Saturday, 22 August 2015

Good company, good wine, good welcome

Adrian Smith of Drink Me Magazine with Harriet, Emily and Sally

Have we no wine here?*

August began with an unmissable invitation to a wine-tasting experience organised by the extraordinary Adrian Smith, journalist and oenophile** currently writing for Drink Me Magazine.  His articles are worth checking out if you want to dip into delicious prose and delve into the more devious tips and hints to delight your friends who like to drink wine. 
* paragraph title from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus
** Oenophile = a connoisseur of wines

Language is wine upon the lips*

Adrian greeted his guests with Lanson Père & Fils fizz, a refreshing, yeasty, lively guzzle which allowed us time to take in the ambience of his stylish office space, centrally placed above Leeds railway station. We were allowed a sneak peek of the rooftop garden with inspiring views across Leeds. Who would want to retire with such a pleasant place to work and such a genial job? Adrian is a lucky guy! His online writing provides glimpses into the variety of wining and dining he enjoys in return for his enthusiastic reviews 
* Virginia Woolf invented the title of this paragraph, though it’s a good description of the way Adrian communicates too!

Drink to the general joy of the whole table*

Groaning under a counter top was a selection of edibles (pictured above) including various cheeses and meats for all tastes, with crackers and nibbles to munchily crunch between wines. One new experience for me that will feature on treaty tables in the future is Chaource cheese, a creamy slightly crumblier alternative to Brie. I learned how different glasses release different aromas and there is such a thing as a universal wine-tasting glass. In a job long ago I was a drama teacher to Adrian but on this August afternoon, he was the expert and I was a (happy and increasingly sozzled) pupil.
* paragraph title from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Eat and drink as friends*

The company was convivial – and of course, as the afternoon progressed and more wines were sampled, the conviviality swelled. This was aided by a very clever competition which involved an aroma test – sampling (in pairs to keep the banter flowing) some sublime, some acrid and some weird smells. The aim was, simply, to identify the kinds of flavours that can go into wine – not so simple after all!
* paragraph title from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew

Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature*

* paragraph title from Shakespeare’s Othello
Iago’s description of wine – a good familiar creature – can only be applied, of course, to social drinkers who haven’t tipped over into the state of being an alcoholic. But throughout history and literature, wine (and beer) have been constant presences in British life. I’ll write about that next time. But for now, what did Adrian serve us?

  • Rod Easthope Sauvignon Blanc (Light, Citrussy, POPULAR WITH US!) 
  • Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (Gooseberry, Apricot, Flowery, POPULAR WITH US!)
  • Greywacke Chardonnay (Tuna, Tomato, Socks, NOT SO POPULAR….)
  • Manera Piemonte Rosato (With a kick, Sweet, Light, Peaches, POPULAR WITH US!)
  • Rod Easthope Pinot Noir (Smoky, Dark Cherry, Earthy, POPULAR WITH ME, LESS SO WITH OTHERS!) 
  • Rod Easthope Moteo Syrah (Peppery, Darkly fruity, POPULAR WITH ME, LESS SO WITH OTHERS!)
  • Viña Borgia (Spanish, Fruity, Raspberries, POPULAR WITH US!)
  • Graffignia Red Blend (Black plum, Vanilla, Ripe, Dry POPULAR WITH ME, LESS SO WITH OTHERS!)
  • Graffignia Malbec (Argentinian, Chocolatey, Black pepper, Smokey, POPULAR WITH ME, LESS SO WITH OTHERS!)
  • Marques de Casa Concha Merlot (Chile, Blackberry, Full Bodied, POPULAR WITH ME, LESS SO WITH OTHERS!)
What the experience taught me is to taste with confidence and trust my palate. It’s clear that perhaps I’m less discriminating than the rest of my family when drinking wine! Many thanks, BritWit Adrian, for hosting a delectable afternoon of drinking pleasure!

Friday, 14 August 2015

July 1966 Thornes Park & Eastmoor Estate

My Mum put the date on the back of these photographs. The first six were taken at Thornes Park in Wakefield on  Saturday 9th July 1966 so I was five years old; four months away from being six.
Chris (Skip) Wilby, Kenneth Beck, Mick Smith, me, brother Chris, Keith Gillings
 Out and about with big bro, Skip and the YMCA gang again.

99, please

Who remembers Mr Softee’s chimes?

Me, Terence Quinn, Patrick Roberts, Skip, Mick Smith, Chris, Kenneth Beck

I have to admire my stylish haircut and clothes. I wish I had that much hair now….

Slightly blurry image but I think my Mum was showing brother Chris her biceps.

That’s the way to wear a raincoat. Whatever caught my eye clearly also caught Chris’s eye, whilst everybody else looks in another direction….

