From York’s Medieval building Barley Hall I bring you – The Nosegay Blog (My first ever blog)

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We are safe here at Barley Hall, my nosegays will stop you turning purple, and my visitors will keep me informed. Fore-armed is fore-warned and I sought to defend my position with knowledge. There was little need, for every visitor had something to impart. lyndsey and bruniYes I did have plenty to say at the start of my summer holiday stint but this was nothing to the array of facts and anecdotes. Soon I was passing along the wisdom of one to another and I will gather here some of the best of this.wizard

Some of my newly gained knowledge is debatable; this does not mean it is necessarily untrue, just that there will be debate. The very room I am in has become a convoluted topic. Refer to the notice boards for what is perhaps the definitive answer even though many in the discussion would disagree. Even the name, “No, it is not a parlour” – A solar; sit in there in the sunlight and treat this place as a retreat. A place to craft for joy, a place to make all which is beautiful: here you can write and some say learn.

jewelsA few have disagreed that the parlour was a place to receive visitors. Although another interjected that one visitor would be invited in here among the family; the tutor – here we would learn our letters and our lessons. Rhetoric, logic and astronomy are among the topics which would be enabled by this. nasaBut nay, this was not the reception say many who contributed to this on-going discussion. The way in was the proving point of this camp of thought. You entered via the stairs; from there you would be in Lord Snawsell’s bed chamber. Here in, it has been read, was his office and softer furnishings.

candle
Me at Murton Park Viking Village, York (Photo by Andraea)

So therefore this is where he would meet with you. The logic of this is in the access and the fact you would feel you had been welcomed whilst at the same time you would be aware that by being in his realm he retained power. There is logic in the aspect of access too it is argued; from there to get to the parlour one would have to go through Lady Joan’s personal chambers and then get in the way of the busy journeyman all down the long hall.

Not cb 03everything I hear, as I say, is definitely right and some things I hear are definitely wrong.

Barley Hall is loved, many revisit, many discuss, many compliment and recommend, but not all feel this way it seems. A passing hen party definitely didn’t like the look. As I was returning from a visit to DIG my way into the alley was blocked. I stood back to allow the party-wear ladies to leave the alley and they stopped suddenly. Looking up the street, “Oh we’ve been this way” – “We’ve been here before” – “We’ve been up there” – “We’ve been up there” – “We don’t want to go that way again” – “We’ve been this way”. Eventually they turned back and I had a path ahead of me, a slow path.

Barley-Hall window view
The view in the window (minus the peacock)

As they noticed the large window into the hall for the first time there were sounds of disapproval from one of these revellers. “Oh dear, I wouldn’t want to go in there” – “And I wouldn’t want to eat that” – “No, it looks awful in there” – “Ancient!” – “It’s like a museum”

Although most people are entranced by the peacock upon the table, the hen party in search of a meal and another drink were not the only ones to not fancy eating a bird which had been cooked and then repacked in its raw skin. “Never do that” visitors inform me, “Never mix cooked and raw”. “They certainly hadn’t heard of health and safety!”

Nosegays keep us safe, or at least perfumed. Gay meaning ornament back in the day; they were about the smell. Many report on the vast amounts of information on the medicinal, spiritual and nutritional uses of herbs; that is not a major concern when it comes to nasal orientated ornaments. It is all about the smell, the logic I am instructed, is that if the smell carried the disease you didn’t want it up your nose. The miasma must be refused access and to follow logic, if your nose was full of sweet smells then how could the horrid miasma get in! So visitors tell me it was not just about masking the smell, it was about keeping you safe.

If you wanted to be really safe, what better than a plague doctor mask. Fill that with herbs and strap it on. While you were feeling ultra-safe as a result of this constant experience of the sweet and beautiful you might want to go all out and get yourself a job.

plague doc 01 close up
thats me that is

Plague doctors are in demand it seems. An explanation of this which was given to me was that all the doctors were gone – in one way or another. It was a well-paid job I am told – while it lasted.

Not much in the way of skills was needed, according to some, all you needed was a stick, a big stick. With your mask on off you go, and prod people. Then all you had to do was tell them whether they are going to live or die (if in doubt go for the die option). The strange thing is, whatever the answer, they would thank you. I considered these offerings and discussed with other visitors. It is not so strange when you think, as I was asked to do, on the history of medicine. Throughout Europe ‘knowing’ was often more important than helping. ‘How long will they be?’ – ‘Will it be quick?’ – ‘Have you anything to make it easier?’ Another suggested this was still the main focus in many tribal cultures around the world.

pegs 01
These ‘sticks’ are actually hand-made tent pegs found in the woodpile at Gudvangen, (Photo by Tove Gulbrandsen), put you could prod with them

I decided there and then, that once all my visitors had made a nosegay I was off to get a stick; the income would be most welcome – while it lasted.As not everyone wants a nosegay I will be here a while yet. Not that they are to be sniffed at, if you see what I mean. Much a sniffing and a pondering has there been.

me quirky
Thats me sniffing that is, honest

Deciding of what aroma, of what herb one is holding a bowl of. Lavender is spotted by most, thyme only by a few and lemon balm by only one chap. Rosemary is spotted on sight by most, although one or two, including a rosemary grower, thought it was pine. The one which is most evocative is actually a flower rather than a herb as such. Some love it, most are reminded, reminded of something. A Greek flower which is gathered as a healing tea, camomile, just flowers, childhood memories, the bottom cupboard next to the pans; we were taken places. I was put off this bowl for quite a while when a girl said it smelt of hamster bedding. This smell was removed for me a little later by the power of suggestion; a lady said it made her think of her grandfather’s pipe tobacco. Now, whenever I hold the marigold bowlMarigold_AAS_1989_Golden_Gate in front of me I am transported back to my childhood and the hint of sweetness within a heady aroma which would erupt into the room when granddad opened his pouch to stock up his pipe with baccie.

