Setting out from Heidi’s – some of our travels in America
Alright, this one is ridiculous…
I was fascinated by a mid west wedding…
They just fell out of the pack that way, honest. So, in Britain we have sweets and chocolate, is that right? And in the US they have candy. Plus! They sell bags especially for Halloween, how about that! We call them bite size.
Bring back Marathons I say.
Now back to halloween, or should I say Hallowe’en?
The above was part of the display at Sons of Norway, Green Bay (mostly daughters).
Dwayne and I went in the Goodwill Store (Charity shop)..
They say everything is bigger in america, it is definitely true abput the charity goods stores…
Oh, and here are model ships in Scarborough, Yorkshire – in a much smaller store…
I thought this tree was beautiful…
The amazing Scandinavian festival in Minot, North Dakota where I met the rope making team…
I was quite taken with the town of Scales Mound. We were on our way with Nathan, Heidi’s cousin to her aunt’s funeral and suddenly realised we were where her auction house was. This is where Heidi and Arnold got married and as well as an auction house it is an opera house. Now don’t ask me why, but as much as I loved Scales Mound, it also reminded me of the Q continuum in New Generation Star Trek…
Ah, here is, the auction house itself – Dr Woodchucks…
We went to Johnny Pamcakes while in Rockford, but mainly because Mark wanted to look at the Harleys…
There were bus journeys through the wild…
Alien abduction during my time at Pepper GB, WI, USA…
OK, back in Scarborough we don’t get the huge amounts of snow, but we do get heavy rain….
Mum has been helping prepare for the wedding. the theme will be quaint and quirky British history. Heidi wants to wear jet, aint none o this jet I don’t think, but there is some beautiful stuff here….
Gods and Goddesses of the Greek Mythos Continued – Hermes the Babe
Here is another of my characterisations of Gods and Goddesses, this one written while I was in hospital having the cancer taken away (nil by mouth for 19 days).
In this case though although it is an interesting storyline the God (if he is a God) Hermes is at best an anti-hero with the historic crimes division after him probably. There are those who leapt from Olympus rather than him turn them to ever staring stone.
Hermes – Cairn-man – Pillar of Stone – Toddler
This man is not a god he is a pillar. An offspring of gods yet was born as an embodiment of an orgiastic pillar. Dance near him if you dare. Hermes is Priapus the totemistic virtue of a phallic pillar or cairn no less.
His mother was Maia and if there was such a thing as fatherhood back then we would be saying his father was Zeus. Maia met Zeus because she was the daughter of Apollo then afterwards being with child she had a score to settle with her father for mistreatments. Gods being gods they grow fast, and Hermes grew fast, very fast, especially in intellect. By seven months he had mastered the bow and invented many things, then Themis gave him nectar and ambrosia of the gods or should that be Nectar of the Gods and Ambrosia of the Gods; and he was ready to adventure. Ready for that vengeance from beyond the womb.
He was followed by a gathering band of nymphs they made a wicked wilful travelling party. He was befriended by Cyllene. They played and sang and laughed. Cyllene showed off her enchanting musical ability and Hermes claimed he could make something far more mystical than that. Cyllene bid him to show it was true, Hermes said he would need some cattle hide to make the strings. Then when Cyllene told him of Apollo’s herd he knew he could get his revenge and build his instrument, he knew so much more too. Well well before we discover how great he is, he knew.
Yes this merry band agreed that little Hermes and they could smuggle the herd, but Apollo would simply follow and they would be found.
Hermes bid them cut large patches of bark from the Fallen Oak and to cut long grass to bind into cord. From these he showed them how to fashion shoes for the cattle and away they were led along a trackless path.
The cattle were gone.
Apollo was livid.
Apollo he searched but there were no tracks.
Then, by chance in his raging stampede around the land he found the Satyrs, led by the rogue Silenus they were greedy for reward, great reward, for Apollo was angry, very great reward.
Eventually, in Arcadia, the Satyr gang heard something unusual, unique in fact; strange music like no melody ever heard before yet dulled and distant. It seemed to be coming from far away and yet from everywhere. It seemed to be coming from below the earth and yet, – no it was, it was down below, it was. Eager as they were they could not help but dance. Dance, as they hunched and sniffed and searched
Then suddenly they noticed a little way ahead by a gateway in a leafy copse the sultry, haughty, Cyllene idly taking the air. The music led them towards her.
It was louder behind her and there at the back of the glade was a cave; the music was coming from there. “What is that music of the nymphs we have never heard before?”
Cyllene swung gently round towards them, “No nymph plays that marvellous tune upon that unique instrument.”
“No one can play better than the nymphs, no one has a better instrument than they.” The satyrs gaggled together in panic behind him, staring in quizzical fear.
“Who is Hermes?”
“Hermes is a babe.”
The Satyrs stood mesmerised as Cyllene gracefully articulated the story of the babe who was born within this cave. He who had adventured across the lands at so young an age, who had acted with great skill and created a marvellous lyre like nothing ever heard before. Silenus enquired what this lyre was like and Cyllene told him how it was shaped like a tortoise because he had fashioned it out of a tortoise and cow hide twine. “So where did he get this twine?” “Are you calling him a thief!” Just as a fierce argument sprung up a few things happened at once. A great long-winged bird landed in the glade; this was the Sacred Crane sacred to Hermes and because of Hermes. Silenus glanced his eyes around the glade and there were two cow hides stretched between branches to dry. The grandfather of the babe of course had known that the crane was sacred, sacred to Hermes, and had followed it; Apollo suddenly appeared.
Silenus pointed at the hides, thus establishing himself a right to the reward, then to seal the deal he pointed at the cave.
Apollo strode in and down with a procession following. There lay Maia sleeping deeply a bundle in her arms. “Bring me that quickly grown man Hermes now,” shouted the mighty Apollo, “For he has stolen my cattle and shall be made to bring them back to me, at least all that live.”
Maia threw back the covers and revealed a babe still in its swaddling bands and wrapped in a large leather hide. “How could it be that a babe such as this has done this thing you say?”
“I recognise the hide!” boomed Apollo and he snatch up the child and fled the cave.
“Father of Heaven,” (and father of the babe unfortunately), cried Apollo as he bent to his knee in front of Zeus, “I accuse this babe”, (the bundle unrolled from his arms as did the other two hides from the glade), “of theft of all my herd.”
“Zeus looked down to Hermes, “I cannot believe that you did such a thing and I ask you to plead not guilty.”
“Well I did,” confessed Hermes standing proudly for all his small size, “and I am sorry. I shall return all that live and tell you of the flesh of the others”
Apollo stood looking dazed, enraged and confused.
I divided the flesh of each dead beast in to twelve pieces each as sacrifices to the twelve gods.”
“Twelve?” questioned Apollo, “Who it the twelfth?”
Bowing with a smirk the tiny Hermes said, “Why it is I”.
How Zeus laughed.
Hermes continued, “A twelfth of the flesh of each of the beasts I ate for I was ferocious hungry the rest I burned. Thus I have invented the first ever flesh- sacrifice. Now I shall give you recompense, follow me.”
He led Apollo in a flash back to the cave and he retrieved a bundle from beneath a sheepskin. “What have you there?” asked Apollo.
Hermes held up the tortoise-shell lyre in display and in the other hand held a plectrum, “This I also invented.”
The music was mesmerising, the singing was praise worthy; it was full of praise also. Praise of Apollo, his nobility, his dignity his grace, his intelligence and, of course, his generosity. It worked, Apollo forgave him and nevertheless little Hermes led him to Pylus, playing all the way, to the cave he had hidden the cattle. He released them to graze and offered the Lyre to Apollo, he took it and thankful he said as I keep this so you keep the cattle. Hermes held up his tiny tiny hand and Apollo solemnly shook.
From the distance they heard the mountain top laughter of Zeus as he watched all Hermes’ antics.
As the cattle grazed Hermes gathered long grasses and wove them into a pipe. He played and he declared, “This is the shepherd pipe that leads any sheep to you.”
“If you will let me have this pipe I will trade you my golden cattle-herding staff; it also has the power to send the spirits of the dead peacefully to heaven.”
“I accept, in part, for the reedpipe is worth far more than the golden staff and I will accept the deal if you also promise to teach me the power of augury.”
The distant laugh of the onlooking Zeus could be heard again from afar.
“I cannot but my three nurses the Thriae can. They will teach you on the isle of Parnassus to read the flowing pebbles in the swirling bowl.”
“This is indeed a very ingenious, eloquent and persuasive Godling.” Chortled Zeus.
Upon their return Zeus bellowed at tiny Hermes, “You must promise forever from now respect the rights of another’s property and never tell utter lies.”
“Then make me your herald great father, and I will never tell lies, although I shall not promise to always tell the whole of the truth in every detail. Furthermore I shall protect and preserve all divine property in your honour.”
(Apollo was chortling now.)
“You shall be my herald then, and you shall in that duty guide the dead to the underworld, oversee all matters of business, all treaties and all rights of way.
Even furthermore you shall teach us the twirling of sticks to make fire you shall assist the Three Fates (this he did and invented the knuckle bones, the alphabet, astronomy, boxing, the musical scale, gymnastics and weights and measures. He also learned the tree alphabet.)
Thus it was Zeus who chuckled quietly now for he had honoured and empowered him in such a way that he would forever be too busy.
So it was that the now growing Hermes was presented with the adornments of Herald and proudly stood in the round hat of rain protection, the fast flying golden sandals and the beribboned herald’s staff which commanded respect from all when Hermes was engaged in matters of administration, (of which there were many).
Visiting Viking Attractions: An Idea Swap – one of my most successful blogs, here revisited, which celebrates the uniqueness of such as Norske Høstfest ND, UWGB Viking Festival and of course, my other home, Njardarheimr Viking Town, Gudvangen, Norway – lots of ideas…
(Book mark it or save the URL now for you will want to come back and back.)
So, here I am back in Blighty. Bit of a rest-stop before it all starts again.
This isn’t a travelogue,
I have a feel for something a little more intellectual; an idea swap. There are ‘transferable models’ out there and we are the experiencees.
I have called this the ‘first draft’ because I just know you all have ideas to share.
When I say all, I mean Viking related peeps; if you are coming from other directions or none Viking ‘attractions’ OK well we would like to chat with you too you poor little things.
Think of this as a Birth-Product for we know there are ticket buyers out there and we want them in – and besides, gosh, we are engulphed by our own enthusiasm.
You hobbyists you.
Er, sorry, Vikings. x
While I was at Njardarheimr my good friend Christof took me to the
It was a wonderful experience.
Gaius Cornelius Tacitus wrote of the concept of farms as a commune, Karl the guide in Njardarheimr says so, and so does my friend Susan who lives on er, well a farm.