It’s very admirable that we’re all munching apples – a healthy option that’s less likely to be the snack of choice for a gang of lads today.

The final three photographs were taken on Saturday 2nd July 1966 at 122 Linton Road (it later became 164 when new houses were built.)
I can’t remember why these three pictures were taken, but this shows the scene of my nativity. I was born in the corner of that very room behind Keith and Mum. I don’t know what Mum was about to do with the cricket bat she was holding.

The path. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours were spent playing on that path. In the sun, in the moonlight, in fog, in rain. Next door lived the Corcorans – Mum, Dad, Gary and Elaine. Memories, like the corner of my mind; misty water-coloured memories; of the Way We Were.
Keith Gillings and brother Chris, aged ten

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 77 muses on memory and how planting memories in written form (or in pictures in this blog, perhaps) revives the memories and helps them live again in the mind:

Look, what thy memory can not contain 
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find 
Those children nursed, deliver'd from thy brain, 
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

1966 Wakefield YMCA Trip to Scarborough

I think it's Michael Smith, Ian Sharpe, Charles Crosby and (in front) little me and brother Chris
Brother Chris, me and Ian Sharpe
I was 5 or 6 in these pictures; they were taken in 1966, I think. If I were to hazard a guess I would say October half term in 1966 because I think I got the monkey for a birthday. If anyone knows different or can add or complete any further names, let me know.
The "Acid Monkey" and me on the stairs at Scarborough YMCA 1966
I remember the monkey. Soon after these pictures were taken the monkey had to be returned to whatever shop it was bought from because the papers said it was too dangerous and it was recalled. Some toxic acid inside the toy, I seem to remember?
I think I'm sitting on Keith Gilling's knee, Skip is shooting me and Michael Smith is squinting.
I’ve blogged about childhood memories around Bonfire night here in this link. Another strong childhood memory is of the YMCA in Wakefield. And this particular trip to Scarborough with Chris “Skip” Wilby. My Mum was a helper on the trip and, although most of the boys were older, I was allowed to go along because my Mum was a supervisor.
Sitting in deck chairs was a big part of seaside breaks

Not sure 100% whose knee I'm on in the picture above but my Mum enjoyed the sun.
Lord alone knows what the Health and Safety or Adult/Child ratios were in those days!
Ian Sharpe, me on Skip's knee, Paul Hatton on floor, Mum and then ?
In the above picture Keith Gilling is doing something mischievous to Skip, but then he's covering my ears so I don't know what's being said...!
Skip relaxing, Malcolm Roper, Ian Sharpe, Paul Hatton and Michael Smith with back to camera
You can see from above how many people were crowding onto the sands. Was it hazy, or is that the effect of the old-style camera? My memories of childhood don’t contain rain at the seaside, although I suppose it must have rained sometimes….
On the sands, Graham on left, brother Chris on right
Graham Tracey on the left was my biggest buddy on this particular holiday, I remember. Being little I might not have been his and I expect I regularly got in the way of Big Boy Games. But I had a childish idea that Graham was my friend forever. Whatever happened to Graham? And why was brother Chris always wearing his jumper? Feeling the cold ‘cause he was so skinny, maybe?
Keith Gilling, Graham Tracey, Michael Smith burying me
So Keith, Graham and Michael buried me in the sand. And I was as happy as the day is long. But maybe they were just incapacitating me for a bit to get some peace and quiet?
Riding on a donkey.... me and Keith Gilling
Butter wouldn’t melt, would it? Great shorts, great pumps…. not quite Poldark! Keith Gilling clearly got the short straw leading the little kid along the sands on a donkey. I’ve got memories of Keith being round our house a lot during my childhood. Where is he now, I wonder?

How did Skip stay so cheerful? And had he kidnapped my monkey?
Ross Thorpe and Skip with my monkey
I would say I had two father figures when I was young, other than my own father. Skip was one of them. I was pleased to learn from my brother that Skip (Chris Wilby) is still on the Board of Management at Scarborough YMCA, having joined Wakefield YMCA at the age of 17, spent time at Guildford YMCA before returning to settle in Scarborough. The press story (easily googled) reported that he received a British Empire Medal from Lord James Crathorne at County Hall, Northallerton at the end of March 2013. He is pictured below with his daughter Sarah and wife Jenny. My memories of him is of a very calm and solid man, jokey and energetic, always willing to take part in whatever game the kids were playing.
Lord James Crathorne, daughter Sarah, Chris (Skip) Wilby with his BEM and wife Jenny
I mentioned two father figures other than my own. Now I’ve learned how to scan old photos, I can’t resist previewing a future blog by mentioning the other father figure in my life. My Mum’s brother-in-law, William Hemingway, who married my Auntie Clare.
Uncle Bill, Mum and Auntie Clare
I don’t know how I’m going to write about Uncle Bill yet, but it’s nearly a year since retiring and delving into old boxes (literal and metaphorical) is increasingly the order of the day.
William Henry Hemingway (Uncle Bill)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