So far there are no reports of the plague coming to me from my visitors. No one has been spotted to be turning purple, well except for Mr Purple himself, but he is upon his bicycle platform out of the way anyway. bike theif 08 14The next edition will feature live frogs, alternative universes and elephants tusks among many other oddities of conversation. Remember when recalling this blog so far, it is all absolutely true – that people have told me these things.

Your tales and opinions can be added into the mix for discussion too. Be in touch.

Adrian

Here is the link to the exciting second half…. Nosegay Blog Too

 

 

Gods and Goddesses of the Greek Mythos Continued – Hermes the Babe

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.image 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. image.jpgReady for that vengeance from beyond the womb.

He was followed by a gathering band of nymphs they made a wicked wilful travelling party. wild band.jpgHe 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

Tnymph.jpghen 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?”cave.jpg

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.

“Hermes does.”

“Who is Hermes?”

“Hermes is a babe.”chain babe.jpg

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.crane.jpg 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.hides.jpg 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?”image.jpg

“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.”z 01.jpg

“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”.chain babe

How Zeus laughed.z 02

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.image.jpg 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.z 03.jpg

“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.”pebbles.jpg

“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.”ribbon stick.jpg

(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.styx

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).admin babe.jpg

Thank you Robert Graves

 

 

Recent blogs include from the Greek Myths, Athene , The Fates and Pan.

Behold the God-slayer Typhon – Doom of Zeus – Graphic Novel First Draft

Ales and Tales around York pubs.

and more as the Skald to the Chieftain inspired by Georg and Gudvangen.

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Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories

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Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 01 – Right Reverend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Footnote;

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

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

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

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

Marmite Dave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Back to Ales and Tales – for tales from other pubs

 

 

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories – revisited

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Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 01 – Darkly Seen

Darkly Seen

Terrible winter weather on the night made one expect that things would be quiet for the Golden Ball Ales n Tales session. There were public transport warnings too. Setting off in really good time to make up for this led to jumping straight on a bus (which was probably a really late one from earlier) and getting there ages before expected. There were just five of us in the bar and a roaring fire in the corner. Then came the power cut; it hit most of York apparently. Strangely the five of us got talking once it was dark, and oddly enough I realised I knew two of the people in there once we were in the dark too. Candles came out and with the roaring fire we were looking at an atmospheric yet, shall we say, cosy evening. As we were starting to think this would all be great, the alarm started and couldn’t be turned off.

Just as Ales n Tales was due to start, back came the power, off went the alarms, on came the till, and in came the crowds. No really, real crowds; all gathered in and waiting for a show. It was a very good night; and my freezer was alright when I got home too.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 02 – Golden Happenings

Golden Happenings

Now one cannot narrate the experiences gathered at an Ales n Tales session in the Golden Ball without acknowledging the atmosphere there. It is owned. It is owned by the people who love the place. The details recreated here are mainly anecdotal but the understanding gathered whilst listening over a beer is that a whole host of folks made this thing happen. This pub continues to exist because they got together and now own shares – or ‘a share’ anyway. It is clear that the email list of those involved runs into hundreds and they all wanted this jewel of the community to continue.

Earlier in the story above there was the impression of a quiet start, given that my evening began with just five in the bar; this doesn’t take into account the other rooms, or the vibrant spirit of the spot. The snug was well huddled, the side room had some sort of society in it (a history group as far as we understood), the back room held a union meeting; this place always seems to be alive and happening.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 03 – Golden Readiness

Golden Readiness

It was the energy of the Golden Ball which made the Ales n Tales evening a real experience, Word had got out, messages had been sent, flyers distributed, posters had really worked (for a change) and the gang were there. The dynamic of these Ales n Tales events has been mentioned before, the expectation that the public (the public hosted by the publican) would come along and do exactly what we asked of them. That isn’t how people work, especially while relaxing in a beloved pub where they feel like part of the team. Tales was the word that had jumped out of the publicity, and tales is what they were expecting. They weren’t a random selection of people at tables they were ready to be entertained; entertained in the old way with stories and human experiences. So here we will see a fair few stories with a wide range of topics which were requested from the storyteller.

Footnote: of course, pubs being what they are, once the performance was over, everyone wanted to chip in and add their wisdoms and thoughts; experiences and comic happenings. Read on…

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 04 – Snappy Break

Snappy Break

There was a call for a look in the case, the battered brown case of things from way back, so out came, the pipe; the clay pipe which actually is a modern one, probable made for collectors (certainly one among us recalled a rack of these by the fire which were never smoked, but avidly added to).

Here was a memory straight away, the hard working tenant farmer; just a little ways out from York, where relatives would sojourn and become part of the country while they visited hard-working rural folk. We are talking calendar-country, as in many of the beautiful old villages where people feel part of York, yet are just a little removed and have something special; contemplate this… They have us surrounded.

Here a recollection of that clay pipe, and the labourers out with the ‘Maister’ working the fields. After hard toil and yet still only part ways through the day, there would be a call for a bit of a rest. With their Massey–Harris band around their legs to fend off the rats and with their caps on backwards to keep the sweat out of their eyes they would flop down and accept the delivery of refreshments from the ‘this-and-that-there-man’.

