Thank EU for Being Here: Part 2

We turned up early – though not half as early as some – to help get things ready and to join a short choir rehearsal.

This was January 31st, Britain’s last day in the EU, and the occasion for North Yorkshire for Europe’s ‘Thank EU for being here’ party: a celebration for EU citizens who’ve made their homes here.

Richard Sadler, our energetic ideas-and-Chair-man, organises the banner.

There were tables and chairs in place, enough for about 120 people.  There was Richard up a stepladder wrestling to get the home made (thank you Phil) banner up.  And there were the cameras and reporters.  BBC Look North were already busy interviewing and ITV News at Ten was due too.  But look!  Isn’t that Nick Robinson from the Today programme?  Yes.  He stayed and listened to the choir rehearse, and did a few short interviews, which were transmitted on Saturday’s programme at about 8.15.

Nick Robinson talks to Richard Sadler.

Then it was 7.30.  People started arriving – slowly at first, then in a busy queue.  A Polish nurse who’d been part of the team when Malcolm was in hospital came, with two Spanish friends.  As we sat down, we found ourselves with, apart from them, Italian and Ukranian guests.  I chatted to a French woman.  We heard German, Dutch.  We puzzled over quiz sheets.  Where ever in Europe had all these pictures been taken?  There was music from our very own The Raisers.

Getting to know each other.

Supper was only partly European.  There were pizzas.  But besides them were vats of Indian vegetarian curries, breads and sweetmeats.  Feeding us all took quite a while, but gave the chance for lots of talking and getting to know one another.

Form an orderly queue.

Speeches of course.  You’ve got to have speeches: but they were short, and though full of regret, positive and forward-looking.

And the choir sang.  No longer the Remain Voice Choir, we’ve become the Reunion Chorus. Some of our old favourites have been brought up to date (‘Brexit is a form of Madness’ – you may know it as ‘Bread of Heaven’); and others are new (‘Europeans all are we..’‘Bobby Shaftoe’).

Here are some of the band. As I was singing, I haven’t got any of the choir. I think Nick Robinson has.

The hands of the clock kept turning.  It was getting late. We stopped out chatter.  At exactly 11.00 o’clock, we stood up for a minute’s silence: reflective, saddened, angry.  And then the choir and everyone in the room joined in singing Ode to Joy.  After which, many of us turned to our neighbour for a comforting hug as we wept for what we had lost.

The evening was over.  But not our movement.  We’ve made new friendships in Yorkshire and beyond.  One day, we’re sure, Britain will be part of the EU once more.

 

The Big Red Bus for Remain…

Last Friday night was the first real winter’s night.  Temperature of minus four.  Saturday morning saw intrepid members of North Yorkshire for Europe climb into every bit of warm clothing they could round up, and head for Harrogate …..

The Big Red Bus parked up in Harrogate.

…. and the Big Red Bus for Remain.  For one week only – this week – if you live in Yorkshire you’ve a chance of seeing this re-badged Routemaster bus parked up in a town square near you.   Parking place secured, members of the Yorkshire Remain Choir, plus assorted brass instrument players (with a tuba, a euphonium, a saxophone to name but a few) and guitar-players clamber off the bus, secure a vantage post, and sing.

Getting all that brass back onto the bus in Richmond.

It’s the Christmas period now, so in addition to all our tried and tested favourites:

  • What shall we do with this Rotten Brexit? (What shall we do with a drunken sailor)
  • We’ve had quite enough of Brexit, it’s a con. (She’ll be coming round the mountain)
  • Glory, glory, what a helluva mess we’re in. (Battle hymn of the Republic)

and about thirty other numbers –

we have adapted seasonal fare:

  • Away in Westminster, where Johnson resides….
  • The Twelve days of Brexit.
  • Hark the Leavers shout and wail…

Goodness, we were cold as we sang in Harrogate.  We were freezing in Richmond, 37 miles north.  And by the time we reached Ripon at sunset, 26 miles south, we’d lost all sensation.  Only singing warmed us a little.  That and having raucous sing-songs on the bus between venues.

Twilight in Ripon.

We were generally well received.  Obviously we weren’t always appreciated.  But in Ripon, a dyed-in-the-wool Leaver approached us with a huge box of shortbread:  ‘I don’t agree with you at all.’ he said. ‘But that’s no reason why we shouldn’t be friends.’

