Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool
Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool
Right, I am going to get strict now.
Storytellers must always tell traditional stories which they have learnt by listening to another storyteller. They must sit and not move and they must never ever utilise items – the sinful prop! Sit still and tell old things rigidly.
Well there we have a whole set of rules to be broken. I certainly break them all. It is a school of thought though, an old school of thought.
There is a vision of the teller in a big chair and everyone hushed and still looking up in awe. It does happen. These are moments to cherish.
My first thought would be, where to put that chair.
Put yourself in your space. Find the place where you feel right.
I like to get there early. I step into that school hall and I guess I am getting the vibe, I most usually walk straight to a spot, “I would like to stand here”. It isn’t always where they expect you to go.
It is the same on a ship, in cave or on a stage. Put yourself where you need to be.
“Can you put my chair here please?”
“And my table here if you are using ‘the dreaded prop’.
The inner translucent layer of a mammoth skin has been draped across near the rear of this cave, with a small fire behind, you step out of a hidden side alcove when they are distracted and you beat a hollow log with your talking staff; you are suddenly there, a misty figure in front of them.
And you have your place.
Your place in history.
Step around into the open and stamp your white staff to the ground. Stay silent for a moment while they take in the carvings and the natural twist leading to the gleaming crystal.
Play a little on your cave harp.
Or say but three words then lift up your bone flute.
If you are more modern than this you may be wishing to commune with Odin. Your fur-covered Chanter’s Stool is brought out for you and you flick your cloak as you sit.
The large seat.
The shamanic drum.
The soft toy – well, that is me.
Rocky the Dragon gets very sad because he never gets any kisses.
I might be better getting a white wood staff.
And so to sit.
Or both. I tend to be out of my chair most of the time but starting things off sitting seems to work for me. I am a bit all action and cannot keep still.
Silliness seems to happen. In among the gripping and the scary a bit of silliness too.
‘I have lived in the land of fairy – and I have never been the same since.’
Being trapped in a fairy ring causes one to have to dance and for all people laugh they are intrigued. For all the silliness of stories of meeting and even marrying beings from the realm of the Fey I tend to attract people who hang around to tell me of their real-life experiences of meeting or seeing creatures from the mystical lands.
You have to remember who is out there. I will look at the idea of being a ‘Skald’ in a little while, let it be said there is always a sense of ceremony. The way we conduct ourselves, be it at a ritual or on the content of our set lists should always seek to be inclusive. In your audience is someone who happens to have come along, a tourist who wants to see how we do things, a historian, an Odinist or Asatru who follows the ways of the old gods, a person of another religion.
Respect. Respect mixed with entertainment.
Art is always a compromise. There is the viewer the one experiencing the art. They are to be considered. And yet one must maintain their own integrity.
Yet you must always do what it says on the tin. If it says chocolate milk we don’t want root beer coming out into the glass.
Many circles are spontaneous of course. Chiefly though, you have been invited. The audience have come along because of what the publicity said.
The publicity has been written by the inviter, they wrote it after talking to you, but they also put their own needs into it.
You must try and fit with this description.
You might always try and describe yourself slightly differently from the last time.
What does it say on your tin?
We have talked a little of the oral tradition; that the content and possibly style of our ‘show’ come from the past.
If we talk to a ballad singer, someone from the folk world or perhaps a shanty singer, we will come across the school of thought; traditional means that nobody wrote it. An old song has gone through so many singings, been passed from one singer to another, that the version we hear now is no longer anything like the first song which somebody actually wrote.
The shanties or other work songs have been created by the group to fit a rhythm or a need so have really evolved and developed.
We do live in a modern world where information is available to all. So it is possible to go back to the root or at least dig deep.
We are also freed up a little by this information availability. We can ‘tell’ in our own way. As long as we are respectful to the story.
Some of the records of folklore etc are a little clumsy, they are a record for posterity, not a classic novel.
This is where that second storyteller by the universal fire comes into things. Making the story better, more fun, gripping, relevant to the original concept, getting it all across is a skill. A developed skill. This is just as much a tradition as passing along the accuracy of the tale. We are all somewhere in the middle of this quandary, this long drawn out ‘story’. That innovative storyteller is a tradition.
Take the responsibilities with you but bring that tale alive. It deserves you. It deserves you to be your very best.
Embrace the past in your own way.
Where are we in the timelessness of storytelling and can we become our self back then as if we are there.
There are old stories. They were not always written down, as they are now, yet they survived. The enjoyment of them survived. So, although we can be glad of those who recorded them and of those who share them today, it was never meant for such a rigid thing as text. Never let it be so.
Tens of thousands of people may have told of that dugout canoe the first people survived in before and spider taught written signs to any tribe.
(I am not too sure how the canoe got to every single nation in the world – but I have heard of it wherever I go!)
I cannot tell you what to do. I don’t know how your mind works. I do know one thing; every individual’s mind works in a different way.
Go with your failings.
Mine is names. So I allow myself to forget. I think of ways. His brother. The tall giantess. With a flick of her hair. You know; avoidance, distraction.
You might want to force yourself to digress. Or to get back onto topic quicker.
I’ve talked of being a collector. Here is an aspect which can make the whole audience die of groaning or can fill hearts with soaring fire, (not to be sexist, but I think I am talking blokes); details.
Factual information. I struggle here in the same way as I do with names to be honest. I did, however, experience a split of reactions recently.
My father drove steam engines. You can already see where this is going. I have told great stories from his experiences for many years. Before a recent performance I thought I should have a refreshing look through his book. There was all that information; fourteen-foot fireboxes, that sort of thing.
Then here among it all was, 40302.
Engines always had a number like this. To me it is just a number. Then I read in my own father’s book that there is a reason behind this number; a sense to it. It refers to the wheels; 40302. There are four axles, a space, three axles, a space, two axles.
I look quickly now at my (currently virtual) audience and half of them are raising their eyes at an obtuse angle and half are achingly keen to hear more of such things which will fill them with inner bliss.
Where do you sit in this factual quandary?
How are you going to challenge yourself!
(Or cope with yourself.)