‘Maister’ would sit apart a little, not out of any kind of elitist principle, but because, he was the one who thought; thought deeply. For such vision and contemplation one obviously had to have a pipe, for a mere tenant farmer this had to be a clay pipe. There would be another rest time and the pipe would come out from the west-cohit pocket and it was a little shorter. Another day, another field and the routine was repeated, but this time the pipe was snapped even shorter, a look of acceptance and the pipe was lit regardless. Never to be daunted the pipe would always do until the return to the farm. The ‘Maister’ was even seen on occasions to pull a pipe out of his pocket which was hardly more than a bowl; he would fill it nonetheless and with the tiny bit of stem in his mouth would set to and light it… ‘Ooch! Ouch’; he burnt lips. The way forward was to take a good quick drag and then step back from the heat; smack the lips to try and cool them, then dare to face the heat of the shortened clay pipe again. There was nothing like a good smoke, (they used to say), when one was having a break, and a bit of a think. Ouch!pipe-display

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 05 – Rest Room

Rest Room

If you, like a lady amongst us in the Golden Ball, are thinking of the idea of getting that old clay pipe and blowing a few bubble then you are as good as in there with us among the atmosphere of Ales n Tales; back in the time of childhood. So we were all to become, as we were called over to the topic of the Hungate dig. Now there might have been in-site recoveries of such as the cordwainer’s guild, tanners, and even older than these medieval findings; the thing that was of fascination for us was the slums. Call them slums if you will, these people were un-homed in the late 1930s and resettled in another area, hopefully better than here. Lets face it anywhere would have been better than here. All that remains are narrow streets and bare brick foundations; one up one downs with no back way and up to seventeen people lodging together in an area smaller than a modest caravan. Stinking workplaces at either end of the street; these people hardly got away from the street. Unless of course they were to find some contemplative solace in the row of toilets at the end of the lane.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 06 – Pipe in Pipe

Pipe in Pipe

Here we are at the end of the 1937 lane in Hungate and upon the toilet, in the row shared by all, was an old fellow, an old Irish fellow most likely, most probably new to the city. Outside was a queue and they were becoming quite impatient; this didn’t faze our subject however, he was smoking his pipe. He was almost certainly thinking back to the old land of home and you can be sure there was a woman on his mind. The woman he was dreaming of was Erin, the love of his life most likely.

We ‘know’ this because a commercial archaeologist went down into the site to check on progress; she found the team working away and all looked good. There by the side of the dig was a skip which caught her attention, it was filled with old red clay sewerage pipes, stacked high they were. She ‘just had to’ ask the team what they were planning to do with them. They said that they were finished with them and were moving onto another aspect of the project. To her they represented a whole deep chunk of history. She turned back to the diggers and pointed out that some of them may have contents. The crew appeared disinterested and reckoned she could do what she liked with them. She took up a red clay u-bend at random and threw it to the floor; here among the shattered pot was a complete pipe, a clay pipe; it was fashioned to have a harp on the one side and the name Erin upon the other.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 07 – Whimsical Discovery

Whimsical Discovery

Here’s where the collection of Hungate stories runs a little childish perhaps; with an imagined cheeky kid; for when the exhibition was shown from the dig, as well as the pipe, another thing which caught attention was a small blue piece of twisted glass. When these few inches of delicate glasswork were asked about it was explained that, this was a whimsy. This answer served to further intrigue without really giving any answer. Further explanation was offered that a whimsy was a thing which was of no real use; some of us with memories of older generations making comments on us ‘young uns’ may well recall the phrase ‘neither use nor ornament’. This bit o glass would have been an ornamental possession; something to show the value of the bearer. For this shard of the past comes from an ornamental walking cane. Go back there now: tiny street, stinking factories, massively overcrowded dwellings, barely a scrap to live on, and here processing grandly comes a long-suited, fine-bearded, elderly strutting fine gentleman with all the pomp and ceremony of one who had been brought up in privilege to prosper with finery; he owns these people in his mind and he is perusing all he commands. Stand back poor people and see the grandeur of the man you respect. Now this shard of glass could have come here to this scarp of earth for many reasons, but the idea of the fine gent rise up and stay in the mind. Stay there now and conjure for yourself the image; now be the small poor child with nary a crumb o food to live by, who is struggling to survive in the only life he has ever known. Step out now, in your vision of the past, and lift a stone, be ready, and, throw. The stick is smashed. The tiny bit of glass discovered all these years later.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 08 – Final Attempt

Final Attempt

All of the ‘above’ on the topic of the whimsy could well be true; the imagined story line, the archaeologist’s studied opinion, but, there was a cry from the crowd. From within the group who had come along to support the storytelling, (from the Aspire club), came a new idea; this was an idea that we cannot really argue with, for there was history in it. The piece of twisted glass might not have been strutted along here by a fine gent, it may very well have been laid down here in the earth as a belated record of a glass workers efforts; of the skill required to become a qualified and respected worker of the lightning blast of turning sand to the magical thing that is glass. This young person had made a ’masterpiece’. This was a test piece; make one yourself if you can, for here is your final challenge coming back to you from the past. All those years of learning; now make something that surpasses all that has gone before. There will be an examination of your prowess; they will inspect. You have made a twisted blue glass walking cane you are now entitled by acclaim to become a testified worker of the glass.

Step back into your life and see if you have been tested to such a standard, have you excelled; is there a masterpiece from you?

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 09 – A Good One

A Good One

There were other Ales n Tales nights where we have talked of the crew of retirees who had found a way to fill their partly panicked, possibly worried, time; of how their solution was to go out together for a walk, for a walk around the walls of York and to stop off as they spied untried public houses.

They had found allsorts of experiences by trying out new hostelries and getting talking to people; here in the midst of the heady ales and fancy tales was a reconnoitre with this experience. A chap who had retired and been part of a wandering party, who had turned from the walls towards a pub that had changed his life, and he came to us this very night to tell. The end of life had come, he had no job; he tried to portray confidence of being a solid happy regular person but inside he was worried that his time of being part of things was over. That drink, that choice, that moment, had made a difference and lifted him, he was moved forward. When you have given your life to a job, the job of receiving deliveries, recognising the product, seeing the label, knowing the dress, the hat, the shoes, you knew where they needed to be, you knew all the details, all the aspects. From being a guy who had retired from working in a department store with a brown work-coat on to being unneeded, to suddenly hearing from someone in a pub that there is a need. The next thing you know he is working in a charity shop and they have never before had anyone with such experience. As a bag is delivered a dress is lifted out, its value, its size, its season are all immediately understood; The guy? He is very much appreciated and is making a difference in a glance, in a glance, in a glance. ‘That one goes there.’ ‘Store that one for the wedding season!’