A Leaver’s generous gift.

Hardly any photos of course.  1.  I was busy singing. 2.  Nobody in their right mind would want to take gloves off, just to take a photo.  Brrr.

At this late stage, most of us have difficulty in believing we’re making a difference.  But it takes our minds off the prospect of being led into an uncertain future by a serial liar with no moral compass, or interest in anything beyond his own ambition.

Read all about Saturday’s visit to Richmond in The Northern Echo, and about today’s visit to Leeds – sadly we weren’t there – in Leeds Live, and in Yorkshire Voice, where you can actually hear a few moments of song

 

 

Returning to my roots

My life has come full circle.  Many of my earliest memories come from Sandhutton, current population 260, where my mother was head teacher of a two-teacher school which educated all the village children between five and fifteen years old.  These days I visit the village weekly – it’s less than ten miles away.  The school no longer exists, but my Spanish teacher lives there.

There we are. Sandhutton School, c.1951, just before I started there.

When I was five, my life changed a bit.  We went to live in London (current population 8.13 million).

A trip down the Thames: nearly at Westminster now.

I was a student in Manchester (538,000).  Then I went on to live in Portsmouth, in Wakefield, in Sheffield, in Leeds: all cities numbering their citizens in the tens,or even hundreds of thousands.  I loved city life.  I relished the opportunities only a city could usually offer, and the diverse populations living in them.

One of my favourite places in Manchester: The John Rylands Library. Who wouldn’t feel a real scholar in these surroundings?

When we moved to Harrogate, some twenty years ago, I announced we were moving to a small town.  A mere 75,000 people lived there.

Harrogate: one of its many open spaces: the Valley Gardens.

But that was before we went to France.  Laroque d’Olmes has a population of some 2,000 people, and its county town, Foix, has only 10,000. We came to appreciate small town life: its neighbourliness and our sense of belonging – the space to appreciate the countryside and mountains beyond.

The street near the church in Laroque, with the Pyrenees in the distance.

When we came back to England, that small town of Harrogate suddenly seemed horribly large, traffic-infested and in every way untenable, despite its green spaces and lively community life.  So here we are in North Stainley, population 730.

In fact we’re not even in the village, but in a little enclave just outside, with that walled garden I showed you last week.  Population 8.  It’s perfect.

One of North Stainley’s three village ponds.

 

Lens Artists Photo Challenge #64: Countryside or small towns.

Peace in the Garden

We’ve had Team London here this week: an engagingly exhausting three year old and his baby sister make great company, but we’ve had a tendency to disappear to our beds not long after they do, and be snoring sweetly by 10.00 o’clock at the latest.  However, in among exploring York, farmyard life, a canal, and the Wild Woods at the bottom of the garden, we had a day at Harlow Carr, the RHS gardens in Harrogate.

It provided William with plenty of Things to Do Before he’s 11 3/4:  roll down a hill; go barefoot; watch a bird and have fun with sticks for instance.  He and Zoë were very happy.

But for us, despite their bright enthusiasm for all there was to see and do, it was a green oasis, a haven of peace.  We were content, strolling along the quiet paths, or beside a stream, sharing our space with bees, butterfies and birds.

Click on any image to view full size.

My entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: Peace

Baden-Baden. Not twinned with Harrogate …

… but it ought to be. Both are – or were – spa towns. Both attracted a better class of visitor keen to cure ailments by drinking and bathing in the health-giving waters.  In my opinion, Harrogate should have won hands down in attracting visitor numbers. Its sulphurous waters, reminiscent of bad eggs, are truly horrible, and must therefore do you good. The waters of Baden-Baden are without taste, though hot. No pain, no gain.

Baden-Baden welcomed visitors to this splendid railway station, now a concert hall. 

Harrogate station is nothing to write home about.

Harrogate has the Pump Rooms and the Turkish Baths. Baden-Baden’s two thermal baths are extensively elegant affairs. After taking the cure, Harrogate can offer the Promenade in the Valley Gardens, while visitors to the German city can enjoy their promenade at the Trinkhalle.