To be fair to myself I managed to play on that division within my audience and they laughed as they re-enacted their reactions.
I actually challenged an audience member, (it was in a chatty circle event were sharing was encouraged – and there was beer.), “How can you be so sure?”
“Oh,” he replied, “I file all my memories in date order”.
We are all different.
Shout out a date, another friend of mine can tell you not only what day of the week it was but every little thing about what happened. I gave her a date from the seventies and she described the embroidered flowers on my yellow large-lapelled suit jacket.
Another friend cannot pick and choose she has to scroll. She can recall every single thing which happened to her from the age of three, every feeling, every sound, smells, the works.
Will your mind allow you to be spontaneous?
Find a way.
The Skalds did poetry. Bards too. Many say poetry is a means of remembering something. I say do not memorise poetry. It will rattle along like a maraca in a samba band.
Poetic works need the meaning emphasising not the rhythm, beats or rhymes.
For me, I have written thousands of poems, I have two I can do from memory.
Set me on with storytelling though.
I have worked a full week of six hour days and finished the story just in time to clock off.
(It was a queue constantly streaming into a museum so I had to be sure and make every element work alone.)
I am quirky.
Not being believed is another failing of mine. The whimsical way I portray tales makes people think I have made it all up, I think it is my cheekiness. The fact that I have spent hours on research and finding new ways to think are lost in the gag.
Hours of research go into one snippet; a gag from hours.
This is a concept I have real difficulty explaining. There must be a word for it. There must.
Like there is for what Jung did. To posit. He explains how he was asked how the brain worked and he didn’t know. So he said there were two parts; the conscious and the unconscious. Now there is. There really is. He posited.
Say how something is and therefore it is forever so.
Edward De Bono reckoned that we posit all the time; especially politicians.
It is one aspect of what I mean.
I’ve described this idea in detail to someone whom was writing a thesis for academics to assess and she said what I meant was historical research.
That doesn’t seem quite right to someone plodding along in their own way hoping for the best.
If you talked to anyone going to a museum they would describe it as ‘the point’ because every single person who goes in an old place has a point to make. It is more important than looking to see what is in there. They have researched. They have thought. Here is the thought!
I am full of such thoughts.
(I try to address my stories with such things.)
I slip them in. I am the only person in history of Vikings to give the Gods surnames. Well, Patronyms. It took me ages to think about it and then I do a story and say Odin Borrsson and nobody notices. ‘Ah yes, that is his name.’
This is an inspirational talk so you can go away and not be motived either.
I have an interesting correction to make regarding the incident with the destruction of the old pub. A friend my mum’s from down the street, popped by to say he had just read my blog on the history of Quay street, and he had an amendment for me. See below for details.
It is quaint is Quay Street, let us hope I do it justice. I write this for a neighbour. For a short while back there she thought she had lost her family in that terrible night at Manchester Arena.
So for all those who did lose loved ones and for all of us who suffered through that disgusting tragedy this is a tribute, a sense of belonging, in the way of praise of; the street where you live. – For us, here, that is the historic easy-going Quay Street in Scarborough.
The narrow lane of fishing boats and fisher people has widened along most of its length yet it starts and finishes as a cosy cobbled alley. Quay Street (Pronounced ‘key’).
Cobbled its full length still, set just a little back from the ‘Cobles’ in the bay.
We are the bottom-enders. There is a large grass bank behind us built up of the rows of fisher people’s houses; stacked rows of tightly placed dwellings all rubble now. Rubble.
Above the grass banks of long gone kitchens and bake houses is the most prominent feature of the town: The Castle.
Down below Scar’s Burg our row survives. The Bottom-enders.
I have stayed here on and off for many years with my parents; now, I live here, with Mum while I recuperate – stitch-knitting time.
Fishermen from the street told us when Mum and Dad first got the place of living here man and boy, as did their father before them and his father before that.
A house just a little further down from us still has its bake house out the back, (a few of them do). The lady there, three doors up from me, passed away recently and the moving eulogy to the packed church just up Dog and Duck Steps for here, a step beyond Paradise, spoke of her skills; smoking, baking and sousing the herring, roping the mussel, and dressing the crab; she could dress a crab in less than fifteen seconds.
I chat across the wall to our neighbour, but she has another friend. Her back garden is in two levels; two walled terraces. Her new friend lives on the roof and spends his time on the top terrace – He is in love with her. He has built a nest and comes down to the upper patio to tap on the glass of the French windows with his beak to attract his love. He knocks very loudly. As loud as a large fisherman knocking.
She says it is not her he is knocking for. She says he is knocking for the love of his own reflection.
But you know what they say about albatrosses, perhaps it is true about seagulls too.
Her late husband was a Skipper, I am sure he has worked widely in the sea trade throughout a life of Scarborough, it is as a Skipper that I remember him. Skipper of the ocean-going pleasure cruiser the Caronia, or at other times the Regal Lady. Many a cruise with glass in hand and majestic creatures just off the bow I remember. Many remember and the fiddle plays in our souls as we think back.
There they await you among the 300 plus boats betwixt the three piers of no peer; Scarborough harbour. They have been called on from here before at times of great need as you will hear in the accompanying blog linked to below.
I awake early, it may be the sea birds, it may be the operation scars re-knitting, it maybe is the boot segs, ready to grip the sea boards, clattering the cobbles still.
I hear them I swear. For the street is narrow and the bottom-enders are an endless march along here all through time.
“My father before me, man and boy as I was, as his father before him: Fishermen.”
Yes they were, but something doesn’t quite ring true. After living here a couple of years my dad suddenly realised what was wrong with this claim. The hosues weren’t old enough; they were about 70 years old and the chap living in the one to our right was in his eighties man and boy.
Turns out, the fisher families have always lived here just not in the same building. When the old timey Quay Street was demolished, along with all the lines of houses along the bank above, this road was widened. All this side now housed luxurious semis and lots of the fishermen moved back in, back into a new house, back in to the very same spot man and boy man and boy.
The old street is still there, winding through the centre of the wider road; there are the cobbles.