Keep this guy, he is a good one.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 010 – Sprightly

Sprightly

We cannot talk about this next topic, you haven’t heard; this didn’t happen.  It did and they were out there. Well we are going back a long long time to a group of workers of around fifty years of age back in the 1940s. These workers back in wartime, one of whom passed on the tale of the main office being bombed; everything was gone. This was a night time event and was an office, so there were luckily no casualties. We could see the repercussions for many a year though. For in no time, there they were on their pensions and looking far too sprightly for their age.

All the place was gone, all the records were destroyed. There was a shack set up as an office and staff set to to restore the state of the records, and all the workers got a letter; fill in the details and send them back to the new records office. Suddenly we are looking at a canteen full of folks who had no identity, they sat there and looked at their letters and supped at their coffees. An idea struck one of them and it spread. All of them made a pact, they all stuck to it, and they were older as a result. All the workers around that canteen decided; they would add five years to their age. They agreed, they stuck to it. They all retired early. This is being recorded here on this website, but we don’t know who they were, or who they worked for – they had a long happy retirement.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 011 – Bonfire Fever

Bonfire Fever

The little recording device used for note-taking set off discussions. Someone called it a Dictaphone, and another said not so, that was a device from the past. They were not long after cassette players apparently, which were ancient recording devices. Not so for one of our group who tells us they still use one.

This sparked recollections of a cassette tape of gathered memories from an old cassette recorded in the early eighties by a chap in his nineties. There were some fascinating details which came from the recollections of this. One in particular was of him remembering the Mafeking bonfires. Most didn’t know what this was about so the moment was relived. Well, we didn’t start a bonfire but the time of the relief of Mafeking was related to the group. May 1900 was the time of the rescue of the forces under siege and news spread to Britain and everyone celebrated. In quite a wild way it seems. There were bonfires built in the streets almost everywhere and folks danced and shouted and celebrated. A fair few things which would have been useful were lost and the crowds threw anything to hand onto the fires to help keep the spirit of the party going. Around the country old buildings still show the signs of blistered, buckled paint and woodwork as the fires grew larger. We partied and we celebrated.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 012 – Rattling Gun

Rattling Gun

Now if you have an interest in the Seige of Mafeking you might want to research further but here in an anecdotal way are the details related of the tale. Baden-Powell and just a crew of officers were dispatched to Africa and the troops that he commanded were gathered from the area as volunteers, these included many lads in their teens; these were used as scouts and runners and the whole scout movement came out of this as a result. They withstood 217 days of onslaught, and mainly we hear, due to complete resourcefulness.

Stakes were driven into the ground and the troops were instructed to step over imaginary barbed wire. They had but one machine gun and an old light. During bombings everyone hid underground in tunnelled bunkers, and when night came, troops were sent out with the gun and the light. The light had been placed in a polished biscuit tin so it seemed like a search light. The gun would fire a few shots in one direction, while the search light beamed out from the opposite side of the town. Then they were both moved round a bit, a few shots from the gun, a sweep of light across the open ground, then off they went again. This way they had it seem that they had lots of guns and lots of lights.

There was one other gun eventually; as they were digging, something metal was discovered in the ground. It turned out to be an ancient cannon with a stock of cannon balls. So it was dug up and made ready for use. It had lettering emblazoned on the side, no one knew what the lettering had meant originally, but it stood out clear what it meant to them; all the lettering said was, BP1.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 013 – A Lady’s Wildness

A Lady’s Wildness

How do we know of what went on during those 217 days of siege? The tale recounted for us talks of a Captain’s widow. Alone, except for her maid, it was felt that it was unfair on her to be subjected to the bombing and risk of being in Mafeking. So she was smuggled out of the camp while a distraction was made at the other side of the circle of imaginary barbed wire. She was free from the terrible restrictions of war, but she was free in Africa. She, and her maid, found themselves in a wild land with big cats and hyenas and hazardous conditions. They survive for a long period and then decided it would be less of a risk to be back in Mafeking. They somehow managed to smuggle themselves back in there. She then started to write of her experiences and her diary notes were smuggled out on a regular basis and ended up in the British papers. Everyone wanted to read her records of these exploits overseas. The struggles of Baden-Powell and his forces held the nation gripped as a result. There was a timely feel to these accounts it seems with comments such as, ’Sergeant Johnson bought it today, as a result of the confounded bombing, but we had a jolly good game of cricket’.

Footnote: During the relating of these tales one chap sat quiet in a corner smiling, then as all quietened he told us how he had listened to these stories way back when he was a scout at St Paul’s.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 014 – It Just is Cricket

It Just is Cricket

Cricket! – How could they play cricket in the middle of the siege of Mafeking you may be wondering. This is a tale from a different age, with a different sensibility. There were Sundays to consider. Terrible bombings continued throughout the week, but when it came to Sundays all the hostilities stopped. Baden-Powell ensured these rest days were full of fun and distraction for the troops we hear. Concert parties were arranged. There was of course always a game of cricket to be played.

