is home made cake! Frequently when we arrive at a demonstration or workshop we have been in The Car for several hours. The best thing that can happen when we walk in the door is to hear “Cup of Tea love?” The second best thing is to hear “And how about some home made cake?” Of course at Exhibitions this can lead to The Crew seeking out and monopolising the “Homemade Cake Stall” almost to the extent that the day’s profits are reinvested in Victoria Sponge or Swiss Rolls and bags of Cup Cakes. Or the Time at Weston when he spent pounds and pounds on the Tombola, trying to win the big prize which only went with the sale of the penultimate ticket to a young local girl. Still, a bar of soap, a pack of Christmas cards and a cardboard chess set are all very useful.

So to all the ladies who make sure we have a cup of tea the minute we arrive – a very big thank you. To all the ladies who then offer homemade cake – a huge kiss and a very big thank you.

We hope we will continue to see you all on our travels, but we’re certain that there will be many more stories to tell.
Mike Kelly – The Crew.