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.

Framing North Yorkshire

There’s an invitation  this week, in Amy‘s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, to consider Framing the Shot.

Walking in the Yorkshire Dales gives so many photo opportunities that I thought I’d stay right here, on my home patch, to give this a go.

Here’s a wintry shot from just outside my own village. Trees provide a traditional frame.

Over in Reeth, I  made use of some less-than-attractive wire fencing to frame the distant hillside.

Harlow Carr Gardens provided its own frame above a pond.

While at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, (in West Yorkshire, this one) Henry Moore  provided a frame through which to view the landscape.

But there’s no need to take framing so literally.  There are other ways of a picture inviting you in.

The Pennine Way, near Gargrave North Yorkshire.

Those fields of rape plot the path we may take over the hills.

While these two suggest the limitless landscape lying beyond the dry stone walls.

And these sheep, this cormorant, highlight the vastness beyond them, just as the tree below, utterly unframed, suggests the famous bleakness of the Top Withens moorland near Hawarth, home of the Brontë sisters

Let’s finish with typical Yorkshire weather.  A view taken in the Crimple Valley one very dismal day in May.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #60– Framing the Shot

 

 

 

Annie, my Grandmother, c.1925

I never knew my grandmother, as she and my mother were estranged, and even though she lived until I was 14, she was never part of my life.  All I knew was that on the early death of my grandfather, my grandmother forbade my mother, then eighteen, to take up the scholarship place at Oxford University that she had been offered just before her father died.  She was to stay at home and keep house. In the end, my mother lived at home and went to Leeds University: but she never forgave my grandmother denying her the opportunity – still unusual for a young woman of her background – that she’d worked towards throughout her time at Grammar School. I grew up with no warm feelings towards this woman whom I had never met.  In this piece, I’ve tried to look at my grandmother with fresh eyes and to see the world as it might have seemed to her.

Annie, the Vicar’s wife: c. 1925

Annie, probably taken in the early years of her marriage.

She sat there: no thoughts, no plans. Just a fog of tiredness behind her eyes, gritty with exhaustion. A thin skin congealed on her breakfast cup of tea. Beside her, a loaded and overflowing laundry basket.

The children had long since disappeared to school. There was the Vicarage to clean.  Always there was the house to clean. Mouse droppings in the kitchen, little rodents scurrying behind the skirting boards, day and night. Bats in the loft. Buckets in the bedrooms every time it rained.

Charles didn’t mind. Charles didn’t notice. He’d been brought up poor, but his brains had propelled him through school, won him a scholarship to Cambridge, while his sense of duty and his love of God had sent him to theological college, then to failing parishes, where he preached, visited, networked, did whatever God willed to fill the pews and make the church and parish life the centre of the community.

Where did Annie fit in with this? Fifteen years ago, Annie had been dazzled by the handsome young curate: his charm, his popularity, even his clear-eyed faith. What a privilege when they began to walk out together, and then to marry!

But Men of God earn very little. Men of God live in draughty, ill maintained and ill-equipped vicarages with large unwieldy gardens. Men of God rely on the women in their lives to run their parishes with them. What’s a parish without its Women’s Sewing Group, its Mothers’ Union, its Young People’s Fellowship?  What’s a parish without a Summer Fair, a regular diet of church socials and a harvest supper? And who, unpaid and completely taken for granted, manages the fellowships and all these events?

Well, here in Morley, it was Annie, wife and mother. Mother of Betty, brainy Betty, hothoused by her father, top of the class in her grammar school in Leeds, and thinking of nothing but wanting to be the first girl in school to get a place at Oxford. Mother of Arthur, fumbling bumbling clumsy Arthur: a bit of a dunce really.  What would he be fit for when he left school? Such a worry…

And besides Charles hadn’t been well, though hardly anybody realised, because he worked every single day.  He said his was a calling, not a job: no days off for him. Only Annie knew that he had been diagnosed with diabetes.  Only Annie was allowed to help him with his daily injection of the new wonder drug insulin. But he was supposed to be very careful, eating regularly to a strict diet. He did neither. Annie knew Charles could – probably would – die. And Annie knew what happened to vicars’ widows. When the vicar of St Agnes’ died last year, Mrs Atkins, poor Mrs Atkins and her four young children were put out of the Vicarage within the month.