The hostile forces observed these activities from a distance, and in the end, the commander of the Boers, we are told, telephoned Baden-Powell. He said how he had noticed that they played cricket every Sunday and how his troops didn’t really have anything to do. So he suggested that next Sunday a team from his side come across and had a bit of a game. Baden-Powell explained that they were already in the middle of a game of cricket and that they couldn’t entertain the Boers until the present game was over. So the commander asked how long their current game of cricket had been going on. Baden-Powell replied, ‘Two hundred days not out!’ and hung up the phone.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 015 – Little Reassurance

Little Reassurance

Is it just York, but you step up to the bar and end up in a conversation and the next thing you know, you are hearing tales of personal experience from all around the globe. I think we are talking oil drill workers here, but we are certainly talking polar bears. This was a chap who had worked in a team up in the far north of Norway. The land of the Sami he tells us. Here as they went out surveying they were at risk of encountering polar bears. This concerned them quite a bit and they had enquired of their manager what the best action was. The guy tells us that they were given a pistol. They were instructed to take turns to carry it. So he had commented that it would be that person’s job to stand and shoot the polar bear if it attacked. He was told that there was no ‘if’ involved, if they came across one it would attack. He was also told that his thinking was wrong. Shooting a vicious polar bear would only make it fiercer. In no circumstances were they to try and kill a polar bear with just a pistol. So there is left the question what the pistol was for. They were instructed that when they saw a poplar bear they were all to run as fast as they possibly could and keep going as long as they possibly could. This still leaves the question of the pistol. They were instructed that whoever had the turn of carrying the pistol had to spin around and shoot the man at the back for the poplar bear to attack; that way the rest of them had a bit of a chance of getting away. I thoughtfully sipped my beer and felt grateful I was in Bishophill.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 016 – Party Crasher

Party Crasher

A lady at a table informed us that she always had ghosts in her houses wherever she had lived; she also said that they seem to follow her around from residence to residence. One story she related was of an unwelcome spirit encountered when she was young. This figure of a man was seen wandering in the house, he seemed lost, but he also seemed antagonistic as if they were the ones who shouldn’t be there. A neighbour told them of how she too saw a figure and she described his appearance. Her father said that she was describing an airman and that a plane had crashed in the wartime in the area which was their gardens.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 017 – Spooky Attic

Spooky Attic

I was informed by one person during the course of the evening that they enjoy listening to my ghost stories on the radio. They listen to them on a regular basis when they come on early in the morning. Strangely I haven’t done that spot at that time for well over a year, so how the stories are working their way through to them I do not know. One that had stood out for them was the tale of the man in the attic. A woman had approached me in the street (I get loads of stories this way) and told me of when she had moved house several year ago. She had gone up the ladder into the attic to put some boxes in there and had felt unwelcome. She had frozen to the spot and was just about to turn and go from the place. She was pushed. She dropped the box and tipped over backwards. The hatch was behind her and she tumbled down the ladder breaking her collarbone. She didn’t ever go in the attic again; she didn’t want to upset ‘Cyril’ as she called him. The boxes? They are still up there and she plans to do without their contents thank you very much.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 018 – The Nature of Hob

The Nature of Hob

Hob. There is debate about the nature of Hob. Especially the one which stands on Hob Moor. There by the plague stone is the figure of a small fellow. Now the verse beside this says that Hob was a knight who set up this stone upon returning from crusade; that this is to remember him. Others say that Hobs of long ago where creatures, creatures from the realm of faerie! – That the meaning of the stone has become changed over time and that the knight placed this stone here originally to warn all those who might choose to travel across ‘Hob’s’ Moor. There is certainly a log tradition within folklore of talk of Hobs. There were many types and it perhaps is a local name for anything of a pixy or fairy nature from our past; a generic name in the north of this land for magical creatures.

Following this conversation I made a pledge to myself to keep away from the moor, at least at night.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 019 – House Hob

House Hob

There are also household Hobs we are informed. Another chipped in that these are like the creatures in the Harry Potter films. In fact this is correct but the other way around. Housey Hobs would keep you safe from trixy spirits. Creatures such as Eggy who comes creeping out of a cracked eggshell and forms into a wobbly white being who climbs out of the pan to cause mayhem in the home. Dusty who constructs himself from the messy bits you have been too lazy to clean away from the corners. There was a host of these such creatures in the stories of old. One has to wonder at the state of the poor children who were told of these things in such a way as to be sure they were real. Watch out for Sleepy, or Sneaky or Scaredy-pants.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 020 – Spotted Fairies

Spotted Fairies

There are fairies at the bottom of the garden we are told, it was cried out in fact, but upon enquiry the commenter said that they believed in many things but not in fairies.

The call came up to consider the case of the Cottingley Fairies. Famous in their time as the photographs of them, taken by young Elsie and Frances, were spread across the globe. Now at the time they were believed for a long time (and some still do so) yet it was also claimed that they had made them out of paper and pinned then to the garden. Both Elsie and Frances were interviewed when they were quite elderly. We understand that is was Elsie who told magazine The Unknown that they had made the whole thing up; that there was never any truth in it all. After she had passed away another magazine interviewed Frances we hear, and she commented that Elsie would have said that as she never liked any fuss. Some were paper cut-outs yes, she explained, but that was only because the fairies at the bottom of the garden wouldn’t let themselves be shown on film.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 021 – Craning You See

Craning You See

So we’ve had interest in folklore, bargain hunting, history, travel, archaeology; we’ve seen people pouring over maps and plans in a corner, we seen folks playing board games (Dominion and Cluedo but thankfully no Jenga). One has to have interests, and these include cranes, yes cranes. There are those who love steam, some who are gripped by tractors, others Manga, here we have a feller who has a comprehensive understanding of the nature of lifting items high and placing heavy loads.

So he enjoyed the story of the bargain hunter which was told on the evening. You may be one of those who goes hurtling round fields at dawn in the search of some illusive wonder. There are plenty of car-booter’s among us, not many though that come back with a Portacabin. There it was at the car boot with a ‘for sale’ sign on it and this chap just had to have it. It was delivered thankfully. It was delivered on a lorry but presumable this flat-back had some sort of lifting equipment to lower to the ground (over to the expert for the facts on that one). The buyer didn’t want it in the front garden but that was the only place the lorry driver would deliver it; the future, guest room, the study, the retreat, the hobby room, the possibilities were endless. There was only one problem; the partner wasn’t too keen on it being on the front lawn – who would be. When you are a bargain hunter one should always think through the repercussions of a purchase. Here was a large house with no back access and a huge thing the neighbours were starting to complain about. Enquires were made, many enquiries, in the end the only solution was offered by a firm with a very large crane. Now the exact type of crane isn’t recorded (sorry) but we are assured it was like one of those huge really tall ones you see on sites where they are building tower blocks. It filled the street, it filled the sky-line, but it did the job; eventually the Portacabin was lifted up (at great expense) and was lifted right over the house and placed perfectly in the back garden.