One can well imagine this narrow street filling as rowing boats are lifted off the bake-house roof and carried through the narrow passage and out onto the street towards the sea.
When I first came here I was surprised to discover that my neighbour at the other side of Dog and Duck Steps was the great uncle of a good friend in York; well-known singer/songwriter Dan Webster. He sings of his relatives: of his grandfather, “I have always loved the sea, but fishing not fighting was for me.” And of his great grandfather who bravely lost his life; Frank Dalton.
There are rumours among locals around the tea stall that when the seas are real rough and the life boat call comes some rotaed crew are hard to find; rumours. The older seasoned seamen are there and ready.
So it was with two who were in their late fifties and early sixties; Jenkinson Mainprize and Frank Dalton.
Thomas Jenkinson Mainprize was best known as Denk and was a relative of the Mainprizes who run a wet fish shop in Scarborough today.
He and Frank were the brave ones who went aboard. It was the Dutch coaster Westkust. The skipper had delayed accepting assistance and had survived eight hours in heavy swell before requesting assistance.
All of the crew were aided by our two heroes who lowered them all one by one down to the life boat deck.
Then Denk and Frank. They swung over the side. The Westkust rose up. Denk made the leap and was down safe. Before Frank could join him a huge wave parted the craft and he was left high up hanging from the Westkust. The coaster dropped, the life boat was pushed up and in, they met in a sickening crunch. The Westkust again lifted and Frank fell, to lay dying on the deck of the life boat.
At his funeral, well, just after his funeral, the Second Mate of the Westkust stepped alone from the crowd to stand at the grave.
He took off his cap and he knelt, “Frank Dalton, as soon as I saw your smiling face climbing over the side of the Westkust I knew we would be saved. Frank Dalton thank you.”
All the more reason for fellow fishermen the next day to have a Cobler’s Monday. That is when there has been a hard time of it and just a weekend is not enough time to ‘recover’. So the crew of the coble agree between them they will all claim a sickie and spend the day ‘recovering’ together; most likely in the Golden Ball or the Newcastle Packet.
Scarborough is known: for these few old buildings here on Quay Street, for its two bays with its harbour between and of course being looked over by both Olivers Mount and the Castle.
It is the natural spring near the end of the south bay which brought people here; 3000 years ago this way a sacred spring was visited and adorned. It was much later that these waters caused an expansion of grand buildings. We came here to take the air, (we still do, just watch the walkers up and down), and we came to take the waters too. Spa town.
The Spa was built and people came in their droves to go down the steps to draw the magical waters.
Trains helped. Workers starting to get actual holidays also brought more trains and very busy patches.
There was another fame, a fish, a big fish which brought the rich. A tough fish: the tunny. Strongest fish in the sea so they say: the North Atlantic Tuna.
Not that there are many now; the mackerel and the herring runs diminished massively in the 30’s through to the 50’s as more intensive fishing techniques developed unchecked (before my 17 year old niece became the fear of the unwise and the inspector of nets).
Interest in the tunny was intense, but on a much smaller scale – Which is strange for such a very big fish.
They say now they are returning and are up to 500lb but the records say far bigger.
Very rich pickings indeed, for the very rich. They came in their droves, filling the best hotels, finding fame and indeed further fortunes.
One poorer catcher of a tunny got rich by charging for photos with it.
Fame came with the danger, small boats, small crews and fishermen in ones or twos. Some fought for hours, only to lose the line and the monster in a sudden snap. Some might be relieved at such a result as the boats were hardly large enough for the big big strong strong fish.
The record holder wasn’t a rich visitor, well he was a Lincolnshire farmer, so he probably was reasonably wealthy. Lewis wasn’t a fisherman, he was taking a break after being discharged from the RAF and was talked into having a go.
Some say he doesn’t hold the record. He caught a fish a full pound heavier at 852lb than the previous largest but someone complained later that the rope was extremely wet. What a wet fish! What a slime! I say, “Pah!” I won’t have it, I hereby award the record to Lincolnshire farmer Jack Hadley Lewis for his amazing 852lb tunny.
Go see the impressive statue on the Northern pier.
Yes the rich and famous came here for the Tunny. Actor David Niven was among the many from Hollywood to come to fish. One of them was very famous indeed.
Yes John Wayne caught a massive tunny fish here at Scarborough.
You might try finding the entrance to the Three Mariners Inn while you are on your way from Quay Street.
This is the paragraph which Richard tells me is wrong (Read the update below):-
The RAF are responsible for one eyesore on Quay street between two of the three beamed buildings in the street; an ugly flat-rooved intrusion between the Mutiny (formerly the Lancaster) and the Three Mariners Inn. Them bombers they had disposable petrol tanks, like bombs attached to the wings. When they were empty into the sea they went. They weren’t at sea on this occasion, they were above a beautiful old building – gone now.
I think the horrid flat building should be covered by a commemorative mural.
As I have said in this blog (above), many others have too. That the building opposite our house was destroyed by a Royal Air Force fuel tank which was dropped from the wing.
This is not right.
Richard Oates who lives in Quay Street, tells my mum that he knows this is not what happened because he was there. We are going back to 1937, so pre-war.
The building in question was the Dog and Duck. If you look at the pub now, you will see the Mutiny, which was formerly the Lancaster. This pub runs from the seafront to Quay street. The part at the back is really old. Medieval. This was a different pub. The Dog and Duck. The steps down from the castle are called Dog and Duck steps, and the alley along the side of the Mutiny is Dog and Duck Alley. The Dog and Duck, Quay street. It was larger then too. Till the drop from the sky.
The King’s Cup Air Race September 1937. On the leg which flew over Scarborough on its way to York, then Dublin in Ireland for the last of the one-night stop overs the mass of planes formed an impressive view. Across the south bay to the castle to appear low over the castle for the thousands watching on the north bay.
Two planes didn’t make it to that spectacle. All the airplanes struggled to make it over the castle as they hurtled with the wind behind them. As they approached at the risky low attitude the form of the peninsular caused a powerful force. The wind had hit here before them and continued to power into the castle rock. There was a huge up-wind. It hit them in the belly like a powerful punch. All the planes shot upwards, the pilots were out of control for a second. Many reported hitting their heads hard on the roof of the cockpit.
