Friday, 22 July 2016

Crown thy good with brotherhood

4th July 2016 - American Independence Day in Saltaire

Crown thy good with brotherhood/From sea to shining sea

After the ball was over, it was 4th July – Independence Day for Americans (although apparently John Adams expected it to be remembered on July 2nd when they agreed the Declaration, rather than the 4th when the Founding Fathers signed it.) A perfect day, therefore, to celebrate by mooching around Saltaire, the Victorian model village built by Titus Salt for his factory workers at a time of great Optimism and Hope for the Future, surely what the Thirteen Colonies hoped when they broke away from Britain.
Path to Top Withins

Path to Top Withins

I never tire of walking visitors up to Top Withins above Haworth. There is something primal about the place, suffused with the memories of the Brontës, spread across the horizon in a patchwork of moorland and bog. It’s one of the first places I want to come when I’ve been away (ref: The precious jewel of thy home return.) On July 4th 2016 Sally and I accompanied Americans Kerry and Kiffen “up Top Withins” (“Happy Independence Day!”) whereas the last time I brought Kerry we were with her sparky daughter, Norah (ref: Out on the winding, windy moors.)

A crucial place to reflect

At crucial times of my life (including, according to Kerry’s blog memories, turning points for my future life) the moors around Haworth have been indispensable for blowing away the cobwebs, seeing problems more clearly, de-stressing, de-compressing, getting perspective, looking back, looking forward and taking stock (ref: Beginning to Look Back.) It’s a place that can arouse strong primitive emotions.

Emily Brontë’s poetry

This visit wasn’t laced with purple as some previous visits have been (ref: Summer Days) but as Emily Brontë’s poetry makes clear the changing landscapes and weather connect profoundly to the feelings inside:

(Untitled undated stanzas by Emily Brontë)

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side.

What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.

from A Little While (by Emily Brontë 4 December 1838)

A heaven so clear, an earth so calm,
So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air;
And, deepening still the dream-like charm,
Wild moor-sheep feeding everywhere.

That was the scene, I knew it well;
I knew the turfy pathway's sweep,
That, winding o'er each billowy swell,
Marked out the tracks of wandering sheep.

Could I have lingered but an hour,
It well had paid a week of toil;
But Truth has banished Fancy's power:
Restraint and heavy task recoil.

Even as I stood with raptured eye,
Absorbed in bliss so deep and dear,
My hour of rest had fleeted by,
And back came labour, bondage, care.
Time for afternoon tea in Haworth....

Thursday, 21 July 2016

After the party

Sally, Kerry, Kiffen, Emily, Harriet, Victoria Park

Anniversary Aftermath

Across time and oceans
After the party, after the dance
Your sleeps are laced with tranquil dreams
Your heart beats with sympathetic rhythms
Wandering, returning, seeking, striving
Listening, looking, smelling, feeling

The readiness is all
Let be

Mary, John, Michele, Kerry, Tony, Sally, Emily, Alex, Harriet, Janet, Michael, Kiffen
The Thousandth Man by Rudyard Kipling
One man in a thousand, Solomon says.
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth Man will stand your friend
With the whole round world against you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him,
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man he's worth 'em all
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot – and after!

Tony, Graeme, Nick, Sally, Marco, Russ, Amy, Jack, Mark, Juliet, Kiffen, Janet, Emily, Michele, Mary, Alex, Harriet, Basit

Extract from "Joy To The World" (by Hoyt Axton) as sung by Three Dog Night and featured in the film The Big Chill

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls, now
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me
Tony, Sally, Sue, Brian, Michael, John, Nick

Extract from "Love Train" (by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff) as sung by The O’Jays

People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train

The next stop that we make will be England
Tell all the folks in Russia, and China, too
Don't you know that it's time to get on board
And let this train keep on riding, riding on through
Well, well

People all over the world (you don't need no money)
Join hands (come on)
Start a love train, love train (don't need no ticket, come on)
People all over the world (Join in, ride this train)
Join in (Ride this train, y'all)
Start a love train (Come on, train), love train
Zaara's Restaurant in Saltaire

All of you brothers over in Africa
Tell all the folks in Egypt, and Israel, too
Please don't miss this train at the station
'Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you

People all over the world (Sisters and brothers)
Join hands (join, come on)
Start a love train (ride this train, y'all), love train (Come on)
People all over the world (Don't need no tickets)
Join hands (come on, ride)
Start a love train, love train

Seeding, planting, watering, weeding, tending, growing....