I think the purchaser had to hide in it for quite a long time before he dare come out and face the wrath at home.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 022 – Final Facts

Final Facts

Now tales get around, and they vary with the telling. This is a small world too. One as a teller knows that sometimes you get up and relate a gripping real-life experience and someone in the audience calls out that they were there, that this was a relative of theirs, that you weren’t there, that you nicked the story off someone else. This has been true in the case of prize bare-knuckle fighters down old Walmgate, engine drivers with shovels, family anecdotes and of course, perhaps more so of all, with ghost stories.

Now back at the Ales n Tales at the Fulford Arms we heard the tale of the old man who wandered through the house. He went through without raising concern, he was the owner of the rented house and had a right to be there; a smart-casual, confident old man who hardly glanced at them as he paraded through the house to the dining room. There he was with his bright red cardigan and his brimming confidence and the students who lived there never questioned him. They discovered later that he had died years beforehand and they then set to thinking about it and realised; they saw him walk through the house to the back room a few times every week, but had never thought before – they never saw him come back out.

Well here at the Golden Ball we had the partner of that guy who had been the student then, and she too told the story. When I said how her feller had told me the tale previously she said how she bets he told me that the guy always wore a red cardigan. I accepted this as an acknowledged fact yes. ‘Nonsense,’ she exclaimed. It turns out whenever she had seen him she swears he was wearing a brown cardigan; Red? Nonsense!

 

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 023 – Same Old Same New

Same Old Same New

Dreams, over the sipping of a draft ale, there was an interest in dreams. I was stood buying a packet of p-nuts and in a little world of my own at the time and out of the blue the guy stood by said, ‘Dreams’; he had been thinking about dreams. It strikes me that now I have done Ales n Tales, wherever I go people will want to tell me their stories, their experiences, and their contemplations. Such as this, Dreams! He had been thinking about dreams, how people say that they have a recurrent dream. People do indeed often say (to me anyway) that they have had the same dream over and over, that they dream a dream that they last dreamed years ago, or that they frequently wake after the very same dream as before.

Well, our friend has been thinking about this, over his pint, and something different to this strikes him about the issue; and here it is. – When you dream a dream that is the dream you dreamed as you have dreamed before and you see real echoing significance in this, what has actually happened is, you have dreamed a completely new dream, which you have never had before, but – in the dream you dreamed that it was a recurrent dream that you had experienced many times before.

Folks in pubs think deeply.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 024 – Not Like That

Not Like That

We heard about Tommy Cooper, and about comedians generally. It was wondered by one, that if a famous comedian nowadays is wandering about in life, or is visiting the shops, if someone spots them, are they still funny? Do people laugh at them all the time?

As for the late great Tommy Cooper, one of our many here tells us that he used to live in the same street as Tommy. Apparently before he was a magician (if that is what he was) he was a police officer; the local bobby.

We hear of what he always had in his pocket. In his top pocket of his jacket for when he was a called upon to offer a tip; a waitress, a taxi-driver, a hotel doorman – Tommy would say, ‘Here’ and pop a crumpled gift into their hand, they would feel the paper texture and be quite pleased, ‘Have a drink on me,’ he would say as he walked off. They were very pleased, then they looked down to see what size note they had been given by the great comedian Tommy himself. There in their hand was not a fiver or even a pound note; they were holding a t bag.

‘Have a drink on me.’

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 025 – Like That

Like That

By chance, in the battered old suitcase of props there was a trade mark item associated with Tommy Cooper, yes a Fez. As one of our attendees stood up to tell a tale of the late great Tommy the hat was brought out and popped upon his head. He recalled how Tommy Cooper had met the queen. After the show (presumably at the London Palladium) he had lined up with all the other stars and along had come the Queen to great them all. When she approached Tommy and shook his hand, (no she didn’t pop a t bag in his hand), she had a quiet and friendly chat with him, and thanked him for his marvellous show. As she turned to talk away Tommy asked if he could ask her a question. She replied, yes, that he could do. He asked if she liked football. She replied that no she didn’t really enjoy the game, so Tommy asked, ‘So can I have your cup final tickets?’

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 026 – Indigenous Welcome

Indigenous Welcome

The full story was told, the background to the experience of someone who had been to America recently. They had been over there during Thanksgiving so we heard the tale behind that special day. The day of Thanksgiving is about to be told here, (as told in the pub), but it is also the story of how Americans came to speak English.

Those pilgrims disembarked in an expanse of arable land and they had their farming stock with them. They planted their seeds as they had always known to do. Seasons are different at opposites sides of the world, and the seeds faired very poorly. So did the settlers, there was much illness and poverty. In desperation a few of them went hunting. As they travelled they saw a group from an indigenous tribe, these tribal people did not seem concerned about them. Indeed as they passed them the group overheard their English voices and said the only word they had in that tongue, ‘Welcome’. This didn’t seem possible, how could they know an English word. After attempts to communicate, they realised they had no other English. They did have something though, knowledge, knowledge of where they could lead them to be understood. They directed the settlers to a tribe somewhat further off, and there the group met ‘Squanto’.