Two were less lucky, they were close to each other. The Miles Falcon GAENG met wings with the aeroplane of Wing Commander Sherren MC and both planes crashed into the castle in a massive roar of fire. Sherren and the pilot of the Miles Falcon, Wing Commander E G Hilton DFC would have died instantly.
As for Quay street down below. I can only presume that all the regulars and proprietors were outside looking up with horrified shock. Richard was among them, eighty three years ago. I guess he was quite young.
They got a full view as would all the thousands all along the promenade and hillside streets of the south bay. That gullet punch had wrecked the underside of Sherren’s plane, releasing the ballast weights. They crashed down with explosive force and destroyed much of the beautiful old pub the Dog And Duck. Only a small part remains. As the Lancaster was developed the remaining old part of this quaint medieval pub was built in. If you go in the Mutiny as it is now called, although it has all been redesigned with rough timber tables and a mutinous atmosphere take your drink to the back to the cosy small snug, and you are sat in the Dog and Duck. Back in time as if nothing had ever happened.
The devil brought his revolution here. His Brigg at Filey pierced a ship or two. Perhaps it stabbed at John Paul Jones. The American revolution came to this coast and his sword was left here. So the legend goes. It is said that he ‘safe harboured’ at the Three Mariners Inn across from me. I’ve seen the sword, that missing sword. It was said to be his and I saw it when the oldest complete building in the area (circa 1430) was a museum.
What a cranky museum it was, everything was everywhere, stuff heaped up, jewellery, toys, weapons, clothes – piled on every surface.
Rummage away visitor, ride the toy vehicle children, steal away visitors. Well some did. The sword somehow went one day, that was the last straw for them and the museum is no more.
You might want to buy the house though.
Sit on the bed, look in the mirror. Well, that’s what my young daughter did. Incidentally there is a long running (now suddenly exacerbated) family argument about which daughter it was.
As we left she said, “I didn’t like the man in the woman’s hat.” I asked where this was. “When I was sat on the bed.”
I was in the room, in fact I lifted my little girl up onto that bed. There was no one else there. So I told her I had seen no one. She looked up at me and with a serious face said, “Oh, you could only see him when you looked in the mirror.”
You might want to buy the house though.
I wonder if Dr Strange would? My mum has a claim to fame and I utilise it whenever I do publicity for my story-walks over in my home city: son of York’s first ghost-walker. It is true.
So it is a shame for her that after a lifetime of telling ghost stories, now in her retirement, she has to listen to loud ghost stories outside her window. Yes, Dr Strange of Scareborough Ghost Tour stops right outside to tell his screamer tale (which mum tells me is quite tall).
There is another fame to be experienced in this street, and I don’t mean just international blogger Adrian Spendlow (me), There is a great fame in Quay street, wait for it; Quay street is the home of the most famous vehicle on Scarborough.
A truck and a caravan welded and melded into one stupendous vehicle. The ornate homely transport is to be home to some of my stories – the side opens to provide a raised patio stage; my stage.
We will be appearing at various venues with Travelling Tales.
As Anne said, and you may still hear her voice if you visit her grave just above our house, “But he, that dares not grasp the thorn. Should never crave the rose.”
Opening Ceremony 2016 Viking Valley, Gudvangen, Norway
Welcome, welcome, you are all welcome. So good to see you all gathered here for the opening ceremony of this the 14th Viking Market here in Gudvangen Viking Valley.
You are safe here, welcome; you can relax and enjoy yourself, even though you will be spending the day among huge, hairy, heavily armed Vikings.
We are glad to have you here eating our food, drinking our mead, looking at our stalls.
Yes welcome, so relax you will be safe here – it is when we visit you that you need to worry.
“And we won’t be emailing, there will be no polite email asking if it is OK to visit. We will suddenly be there but you will know straight away. You will be well aware we are among you.”
This is a very special place; there is something magical about this valley. Everyone says so. You begin to feel the effect of being here straight away.
These Vikings here, as soon as they step off the ship they calm down, which is unusual I assure you. All the time they are here they are friendly, easy-going and peaceful – well most of the time.
Look at me. When I am at home I am a wild, dangerous, rampaging mad thing.
You will enjoy yourselves! Do you hear what I say, and can you see the shine of sharpness along the edge of my axe. You will enjoy yourselves!
Besides, we have many things on our stalls which we want you to buy. We have been to many lands and learnt many skills; old, well-tried, traditional skills. We will enjoy showing you; try not to be nervous when you generously show your appreciation.
Yes, we have sailed to many nations. We have landed on a wide range of shores, seen people of many types – and robbed them, traded with them, I mean traded with them, yes, traded.
“Can we ask where you are all from?”
“Spain.” “Poland.” “Canada.” “Ireland.”
“Ah, those are the places we robbed.”
That’s where we got all these things we are selling.
“Hey, stall holders, lower your prices.”
Yes visitors we will sell your things back to you quite cheaply.
“And you will be safe here. Adrian remind them how welcome they will be, and how safe.”
Yes, yes, safe, yes. We have sworn an oath, an oath. We wanted to reassure you so we oathed an oath, and when a Viking makes an oath they make an oath and the oath that they oath is an unbreakable oath which we have oathed; an oath is an oath is an oath. Let it be known that we have oathed.
“What is an oath?”
A promise; and a promise is a promise and…
“Don’t start that again.”
No, right, of course, but we did; there is a ritual and a belief. To make that oath the first thing you have to do is – spit in a barrel.
Well we skipped that bit.
“Yes well we are selling lemonade and mead to you. So we thought it best not to spit in the barrels. Or talk about it even…”
No sorry. No spitting. The barrels are fine!
A promise is a promise though, and it has to be kept. We worry about where we will go when we die.
Oath-breakers have to walk through a river of gushing ice. This ice is formed into axes, spears and knives – then, you step out – to be kept in a tower made of living serpents. Bitten and sprayed with burning poison for ever and ever and ever and ever.