Finally, Harrogate is girdled by magnificent green belt of the Stray.  Baden-Baden’s visitors have instead the equally delightful Lichtentaler Aller.

We had a mere four hours in Baden-Baden today. It deserved longer. But it’s Strasbourg tomorrow, and the European Parliament. We can’t wait.

Bean and Bud

bbc-1We love Bean and Bud.  Without a visit to this coffee (and tea) shop, no visit to Harrogate is complete.  It’s a compact and friendly place, on a busy little street filled only with small independent and charity shops.

Bean and Bud sets the gold standard by which all cups of coffee should be judged. Choose between one of their two weekly featured beans – or something else if you prefer – and your coffee will never be churned out, just because they’re busy. Your cup will be perfectly prepared, with attention to every detail – a glass of iced water with your espresso, for instance.

They got our loyalty the first time we went.  For years, every coffee shop we’ve visited has lazily assumed that Malcolm, as the Real Man in the relationship, would need the espresso, whereas the Little Lady (me) would require a version with milk in.  Actually it’s the other way about, and Bean and Bud made it their business to find out – and then remember – our preferences.

I don’t care for tea much (yes, I am English) but friends who do admire the speciality loose leaf teas, weighed and brewed for just the right amount of time.  Perhaps I ought to give them a go.

 At lunch time, there are just a few types of sandwich on offer, but they’re on decent bread, well-filled with proper ingredients – local cheese, good serrano ham, fresh zingy salads, home-made chutneys.  But could you resist the home made cakes?  They’re not airy calorie-fests filled with cream and topped with thick layers of icing, but densely flavoured with gingered treacle, poppy seeds, bitter chocolate, citrus zest.

Come with a friend, and you’ll find a cosy corner to sit and chat while your coffee or tea is made.  If you’re alone, there’s a decent selection of newspapers to read.  This is a Daily Mail free zone.

daily-mail

There, I’ve gone and made myself nostalgic for another of their fine espressos.  Time to plan the next visit.

bba-1

In which Cie Carabosse sets Harrogate aflame

Thursday night was brilliant.  Brilliant in every way.  Apart from anything else, it was an evening of simple joy at being part of an evening’s festivities shared with equal pleasure among both friends and strangers.

The next day we woke up to a Brexit-dominated world, and simple joy has become rather hard to find.

We arrived at Harrogate’s Valley Gardens as dusk fell .  These gardens are among Harrogate’s treasures – 17 acres of lawns, of colourful flowers, of pinewoods, a small lake, of historic buildings such as the Sun Pavillion, all beautifully managed and greatly appreciated by locals and visitors alike.

Normally, by dusk, there’s only the odd dog-walker around.  Thursday was different – Friday and Saturday too.  We spotted  lines of flaming plantpots strung on simple metal frames.  There were smouldering lampshade-like creations. Then we found spherical braziers suspended from stands of mature trees..  There were eccentric bits of machinery, reminiscent of the work of Rowland Emmett, that played with the idea of juxtaposing showers and jets of water with flickering flames and occasional startling fireballs. There were quantities of men’s vests – yes, vests – re-purposed as lampshades suspended over the lake, which became, as darkness fell, an evermore magical and mysterious venue.

Cie Carabosse was in town.  They’re a French street theatre company whose specialist subject is fire in all its forms.  Its members are a playful band of people who aim to transform a space that may have long been familiar into … something else.  Dressed formally in black, rather in the manner of croque-morts (pall-bearers or undertakers),  they wandered round the park, illuminating braziers, attending to some of those hand-cranked machines.  We ambled round too.  Apart from a band of musicians playing atmospherically over in the back corner, there was no event, no ‘happening’.  Everyone enjoyed simply exploring at their own pace, visiting and revisiting this installation, that glade of fires, those vests down at the lakeside, savouring the atmosphere as dusk became black night, as fires grew, damped down, and blazed forth once more.

Cie Carabosse travel all over the world.  They’ll be in London in September as part of the commemoration of the Great Fire of London, 350 years ago.  They’ll be in Seoul, South Korea in October –  so maybe Emily could get to see them.  And they’ll be in the Ariège, in Foix, in December.  One way or another, I hope many of you will have the chance to have your evening set alight by Cie Carabosse before the year is out.