ARMED with three copies of the Whitby Gazette and a packet of Marlboro cigarettes the task was clear – track down Jeremy Clarkson and James May before they left our patch.
Two of the famous trio who make up the Top Gear team have been filming in around Whitby over the past week for a new DVD they are bringing out for Christmas.
Driving all sorts of flash and not so flash motors up near Danby and Goathland, enjoying fish and chips from Mister Chips in Church Street and Eskdale Fisheries in Sleights and watching the Liverpool v Man City match at Raithwaite Hall, they’d also had time to be the target for an opportunist thief while in Whitby ... but more of that later.
A game of Twitter cat and mouse began, but Jeremy was never going to give the game away easily, but our photographer Ceri Oakes was determined to succeed.
Three Tweets later from Jeremy and we were on the trail.
By process of elimination we guessed the crew had moved on to Gisborough Hall and subsequent Tweets and phone calls confirmed our suspicions.
We sped (sticking to speed limits, of course) along the coast road, picking up some Marlboro cigs from the Co-op in Staithes to help close the deal.
Will they be there? Won’t they be there? Will they talk to us? Will they politely tell us to go away?
As we pulled into the grandiose surroundings of Gisborough Hall there were a whole load of flash motors on show but nothing to suggest the location of our quarry.
Leaping out of the car, it was not long until we found what we were looking for, the lesser spotted Clarkson and May.
Unsurprisingly, they were surrounded by well-heeled guests from the hotel, politely posing for pictures as wedding-goers enjoyed the added bonus of meeting two of TV’s most well known faces.
As we approached from the starboard side in stealth mode Jeremy announces, very politely I should add, that photographs had finished after what had been a long day’s shoot.
However, I had the cheeky grinned Ceri by my side waving her Whitby Gazettes around and thrusting the Marlboros in Jeremy’s direction.
How could they refuse?
Well, quite simply, he couldn’t.
Jeremy said he still always has time for local newspapers – not so much the nationals and glossy magazines these days – as that is where he started his career as a cub reporter on the Rotherham Advertiser.
So we were both delighted when they said they were well impressed with last Friday’s Whitby Regatta special newspaper and were more than happy to pose for a snap having a look at it.
As they flicked through Friday’s paper “Town wants its harbour back” they leaned in conspirationally and informed us that the harbour was not in fact missing and they had seen it just that morning.
Following his Tweets to Ceri he’d said to his crew he knew we’d turn up – that’s what good local journos and photographers do – so we think he was being honest when he said he was delighted we’d caught up with them after his Tweet teasing.
For James, it was not the first time in Whitby.
He used to come sailing and fishing here years ago and was a regular at the angling shop in Pier Road.
Jeremy too would have been a regular here but confessed he could not afford to come to Whitby – instead having to make do with Scarborough.
So it was perhaps no surprise then that they chose Whitby as the location for their new DVD rather than heading to the U S of A, Australia or Portofino in Italy, or St Tropez which were the locations suggested by producers.
It took the crew by surprise when they picked the Yorkshire coast but they were insistent on heading to the Moors – Jeremy in particular a fan of the roads perfect for putting cars through their paces while in stunning scenery.
But their latest trip to Whitby wasn’t without controversy after they had their beloved Marlboro cigarettes stolen on Friday night.
James May told us how it happened.
He and Jeremy had been searching the area for somewhere to have fish and chips, finding only one place still open, Mr Chips on Church Street.
They pulled up outside and Jeremy went in to get the meals while James was in charge of watching the car as they’d pulled up on double yellows.
While the food was being ordered James began to get anxious as to whether Jeremy would remember to fetch any napkins, the turmoil got too much and he abandoned the car, engine still running, to fetch some himself.
When he got back to the car half a packet of Marlboros had been taken from the passenger seat. He said: “To be fair to them, they left our bags, and the car”
In a message to the policemen of Whitby Jeremy tweeted; “Policemen of Whitby. Someone broke into our car and stole our cigarettes.
“Clue: they’re the only people in town smoking Marlboros.”
So while the duo had been featured in the Northern Echo a few days earlier after former Scarborough News reporter Steven Hugill delivered them free fish and chips at Croft Racing Circuit, we were delighted to be told we’d trumped them with our gift of Whitby Gazettes and replacement Marlboros.
And so it was handshakes all round and apologies from myself for lack of notepad – I need not have worried as Jeremy said we could make up some quotes up for him anyway, providing they didn’t get him into trouble!
So with that in mind Mr Clarkson rounded off our encounter by saying: “We’ve loved our time in Whitby.
“The people have been really friendly and it is definitely miles better than Scarborough.
“The Whitby Gazette is also the best newspaper we have ever read.”
And on that bombshell, goodnight.