Or until Ragnarok; the end of the world.
“So we keep our promises; enjoy.”
If, you enjoy hearing of the old mythos – watch out for the ravens…
A shadow will flicker over you. As you look up, the second raven will fly in from the world waters, by you see the third raven it will be too late. There it will be upon the mast of an incoming ship; a ship so terrible you will quake at the sight of it. The Vikings are coming, and they are no ordinary Vikings. These are Njardar. Njardar Vikingslag.
We are coming to you and charging onto your land. Hear the roar. See the gleam. A huge army of huge warriors are upon you. These are the best (the Mayor of Aurland himself said that we were second in exports and visitors and soon to become first, so it must be true). It is like the sky itself is filled, and they wait, with weapons high, only for a command to charge. Step forward the chieftain; Olafr Reydarsson. When he speaks we listen. He is big! Very big!
Well, his beard is big anyway. He will give the command; the word and we will all, roaring, act upon that word.
The word is…
“Welcome; you are all welcome to come and visit us in Gudvangen. Everyone is welcome, except those who do not make others welcome. Come visit.”
And so they do, in their thousands, from all over the world.
We have had a battle though, a long, hard fought battle – a battle to build.
As you step though those gates into the fourteenth Viking Gathering here at Gudvangen you step back into the past. Now. The long battle is over. Now. As you step through these gates you are stepping into our future.
By the fifteenth Viking Gathering there will be a Viking Town. It is a two year project with the first row of Viking houses ready by May – I have put my name down for one of these already.
Here is the first of the timber being delivered now…
You will be able to take part in the Glima wrestling…
With hardly any risk to yourself….
Hear Galda upon the holy hill…
Learn leather skills with Hamish, or buy his bags from Annabelle…
Visit Lady Chaga…
Be warned; slavers are in the area and you are at risk…
And it is no use complaining, we know that now.
But no, no, no, do not worry, as we have promised, you are completely safe here, well, until six o’clock. Once the market closes at six all promises are off!
Don’t spit when you speak!
Vikings will become Vikings again.
You will be greatly at risk – unless you buy a tunic and a pair of boots and stay here.
Then you will be welcome.
Before we actually open the market and get on with selling you your treasures back, there is one rather tricky thing which must be dealt with.
“Don’t tell them Adrian.”
No, we must.
“There is a rumour.”
A terrible rumour.
“It has been whispered over and over as people come through the gate.”
We are now going to deal with that rumour.
“People have been saying that they have heard that a group of tourists with plastic wrist bands came here to visit and were never seen again.”
“It is true!”
Never seen again!
They bought Viking outfits and became part of this marvellous experience.
“Now we must warn you.”
This may happen to you.
“This valley is such a wonderful, unique place that once you have visited you never wish to leave. Many choose to stay and be here forever.”
This we must warn you of.
“But there is a greater risk, a great and terrible sadness and yearning which may come upon.”
“If you do choose to leave here you will regret it forever.”
You will always feel that you are not where you belong and will feel terribly, terribly sad that you did not choose to stay.
“Terribly, terribly sad.”
“Now, finally, we welcome you with one piece of explanation about what you might expect here, here is the secret – it is all about love.”
“We will be opening the market again tomorrow.”
And this worries me greatly.
“I will be wearing my helmet. It was a wonderful gift to me and is an accurate reconstruction of a Viking age helmet.”
And why does it have a figure of a boar on the top?
“This is to signify that I command a team of specialist warriors.”
What kind of warriors?
And you are wearing it tomorrow? This worries me greatly. I have pledged to always stand by your side. To dress appropriately and be there in the way that you need me whatever you ask of me. What does a Berserker wear?
“A small fur collar.”
And that’s it!
Right I will have to get my outfit ready then.
“It worries me as well, I don’t think I will be standing next to you tomorrow.”
(“And if you blog about it tomorrow Adrian, do not do a drawing.”)
Thinking about it, I will make a great berserker. If you put all the fighters and all the wrestlers in the field ready I will be able to beat the lot of them, I will clear the field.
If I come screaming across to them wearing nothing but my berserker outfit they will scatter. I will see off the lot of them.
They will run.
“So will I!” “Enjoy yourselves today, because tomorrow is berserker day.”
We now declare the Viking Market open!
“This is a marvellous experience, with Vikings and visitors from all around the world, none of the differences you might notice elsewhere matter at all here, all beliefs, all life styles are for elsewhere; here everyone gets along and shares the wonder which is Gudvangen.”
So it is spoken by Olafr (Georg) and this is the world.
Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast.
Come along with me on an atmospheric walk around the winding ways of this ancient city where I utilise forty years of experience of hosting ghost walks around York. I shall write as I recall and be as true to the recollections of witnesses and to my own innate abilities as for accurate representation of historic events you may feel the need to go check such details out for yourself.
Oh yes, As we wander I shall try to remain true to my major influence for I shall be explaining as we go along the details of my claim to fame; Son of York’s first ghost walker.
#2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast
As we head towards our second collection of ghostly encounters we roll away from the Theatre Royal towards a small arch in this broken section of the City Walls (They are called the Bar Walls really but you are probably a tourist).
Pause here for a moment and look up at the guest rooms of the Exhibition pub (Actually tourists will later benefit from my simple guide to York further on in this feature). Do you see a face? No? A full figure of a man? A guest looking out in their underpants, or possibly sometimes without their underpants? Let us go in and find out a little more.
When I did go in there was a very enthusiastic welcome from (I think she was called Christine) Christine, who was thrilled to be able to share her experiences for you all; I have never seen someone so happy to tell of being scared half to death.
Not that the man in the window was totally scary, or at least not initially. She simply told her two workmates that one of them ought to get up there and tell the guest to put some clothes on when viewing Yee Olde Yorke. There was no need, it was explained to her, because there were no guests, they had all checked out that morning, there was nobody upstairs.
She found this cranky and interesting and not at all scary, well not until she checked the rotas and saw that she was on chambermaiding duties.
She saw no one upstairs and felt no presence so decided that the ‘guest’ was a different spirit to the one in the kitchens.