An expanded community almost in the same way as villages in Britain etc.
The farmhouse gets longer as we add people on. The square of the building becomes, er, squarer. The farm.
A Viking-age cultural development still relevant today.
Voss Folkemuseum came from such a community development.
We had a lovely time there. It wasn’t ‘populated’ like Gudvangen is, but on the other hand it felt good to be free to roam. We shared the experience and did so in our own time and in our own space.
Not all of the things we spotted and liked on the farm would have been used in the Viking age, yet share them I shall. You may know otherwise, or ideas may come from them.
One such thing which I loved was the work-stool; a stool yes, but with an extra bit to slot tools in, be it crafting or carving.
Another item of furniture I loved to see, but they were probably 18th or even 19th century, were the giant cradles or cribs which were for adults; sort of like box beds and wonderfully decorated.
They were free standing but reminded me of the fitted double-bed bunk (with the cute foot-hole ladders) you find in your typical ‘Viking Hus’.
Skipping over to the Njardarheimr town for a tick, I am reminded of the words of a visitor, (from Hungary). He was very moved by the sight of the bedroom in the chieftain’s hall as he recalled that he had slept in one just like it as a child. Except that he said it was higher because the potatoes were stored under it.
Back to the farm:
Containers:- In Viking areas we tend to have buckets and bowls aplenty but I was struck by the widespread selections of larger containers. Huge amounts of water would be required on a daily basis. There’s a lot of sauerkraut. Liquids would need storage. Drinks would be fermented.
Ale or wine, mead, all would need barrels, big bowls, large kettles, massive buckets, (massive).
In medieval times they fermented lighter ales as a way of purifying water.
All that water would need transportation too.
We enjoyed going upstairs, exploring different levels, down into the dark. Such activities may be less practical in Viking age constructions although, surely, they had barns and other farm buildings.
I will talk further on this in the Viking section as this idea of exploration can be developed for children’s activities.
The big one for us was saddles, they had almost too many! I believe they were circa 1750 and onwards but they reminded us of Norwegian saddles of an older period. Viking-age saddles and tack would be a great addition for Njardarheimr.
Another feature I noticed was the rounded edge planks which retain some of the shape of the tree trunk; walls made of such were very atmospheric.
They had chickens. We got chickens. Although I note ours are more free range. That I guess is to do with the fact our place is populated (and cockerels wake people up). More on the widespread songs of the cockerels when you get to the Njardarheimr section below.
We loved the photos; grainy old atmospheric images full of folks of such character. These often are sent in, copies offered, bequeathed. They are of the age of course, plus they didn’t have cameras in the Viking period that I know of. Vikingesque areas could have displays. All the attractions we are looking at have distinctive areas which are more modern; cafes, galleries, ‘meerkats’, lots of methods.
There could be scrolling big screens in cafes and dining areas.
People like to send in photos and footage.
They like to do art too. People, artists, kids. Send us that stuff.
Why not even an international arts display.
More scope on this below.
This is an area which not only would benefit from a touch of research to see what there is out there; it also could be a good cooperative venture with ‘sister’ places.
Talking of display areas; the farm had a separate children’s area, well, it was one of the actual buildings and it was set aside for activities (not actually moved aside of course).
One thing that struck me as being a great idea in there were the benches and tables. They were lower. How empowering. You go in, there are things on the tables, the kids sit down. No having to be lifted up or being supervised climbing on. They sit straight down. They weren’t so terribly low that it was too uncomfortable for the adults but were low enough for most children.
On the tables were a couple of sets of cut outs. One set was historic figures to dress up. I was reminded of the dollies I used to cut out for my sister from her Bunty comic. And the others were buildings to cut out, colour and glue.
Great for those underused Vikingesque areas.
The Jorvik Centre in York has a great selection of activity sheets; colouring in, quizzes, games, which also might be useful as a transferable model.
Some of the photos of the farm depict children in period costumes. So there must be dressing up opportunities and presumably re-enactment days too.
The management for the farm museum expressed interest in working more closely with Njardarheimr.
This could only be a good thing. Co-promoting comes to mind, perhaps forming sister sites. Certainly visits and sharing ideas and issues would be useful and could also be used as reason for media coverage.
Norsk Høstfest, in North Dakota was an amazing experience. It is a gigantic festival with 1100-plus stalls / display areas and many stages. The whole thing has a Scandinavian theme, and I am going to concentrate on the one area – The Viking Encampment of course.
There are three areas within one; to the right as you enter from along the covered walkway there is the stage, café and activities, to the left of this is the village, (again all indoors), this area has around a hundred stalls and tents all providing activities, sales or displays, there is an outside area too.
(Tim has kindly corrected me here, as my perception doesn’t reflect the accuracy of the way it is all organised – “The building we use is two different areas, the Viking Village and the other is the Tromsø Cultural Village, where the stage is, but we share the performers and presenters on that stage,” thanks Tim.)
I understand there were fight re-enactments outside but I didn’t see any of that myself, I did see tug of war.
There were two forges demonstrating bead making which was captivating to watch,
and a food area. I was fascinated by the different foods being made although I didn’t get to try any. The blacksmith display area showing different stages of the process of working with metal was intriguing and the blacksmith kindly let me share images with you all.
(Tim has kindly reminded me that the blacksmith with the ore display is Daniel Kretchmar (Danr) and the other Minnesotan blacksmith is Doug Swenson.)
People visiting were certainly interested, the crafters indoors were all kept busy demonstrating and interacting.
The friendly Norwegian Forest Cat was very popular.
I had a small area in this section for storytelling to small groups when I was not on the big stage and True Thomas had an area in the children’s activity space, (“He paints images directly into the mind.”).
The stage itself had a big screen and had a constant flow of acts and films. I was delighted to see the film on the Stamford Bridge tapestry which I had recommended. There were moving presentations on the Sami culture and concerts by Sami singer Stina.
There were samples of foods to try, I would have liked to have seen a more café-bar style with a menu widely available so visitors could drink, dine and watch shows.
I loved the alternative pallet seating.
Felt making was very popular, as were all the activities in the children’s space, (might it be better to say ‘family space’? I enjoyed being a kid again).
Troll Island was a highlight for me, and a very transferable concept. I love models and this was a model of an island, intended as a display base, but I enjoyed it in its own right. Perhaps if Gudvangen were to take up such an idea we could have a model of a fjord settlement.
I found all the trolls delightful and so did everyone. If this was to be utilised in our settlement in Norway there would need to be some adaption. IE eyes made of natural materials or beads. Imagine what could be done with beads. Another way to adapt this would be to have kids create buildings, fences, structures; clay, sticks, natural materials. Possibly populate this village with little clay people and animals.
Folklore and troll would be great to talk about at such an attraction and would influence the model making.
Imagine the films and photo shoots that could come of this.
That’s my kingpin idea that is.
It is worth noting that the Vikings got very well looked after, drinks constantly available and hot food turning up a couple of times a day; this was none Viking and in an area not open to the public. It was quite nice to sit and mix away from the hubbub; lots of networking going on.
I got biscuits and gravy with creamed potatoes and beans. There at times was such as pizzas, fried chicken, hotdogs, lots of salads.
They had set aside time to be available, to check on how we were all doing. Yes we were very well looked after, lifts to and from, including to go shopping.
The main reason they were free to support participants was because all the work was done. What I am saying here is that they were very well organised and had been working ahead for a long time. I got a distinct impression they were very good at learning from the past, “Ah yes that situation….”
This all gave time to laugh.
UW-Green Bay Viking House
I was excited to get to see the grindbyggning, (built and then later donated by Elspeth and Owen Christianson) and there it was in the grounds of a very large beautifully rambling university.
It is a phenomenon. It is a marvellous piece of work. It is more than this. It is a concept. It is a hope. It is a symbol. It is a way of being.
It is real atmospheric inside.
I am quite staggered by it. Yes it is wonderful, but it means so, so, much more than itself to everyone involved.
When I say involved, gosh, I don’t just mean the local Uni community, I don’t just mean the local community who want to make mead, I don’t just mean the myriad of groups and funders, I don’t just mean us crafters, I don’t mean historians, I don’t just mean the head of history, I don’t just mean the original gifters, nor the whole host of internet observers, I mean…
Oh, I don’t know what I mean, because the future hasn’t happened yet. I do know you will all be in it, and I do know there is a future, I know in the depth of my heart that it will be even more wonderful than it is now, even more magical, even more participatory, even more… (OK you get the idea). I do know I want to be there.
Want me to tell you an individual story of involvement to get you all wound up? There’s loads of those.
Mariah the Jarldriss in Waiting. She does so much. She does so much with her car. She does so much with her cauldron.
Do you know, I think I might want to suggest that everyone steps back at this point because she is bubbling.
Who knows what is coming next. I am not even sure that Mariah knows. It is all going to happen, and you are all going to be drawn in.
Historic joinery is not what it is about. Mariah is. No calm down Adrian, people are. All the people. The enthusiasm. The village in the mind.
It is happening.
Skaldic skills are growing fast too. As well as doing shows in the house, er, hus, we had a ‘Share’. A story circle. Adrian’s Alþingi.
We created our death poem for Bragi to recite when we head to Valhalla (or the Viking-age afterlife of your choice).
Then everyone told tales, all sorts of topics were covered and different periods in history. It was fascinating.
One of our friends, who came to everything we did and is now a regular participant, made notes throughout each telling. She had gone away armed with ideas. I am sure what is coming out of her at ongoing gatherings is totally different from the source (me) as all our minds work in inimitable ways, and she is a wonderful, unique individual. I was thrilled to hear Professor Sherman describe her recently as Erica the Viking House Skald.
There are people who should be thanked for this amazing experience, (See I still can’t quite bring myself to say it is a building, because it has grown beyond). Elspeth and Owen Christianson, two people who have a farm and they had a building and it came here, simple yes – wonderful too. There was a lot more to it than that. Their marvellous creative genius and generosity propelled a sense of Vikingness into thousands to come.
There is a wonderful guy to thank, he generously funded the process, making the establishment here possible.
There is a university to consider.
There is Professor H Sherman. She is what did it, made it what it is; it happened.
These are no sticks in mud. There is Heidi.
If you happen to walk by Green Bay in your travels of the world make sure you go by Heidi. Go explore the very concept of Viking heritage. There is a concept of Vikingness and it is called Heidi Sherman. No sorry I got a bit carried away and ended up that I have got it a little muddled.
There is a historic building. There is a complex of structures (three to date), there is a community. There is an invitation. (It is Heidi who makes it all happen.)
Wander by and discover.
Go meet the Jarldriss (Apparently students named her – Jarldriss Flaxblood Soul-breaker, but at least we can be thankful we are not students)
When I talk later about the way ‘Chieftainness’ has developed in Gudvangen; the way respect has played such a great part. When I talk of such, I will be talking of here.