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Losing yourself and finding yourself

As the late MP Jo Cox said

“…. we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Victoria Hall, Saltaire, Saturday July 2nd 2016

  • If you were there, thank you for coming.
  • If you were invited and couldn’t come, get in touch soon to arrange a catch up.
  • If you weren’t invited and would've liked to've come, sorry for not being included in the final list (strict budget, ya know, now we’re retired), but please get in touch soon to arrange a catch up (if you like.)
  • If you weren’t invited and wouldn’t've wanted to come anyway, it’s perfectly understandable – we’re not party animals, really.
  • If you’ve no idea who we are, enjoy the pictures anyway. The text below is a transcription of the speeches that were made after the lovely meal by Yorkshire caterers, GFS (click here for GFS information.)
Victoria Hall, Saltaire

What Tony said….

The seeds of our 30th wedding anniversary party were sown in April and May 2015 when we attended the weddings of our nieces Laura to Aaron and Gemma to Ollie. It struck us that getting people together to celebrate was a great idea. Family, colleagues, friends....

When we married in 1986 Sally’s Mum and Dad told us how much we could spend on the wedding (£500) and, if there was any change from the costs of the wedding, we could spend it on furniture for our first house. We therefore had a small “do” back in 1986 – and today’s “do” is to make up for our stinginess back then….

Here today on 2nd July 2016 we have
  • family and friends from two continents in the room – Europe and America
  • friends from Manchester where we met
  • friends visiting from the Midlands and London
  • colleagues from education and the national health service
  • family from Harrogate
  • family and friends from Wakefield and Bradford where we were born.
There are people in the room who have recently experienced fire, illness and floods so we hope, later in the evening, you all follow natural human instincts and set aside troubles by dancing to the The Baby Blues all the way from London….
A big part of my childhood was reading a book in the corner and listening to my Mum nattering about this and that to Auntie Clare or to Auntie Mary; all telling tales about family members, present and past, neighbours and friends, who said what to who and why. Part of my childish mind enjoyed the gossip and part of it relished being a bookworm.
Shakespeare's Complete Works table: Laura, Aaron, Ollie, Gemma, Julie, Jannine, Russ, Marco
I have three older brothers and we four brothers each get more girly as we get younger. My eldest brother is macho and scary; my next two brothers are increasingly feminine and weepy; and I’m probably the girliest of all. My favoured reading was never Roy of the Rovers or Biggles.  I preferred X-Men, Spiderman and Thor or, when I was listening to the matriarchs gossiping, I was usually reading cousin Ann’s copy of Bunty at Auntie Claire’s house.
So when we looked for a theme for this anniversary party, Sally and I went out for dinner last year and tried to choose books that meant a great deal to us, either jointly or individually. Every table was named for a favourite book.
Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby table: Ann, Terry, Lisa, Daniel, Mary C, Albert

  • Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens’s story was the first theatre trip that we jointly thought was fantastic – the RSC touring to Manchester’s Palace Theatre
  • Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons is the story of a middle-aged couple on a road trip reflecting on the poignant everyday details of their lives
  • living in Bradford we each chose a Brontë novel: Sally chose Charlotte’s thunderingly feminist Jane Eyre and I picked Emily’s gothically stormy Wuthering Heights 
  • Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was an easy choice because of its exquisite romance and mischievous comedy
  • I picked TH White’s Once and Future King because it portrays all our hopes and ambitions even when times are tough and life’s journey is a struggle
  • Sally picked Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm, the compassionate but horribly honest medical memoir, which I confess I nearly stopped reading during Chapter 3 because of the graphic description of neurosurgery
  • Shakespeare’s Complete Works had to be one of our choices since so much of my life has been spent exploring its messy bottomless pit
  • And, finally, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird gives us hope that the world can be a better place
Henry Marsh's Do No Harm table: Nick D, Veronica, Angela, Derek, Judy, Steve

And, for those who don’t know, sitting on our table is a special friend from America, Kerry Madden-Lunsford who has (literally) touched Harper Lee. And has written a biography of that great lady. So in the not too distant future we hope to get a tour of the Monroeville courtroom which inspired the setting for To Kill A Mockingbird. Make friends with Kerry and get yourself invited!
Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre table: Jane, Kevin H, Alison, Kim, Ben, Sarah, Gail, Kevin B
Reading has given us great pleasure over the years and is a key part of our lives now and in the foreseeable future. I love the expression – “you can lose yourself in a good book.” I have come to think that you “find yourself” in a good book too. In the same way you can “lose yourself” in your family and friends and “find yourself” there too.
Thirty years ago I lost myself in Sally, but that’s where I’ve found myself too. Our best achievement has been producing our two daughters, but for now, I want to thank Sally for the details of what you are seeing and experiencing – 99% of everything that’s good about today has been arranged tirelessly by my Pearly partner, please raise a glass to Dr Sally!
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice table: Juliet, Mark, Jack, Amy, Tom, Caity, Adam

What Sally said….