He had fluent English and he helped them, He brought about their survival in fact. They flourished and prospered as a result of his guidance and tuition on the ways of this new land. So much so that the group expanded over the coming years and formed new communities. Word spread among ships and other English people came and joined them. Gradually over the years the coast had settlements all along where English was the language. So as other settlers arrived from around the world, be it Spanish, Polish or wherever from, the language they heard spoken was, yes, English. New arrivals thought that this meant the dominant language in this land was English, which indeed it was. So they all decided they would have to learn it.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 027 – The Full Story

The Full Story

We hear of ‘Squanto’ in the ‘above’ story. How he came to be in the western lands with a fluency in English is an amazing journey with the twist of fate that has changed the nature of the states and helped all flourish. Here is that tale as recalled from the telling at Ales n Tales. Years before the pilgrims arrival he had been kidnapped. A Spanish ship took him away with them and used him as a slave. At a European port he was sold and worked another ship to England. When harboured here he escaped. He lived as a free man here and found work and took up the local language. Then he began to think that it may be possible to see his loved ones again. So he approached a ship that was bound for the Americas. He asked them if he could work his passage. He would need no payment and would only ask for his keep for the duration of the journey. He was of course widely experienced in the tasks of the seaman and he was fluent in the Captain’s language. He worked his passage and eventually saw the site of his homeland. He disembarked, he was here, he was unfortunately around two hundred miles from his own tribe and had a very long and difficult walk ahead of him. At last he found the way and there before him were his tribe and his loved ones. Amazed to see him again and eager to hear his tale they welcomed him with open arms and floods of tears.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 028 – Spooky Rachel AD

Spooky Rachel AD

Clothes don’t die do they! This statement over a pint had this humble story-gatherer intrigued. The sense of what they are on about was enquired upon. It seems the thinking is, that clothes are not a living thing, yet people say they when they see a ghost it has clothes on. If there is such a thing as ghosts and they can appear back from the dead then surely they would be nude.

Another among us claimed that the spirit of the person returning doesn’t look like they did when they were here anymore. They perhaps are all shining spirit and wispy or they look like an angel or something, but that they show us an image of what they were like when they were known by us so we will accept them and believe that we have been visited by a loved one long gone.

Yet another explained that ghosts are not a person who had passed away but rather were a projection from the mind of the onlooker, they were a sign of their wish to see someone again projected into the world from their own unconscious mind.

A further member of our current discussion pointed out that he hopes the first person was right and that ghosts cannot wear clothes when they appear to us, because he was hoping to see Rachel Welsh.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 029 – The Devil’s Door

The Devil’s Door

This is a factor for our history and perhaps a ghost tale of sorts. There was mention of the hooded figure which is reported to be seen exiting the church down Peaseholme through the small door in the side. There is another being that was supposed to come out of that door too. Not a ghost as such, the devil; for historically many churches had these small doors. They go back to the days when it was felt that a new born baby had vulnerability; that they were in danger of being connected to the devil. There was risk from them which was perceived until the child was eventually christened. At the service the small door was opened and at the point where the infant was blessed by the priest, the evil spirit within them was expelled; the devil himself was believed to fly out of the babe and be expelled from the church, to speed out through the small open door built there especially for the purpose.

The devil gone through the devil’s door.

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 030 – Choched

Choched

The ‘above’ tale of the devil’s door and the historical belief that there was something evil inside a child until it is christened struck a chord. I don’t exactly go back that far, although I do go back a long way. When I was born there perhaps a remnant of this kind of thinking left within the culture; you had to be ‘Choched’.

My mother will have been discharged from the maternity unit and taxi was waiting for her. She carried me out of the hospital and instructed the driver of her destination (not home) and of the stop off point along the way. She asked him to drive by way of the church. Once there the driver had to wait while mum carried me through the church yard up into the open church (yes churches were open all the time back then). All she did was stand still in the church for a short while, and then I had been ‘choched’. The taxi then took her to the local pram shop. Here the pram was waiting. It was all bought and paid for but it was bad luck to have it at home before the baby. The driver was paid off, I was carried into the pram shop and inserted in my new pram. Then my parents proudly walked the rest of the way home. As people saw them approaching they would become excited and rush to see the new born baby. Just as they approached the pram and just before they reached in to touch the child, (and give it a lucky coin), they would pause. They would take a slight step back and look up at the parents and say, ‘It has been choched has it!’

 

  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 031 – Ghost with Teddy

Ghost with Teddy

Another child to finish this section, but this time it is a ghost story. The lady who had told us of a few ghosts she had encountered relates the tale of the ghost in her current house, a shy small spirit she says she started sensing being around. She had a feeling there was some sort of ghost in the house and she eventually mentioned it and others agreed. After a while she started hearing footsteps pottering about upstairs; small feet, running steps. Then she would see a fleeting figure, small and appearing to carry something. Gradually it has come to her that this is a boy, a boy carrying a teddy bear. The timid spirit had steadily become more accustomed to them being there and has drawn neared and nearer. The last sighting was of a diminutive figure in the doorway of the living room, obviously trying to conjure up the courage to come into the room. She awaits a sense of a small extra weight upon the sofa beside her.

Back to Ales and Tales – for tales from other pubs

 

 

Viking Travel Course – Part Two – Becoming a Viking

Viking Travel Course – Part Two – Becoming a Viking 

Welcome to part two of my personal log of the exciting adventure of being part of the team for the UWGB Viking Travel Course. Yes, this time we will look at Becoming a Viking.

I am supplying links to all things Viking, including links to Njardarheimr Viking Town and all the places of interest along our route.

(Visit UW Green Bay Viking House on Facebook to find out more about the course.)

I am also going to include help on how to dress like a Viking and in particular on making your own clothes. In blog three I will be interviewing my good friend from Viking Connections Tim Jorgensen. He will be telling how we can team up with their Viking Apprentice to learn more about working with Viking fabrics.

You will want to shop around for some things, in particular accessories, so here first are the links for shopping (NB not included in the budget). You can buy materials and patterns, you can commission people, you can acquire jewellery, hats etc; here’s the shop links…

Oh no, first a mention on boots. You might want to buy Viking boots, you might want to wait till you get there and learn how to make your own, but in the mean-time let me tell you that new comers are allowed a little leeway when it comes to authenticity in the footwear department. If you have some simple plain boots which are not too noticeable you will be fine. You can always send us pics for a chat.