Georg once received a letter through the post addressed to The Viking, Norway, he got it.
When I talk of such I am also talking of here – UW Green Bay.
For there is the same concept of love, respect and power developing for a pure and good soul here as there was twenty three years ago when my chieftain stepped onto the ground which got to became the Viking Valley of Norway.
A community of love and giving developed around my Chieftain. He became such a chieftain because of them.
And so will Heidi.
There is a Viking community growing, building by building, concept by concept, artefact by artefact, in the grasp of her delicate fingers.
I can see it.
Go now while it grows.
Go again once it has grown.
When we shape from wood we become.
Go see the amazing building and area now for there is far more to come.
For we are Vikings.
And that is not just wattle.
There were amazing responses to my activities and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, plus the company was smashing, I think perhaps the most valuable aspect was utilisation. My skills were studied, my background researched, my energy levels considered and then I was utilised. Often places have an idea of what they want and they get you in to do it. They will probably have seen my work and think, ‘We want that’.
Here though more diverse aspects of my persona were delicately cherry-picked. I ended up doing all sorts of things.
It was a brilliant experience to do the National Railroad Museum; and it was a sell-out – over capacity. I actually performed stories of my late father’s on what would have been his birthday. I was thrilled that my niece and her husband were able to come over from Rockford to be there as an enjoyable sort of remembrance.
Out there in the world of blogs and internetting Heidi saw that I was the son of a steam engine driver (who had written his memoires), and that I was also the son of York’s first ghost walker (my mum). So she teamed these aspects up to have me create a show. It was so fulfilling.
I mention blogs; they can perform an extra service. I wrote a twelve-blog series on how to be a storyteller (link below). This was there beforehand for anyone to see, it was there for preplanning and it is there as a development area for the future.
Footage of my performances is to be shared. The ones from the jobs for Heidi have had great responses and the films of my show on trains and ghosts is to become part of a web feature on the high-profile Railroad Museum site. There is also talk that this will lead to requests for shows at other railroad museums and attraction across America.
Think of the publicity such coverage brings in for the relevant attractions. Anything of this nature is worth considering for your attraction, word spreads and any diverse opportunities are, well, new opportunities which give the media the newness and fresh angles they thirst for.
We need to ask – What skills and experiences do our workforce or potential workforce have to offer?
I am reminded of the theatre group I work for – We Are Theatre, they too can see beyond what you are, bringing you opportunities to reach a greater potential. Something challenging and new to you that as you start doing it you realise it is a just right thing for you.
This is one of those transferable models I keep banging on about.
There were of course the classes. There were classes mixed together. There were suggestions of themes. There were adaptions. There were interactive activities. Half a group listened to a story and then the other half came back in and listened to me; they then had to tell each other the tales they had heard.
While each group was out they had to jot down aspects of the Volsung Saga which went in a hat and then I improvised a story around a character.
We had discussions and skills and techniques which could be utilised after I had gone.
We will adapt further in the future.
I also did a show in the library theatre, thus bringing in different parties and individuals. This allowed me to cover different themes.
Something we would like to expand for future visits is interaction with Native American parties. The comparative work between different cultures and different perceptions was enriching and enlightening. There is loads of space for a similar interaction between Vikings and Sami people.
Another thing which will come from this is a coach trip to Finlandia (I didn’t know that was a place, I thought it was a vodka you see in duty free.) The very first Finnish Viking festival in the US. I am thrilled to be joining a coach to go and perform there.
A lot of the people who visit Gudvangen are exploring roots, and connections, or links to past life experiences, and many other inspirations. Here so too. In Green Bay though there seems to be more of a feel of organised groups, societies. For example, the fascinating group the Sons of Norway, (more women than men I noticed).
Other attractions could foster this sort of visit. Events put on especially for certain societies. Research needed.
I am very grateful to good friend Rob Wildwood of jelldragon.com for introducing me to Tim of Norsk Høstfest in North Dakota and Heidi of UW-Green Bay Viking House it has all lead to so much, especially great relationships.
Njardarheimr Viking Town, Gudvangen, Norway
This is our Chieftain’s dream, alright so it has been massively supported from the outset years and years ago, and it is a marvellous cooperation of local businesses and investors. This place isn’t funded by Government, Unesco, the council, charities. This is the Chieftain’s dream made real by the spirit of those who bought into the idea with their hearts.
What is it. There has been a market (or festival if you like) for at least fifteen years, there have been events, there have been visitors. Now. It is a Viking town. In an amazingly short time a town has been built. A small few people have found the way to make this happen. It was a massive battle to get permission and atone opposition, but it has happened.
If you go visit (and politely ignore the hidden half-built entrance way part) you will think you are seeing a full town. No there is as much again to come.
It will double.
Winter and summer our chieftain has watched every step, (and the hotelier has watched every digger and crane – he won’t thank me for that).
Why is Georg Chieftain? Well, a long time ago he decided that if he was going to be making this thing happen then he had better declare himself Chieftain.
Why is he still Chieftain?
He is not Chieftain because he is strong.
He is not Chieftain because he is tough.
He is Chieftain because he is loved.
That love is strong.
He will tell you himself that it is all about love. He feels it strong yes.
There is another factor. Thousands of people love him.
So it works.
It is wholeheartedly, overwhelmingly, undeniable.
The aspects of Chieftainness which I have alluded to in earlier sections. Those of you who do so very marvellous at running festivals and attractions do not always realise, or admit to your selves, that it is love which is the lynch pin.
You care and people care about you.
This is lesson to be learned Numero Uno.
This brings us to; please have this sword syndrome. “I have made this sword, please will you have it” Georg’s home is filled with gifts and collections. An accumulation of respect and service.
Carpets, ceremonial bowls, gods and horses.
I mainly mention this because I foresee how this can develop elsewhere.
Let us see some of the items to help us see how that other hall across the pond might become adorned.
One thing I have found to have far reaching effects is our incense burner. Coming from Poland for a pre-visit to bring Georg the gift of this beautiful piece of brass work, the lovely couple brought him the very first one from the mould. Modelled on one found in a boat burial in Norway it will have been used by Asatru (or Pagan) Vikings and then later in Christian ceremonies, it had originally come from a middle east area so will have then been Islamic. So this ceremonial device has been used by three main belief systems.
When it was the big market I went around to each tent or stall and explained that my Chieftain had instructed me to utilise the pine, charcoal and myrrh fumes to bless each area. As I swung the burner upon its chains everyone was visably moved and emotionally effected by the experience.
We parade. Each morning we parade with drums, chants and horns around the tents and buildings to the stage for the opening speeches. Incense wafted along as the burner was carried by Christian, Asatru and Islamic people in turns.
I have even told this story via video link to an Islamic leader upon the request of his cousin.
People are finding their roots here in all sorts of ways, here at the home provided for us by Njord; the fjord is dedicated to him and this is thought of as his land. He oversees us from the seashore and every year his statue is blessed with mead and recited to.
This is the longest, the deepest, and in one place, the narrowest fjord and a tall runic stone is planned to dedicate these facts. We plan to proclaim.
Njardarheimr is populated. People actually live in the houses (and some other onsite accommodation btw). This is a living village.
I am telling you about all this to help each other get fresh ideas so all attractions can develop. I am not telling you all of this because I am any sort of expert, and certainly not as any type of official spokesperson. Indeed I ask now that you all react. Send me ideas, further info, news and developments. Let us all help each other.
When it is the market it fills up even more with several hundred Vikings in tents.
You can come.
There are those of us who are employed here. Working in reception or retail, delivering historic walks and in the case of Georg and myself, presenting the great hall and telling stories.
There are also people living here for periods of times for various reasons. These are the Freemen. Robin for example comes over from Californian for a week or two at a time, lives as a Viking, crafts as a Viking and generally chats to people.
Ravn runs Ravnstova (link below) as a more of a professional service; outfit commissions, textile sales – as well as demonstrating dying and candle making. Conner and Audhild create jewellery and other metal-works on site and have a stall to enable them to ‘thrive, survive and live Viking life live’. Jenne weaves and supplies food. Karin comes with her kids to live and share.
There is also the Viking group with many members Njardarlag, they come and live and work and entertain – and all as volunteers.
Get that concept into your head.
(Well, in a gender-neutral way)
As well as many wonderful activities and offerings Karin and her two also bring the cats. A wonderful addition to our extended family. (More on animals later.)
Another category of visitors of course is the tourists – the mainstay, the raison d’être.
They are what brings in the money. When I say the place is all about the people, it also includes the tourists – you get some amazing people. Folks can be massively affected by visiting us.
When a Mexican teenager sits back down and says, “You are the best thing about my whole summer in Norway,” you know you are doing something right.
“We are going back to Minnesota and going to have a long hard think about how we can make our lives as fulfilling as yours.”
Another wing is what we call VIPs – this mainly just means that they have arranged for a private dining. There are other aspects to it, they might want to come after 6 when there is just them. They might even want Einar of Wardruna, or stories from me, or Krouka playing. They might want a big party. Torill is willing to be open minded, enthusiastic and adaptable.
There is another type of visitor lined up. Residential parties. Part of the new building program (it might be all done for all I know) is what is being referred to as Warrior Halls. Two great big halls where groups can come and stay. These could be organisations, reenactors or school parties – as long as they will live like Vikings, (during opening hours at least). There can be whole programs of activities for them.
Oh I am so excited about them because there are whole groups out there which deserve our contact and there are whole groups out there who wish for us to go and reach out to them.
Community is a timeless prospect.
While I am on new structures, I hear there is also going to be a stone round-house with a central fire-pit, I think it is being referred to as ‘the men’s place’, referred to, in a historic way. Is it possible that only men will use it? – Oh yeah like totally.
There will be developments in the arena of ceremonies, in the field of drama and the terrain of performance. I’ve seen plans for a more permanent stage facing the open playing area (see pics of the amazing Einar and uplifting Krauka) and many concerts will happen there, as well as in the huge Heidrun hall. I plan to do interactive dramas from that stage, where the audience act out according to my story points.
(We also do stories in many languages and this is linked to below.)
There is going to be a temple.
That was a statement which deserved its own line if ever there was one.
Now I know I have already stated that I am not in charge of anything. I have no power or valid opinion, beyond the fact that I signed myself up for a blog, but I will speak now: There is going to be a temple and everyone will be tolerant of each other.
There is going to be a temple and everyone will be tolerant of each other.
It will be a place of celebration, so I understand. We often have weddings, blessings, naming days, funerals; moments of life. Well bless Gudvangen, it is going to continue happening.
It is going from a holy hill with a couple or three statues, and me announcing spiritual Galda; i.e. from the runic inspiration of Lars Magnar, to having a temple for him to call you into.