When we got married 30 years ago next Tuesday (July 5th) my dad (Ray) made a short speech. Tony spoke. And then a good friend, Meera, looked me in the eye from her spot near the ‘top table’ and said “you next, Sally.” I replied “I’ve got nothing to say” but that was wrong, because those who know me well know that I always have something to say! I’ve regretted that moment in a small way since then, so here’s my chance to put it right.
Anne Tyler's Breathing Lessons table: Graeme, Nick S, Sue, Brian, Emma, Tim
I’ve never been much of a party animal, more of an outgoing introvert, but seeing everyone here today is so wonderful, I get why people have big parties. It’s so amazing to see all the people we love, all the people who’ve been important to us in our lives – family, colleagues and friends – all together in one place. Thank you all for coming. I hope you enjoy yourselves and please dance later.

This might be a bit of a downer, but will you all join me and raise a toast to absent friends and family? For me, I’ll be toasting my brilliant Mum and Dad, and Tony’s lovely Mum!
TH White's The Once and Future King table: Jo, Marion, Becky, Marc, Chris, Teresa, Mick, Jess

What Graeme said….

I think that if we were to do a quick poll of all the people who know Sally and Tony, asking what was the most important thing to them, we’d get a pretty unanimous response of “Family.” So for those of us here who don’t have now, or haven’t had at some point, the surnames Allard or Johnson, I like to think that today we can call ourselves honorary Allards or Johnsons.
Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights table: Emily, Alex, Harriet, Basit, Janet, Michael, Amy L, Matt B

When I think back to when I first met Tony, we were both being interviewed for what we believed to be the same job…. But that’s a whole other story! Anyway he was a fresh-faced young man of not much more than 30 (and I still had some hair!) – and he was just returning to full-time work having spent a year at home looking after baby Emily in order that Sally could establish herself in her career as a doctor, soon to be a popular GP.

Anyway I knew this was a friendship that was going to last, as we shared so many beliefs and ideals. So it wasn’t long before myself and Nick met all the family and we have, like so many of us here today, not just been passive observers over the years, but have felt like part of the Allard-Johnsons. We’ve watched Emily and Harriet grow up and become the wonderful, intelligent, socially adept, politically astute young women that are here now. And we have been involved in their lives in so many ways – personally and professionally – in the same way they have been involved in ours.

One of my measures of friendship is who I would call in an emergency…. I hope I never have to make that call, but your numbers have been at the top of my speed dial list for a very long time!
I think that you all exemplify something that the recently departed Muhammed Ali once said:
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t really learned anything.”
You lot redefine the distinction between family and friend and maybe this is because these words of Charlotte Bronte’s from The Professor are the maxim by which you conduct your relationships, both with family and friends:
“Let respect be the foundation, affection the first floor, love the superstructure.”
And it is because of that respect, affection and love that you have shown all of us here over the years that I’m going to finish with yet another nicked quotation, this time from Maya Angelou (after all, these women say it so much better than I ever could!):
“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”

So Sally, Tony, thank you so much for today for this act of kindness and, Sally, I do hope that it is proving to be the perfect day that you were longing for (and I’ll try not to spoil it by making too much of an ass of myself on the dance floor later!)
Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird table: Tony, Sally, Maggie, John, Michele, Mary S, Kiffen, Kerry

Cheers, to Sally and Tony, and to one and all!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

When most I wink

Actual anniversary

Today is my Pearl Anniversary of being married to Sally on July 5th 1986. Thirty years, four houses, two daughters, and two careers later, we are celebrating by going out for a meal tonight. Over the weekend family and friends surrounded us but tonight we’ll be going it alone. Will we have enough to talk about after thirty years? I expect so.

There are certain people….