One Born Every Minute

Memories are made of this

What do I remember from my own childhood birthdays? The above pics are of my brother’s birthday in about 1962 or 1963 when I was 2 or 3.  I can’t remember the occasion in the photographs but I remember the kinds of things that used to happen at parties when I was a kid. Pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey, musical statues, sleeping logs, balloons, potted meat sandwiches, crisps, pop, sausage rolls, a cake with candles, jelly and ice cream…. For the record, the people in the first pic are: brother Chris, Nelly Macarthy, Alan Kirby, Mum, brother Mick with me on his knee, Gilian Hughes, Linda Thackeray and Gary Corcoran. The second pic features brother Mick with his hand on my shoulder, cousin “Little Mary,” Mick Batty and sheriff brother Chris. Happy times!
Joseph, Michael, Christopher and baby me

Are birthdays over-rated?

Is a birthday celebration an over-rated and self-indulgent activity? Are birthdays “made up”, like Yorkshire Day, Secretary’s day and all the rest of the commercially-dubious days? Why make a fuss over the day when, by chance, you were squeezed out of (or surgically helped out from) your mother’s uterus? Shouldn’t every child’s birthday be, in fact, a tribute day to the painful labours of their mother? Or their fainting father? Is a day that focuses on celebrating one person a bit selfish?
Locked-In in Leeds

I love birthdays (for the record)

Birthdays, in my experience, are wonderful. Life’s too short to worry about whether or not a day is selfish or commercial. One day a year is not too extravagant to give all your love and best wishes to someone (or to get it back from loved ones when it is your own birthday.) As for paying tribute to mothers and fathers…. We should probably do that every day we can. What I wouldn’t give now to have an adult conversation with my Mum or my Dad. And ask things I never thought to ask when they were alive.
Memories around 19th June 2015

 “It is my birth-day….”

is a poignant quotation from one of the world's great plays. At a critical moment in the battles over one of the biggest empires in the world, an Egyptian queen suddenly remembers a personal detail:
It is my birth-day:
I had thought to have held it poor: but, since my lord
Is Antony again, I will be Cleopatra.
Even a great queen like Cleopatra can stop in her tracks and decide to “mock the midnight bell” with her beloved Antony on her birthday.
Memories around 24th July 2015

Modern Birthdays

Today there is enormous pressure on parents to give children incredibly elaborate birthdays. But I think I’m a bit (happily) old-fashioned in the kinds of birthday my family usually celebrates:

  • cards (and messages) from loved ones
  • a few presents that matter
  • a special meal picked by the Birthday person
  • a special trip picked by the Birthday Person. 
  • And, naturally, a cake with candles! 

On my next birthday I’ll be 55; one of my very weird regular flights of fantasy is to think about time in relative terms – 55 years before I was born it was 1905, pre-Titanic, pre-First World War, pre-talking movies, Edward VII had been on the throne almost 5 years, my Mum and Dad had yet to be born…. Sixteen years before I was born, Hitler was still alive and there was no end in sight for the Second World War…. Time flies!  We should celebrate every birthday we can.
Here's to the next year's round of birthdays....

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Yorkshire Day - Home from t'South

Father-daughter road trip

Just got back from a trip with Emily around five counties: Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. I will blog about why and where exactly we went in the future. In the meantime it is good to be back in time for Yorkshire Day. Good to breathe the northern air again.

Yorkshire Day

Yorkshire Day is of course entirely made up – like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Secretary’s Day – but it had noble origins in 1975 as a protest against local government reorganisation and the date was picked to remember:

Chance to promote stereotypes

A bit of research shows that tabloids often use Yorkshire Day as a chance to promote flat-cap-wearing, ferret-down-the-trousers, muddy-welly Farmer curmudgeon stereotypes of Yorkshire folk. Karl Young in The Metro cites Size, Tea, Pride, Olympians, Culture and Passion as reasons to celebrate coming from Yorkshire. It’s as good a list as any, as long as Culture embraces History as well as the Arts; and Passion and Pride includes the Moors and the Dales and the Rivers and the Crags.
Nicola Adams, Sir Ben Kingsley, Jessica Ennis-Hill, JB Priestley,
Amy Johnson, Alan Bennett, David Hockney, Judi Dench,
Scary Spice (Mel B), Sean Bean, Katherine Brunt and Danielle Hazell (cricketers), Henry Moore,
Dame Janet Baker, Geoffrey Boycott, Betty Boothroyd, Michael Parkinson,
Barbara Hepworth, Corrine Bailey Rae, James Martin, Bront
ë sisters
Long live Yorkshire Pride!