There will be drama, there will be inspiration, there will be re-enactment, there will be the deeply moved, the past life, the happy to act, the incense swinger, there will be wonders to behold.
The entrance way complex will be completed real soon; with a café/bar, shop, display area and reception.
There will be other new buildings.
One day, one day, we will have a harbour.
I did say this blog is all about opinion from a verbose storyteller who has no power but just you stop and listen to what I say now.
One day, one day, we will have a harbour.
The Skald he has spake.
Or was that spaken?
People travel from one market to one market to another; this itinerant lifestyle goes on in Scandinavia from spring to autumn (fall) with crafting-up going on in the winter, (I think it is addictive), I have a vision about this, (in my optimistic way); this will happen in America.
Gosh for a powerless upstart I do keep wanting to proclaim about how I have spoken and therefore it will be. I guess that is the theme of this blog if you boil it down to ego. No, if you boil it down to Utopianism.
I have spoken.
Here I go again, carrying on…
Some of the stuff that works so so well at Gudvangen…
This is a blog about a writer / storyteller / personality (me) – who is funny: it is not a photo blog, there is text and it isn’t to supplement the art or photos, there are photos etc, they are not there to accompany the text, it is almost like they are separated ingredients ready to fry – but here for a first, and for a very, very, important reason, I am referring to a photo:- Write your name in runes.
A quiet stroke of genius. Write your own name in runes.
‘Now look I want to take credit for this because I bought the charcoal sticks.’ ‘No I brought the plank of wood – and the string.’ ‘I got the huge gift from the tannery we used some of for people to write on (with my charcoal sticks actually BTW).’
‘Now look will you two stop bickering in the Chieftain’s hut, it is like hearing some old couple.’
Oh alright – I admit – Georg was right.
It was a stroke of genius quietly put together and agelessly displayed, subtly offered.
Not only can you take part on the spot.
Not only is it done in a none modern way.
You can take a photo and take it away with you.
Think of it as a travel activity.
People love it when I suggest that.
Yes, Georg, it is a really great idea.
You can play Hnefetaflr.
The Viking Game.
You can listen to me or Georg telling you how it is played.
Many just love to hear about it.
“I am duty bound to inform you that there are sets for sale in the shop as you leave,“ usually makes them laugh.
Some want to play.
Georg is very good at being the opponent to singles.
Some will sit down opposite each other and play and play and play.
It is a very good job that we allow people to stay overnight!
Just discussing and looking at the runes is a great thing, people are fascinated.
There is so much to say.
I am so glad we just have the time to talk – and to listen.
We also offer a game, or just talk about it, that I only know from the medieval attraction in York; Barley Hall (You must go there – link below) so my name for it is of the wrong age, but, Nine Men’s Morris.
Folks like that.
There is a piece of leather on a table. ‘I got the leather and the charcoal to mark it up.’ ‘They are my precious playing pieces.’ – ‘Alright you two shush now.’
OK it draws attention – it is tic tac toe – it is noughts and crosses. It isn’t, it is earlier. You get three pieces each. The chances are you won’t get a line in three placements. Then you start moving the pieces one space at a time. It is really cookie.
We have the Lewis chess set (I am just randomly talking at this point so don’t think I am any sort of expert or even anything), I understand this is thought of as post Viking-age, but isn’t Lewis in Scotland, didn’t they have Viking kings till 1250ish. Way later.
The Vikings knew chess OK.
And anyway, it is probably from India or China, or wherever it was Snorri says Odin and the rest of the Aesir arrived from (cough).
Anyhow – chess is very popular. You pop out, you come back, there are two people playing chess. You start stories. They never notice you.
They go on for absolute hours.
Tacitus the aforementioned diarist spoke of runes from when he visited Germanic tribes. The Father of the farm chopped a branch and marked it with his own signs for the gods, (so we are sounding kind of pre-rune here), then he divined. So I have a bag of my own signs for the gods and I draw you one out.
I also offer rune readings, (Elder Futhark), and where people are happy for me to, I add in the crystal ball – scrying was of the period. The Jorvik Viking Centre have employed me to do readings for children, that was very interesting.
The runes could be compared to Ancient Egyptian symbolism; each has a meaning as well as a sound; Water, Birch, Riding etc.
The Jorvik Centre I believe still use the Elder Futhark, as do I, whereas in Njardarheimr the smaller set, the Viking runes are favoured. So one needs to decide. Runes are planned to be used for signage, so I will discuss this in that section.
More of an ornament or artefact than an activity but I just love Georg’s scales; especially crafted for him, and people love to see the engraved weights, they are a real talking point.
My chieftain has the aim, (and passion), that he will make some improvement every day, (perhaps that might be the main lesson of this blog?), and he had the blacksmiths create him an inverted L-shaped hook-stand to bang into his log-shaped table. On sunny days when we choose to bring all the activities outside this really allows the scales to look at their best.
Peter the highly-gifted bone-carver across the path has described us as a Viking-age theme park.
There are weavings hung down the walls, I would love to see them adorned with a couple of embroideries each. Such as the wonderful silks ones made by Nine Worlds Clothing, the best I have ever seen, (link below).
No I cannot talk of how great our coin minting activity is without tipping a ginormous hat to the Jorvik Centre. You have paid to come in, so extra revenue is a bonus, and we want activities don’t we, so you don’t charge a fortune. Having a path to follow helps too as so often you see people roaming, no dashing, straight past things.
Georg’s coin-making equipment is very popular. He even offers silver ones.
I cannot refer to the Jorvik Centre without talking about the flood. So we shall take a brief interlude from discussing the activities at Njardarheimr and visit York. I must tell you of what I heard. Now I am no news hound or anything, but if what I was told is on the button there are staff at the centre who deserve a medal. The reason it took so long to rebuild and reopen is that it wasn’t just floodwater that came up into the place it was something far fouler. The lower section flooded and I was told that a group risked their lives by going back down the stairs into the slightly higher section where the genuine artefacts were. Engineers took off a fire door and actually gaffer-taped it across the open doorway to hold it all back! It could have burst at any moment! The atmosphere must have been quite toxic too. Staff then saved all of the precious items.
I think we should tell the queen.
(BTW If I haven’t got all the details here I would be glad to hear more.)
One or two ideas come to mind from my experiences there. One activity I’ve been employed for is queue busting; from me that is fun characterful chat, others demonstrate their kit, and archaeology students demonstrate finds.
I frequently enjoyed borrowing interesting jewellery from stalls and telling a story related to it. People would often go over and buy jewellery as a result.
All this ideas swap business suggests to me that there could be exhibitions of regional finds on loan from other establishments.
Representatives from Viking attractions I am sure would be welcome in Njardarheimr, not just as ‘Freemen’, also to demonstrate skills and share information.
Back to the chieftain’s Home in Njardarheimr, Gudvangen, Norway and how it came about. It is real with objects in a home not in cabinets, with people in the beds!
It has a kitchen. We are especially grateful to the volunteer joiners who created this area. When you train in your craft in Switzerland or Germany you pledge that once you are qualified you will travel away and work for food and lodging (I think for two years). These wonderful people created many great things including the kitchen and the Hnefetaflr table.
Oh and the skittle castle. That has gone down great. Georg carved wooden figures to stand on it and folks love it.
We plan a larger castle for next year, to go in, and I am hoping to be able to paint it.
Other games include Kubb, Knutlegg and tug of war. I am not going to mention the Loki run.
Oh yes and axe throwing, (not hatchet catching) and archery.
Then there is fighting. There is competitive fighting, (in twos), there are battle enactments and there are choreographed shows. There is also Glima the wrestling of course.
That leads to dressing up. There is an area with mail and helms and weapons where you can don them for a photo. There is also an area with play weapons; wooden swords, shields axes etc.
Georg made me a three-metre spear and I started doing shield wall re-enactments with kids. They would line up against an imaginary enemy with me behind holding the spear between them. That was great fun and made for great photos of us stabbing warriors and horses.
Dressing up could be massively expanded. I would like to see more wooden weapons, a couple of saddles to sit on and lots of clothes for people to borrow. Fun for all ages and lots of memories to be made.
I also wondered about having a photographer. Perhaps a photo wall offering pics as you are leaving (like the ones when you come off a roller coaster).
Having a blacksmith’s shop on site is a marvellous thing. A great team of smiths too. We can all work and develop together.
All the kitchen fittings were created here. Hooks, nails, hanging oil lamps and bowl candle holders are all transferable ideas. Nails, it’s all about nails.
There is a great display of wares hung in the blacksmiths; fish hooks, knives, dozens of objects – nails! I love nails.
The annual market brings in hundreds of Vikings and of course many more visitors. Huge arrays of skills and crafts and goods come to us.
A whole series of events are programmed, worthy of far more attention and publicity. Entertainments, demonstrations, dramas. We also have always had a series of courses available. These can be a way to make it more financially viable for visiting experts and add massive value to the visit; needle-binding, storytelling, fight skills, many skills are on offer.
Story circles come fondly to mind, something we could bring back in the stone roundhouse perhaps. These tend to draw in teenagers and young adults too.
A new development for me at the 2018 festival was improvised storytelling, or perhaps more like poetry. Great musicians and percussionist joined me while I pulled one of my signs of the gods out of a bag and then we made up a piece with music and word and song. Wonderful experience.
This year I noticed that lectures were added to the repertoire. Women’s lives, Women at war, Viking-age music, and the Viking year were on offer.
As promotion improves and these activities are planned well ahead the amount of people who come especially for a certain course, show or lecture will greatly increase.
The historic walks are a brilliant feature, they are actually referred to as guided walks but I appreciate the history side the most; you come away from these historic walks with a greater understanding of the concept of Vikings.
I do wonder if these will change in the future, as the place becomes busier, (it is going to get packed out), that there will be members of the village stationed here and there strategically around all the different features and sites with visitors going from one to another. That is just a thought I am throwing in the pot and would develop on from what is already offered.
Visitors are international so guided walks aim to be so too; currently there are tours in Norwegian, English, Spanish, French, German, Latvian and Russian available most days throughout the busy season and I believe this will increase. I guess the majority of people who visit are able to speak and understand English so it tends to be more common.
Should there be Meercats? – Meercat is the nickname for freestanding information boards. I like the idea and think people will appreciate them and not think of them being out of place and out of time because they are expected and useful. I know Georg prefers the idea of only signs in runes to be more in keeping with the timelessness of living Viking style in the nowadays.
That thinking has led to the ideas of a treasure hunt, spotting runic inscriptions, plus a printed guide which tells you which runes to find for which feature.
The place has become more popular due to people developing an understanding of the place and getting the idea of how long they could visit for. As tour operators start to offer longer schedules and as publicity gets out to the people who may plan to come more and more effectively, people are able to stay for longer.
