A Philip Larkin moment, followed by an hour with Sarah Waters

James & Sarah in the Minster

On Saturday evening I walked through the streets of Beverley towards the Minster where I was going to be interviewing Sarah Waters later about her new book ‘The Paying Guests’.

I was ridiculously early but it was a lovely sunny afternoon. Autumn was in the air, and I sat myself on the steps of the Minster, got out an elderly copy of Whitsun Weddings and started to read, my next day interview with Larkin biographer James Booth on my mind, and feeling the need to get a bit closer to Larkin the poet.

Leaning slightly backwards I could hear the faint playing of an organ, early autumn leaves gathered round my feet. It was a magical moment.

It was only later that I realised how cold the stone step was, and retrieving my copy of Sarah’s book from my bag I sat on it for another twenty minutes, until the feeling came back.

Now ‘The Paying Guests’ is my favourite book of this year, but it was also provided the best insulation….

An hour or so later Sarah Waters and I were sitting on a platform in the main aisle of the Minster, talking in front of an audience of two hundred or so of her fans. Sarah was on sparkling form, and we retraced her brilliant writing career, concentrating finally on her latest book. It was a lovely conversation, and the audience loved her.

Both Sarah and I agreed that the church setting of the Minster was the most beautiful venue for a literary event we had attended.