She did see him again but only from outside, and increasingly without any undergarments. It was the kitchen spirit who was unsettling however.
She remained pleased with herself. This seemed to be because she had a deeper experience than the other staff. Yet her experiences were always eventually verified.
Everyone picked up on the atmosphere in the kitchens especially after she had noticed it. Older staff acknowledged that there had always been something uncomfortable.
Like her those who had been there longer had problems with things going missing, crashing noises just as one was swinging in the door, or at other times things being found smashed.
It was Christine who saw things smashing first, well only by a split second. Her and one of the guys went in via the swing door together with arm-fulls of dishes.
“Look at that,” there was a butter dish hovering in the air. The instant her mate looked up to see it too it dropped out of the air. It smashed in the sink. She went on to see such things often.
It was her also who would notice when the spirit moved through into behind the bar. “Oh oh” was more or less all she would say, then things started to happen. Almost empty shelves would fill by the next time you bent down to add a pint glass. An upside down wine glass slowly sliding up its rack to crash to the floor. There would be a spate of such occurrences then things would calm and the kitchens would start having problems.
There was also a problem in the public area but Christine felt this was a different presence. When she was tidying up at ‘yucking out’ time she would find one of the wooden table tops to be swimming in beer. She would sort it, move on and look back to see it a-swim with ale again.
This went on over several weeks and then one evening she noticed a glisten and stood still to watch as the table top filled up with beer all on its own, as if the beer was welling up out of the wood itself.
As I watched this table anxiously and while we are ‘sat here’ in the warm let us cast an eye down the road to another haunted establishment.
Just along Bootham and down to the left on Marygate, there are two places to tell of actually, down near the bottom is the Jorvik Guest House where a figure is often seen in the building; in rooms and in the bar, perhaps all the more spooky for its hazy dark appearance.
Back up the way towards the main road I will tell of a ghost which is so clearly seen it is often not thought of as a ghost.
The Coach house hotel is the haunt of a soldier. In First World War trench gear he is most usually seen in the bar-room off to the right. At the far end of the serving area. How people generally react is to point out that the re-enactment guy was before them. Staff will say there is no one there and if customers get up from the left ha nd restaurant area sure enough there is only them waiting to be served.
As I am about to scare you about one of the letting rooms I am sorry to say I have forgotten which room this concerns, so when you stay there you will have to take pot luck.
Sit there at the mirror if you will, the chances are you will feel the presence of someone else sharing the long, cushioned, stool with you, look around and there is the indentation of them.
Slightly less common, although commented on by guests a few times a year, look up, in the reflection you will see the lady who shares your passion for long well-brushed hair.
Ask to change rooms if you will, but one of the other rooms has a spirit who sits on the bed in the middle of the night – at least the mirror lady doesn’t wake you up – sleep well.
Up behind the Exhibition and across the road is a building with a grizzly tale to tell, I am just waiting for the ghost stories to emerge.
The bakery shop there was the scene of something ghastly. A customer was selecting a pie when something dropped down on to it – it was blood.
The residents of the flat above resided no longer. They lay dead. The story is that they had been taking benefit cheques off other residents and one had had enough of going without.
The flat was re-floored and re-let; the bakers reopened – nobody went in.
Back to hauntings or at least monstrous beasts but first torture along the way.
The Board Inn – The Hole in the Wall – we are heading down the alley at the side of there but let us mention the ancient torture chamber reported in the cellar and the steps upon the stairs; the loo stairs. I am among many who hear footsteps behind them on the way to the loo. The many who see a door open ahead of them and feel there is someone else in the loos with them. Listen, someone left.
All these ghosts. This is York. An ancient place. Battles and sieges. Famines and wars. Jealousy and rages. Poverty and power.
There are more dead under the earth than there are people walking above on the surface. Small wonder that their essence comes seeping out from between the flag stones.
It is not the dead we are concerned about just now it is becoming dead. Being scared to death. Jinxed. Hexed. Summoned. Cursed.
We are stepping down into the realms of the Black Dog of Death.
It is an ancient beast and it is down this alleyway, or the next, or the next. It is a sign you are about to become dead. Whenever it is reported seen there are simultaneous reports of death, or near death, or injurious states – down alleyways – read the reports.
People have seen the hound of our alleys since the long-ships. Word of the dark creature slinking ashore litter the tales of remembrance of the Norse.
This dog is far older of course even than that and it is among the dead. Burial mounds, deathly places, battle scenes, aftermath, anywhere there is death.
York city sits upon death, it venerates it – thus we have the barguist beast.
Nip not down a ginnel, turn not from the main-way, stay in the light. The barguest beast gleams its red eye tonight.
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. Yes 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.
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.
A 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. But 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.
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 everything 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.
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 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.
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.
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 bowl 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. The 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.
Gods and Goddesses of the Greek Mythos Continued – Hermes the Babe
Here is another of my characterisations of Gods and Goddesses, this one written while I was in hospital having the cancer taken away (nil by mouth for 19 days).
In this case though although it is an interesting storyline the God (if he is a God) Hermes is at best an anti-hero with the historic crimes division after him probably. There are those who leapt from Olympus rather than him turn them to ever staring stone.
Hermes – Cairn-man – Pillar of Stone – Toddler
This man is not a god he is a pillar. An offspring of gods yet was born as an embodiment of an orgiastic pillar. Dance near him if you dare. Hermes is Priapus the totemistic virtue of a phallic pillar or cairn no less.
His mother was Maia and if there was such a thing as fatherhood back then we would be saying his father was Zeus. Maia met Zeus because she was the daughter of Apollo then afterwards being with child she had a score to settle with her father for mistreatments. Gods being gods they grow fast, and Hermes grew fast, very fast, especially in intellect. By seven months he had mastered the bow and invented many things, then Themis gave him nectar and ambrosia of the gods or should that be Nectar of the Gods and Ambrosia of the Gods; and he was ready to adventure. Ready for that vengeance from beyond the womb.