Dud in the pit at Birmingham Hippodrome and afterwards in a Chinese restaurant
People come and go in your life. Some are “little while” friends and some take root in unexpected ways. I met one such friend in 1979, before I’d met Sally, whose 1998 wedding in Italy I was honoured to attend (along with Sally, Emily and Harriet.) Dudley Phillips, for it is he, loves family, loves music, loves castles, loves reading, loves absurd humour, loves talking, loves listening, loves being quiet, loves eating, loves drinking, loves life – all loves I happily share. Our most recent meeting was prompted by his performance in the Colin Towns’ Mask Orchestra playing Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn music for David Bintley’s Shakespeare Suite for Birmingham Royal Ballet. Dud plays bass guitar thrummingly, dynamically and intricately, always supporting, always driving, always surprising.


The first piece, choreographed by Jessica Lang, was based on five Shakespeare’s sonnets read tenderly by Alfie Jones, taking as the starting point Sonnet 43 “When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see….” The sonnet can be paraphrased something like the following, and it is as good an expression of friendship as I know:
When I’m asleep, then I see clearly
For during the day I look at things I don’t care about
When I sleep I dream of you.
Your image brightens the darkness of sleep
You brighten the dark
You even brighten the day
Things seem clearer when I think of you.
Day seems like night until I see you
During the night it seems like day when I dream about you.
Dudley Phillips on bass and Wink
A group of ten dancers twisted, turned and lifted through pairs, trios and groups expressing heartbreak, joy, loss, love and anger. A raw violin dominated the music by Jacob Ciupinski, aching with longing, longing with ache.

The Moor’s Pavane

José Limón’s riff on Othello was less abstract and set to stately music by Purcell. The four dancers representing Othello, Desdemona, Iago and Emilia presented a palpable sense of abusive love, smothering emotions and violent outbursts. The contrast between the regular pulse of the music and the discordant actions and reactions between the four performers was deeply disturbing.
The Moor's Pavane

The Shakespeare Suite

The final piece, the highlight, David Bintley’s The Shakespeare Suite, with Dudley’s bass playing, surprised and delighted with sassy variations on Shakespeare plays: a virtuoso Hamlet, a punky Taming of the Shrew, a quirky Richard III, a gothic Macbeth, a comically lusty Midsummer Night’s Dream, a troubling Othello and a lyrical Romeo and Juliet. Each pairing (Kate/Petruchio, Richard III/Lady Anne, Macbeth/Lady Macbeth, Titania/Bottom, Othello/Desdemona and Romeo/Juliet) was scored with a different mood and strangely captured the essence of the whole play without any words at all. Hamlet leapt alone but was surrounded by the other dancers in more abstract outfits symbolising different aspects of his personality (or so I thought….) The designs were startlingly bold (Costumes: Jasper Conran; Lighting: Peter Teigan and Steven Scott.) The Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn music was sexy, strutting, prowling and funny – switching and purring, changing and swinging as the pairings paraded. One of the best things I’ve seen (and heard) this year!

Loyal, Dependable, Non-judgemental, Honest, Open-hearted

A couple of lines that neatly capture my thoughts about Shakespeare (and Dudley….):
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end. (from Sonnet 30)

Saturday, 2 July 2016



Nothing lasts forever. Everything changes. But one thing that has never changed for me is that I have always loved wearing slippers. In the past. In the present. I imagine well into the future. I’ve got them on now. I sometimes take them to other people’s houses. I take them abroad. I love my slippers. I have a vivid memory of being pretty young and hoping that one day I would live somewhere I could call my own and wear slippers.

Broad St, Leek; Charles St, Bingley; Bromley Rd, Shipley

I have lived in Wakefield, Manchester, Sheffield, Stratford-upon-Avon, London, Helsinki and a few temporary places but the three addresses in the sub-heading are my previous “grown-up” homes. As I’ve said in an earlier blog “home is where the heart is” so I do have a sense that “home” is all over the world but my slippers currently reside in Victoria Park, Saltaire.
Victoria Hall, Saltaire


And there, in Saltaire’s Victoria Hall, later today, I’ll be celebrating 30 years of being married to Sally. A Pearl Anniversary, apparently. Anniversaries are random markers, making very little sense in absolute terms, but they are always good times to reflect on who you are and where you’ve come from and maybe where you’re going next. I started this blog in August 2014. I was wearing slippers. I’m wearing slippers now. Some things never change.

Except they do.

I’m older than I used to be. Wiser, maybe? And, most remarkably, two stone lighter, statistically, thanks to Slimming World’s hearty eating formula. I will blog about the anniversary party in the future, an occasion when I expect to gain some of my lost poundage, but for now, my feet are firmly planted in my slippers.