It is a genuine experience coming to Njardarheimr. It changes people. One thing you hear sometimes is, “Is that a real fire?” Many people have never seen one before and now suddenly they are being invited to sit by one. They can make bread to eat. They can mix with Vikings.
People take photos. People can be encouraged to share their photos and footage with the online presence. This is an area which could be greatly increased.
More could be done with art work, exhibitions, there could be art competitions, poetry competitions. All with galleries displaying them, both on line and in the reception area. Folks could pop in and out of the café/bar and end up watching for hours.
Just some of the ideas which have been bandied about.
The walls of the Heidrun hall could be filled.
This could even be tied in with the problem of guided tours in bad weather. Do you know when you go out for a meal, in a Greek restaurant, or a Thai place, right, and they have like 3D artwork on the walls – this makes me think that there could be relief images of the areas of the town along a wall so talks can be done inside. IE of the god statues., and the weapons
Highlights of activities must be the pottery and weaving via Marcin and Monika. People love their time there learning and they love the things they get to take away with them.
I am just doing some math – hang on – I am, nearly there with a new idea – just before going to hit publish – hang on – I am thinking – 3D displays – experts on pottery and weaving – put them together – what have you got!
I understand there is someone in the Green Bay area who does wattle and daub and I was thinking that might be something to be developed ‘ower ere’. Living sculptures, archways, and fences from something like willow are also exciting.
We’ve talked of large containers for storage, preserving and brewing etc, I also was wondering about the idea of buried food; fish and venison. (Get your muslin and your spade and then discuss.)
We have all already made a start on gardening. A great start. Collecting or buying plants of the period and of the area. So the outside areas are ‘growing’, becoming more real.
A thing that needs looking into is that it has been established that composting was done in the Viking-age and we might want to look into this. Of course this is a modern age and people living in the village will be concerned about the environment so will want to compost for the earth’s sake.
I love the peat walls which flourish with wild growth and greenery as do the rooves.
Ravn and others have demonstrated candle making and Holger has utilised old wax with moss to make candle bowls; wonderfully atmospheric.
Talking of composting leads to the topic of poo. We got chickens we have. In the future there may be more poo available as the range of livestock grows.
It is lovely when chicks are hatched, but a shock when they turn out to be male. I understand that currently there are plans to set up a second hutch in a different area. Residents will definitely be woken early, wherever their hut.
As I’ve said these chickens are free to roam and can be seen all over the town. This I hear, there is also a possibility of a different animal, I heard talk of there being a small friendly breed of Norwegian pig and two or three could roam around.
Cows would always be a no no because basically there would be far too much poo.
Cats we also have and as I mentioned above there is a breed of Norwegian Forest cat which might settle to roaming the town.
I wonder if sheep or goats might be a possibility in the future, or even deer.
We almost got rabbits, but at the last minute someone said that the Vikings only had hares. Personally I think no one would mind if we had rabbits, but would also like to know if hares might be a possibility, IE would they settle to wandering here?
(NB rabbits dont ever dig upwards, they dig down and along, so would proberbly stay.)
We do have horses visiting at times and this is something that would be popular as a more frequent occurrence.
Someone suggested pet polecats or ferrets in a hutch with a run, but that would have to be quite secure.
These are all things that need to develop along with the gradual increase in visitors to be sure of adequate staffing levels.
Any other suggestions?
You may recall how I had enjoyed clambering up and about at the farm museum, it gave me the idea for a feature for kids. Children like up, under, in and over. A Viking style equivalent of a climbing frame or adventure park. A forest. Buildings. A fort.
Talking of dark places, I have always really liked the idea of a sweat lodge. The building of it and the idea. A hole with seated sides and a pit in the bottom. A bender cover of leather over saplings. A nearby fire pit where stones are heated which then can be rolled in using big sticks. Very exciting.
There is much scope for a program of online activities and all events would benefit by lots of advance planning; this would also help fill time on the rolling displays in the entrance or café/bar. Attractions could run features on each other. IE wouldn’t a film on Njardarheimr go down brilliantly at Norsk Høstfest (or film and talk).
An online feature on how to be a Viking would be brilliant.
Examples of stories also, so Vikings can learn, skills too. People pre-armed and able to contribute.
Many thanks to all who have supplied photos, especially my chieftain Georg who very kindly took images of many of the items I wished to talk about.
Gudvangen has a great set on how to fit in as a Viking. (“Everyone is welcome here except those who don’t make others welcome” Georg Hansen.) Policies have been developed on etiquette and authenticity of atmosphere so I am hoping to feature info on these in the future.
Thank you for reading all this way. I hope some of this is an inspiration for you and do enjoy the links below.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 01 – Right Reverend
Well I think my first encounter set the scene for the rest of project. Ales n Tales around the pubs would bring me York residents who had very wide ranging and interesting experiences to relate. My very first conversation was with an intriguing young woman; widely travelled and adventurous and apparently a minister too.
She had returned to York to focus on her art work which very much drew on her international travels and the timeless symbols of the cultures she had gathered from. I thought I was adventurous going around the pubs asking people to help me out with a tale; here was someone who had dropped everything, popped on a back pack and headed off into the depth of a jungle.
She had heard of this tribal community in the Peruvian Rainforest, and as she had always had an interest in the mythology and historical culture of the forests there, she had enquired about visiting.
Here was a village within the rainforests where local people lived and shared, and visitors were welcomed to join and belong for a while. The cost of staying there as a guest was a little more than she would like to spend so she had contacted them and asked if there were other ways she could become involved. There was a good response to this and her way forward turned out to be, to save up for a flight to South America, then arrange herself a long bus journey to a town at the edge of the forested area, and then another bus deep into the wilder areas.
Once in the village itself, as well as spending time with all the visitors from around the world, she worked in the kitchens with the local people. She tells me she had a wonderful fun time mixing with people who had no English and who spoke a language she had never heard of before.
I heard a great deal about the whole experience and it seemed fascinating. I was also impressed however with her next plan. She had decided that while she was in the Americas that she ought to visit the United States too. Indeed she was invited to the Salt Lake City area to spend time in an artistic community there. It was there that she became registered with a ministerial order and that she was now registered to perform ceremonies. This was a possibility for the future, but her main focus was her art work and illustrations contracts.
I moved on across the pub intrigued to see who I would meet next.
Footnote: There was only one problem with all this travelling; none of the places she had visited had decent cider! No matter where you go it is always good to get to York.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 02 – Peeked
Two guys who are regulars here, had been expecting me along, and were very animated when I arrived, they had been reminiscing at full whack for a couple of hours, a couple of thirsty hours; so I went up to them as soon as I had settled in, but they said that they had peeked too early and were ready to go. They did however, before they nipped home for a nap, have a chat about steam days and the things that went on a shovel.
So here for you now is the tale of The Duke and Young Ronnie. We are going back to the days when a driver had his own engine, he perhaps didn’t own it exactly but he was definitely the only driver, to the point that there was a brass plaque in the cab with his name on it. Young Ronnie the fireman knew that for certain, because he had to polish it every shift.
The Duke’s cab was all well polished, and he made sure the engine was well fired and full of steam. Well he made sure Young Ronnie kept it all so. Once all was done though, there was always the time for something to eat. And with all that coal ablaze you had the perfect cooker. The cooking pot wasn’t too appetising however; the shovel! They would clean it off and then pop it in there for a little while to sterilise, well almost sterile?! Eggs in lard = five seconds, Onion roasted = two minutes Bacon = three minutes to crispy etc
That shovel had a long handle, and the engine driver had a strange sense of humour. Both came in useful when they were stuck outside York waiting for a signal. It was a goods train, so there was only the two of them, and it was a long wait, so they started to have a good look around. There in a field several trucks back down the line from them was a farmer wandering about. He was of more intent than they had realised though, as he walked right up to the hedge, had a look around, all he saw were empty fields and a long row of goods waggons behind him. Unaware that he was being watched from the far off engine cab, he had clearly felt a call of nature, for he unbuttoned his britches and squatted down behind the hedge. He hadn’t taken the quirky sense of humour of The Duke into account; The Duke and his long handled shovel. He crept down from the cab, and ever so quietly snuck along the side of the waggons till he was right at the opposite side of the hedge to the farmer. Yes, you guessed it, and I am sorry to relate such an unsavoury idea of what is funny from way back in the past, he quietly slid the shovel through the hedge and under the farmer. After a while he withdrew the shovel and snuck back along the line side, back up into the cab and Young Ronnie had the fire-door open ready, in went the shovel.
Now I don’t know if it is true but I am informed that when you have a call of nature when you are, er, out there in nature there is a tendency to turn and have a look back at what you have left behind. This may well be true, it definitely was in this case, and ‘naturally’ there was nothing there to see. The engine driver and his fireman were peeping out of the cab looking back and laughing with glee, as the farmer searched the area, round and round, ‘Maybe it was further over there?’, he scratched his head in mystification, no he was sure it was here. At that the signals changed at last and they were able to pull away, as they did they could not resist a last look back. The farmer was in the process of unbuttoning those trews of his and was going to have a look in there. He probably never worked out what had happened and forever wondered.
It is hoped that before setting out again on their next shift they requisitioned a new shovel.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 03 – Long Tall Teller
Long Tall Teller
As I was here doing Ales n Tales I felt I ought to have some ale, it seemed only right and proper, but I didn’t want to be drinking large quantities of strong ale, especially as I was doing two sessions in the first day. So I opted for a taster tray. It turned out to be of some interest all around this friendly hostelry. The landlord brought out the wooden platter and set three glasses in the holes. For around the price of a pint you get three dinky quaint glasses; a third of a pint each. I thought random was the way forward so said I would have the first three from the left.
When I was asked to stand and tell a couple of tales to kick start the session I stood there with my miniature pint and strangely felt very tall. A guy I talked to later wondered if I felt stronger.
‘So you are doing ales n tales then are you?’ I was asked, as I came over to the bar with my titchy glass. ‘Are you on expenses?’ ‘Do you get to claim for all the beer you can drink?’ I was devastated to realise I hadn’t thought of that?! Clearly I should have talked to these guys a month back when we were planning this!
Later I was asked if I had been bought a lot of beer so I thought the best answer would be, not yet!
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 04 – A Step Down.
A Step Down.
There’s a few who say they use the city walls it turns out. Some just like to have a wander occasionally for the pleasure of it. Others use the city walls as a short cut and a break away from the roads. One regular here tells me he often cuts along the walls from opposite the art gallery, but if it is a warm day he then finds himself looking down into the beer garden for the Lamb and Lion and wishing there were stairs down to it.
