Dear Reader: The Amazing Melvyn Bragg and have I stopped being Scottish?

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

Weekly column by the Harrogate Advertiser’s Graham Chalmers

I had the great pleasure of chatting to Melvyn Bragg briefly at Harrogate History Festival on Sunday lunchtime.

A couple of minutes earlier this influential broadcaster, cultural commentator and author had been holding court in one of the biggest rooms in the Old Swan Hotel.

Invited by organisers Harrogate International Festivals, the place was packed to hear him talk about his latest work of historical fiction, Now Is The Time, set in 1381 at the time of the ‘Peasants Revolt’.

In person, Lord Bragg was even more charming than on TV, his soothing voice and boyish grin working its magic in the sometimes dry and dusty world of writing about the past.

A whirlwind of energy and ideas, when he ruffled his slightly wild hair I swear some of the audience around me even swooned.

The South Bank Show presenter didn’t come up for air for more than an hour, the talk only coming to a sudden end when a member of the staff whispered politely “we’re out of time.”

Melvyn Bragg is 76.

I like to think I’ve retained my Scottish roots even though I’ve now lived south of the border longer than I lived north of it.

In fact, when I come to think of it, I’ve actually spent more time in my adopted home of Harrogate than I ever did in my original home of Grangemouth.

It’s true I enjoy looking at the grassy expanse of The Stray more than the smoky chain of petro-chemical cooling towers which loomed so large in my youth.

Nevertheless, I still feel as Scottish as the Cairngorms, shortbread or The Krankies. But real life has a way of exposing such wishful thinking, as I realised the other Sunday when I found myself rushing into town in the direction of Waitrose on a last-minute emergency mission.

With seconds to spare I raced through the door, ran down the aisles and and found the item I lacked.

Harissa paste.