Back to apparel links…

Outfit Contacts

We will be hearing from Steph Anderson, the Viking Apprentice for 2020, who is going to be undertaking apparel masterclasses in Sweden and we hope to arrange facetime with her.
Sophia Helen offers ready-made, or patterns, or to be someone to run workshops
Sophia Helen – https://www.facebook.com/waffleandwood/
Toni DB says, if anyone is looking to buy; etsy.com/nineworldsclothing has some nice wool goodies for the Norwegian weather.
etsy.com/nineworldsclothing
https://www.facebook.com/toni.db.7
Leah O’Cuinneagain says, I can send links for patterns, but otherwise I too am happy to make clothes if students would prefer 🙂
Leah coordinates the Viking group for York university and would be happy to help with enquires via – Vanaheim Vikings York on Facebook
She also hand-makes authentic clothing via – https://www.facebook.com/HafurtaskCrafts
Karin Byom – nailbinding for gloves and hats etc, also tablet weaving supplies and happy to advise on all things textile – is based at Njardarheimr and can run courses there – https://www.facebook.com/karin.byom
Ann Asplund says, I’ve got some patterns – what about a skype session where I could help people draft their pattern with their own measurements? Plus with one session helping them take their measurements.
https://www.facebook.com/AnnOther-Day
http://www.annotherday.com/
I am told NilleViking Glæsel has some patterns
https://www.amazon.com/Viking-Clothing-Garment-Nille-Glaesel/dp/1494475227
https://nillegraphic.myportfolio.com/work
http://vikingageclothing.susannabroome.se/booklets/http://vikingageclothing.susannabroome.se/booklets/
vikingageclothing.susannabroome.se
https://www.facebook.com/swanhildassweets/ – for authentic life path jewellery.
Jelling Dragon are very well known for all things Viking – https://jelldragon.com/
Valhallas Silver are a great company – and they visit Njardarheimr – https://www.valhallassilver.com
A search showed up – https://grimfrost.com
Bruni Bear is an expert in nailbinding, she is also an authenticity officer for the BBC – https://www.etsy.com/ca/people/BruniBjarnja – (She is also on Facebook)

We will be learning skills and making things when we are there, and there is a great shop in the village for jewellery etc.

Visiting Vikings – Lots of links Relating to Njardarheimr Viking Town, Gudvangen, Norway
https://www.visitflam.com/activities/the-viking-village-njardarheim/
https://www.visitflam.com/ – top attractions
http://njardarheimr.com/ – including freeman application and guidelines
www.vikingvalley.no/
www.facebook.com/vikingvalley/
https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/viking-village-njardarheimr/200194/
Market footage – https://youtu.be/aB5-lu-lZnU
https://www.facebook.com/njardarheimr/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/gudvangenvikingmarket/
https://www.facebook.com/VisitingVikingValley/
https://thevikingdragon.com/
https://adrianspendlowblog.com
valkyrja.com – Viking blog
A walk around Gudvangen – https://adrianspendlowblog.com/2019/09/03/your-name-in-runes-plus-the-greatest-hits-of-my-gudvangen-commentaries/
Information from my travels –https://adrianspendlowblog.com/2018/12/07/visiting-viking-attractions-an-idea-swap-first-draft/
A 12 blog tutorial on being a storyteller – https://adrianspendlowblog.com/2018/04/01/storytelling-is-1-the-introduction/
A guide to re-enactment – https://adrianspendlowblog.com/2017/10/03/lh-living-history-characterisation-tips-for-re-enactors-2/
A Viking –https://bull-hansen.com/blog/
Slow TV Trip Across Norway – https://thenextweb.com/video/2016/08/04/norway-slow-tv-netflix/
Good, simple, overview of the Vikings in Norway – https://www.visitnorway.com/things-to-do/art-culture/vikings/
Borre and the Midgard Historical Center –
https://www.followthevikings.com/visit/midgard-i-borre
https://vestfoldmuseene.no/en/midgard-viking-centre/visit/
UW Green Bay Viking House – https://www.facebook.com/UWGBVikingHouse/
North Star Vikings is a Minnesota based Viking Age Reenactment group located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area focusing on the later Viking Age (approx 900 to 1066). – https://www.facebook.com/NorthStarVikings/
Applications and enquiries;
Chat to the team at UWGB for final details, (I am just an assistant) – here’s the email for Professor H Sherman, shermanh@uwgb.edu

And the link to the first blog in this series Viking Travel Course – Part One

Steam Days Poetry modelled on my father’s memoires

Steam Days Poetry modelled on my father’s memoires

dad uniform

 

 

Lads on a Transfer

 

The boys who were James’ and Witty’s class

In the Motive Power Depot

Down at Old Dairycoates

Are signed up as their men

Supernumerary Cleaners

Replacing drafted soldiers

We were designated our seniority

Soon were going through the motions

Paraffin cleaning gears and couplings

Senior Passed Firemen supervised us

Training us up, by learning us ‘Improvements’;

Droppings and Steam Action

Buckeye and Loose Links

All of the couplings

Stephenson’s Link Motion

All about Walschearts

The joys of Joy’s Radial Valve Gear

We were learning the Eccentrics

Between their Side Rod Pins

Hoping at the end of the war

To be sent for None-Returner’s Duties

Through the office of the Shed Master

Down at Botanic Gardens

Motive Power Depot

To step up to an engine cab

But for now doing cleaning

It is back to the twelve seater,

Single flush latrine room

 

AS

 

 

Reporting to Miss Jackson

 

Her Docket Clerks Diagram men

From their three shift system window

Seniority always organised Link Men

Passenger, Goods and Pilot Links

Sickness, Spare Markings and Specials

Marked Diagram Sheets show Turns of Duty

Here, in clean overalls,

Young Ronnie was learning

The running of the railways

 

AS

AS