An older guy who had a busy life, and always had, tells me how he was approached a few years back now by a group of workmates who were all about to retire. They were all worried about leaving work as they were not sure what they could do with their time. So his suggestion was that they went around the city walls. His plan for them was that as they wandered along they look out for pubs that came into view. Then as soon as they came to a set of stairs they should go down and go to that pub. He said they would be seeing new places, but they would also be meeting new people. Go in there and chat to people was his advice. Then the next time you go out start from the same spot and go along looking out for another pub to visit.
The guys took up his suggestion and a few months later at a works night out for retired workers they all gathered around him to report back. It turns out that as well as enjoying themselves going out together and the general enjoyment of meeting new people in pubs, there had been allsorts of opportunities that had come their way. One chap had got talking to someone who played bowls and had ended up joining the team. Another had seen a notice about a history group who met in an upstairs room and decided to join. A third had met someone and fallen in love. They all had found activities, hobbies and interests through simply chatting to people in York pubs.
The feller who had given them the advice in the first place was bought a few pints that night. And his finishing words to me were, if you want some interest in life, go out there and chat to people over a pint, you will be surprised by how interesting people are.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 05 – You Are Lovely People
You Are Lovely People
Everyone told me where to go; the landlord of the Ackhorne among them, lots of locals too: If you want to meet a character go see Mussy. He will have plenty to tell you, lovely chap. I didn’t have far the go, there he was at the corner of the bar. And they were right, he was a great guy. Folks tell me that he is likely to say things like, ‘Hello’, as people walk in the door, ‘you look like lovely people’. He greeted me warmly too. I was expected and welcomed. Mussy had brought allsorts of paraphernalia with him from his many happy times at the Ackhorne and was full of tales from here and from other real ale pubs around the city. He and his pals kept me company for quite a while and I got to see photos of all the characters who have visited this place over the years and become friends of the lively Mussy.
‘You stand at the end of the bar and the whole world comes in through this door.’ They all want to spend time with our friendly local too. Whether they are lasses from Norway inviting Mussy to visit, pals from Dundee with pics of cow pie, a crowd from Broughty Ferry, or a couple from Taiwan, they all keep in touch. Mussy has a collection of postcards from around the globe from people thanking him. Thanking him for, their very first cigar, a trip around the local pubs, an introduction to a quality real ale, and an offered friendship. Many return too.
Footnote: There were a whole host of beautiful stamps upon the collection of postcards and there among them I was surprised to see an actual Mussy stamp, all the way from Taiwan, and there is his face on the stamp on the card.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 06 – Turn into a Team
Turn into a Team
Among those who have become frequent visitors or regular locals since being welcomed to The Ackhorne by our pal Mussy are a whole host of characters with a wide turn of skills, trades and interests. Hammy who runs a string of sandwich shops in the west end, Lee who brings his bagpipes, a crowd of visitors whenever its fancy dress such as for VJ day when all the butties were wrapped in grease-proof, minibus trip organisers who offer to take the gang around the pubs of such as Liverpool, Railway Keith who strips down old locomotives and services them as his flourishing business in Henden, Whispering Bob; a top man at the gas board with the power to shut down motorways, Alan who has his own massive pub in Bennington, Steve who retired from the Thames Valley water board and Mr Gadget who sells telecommunication systems world wide. Quite a team.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 07 – Trips with the Team
Trips with the Team
Hammy is the leader and organises the coach driver and all the details, then off they go. All this started, I understand, when Mussy was at his corner of the bar and he overheard a group of guys talking about being from Stevenage which is his home town. They then went on to mention the Tilbury, his old haunt so conversations were definitely in need of being started. ‘Do you mean The Inn off the Green? Which it turns out is what everybody round there calls it, but only a local would know the nickname.’ They gathered straight away that he must be from around those parts, so as friendships grew, a trip was organised. Twenty years back that was.
Since then two of the guys have a flat in York which Mussy was instrumental in finding for them, and from then on there have been trips together many times, for real ale pub crawls, to such as a pub in Lancashire which has 16 hand pumps and, wait for it, 300 whiskeys. I think they stayed there quite a while.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 08 – Mussy by the Bin
Mussy by the Bin
That shot of Mussy stood by the bins had all his mates wondering why he had taken a picture of the pub bins. He hadn’t, he had captured the memory of that pint that was stood on show on the wheelie. This caused the group to wonder why on earth you would want a record of a pint of beer. The answer is, that this, wait for it, was a pint of Orkney Red McGregor. Now all understood. We are talking a very special occasion, we are talking about the party of the decade; Mussy’s fiftieth. What a do. There were seventy in here that Sunday afternoon, and the beer was flowing. That excellent character Fred would have been in here bless him, was bound to have been, because this was a Sunday. Lots of old pals from far and wide; Ian and Lee and many others. All the way from Stevenage, Lee had brought something very special with him; his bagpipes. That was brilliant. Those who had just happened to call in for a drink without knowing it was a special party for Mussy’s fiftieth would have been talking and wondering. For once any fellers came back for the loo they would have been telling their party of the surprise they had had. Lee had to warm up his pipes you see, and he need to get them get them pumped up, so he had gone into the gents to get them going, quite a surprise for the unsuspecting visitor: Even more of surprise for all though when he piped the Orkney Red McGregor in.
What a welcome, what an announcement for such a special beer. The landlady had gone to a lot of trouble to get that beer delivered all that way for this special party. We are talking Mussy’s favourite beer. It became a favourite of quite a few of the party that afternoon: That afternoon which is still talked about.
(I am thinking of making a trip to Orkney)
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 09 – Ten Years On
Ten Years On
Yes we have moved forward in time, to pub regular Mussy’s sixtieth. Now this was an event, and it definitely is still being talked about. It wasn’t in the Ackhorne though. No, it wouldn’t do to put his big party on in the Ackhorne, because he wanted all his pals on the staff to come along and enjoy themselves. So the plan was to go off to its very popular sister pub; The Slip. It took a lot of organising, but everyone was willing and keen to make Mussy’s ideas work.
A special thank you to Lucy, he couldn’t have done it without her. Now the Slip Inn might not be the largest pub in the city but it has a big back yard and that’s where the food was going to be. Mussy knew what he wanted. He got looking in the Yellow Pages and he found the place that would do the job. Over near Hull there was a firm who would bring over a hog roast. He asked how many it would serve and they said 180. It cost him a fair few hundred, but he knew what he wanted for all his mates.
Then there was the beer. There were two beers of choice that Mussy must have. Yes you guessed it the renowned Orkney Red McGregor, and from the Treboom Brewery in Shipton By Beningbrough; Kettle Drum. They were glad to get him the brilliant Kettle Drum sorted, but the other big favourite was a bit of a worry. They don’t do deliveries of that stuff any lower down this nation than Newcastle.
There was the suggestion that a few York pubs could come in on doing an order big enough to entice them down here. Take note here, neither the brewery nor the collection of landlords and landladies would take any charge from Mussy for all work involved. Dark Islands was a popular choice for a few pubs following a recommendation from our party host, and the Tap ordered a barrel of another Orkney beer too.
I commented at this point that he must be very well thought of, as they had all gone to a lot of trouble for him. Mussy told me that there had been a slight concern at one point. They owned The Swan as well and the landlord from here was down The Swan having a drink and he heard folks mentioning the name Mussy. So he asked them how many people they thought he would manage to get in. Did they think he would manage to get fifty in? The reply was, ‘You don’t know the power of Mussy!”
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 010 – Mussy’s music
When the landlord was concerned that enough people would be at Mussy’s sixtieth he was informed by those in the know to expect about a hundred: there was an open invite out to all his many pals and to all his mates at the post office. They were to expect crowds at the Slip. As well as sorting out his favourite beers and that much looked forward to hog roast with its 180 sizeable portions there was the music to think about. Mussy likes his blues, so Lucy got the Money Makers in who are well known for playing at the Volunteer Arms. Lots of harmonica, just as he liked. There was another feller for him to go and talk to, the soloist that plays The Maltings. Mussy goes down there on a Monday night so he asked him if he would bring his popular covers of such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan to start the afternoon off.
On the day, everyone was outside in that big beer garden so the acts said they would play out there and the party kicked off around two and ran right through to the England match in the evening. I asked if it had turned out busy? It turns out, that hog roast which would fill a hundred and eighty bellies had not only gone down well it had completely ran out in less than two hours! That’s a party!
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 011 – The Power of Mussy
The Power of Mussy
Stood at Mussy’s corner of the bar chatting about his sixtieth birthday do, and he told me how he had told everyone he didn’t want presents. Did you get any? I asked. Turns out seventeen people bought him bottles of malt whiskey. I couldn’t help commenting that it would take a week or too to get through that lot. As a night worker, there is nothing like a morning cap before you go off to your kip. It had lasted him six months. By you are reading these stories from Mussy he will have retired from the post office and I expect he will have had a load more presents brought when he left.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 012 – Fave Picture
At 6 in the morning passing the end of the lane, Mussy had found himself looking up there and thinking it was a view he wanted to capture for posterity. The lane towards the Ackhorne, there was Barnum’s Barn on the left opposite the pub, selling second-hand furniture, long gone now of course and the grand row of terrace houses and the old church along the sides of the pathway. This was Mussy’s favourite picture out of all his collection of Ackhorne pictures.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 013 – Least Fave Picture
Least Fave Picture
Mussy’s picture of the alley leading up to the Ackhorne may have been his favourite photo; Not so for me. That picture made me think of running away. I did run away in fact, not during Ales n Tales (I was enjoying myself too much), we are talking way back. I will give you an idea of how far back, (for all of you who have been in York for an age and a bit anyway), I am going back as far as the old Wednesday night acoustic sessions at the Acorn (note spelling). Now those are a thing that is definitely still talked about. They were heaving. This is back when there were two rooms there, and a bit more room behind too, before it was all knocked through into one. That main room on the right as you came in was really bustling. That’s what I ran away from. A lady-friend at the time had seen my poetry and said I should go along and read some out. So I had got my courage up and gone up that alley. When I got to the door I bottled (as Mussy’s mate put it) and turned round and ran home. Nobody was expecting me, nobody knew I wrote poetry even, I could have walked in and sat and sipped a pint quietly in a corner, but no, it was too terrifying; I ran. The very next Wednesday however, I picked myself up, marched up that alleyway, strode up to the door… and turned and ran home!
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 014 – Acorn Accoustic
A couple of Ackhorne regulars recalled the old Wednesday night events, and even remembered me getting up and performing in there. They wouldn’t believe my story in fact, of me running away too frightened to go in and perform. Back then I became a regular and was recalled as a wild challenging and slightly crazy poet (oh how things change). Yes though, I had been terrified of getting up, but on the second Wednesday I went there, my name was announced as soon as I appeared through the door. We are talking a lot smaller a room then and as many as two hundred folk squashed in there with hardly room to raise your glass. While they were clapping I had to squeeze my way through and jump onto the raised area. The following week much the same, except I was introduced as the Acorn’s Resident poet! Was I thrilled, and I took to writing especially to perform there.