He was followed by a gathering band of nymphs they made a wicked wilful travelling party. He was befriended by Cyllene. They played and sang and laughed. Cyllene showed off her enchanting musical ability and Hermes claimed he could make something far more mystical than that. Cyllene bid him to show it was true, Hermes said he would need some cattle hide to make the strings. Then when Cyllene told him of Apollo’s herd he knew he could get his revenge and build his instrument, he knew so much more too. Well well before we discover how great he is, he knew.
Yes this merry band agreed that little Hermes and they could smuggle the herd, but Apollo would simply follow and they would be found.
Hermes bid them cut large patches of bark from the Fallen Oak and to cut long grass to bind into cord. From these he showed them how to fashion shoes for the cattle and away they were led along a trackless path.
The cattle were gone.
Apollo was livid.
Apollo he searched but there were no tracks.
Then, by chance in his raging stampede around the land he found the Satyrs, led by the rogue Silenus they were greedy for reward, great reward, for Apollo was angry, very great reward.
Eventually, in Arcadia, the Satyr gang heard something unusual, unique in fact; strange music like no melody ever heard before yet dulled and distant. It seemed to be coming from far away and yet from everywhere. It seemed to be coming from below the earth and yet, – no it was, it was down below, it was. Eager as they were they could not help but dance. Dance, as they hunched and sniffed and searched
Then suddenly they noticed a little way ahead by a gateway in a leafy copse the sultry, haughty, Cyllene idly taking the air. The music led them towards her.
It was louder behind her and there at the back of the glade was a cave; the music was coming from there. “What is that music of the nymphs we have never heard before?”
Cyllene swung gently round towards them, “No nymph plays that marvellous tune upon that unique instrument.”
“No one can play better than the nymphs, no one has a better instrument than they.” The satyrs gaggled together in panic behind him, staring in quizzical fear.
“Who is Hermes?”
“Hermes is a babe.”
The Satyrs stood mesmerised as Cyllene gracefully articulated the story of the babe who was born within this cave. He who had adventured across the lands at so young an age, who had acted with great skill and created a marvellous lyre like nothing ever heard before. Silenus enquired what this lyre was like and Cyllene told him how it was shaped like a tortoise because he had fashioned it out of a tortoise and cow hide twine. “So where did he get this twine?” “Are you calling him a thief!” Just as a fierce argument sprung up a few things happened at once. A great long-winged bird landed in the glade; this was the Sacred Crane sacred to Hermes and because of Hermes. Silenus glanced his eyes around the glade and there were two cow hides stretched between branches to dry. The grandfather of the babe of course had known that the crane was sacred, sacred to Hermes, and had followed it; Apollo suddenly appeared.
Silenus pointed at the hides, thus establishing himself a right to the reward, then to seal the deal he pointed at the cave.
Apollo strode in and down with a procession following. There lay Maia sleeping deeply a bundle in her arms. “Bring me that quickly grown man Hermes now,” shouted the mighty Apollo, “For he has stolen my cattle and shall be made to bring them back to me, at least all that live.”
Maia threw back the covers and revealed a babe still in its swaddling bands and wrapped in a large leather hide. “How could it be that a babe such as this has done this thing you say?”
“I recognise the hide!” boomed Apollo and he snatch up the child and fled the cave.
“Father of Heaven,” (and father of the babe unfortunately), cried Apollo as he bent to his knee in front of Zeus, “I accuse this babe”, (the bundle unrolled from his arms as did the other two hides from the glade), “of theft of all my herd.”
“Zeus looked down to Hermes, “I cannot believe that you did such a thing and I ask you to plead not guilty.”
“Well I did,” confessed Hermes standing proudly for all his small size, “and I am sorry. I shall return all that live and tell you of the flesh of the others”
Apollo stood looking dazed, enraged and confused.
I divided the flesh of each dead beast in to twelve pieces each as sacrifices to the twelve gods.”
“Twelve?” questioned Apollo, “Who it the twelfth?”
Bowing with a smirk the tiny Hermes said, “Why it is I”.
How Zeus laughed.
Hermes continued, “A twelfth of the flesh of each of the beasts I ate for I was ferocious hungry the rest I burned. Thus I have invented the first ever flesh- sacrifice. Now I shall give you recompense, follow me.”
He led Apollo in a flash back to the cave and he retrieved a bundle from beneath a sheepskin. “What have you there?” asked Apollo.
Hermes held up the tortoise-shell lyre in display and in the other hand held a plectrum, “This I also invented.”
The music was mesmerising, the singing was praise worthy; it was full of praise also. Praise of Apollo, his nobility, his dignity his grace, his intelligence and, of course, his generosity. It worked, Apollo forgave him and nevertheless little Hermes led him to Pylus, playing all the way, to the cave he had hidden the cattle. He released them to graze and offered the Lyre to Apollo, he took it and thankful he said as I keep this so you keep the cattle. Hermes held up his tiny tiny hand and Apollo solemnly shook.
From the distance they heard the mountain top laughter of Zeus as he watched all Hermes’ antics.
As the cattle grazed Hermes gathered long grasses and wove them into a pipe. He played and he declared, “This is the shepherd pipe that leads any sheep to you.”
“If you will let me have this pipe I will trade you my golden cattle-herding staff; it also has the power to send the spirits of the dead peacefully to heaven.”
“I accept, in part, for the reedpipe is worth far more than the golden staff and I will accept the deal if you also promise to teach me the power of augury.”
The distant laugh of the onlooking Zeus could be heard again from afar.
“I cannot but my three nurses the Thriae can. They will teach you on the isle of Parnassus to read the flowing pebbles in the swirling bowl.”
“This is indeed a very ingenious, eloquent and persuasive Godling.” Chortled Zeus.
Upon their return Zeus bellowed at tiny Hermes, “You must promise forever from now respect the rights of another’s property and never tell utter lies.”
“Then make me your herald great father, and I will never tell lies, although I shall not promise to always tell the whole of the truth in every detail. Furthermore I shall protect and preserve all divine property in your honour.”
(Apollo was chortling now.)
“You shall be my herald then, and you shall in that duty guide the dead to the underworld, oversee all matters of business, all treaties and all rights of way.