Whatever would she do?  Whatever would she, Betty and Arthur do when Charles passed?

How Not to Run a Cycling Race

Shock!  Horror!  Unheard of!  Today we could be found (a) watching day time television and (b) it was a cycling programme.

Today’s daytime TV.

The Tour de France, to be exact.  Normally we only display an interest in this or any other cycling event if it passes our front door: as it did twice when we lived in France, and once, in 2014, when memorably, the Tour began in Yorkshire.

The Tour de France goes through Laroque, 2012

Today however, stage 15 of this year’s Tour took place in the area we called home, the Ariège.  We had to watch.  The struggles of the cyclists passed us by as we grew nostalgic, even damp-eyed as familiar roads, familiar landscapes appeared on screen.

But as I watched, I was reminded of an incident that took place in Laroque, back in 2012.

Every year, just before the Tour, another cycling race takes place in the Ariège: L’Ariégeoise.  It’s divided into three levels of difficulty: the Ariégeoise itself (160 km,3,500 m. of climbing), the Mountagnole (118 km, 2,500 m. of climbing) and for wimps, the Passejade, a mere 68 km, and 750 m. of climbing.

That year, the route passed our way.  That year, the routes of the two main races parted company in Laroque.  And that year, there were no signs to say so….  and nor were there special marshalls for the Mountagnards.

The unsuspecting riders arrive at the parting of the ways….

As the riders arrived at the crossroads in town , they didn’t know where to go.  Ariégeoises  followed MountagnardsMountagnards followed Ariégeoises.  It was hopeless.  Riders tried to turn round, collided with those behind them, swore, and swore again as they saw their hard-won perfect timings being swallowed up in the chaos.  With extraordinary presence of mind, I shot some video footage.

 

I heard later that following the event, the race organisers used my little clip for  training purposes, to demonstrate How Not To Organise a Cycling Event.  I’m guessing it’s part of every year’s Tour de France training too.  That’s why it always runs so smoothly.

You can read all about it here.

Yorkshire for Europe – part 2

We’re back from Brussels.  ‘We’ were a 60 strong group whose members, between us, had birthdates representing every single decade from the 1930s to the 2000s. And we had indeed come from Yorkshire just to say- ‘We’re for ever European’…

…. to ask ‘What shall we do with this rotten Brexit?’….

.. and to assert…..

We were cheered and moved to be tooted supportively by passing cars,  told by streetcleaners, policemen, ice-cream stallholders, bar staff, passport control staff, passers-by that people in mainland Europe want us to stay, welcomed our efforts.

Wednesday was the day when we marched round the European Parliament campus singing and waving our European, Yorkshire and Union flags.  It was the day when we toured the parliament building, having a question and answer session with Henry Wasung,  British multi-lingual member of staff, and in the absence of our own MEP Richard Corbett, who was in London, with Seb Dance, Labour MEP for London.  All of which assured us in our knowledge that only staying in Europe makes sense.

Singing on campus (ChiaraMacCall)

In the afternoon we were centre stage.  We were at the Schuman Roundabout, focal point of the buildings of many of the EU institutions.  So were members of Brussels Light Opera, Women for Europe, EU super girl and Young European of the Year 2018 Madeleina Kay.  And we sang (see above!).  Madeleina sang.  Various British MEPs came to support us and to speak.  Our own Shaffaq Mohammed and Magid Magid made speeches too.

Madeleina Kay with Magid Magid (Chiara MacCall)

Then it was four o’clock and time to go.  Time to load the flags, the posters, the banners into the coach and make our way back to the ship, and to England.

Packing up at the end (Chiara MacCall)

We feel energised, optimistic, ready to plan the next stage of our campaign.  Whatever we do, we’ll continue to make it fun and uplifting.  No sour faces here.