In no time of being a regular there I was offered a couple of paid performances, in folk clubs and art galleries, and, (foolishly perhaps), thought ‘I could make a living out of this’. So it is thanks to the wonderful nights at the Acorn that I turned fulltime.
Footnote: One of my drinking buddies commented wryly, ‘And look at you now’.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 015 – Thank You Mussy
Thank You Mussy
As the photos got popped away Mussy concluded, ‘That’s my history of the Ackhorne. It has been home for a long time; it has been good. The place is consistent, with a variety of people in, from locals, to new to York, to tourists from around the world.’
His only regret? That they don’t do corn beef hash anymore cos it used to soak up the beer.
To sum up; get yourself down the Ackhorne – and go and meet Mussy too! Me? I am already looking forward to his seventieth.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 016 – At Heart
There was a lot of talk of those bigger birthdays, and how they come round quicker once you are past your big fortieth. We also talked of holidays, but when we were on the subject of being over fifty, or being over sixty, or….. well, these things creep up on you and you don’t always notice them coming. It doesn’t matter though; it was decided by all around, because you don’t feel that age. All of us, of the more mature variety, all said it, inside is what counts, inside we all feel like we are 17.
As for holidays, one was reminded of their trip to Egypt and of looking round the pyramids and museums. All the images of pharaohs that you see are looking young, because they were thought of as gods it was believed. They might have lived to a ripe old age but the image adorning the wall made them all look about 18. If a pharaoh had died before this age, they were still depicted as looking in their prime of being 18, but for one difference, they are sucking their thumb. This denotes that they passed away before adulthood. As for all the eternal pharaohs who are depicted as being forever youthful, whatever age they were, they would all have been the same as us we decided; in their heart they were 17. Just like us.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 017 – Staring Into the Middle Distance
Staring Into the Middle Distance
One gang at a table got on the topic of maturity, maturity as it heads towards the extreme as one of them put it. All of us around were the same age, and had lots of similar recollections. ‘So’, one summed up, ‘we will all be 59 this year’. ‘Ah’, one of them said turning to the life-long bachelor guy at the corner of the table, ‘you are bit older than the rest of us. So, you will be sixty this year.’
The guy at the corner was just about to take a swallow of his drink, the glass was just about to his mouth, he paused, looked stunned and then said,’ No, no.’ the glass went down, the glass went back up again, it paused again, and he said, ‘No, No.’ This piece of information was clearly not accepted.
He put the glass down on the table, stared into the distance, for a full ten minutes, then when there was a lull in the conversation he said, ‘Oh, god, you are right, I will be won’t I!’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 018 – The Boss
Have they told you about the cat? The pub has a cat. Ask the landlord he’ll tell you, there is a pub cat right. And there are two doors if you look. There is a door at that end and a door at the other end. Well, if you sit by on of those doors, you can bet your life, you will have to get up and let the cat in. Whichever door it decides it wants to come in, it will be there and you will have to let it in. We all know. We laugh when people sit there, because they don’t know and they soon will. They will probably have to let it out again as well.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 019 – That Burns Night
That Burns Night
We are going back a lot of years, well if we are going to be totally accurate, a lot of years and a week. One of the times when the gang from here headed off together. As one among them was a Lance Corporal in Fulford Barracks catering there was an open invite for them all to head off for a real Burns Night, an all in Burns Night at the barracks: the Officer’s Mess no less. What a night. At four in the morning one of the officers called them together, ‘Look, you Ackhorne guys have drank us dry of whiskey, so I think it is time for us all to go.’
He got on the phone and called in one of the squaddies to drive them all home. It turned out the squaddie was new to York so it was quite a long journey as they all tried to explain where each of them lived. He got them all home though, and it was quite a night.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 020 – Dream Jobs
I wasn’t the only one with a dream job, (listening to people’s stories in real ale pubs), when you did an apprenticeship at the carriage works in York and quite a long career in similar fields, the Pickering Gromont railway was a great place to be offered a job. After taking early retirement the opportunity came up and off he went. He was all smiles talking about it, renovating old steam engines and carriages for this steam team. There was constant maintenance but he relished every task and was happy to see all the people climbing aboard a train that was running because of him. Not that he said a lot, it was his mates who told me the whole story while he sat and smiled, ‘Yes I suppose it is a dream job, I am very happy there.’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 021 – Steam-days Bathing
‘I know where you live.’ Hearing this might have concerned me had it not been in the middle of a conversation on the topic of renovating steam days carriages. A regular visitor to The Ackhorne does renovations so I thought I would chip in with the tale of the railway carriage at our old house. There were some there who already knew of it. York is a small place, but then again so is the world. I explained how I had been performing at a folk festival in Warwick and had been telling a steam enthusiast there about the railway related bathroom at my parent’s house. Their bathroom was actually a railway carriage on legs. It was an LNER director’s suite. Much like the Queen’s train I suppose, with a bedroom, lounge ect. This was the original bathroom, with a huge deep bath and lots of brass and old wood fixtures and fittings. Around a month after I had told the guy in Warwick about it my parents said that they had looked out the back and a bunch of folks were getting out of a minibus and standing in the lane taking pictures. They had come all the way up from Warwickshire just to see it. When I was relating this tale in The Ackhorne a couple of people in the group already knew of it and had been to have a look as well. We don’t live there any more and I am thinking of taking a walk over to see if it is still there.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 022 – Theatre Prompts
My prompt cards were of interest and people enjoyed picking one and getting an idea from it. One fell flat though. A chap chose the card; Treading the Boards, and then said that he never had. Any kind of performance memory would do, being best man, having a go at karaoke, any situation of standing up in front of people; nope nothing. Then it turns out, he used to run the theatre bar. We are going back to the days of the De Grey Rooms having a bar, (back to the times when Theakstons had just hit York). Myself and a few others recalled dropping in there for a drink. When he ran the bar that was where you went for a drink if you were at the Theatre Royal, so, before a show and in the interval. It was a popular bar throughout the evening but when the theatre had its interval it would get really busy. Then after the show all the actors would be in there.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 023 – An Unusual Life
An Unusual Life
The prompt cards created interest and brought out memories and tales. One of those cards had said, Not all relationships are the same…
This made people think of individuals who lived life their own way. It also reminded us that people are not predictable, you think you can look at someone and get an idea of that they are like, this often isn’t so.
There was a recollection of a quite elderly fellow who was always at the corner of a bar, sitting quietly sipping his drink, and how, upon talking to him on one occasion it turned out he had had quite an unusual life. (The teller of the tale mentioned that the guy had been in his nineties and that this conversation happened around twenty years ago.) Someone had mentioned marriage and he had stirred from his usual quiet reveries to comment that he had never really been married. The small group turned in anticipation. It turns out that when in his twenties he had been invited to visit a lady for the weekend. Not only had this worked out well, but that he had continued to visit each weekend for many years; until she passed away at the age of seventy five in fact. He added that for all those years, each weekend morning there had been a knock at the bedroom door and a breakfast tray was brought in for them.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 024 – Lift That Sneck
Lift That Sneck
A bloke who does the shelves in Morrisons said you aught to use the names of beers to set people off. There are loads of intriguing names nowadays. You could do a tour of the beers and have a tale for each bottle. When this was shared with the group one well known beer came to mind; Snecklifter.
There were a couple of theories around this name.
One was that there was a ‘sneck’ on the door at the back of the pub that led to the outhouse in the yard; and that drinking this beer would cause you to need to go fairly often and the name was a warning that after a few of these you would become a snecklifter.
The other suggestion was, that there is a latch or sneck on the front door of the pub and you would not be able to go in there, (by lifting that sneck), unless you had money. You might want to get down the pub with your mates, but if you were hard up it would be beyond your pride to turn up and expect others to buy you beers. If you could afford one drink however, you would be able to go in. Who knows, once in there, if you sipped at your beer for long enough someone may say, ‘Shall I get you a pint?’ If you were real lucky that one drink that got you in there might lead to you being in there all evening. There would always be other times when you would have money and you would remember them if they didn’t have more than the price of a pint. By having the price of a pint you hadn’t had to actually ask any one for a beer. So, a snecklifter was the price of a pint; the price of lifting that sneck and going in without the shame of not having any money. All about pride perhaps, but it is likely that you had gone to a friend at work beforehand and asked for, yes you guessed it, a snecklifter.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 025 – That’s Jazz
You see someone propping up the bar and until you get to know them you have no idea what they might have experienced. There was this old man, quite some time ago we are told, who was always in the corner of the bar. Turns out he had been president of the York Jazz Club back in the 1930s and had put on all sorts of well-known acts. All the greats had come through to perform. Among the names was Duke Ellington and it was he who had said at the end of the gig, for the president to jump into his limo and head back to the hotel for a drink. The crowd of them had sat up jamming and drinking brandy until the early hours: had been a highlight of his life.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 026 – Test of a Good Wife
Test of a Good Wife
Can I pester you for five minutes I asked and the guy who wasn’t expecting to be at Ales n Tales looked up and said yes of course. When I elaborated he wondered what sort of stories I was after and my explanation and offer of my prompt cards brought out a fair few tales. We started off with Romance, and this made him think of how he first met his wife. They had met on holiday in Spain and as she was a Mansfield lass they were able to get together again afterwards. The second time she came over to visit he thought it was time she met his pals. There was a group of about eight strong and they all hung about together on an evening for a drink around the pubs. They had started drinking as teenagers and back then they would have a drink locally and then go and see if they could get in in town. Now, when just a little older, they still met up at the Rose and Crown on Hull Road. Mostly they didn’t have girlfriends so he felt he should warn her of what to expect. Said to her as they headed there, the lads are going to tease you, either through, well, just to see how you react;’ they will try and get a jibe off yer, to try to get at me, cos I am bringing a girl out, stuff like that.
She didn’t say owt, and in we went. One lad was first to try, said, ‘Right, I hear you are quite a lass.’ ‘Because I’d told them, you know,
all about her. Said she was different to everyone else, cos I was falling in love with her.’
So, mi mates says, ‘Tell you how you can prove it, if you are coming out with us. Here’s this pint, I’ve bought you a pint.’ (Tetleys as it was then
In the Rose and Crown) ‘If you can drink it straight off…’
She took it off him, picked it up she did, and without a word… She drank it straight off. Downed it first time she did.
They came to me said, ‘She is going to make you a good wife.’
And now we are married.
Does she still drink all the beer I asked? She likes fruit beer.
Still drinks pints; Fruit beers, ciders, stuff like that. We go to all the beer festivals together.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 027 – Feeling Ginger
My drinking pal took another prompt card. Slightly connected to his tale of going out round the pubs, was his love for different real ales. He started to drink real ale when he was still fairly young but none of his mates did. One thing he still likes to do is go to pubs he wouldn’t normally go to and sit and have a few drinks; try a few beers. He will sit at a table, maybe read the paper. In no time somebody will come up to you. This one time, eventually people came up to him and started talking. You get on, even though you are never going to see them again.
The Tap and Spile on Monkgate was having a beer festival. Eventually it gets full, and two couples sit near him while he’s reading the paper. They’re talking; he is listening as he reads the paper. They see him smirking, so they know he can hear them; so they get talking.
And then they ask what he is drinking. He couldn’t remember now what brewery it was, but he recalled the name of the beer and it is one I cannot repeat here. They reckoned there was no such thing and they had a five minute conversation about whether there was.
He didn’t think I would be able to use his story, but I said I would be able to use it when I was at the next Ales n Tales pub.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 028 – Castle Passage
This time instead of looking through the prompt cards my drinking pal went for picking one at random; he got The Unexplainable. It turns out his tale was of something that was unexplainable but got explained in the end. His brother in law; his girlfriend’s family, run a hotel, well it’s a castle, in Scotland and he had got them a weekend away there. So off they went.
In one of the sitting rooms there’s a door at one end and a door at the other end and the door at the one end seems a lot smaller even though the floor didn’t slope or anything; so they couldn’t work out why it looked smaller.
They had a few drinks and still didn’t work it out, and were looking, and then all of a sudden one of the bar persons seemed to appear, he didn’t come out of that door and he didn’t come out of that door, he just suddenly appeared collecting glasses. Where the heck did he come from? They said and stuff like that.
Eventually they found out, the guy who owned the castle, well, he used to own the castle, he was only a short guy. Turns out he didn’t want to look small when he appeared in the room, so what he did was, he had the door at one end made smaller, and he would appear there so he looked taller. He had a secret door fitted and he would come through there and stand in front of the small door. So when he was announced they would look up and see him looking tall as he was looking down the hall at them all. So they just use the secret passageway now so the staff seem to appear suddenly from nowhere. Have a look if you are ever near Edinburgh, round by Castle Dalglish.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 029 – Teatime
‘So what have you got there?’ my next group asked. Well I had been busy listening and hadn’t thought about it. In fact I had started at the wrong end of the taster tray, in the opposite direction to the order they were poured.
I had chosen a taster tray of three different beers in little third of a pint glasses and it was wondered which I had tried. I had asked for the three from one end of the row of pumps, and we worked out that the beers I was sipping were Hobgoblin, Strongarm and the middle one was an unusual one; Orange tea beer; Clockwork Orange. Its quite hoppy, so not all of us would like it it seems. I enjoyed it. The Hebden Bridge tea company donated the tea to make the beer with, there is the equivalent of a pillowcase full per brew. I had wondered why they had given the tea for free and was told the guy knew the brewer personally and he reckoned they had given the orange tea just so they could get their name on the pub clip. Selling tea from beer, this seemed approved of all round, more tea more beer.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 030 – The Scruffy Daves
The Scruffy Daves
I offered my pick-a-card set to see if a random one brought up any tales. Out came, How Things Used To Be. Well there was Scruffy’s came the response; Scruffy Murphy’s. It’s not that long ago, he tells me, but that he is still relatively young. It was a fantastic pub. They often went there, the five of them. Five of them all called Dave, yes so one night there were literally five of them all called Dave in a line along the bar and they started thinking they ought to have individual names.
So they decided they were called:
Cajun Dave, because he worked across at Old Orleans
Spud, as in spuds and gravy rhyming slang for Davey
Neurotic Dave – ‘I am not saying anything about that one’
Codders from Hull
What is that Marmite Dave? Turns out this was because he was in the army, this meant nothing to me, seems it was an advert I don’t remember, my mate Marmite.
‘Yeh good times in that pub.’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 031 – Pub Trip
There was the time you fell down the stairs and broke your nose.
Yes, I blame the single shot of Tequila at the end of the night.
That you were bullied into drinking? Oh yes, definitely, by Marmite Dave in fact. Yes nothing to do with the 8 pints of Guinness earlier, no of course not. Definitely the Tequila shot. Yeh, it was a swan dive right down the stairs, landed right on my nose.
Now father and son have matching noses, as Dad used to be a boxer when he was younger.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 032 – Slipping Home
This winter’s heavy snow and sudden freezing had brought a few calamities for folk wandering home. Leaving Lendal Cellars seems to have been the one that caught everyone’s attention; that slope. Half way up, slip, fall, get back up, slip, fall, this went one for quite a while and in the middle of it the guy saw another feller going backwards down the slope. He was stood straight up but with no way of stopping himself, as he passed our current storyteller he looked round in a wild-eyed panic. As our friend eventually pulled himself back up to his feet he reckoned the feller slipping by had gone right in the door of Jamie Oliver’s! That wasn’t the end of the journey, for our teller, three more occasions of the feet going out from under him, and a passer by advising, ‘Take Pixy steps!’ he eventually made it to the taxi rank. That path at that rank slopes, now he is sure that no one knocked in to anyone, but in unison the whole queue started sliding forwards in a synchronised journey to the curb. As one they slipped off the curb and were all stood in the gutter, just as a load of taxis arrived.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 033 – Mild Only
‘Oh I don’t know if I have any tales’, a guy’s dad assures us, ‘I’m so old it’s all forgotten’. Son seems to think that Dah used to go in the Volunteers. Turns out not so, it was the Locomotive next door to there that was his first haunt. Yes, that place is gone, it’s flats now. He used to live round there, so would go in. In fact he was only a teenager so they wouldn’t let him drink bitter because they said he wasn’t manly enough. It was alright to have a pint of mild though.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 034 – First Wage
Loads of people have said about going out with work mates. The first wage packet it often was. So all the team at work would say right it’s your first wage packet come on you are coming out to the pub with us. Often only a teenager and dragged out.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 035 – For a Leek
For a Leek
Up in the North East if you were going out on the strength of your first wage packet it was a whole different experience. It was recollected for us how, with that first ever earned money you would be down the working man’s club with all the crowd from work, and after a couple you would be in the need of a trip to the gents. You weren’t allowed however, all they would say was, you can’t go to the loo, it is Dave’s turn tonight, or Bert’s, or Gus’s or whoever depending on the turns. All would make sense at the end of the night, by which time he was absolutely busting to go. They would all head off together, and down an alley towards Dave’s backyard. His wife was there to open the door into the back garden and there lined up were Dave’s prize leeks. There was big money in them prize leek competitions and they had to be protected and given everything they needed. Here available were some nutrients that would help them to flourish; all the guys would line up and, er, water the leeks.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 036 – Festival Square
Festivals in St Paul’s Square. We only really went to have a drink because pubs stayed open all afternoon because of the festival. The zany magician and his assistant wee recalled, she used to climb on his back under his cloak to ‘disappear’. One a little younger among us recalls the opening hours just before the law changed, and how when he was just 18 they still were closing in the afternoon. ‘You would go out and they would kick you out just after lunch.’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 037 – Bit of Trouble in the Big Coach
Bit of Trouble in the Big Coach
The Big Coach was remembered, now derelict (on the corner along from Dutton’s for Buttons) and a sad waste of an old building, there are still memories for a few of us of going in there. You had to be quite brave to go in though. It was known for the fights and gangs and for trouble. One of our Ales n Tales team sat here relaxing told us of how he had been in there with a friend when they were young men and there had been trouble. Trouble is an understatement; he said the whole pub was fighting, like something from an old western, the whole pub except for him and his friend. They were sat quiet in a corner, gripping their pints and watching it all.
It had revolving doors, so no one could be thrown out who was in a fighting mood still, and the doors had been jammed by the landlord. As the fight was eventually going out of everyone, the police arrived. They were let in through the back in great numbers and the sergeant turned to the two sat quiet in the corner and said, ‘Get out of here,’ and gesticulated towards the back way. Now this might have been because he knew his father, but most likely it was because he didn’t want any witnesses, as back in those days they dealt with such troublemakers on the spot and metered out a heavy punishment before dragging them all out of there.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 038 – Lock In
Keep the troublemakers in. Others recalled times when a pub somewhere or other had suddenly had a fight going on, and the landlord’s way of dealing with it was to pull down the shutters on the bar and lock the front door so no one could get out. The younger guy telling us this reckoned that this worked in that it kept the troublemakers in so they could be dealt with by the law, but for him it meant that he and his friend were locked in with all the fighting, and they would far rather be off and away from it all.
Footnote: The Karaoke carried on throughout.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 039 – A Footnote
I went back to the guy who had been sat alone at the end of the room and started talking about that beer that I cannot name, and half way through asking him about his (beer name censored) I realised it was a different feller who had happened to sit in the same seat. He did look at me strange.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 040 – Gin and Shivers
Gin and Shivers
There had been a birthday party and as people turned up at this cosy gathering they were getting out their bottles. One visitor brought out a bottle of gin. Then there was a wonder about what to mix it with. The guy who was having the birthday remembered how way back, when you were in a pub how spirits were served. Those days, believe it or not, if you ordered a gin, it would be gin and orange; no we are not talking a long tall drink, this was a gin with cordial, just cordial, no water. So the party-goers had tried it, it was awful. The face contorted and the mouth turned to the consistency of a prune. Those listening around The Ackhorne who were younger couldn’t believe this. A few recalled though, those small short drinks, and one commented, ‘You weren’t meant to enjoy it you know!’ All the spirits were the same, a vodka and lime was this small green thing that almost burnt your mouth. A rum would be a rum and pep, a short blast of peppermint with a bite of rum within. Pretty intense: and pretty dehydrating too.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 041 – Wine Invented
These were the choices, bitter, lager, spirits and that was about it. If you wanted a soft drink there was probably only the option of a bitter shandy. Oh and the lager? You drank lager with lime in it, or perhaps worse still with blackcurrant, you weren’t meant to taste the lager.
This was before the invention of wine! Well, that’s what one of our visitors recalled. I am not sure how far back we are going, but if you wanted wine you went to a very grand shop and paid a fortune. Then suddenly one company brought out a wine that was sold through ‘off-beer shops’. Suddenly you could buy wine to have at home; it was a social revolution. Dinner parties became the thing, with your guests bursting in the door full of excitement brandishing a bottle, ‘I’ve brought a bottle of wine!’ ‘So have I!’
This exotic drink was a social revolution.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 042 – Dinner Parties
What was the usual fare at a dinner party back then? It was almost always; prawn cocktail, Chile-con-carne and lemon meringue pie to follow.