Even furthermore you shall teach us the twirling of sticks to make fire you shall assist the Three Fates (this he did and invented the knuckle bones, the alphabet, astronomy, boxing, the musical scale, gymnastics and weights and measures. He also learned the tree alphabet.)
Thus it was Zeus who chuckled quietly now for he had honoured and empowered him in such a way that he would forever be too busy.
So it was that the now growing Hermes was presented with the adornments of Herald and proudly stood in the round hat of rain protection, the fast flying golden sandals and the beribboned herald’s staff which commanded respect from all when Hermes was engaged in matters of administration, (of which there were many).
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 01 – Right Reverend
Well I think my first encounter set the scene for the rest of project. Ales n Tales around the pubs would bring me York residents who had very wide ranging and interesting experiences to relate. My very first conversation was with an intriguing young woman; widely travelled and adventurous and apparently a minister too.
She had returned to York to focus on her art work which very much drew on her international travels and the timeless symbols of the cultures she had gathered from. I thought I was adventurous going around the pubs asking people to help me out with a tale; here was someone who had dropped everything, popped on a back pack and headed off into the depth of a jungle.
She had heard of this tribal community in the Peruvian Rainforest, and as she had always had an interest in the mythology and historical culture of the forests there, she had enquired about visiting.
Here was a village within the rainforests where local people lived and shared, and visitors were welcomed to join and belong for a while. The cost of staying there as a guest was a little more than she would like to spend so she had contacted them and asked if there were other ways she could become involved. There was a good response to this and her way forward turned out to be, to save up for a flight to South America, then arrange herself a long bus journey to a town at the edge of the forested area, and then another bus deep into the wilder areas.
Once in the village itself, as well as spending time with all the visitors from around the world, she worked in the kitchens with the local people. She tells me she had a wonderful fun time mixing with people who had no English and who spoke a language she had never heard of before.
I heard a great deal about the whole experience and it seemed fascinating. I was also impressed however with her next plan. She had decided that while she was in the Americas that she ought to visit the United States too. Indeed she was invited to the Salt Lake City area to spend time in an artistic community there. It was there that she became registered with a ministerial order and that she was now registered to perform ceremonies. This was a possibility for the future, but her main focus was her art work and illustrations contracts.
I moved on across the pub intrigued to see who I would meet next.
Footnote: There was only one problem with all this travelling; none of the places she had visited had decent cider! No matter where you go it is always good to get to York.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 02 – Peeked
Two guys who are regulars here, had been expecting me along, and were very animated when I arrived, they had been reminiscing at full whack for a couple of hours, a couple of thirsty hours; so I went up to them as soon as I had settled in, but they said that they had peeked too early and were ready to go. They did however, before they nipped home for a nap, have a chat about steam days and the things that went on a shovel.
So here for you now is the tale of The Duke and Young Ronnie. We are going back to the days when a driver had his own engine, he perhaps didn’t own it exactly but he was definitely the only driver, to the point that there was a brass plaque in the cab with his name on it. Young Ronnie the fireman knew that for certain, because he had to polish it every shift.
The Duke’s cab was all well polished, and he made sure the engine was well fired and full of steam. Well he made sure Young Ronnie kept it all so. Once all was done though, there was always the time for something to eat. And with all that coal ablaze you had the perfect cooker. The cooking pot wasn’t too appetising however; the shovel! They would clean it off and then pop it in there for a little while to sterilise, well almost sterile?! Eggs in lard = five seconds, Onion roasted = two minutes Bacon = three minutes to crispy etc
That shovel had a long handle, and the engine driver had a strange sense of humour. Both came in useful when they were stuck outside York waiting for a signal. It was a goods train, so there was only the two of them, and it was a long wait, so they started to have a good look around. There in a field several trucks back down the line from them was a farmer wandering about. He was of more intent than they had realised though, as he walked right up to the hedge, had a look around, all he saw were empty fields and a long row of goods waggons behind him. Unaware that he was being watched from the far off engine cab, he had clearly felt a call of nature, for he unbuttoned his britches and squatted down behind the hedge. He hadn’t taken the quirky sense of humour of The Duke into account; The Duke and his long handled shovel. He crept down from the cab, and ever so quietly snuck along the side of the waggons till he was right at the opposite side of the hedge to the farmer. Yes, you guessed it, and I am sorry to relate such an unsavoury idea of what is funny from way back in the past, he quietly slid the shovel through the hedge and under the farmer. After a while he withdrew the shovel and snuck back along the line side, back up into the cab and Young Ronnie had the fire-door open ready, in went the shovel.
Now I don’t know if it is true but I am informed that when you have a call of nature when you are, er, out there in nature there is a tendency to turn and have a look back at what you have left behind. This may well be true, it definitely was in this case, and ‘naturally’ there was nothing there to see. The engine driver and his fireman were peeping out of the cab looking back and laughing with glee, as the farmer searched the area, round and round, ‘Maybe it was further over there?’, he scratched his head in mystification, no he was sure it was here. At that the signals changed at last and they were able to pull away, as they did they could not resist a last look back. The farmer was in the process of unbuttoning those trews of his and was going to have a look in there. He probably never worked out what had happened and forever wondered.
It is hoped that before setting out again on their next shift they requisitioned a new shovel.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 03 – Long Tall Teller
Long Tall Teller
As I was here doing Ales n Tales I felt I ought to have some ale, it seemed only right and proper, but I didn’t want to be drinking large quantities of strong ale, especially as I was doing two sessions in the first day. So I opted for a taster tray. It turned out to be of some interest all around this friendly hostelry. The landlord brought out the wooden platter and set three glasses in the holes. For around the price of a pint you get three dinky quaint glasses; a third of a pint each. I thought random was the way forward so said I would have the first three from the left.
When I was asked to stand and tell a couple of tales to kick start the session I stood there with my miniature pint and strangely felt very tall. A guy I talked to later wondered if I felt stronger.
‘So you are doing ales n tales then are you?’ I was asked, as I came over to the bar with my titchy glass. ‘Are you on expenses?’ ‘Do you get to claim for all the beer you can drink?’ I was devastated to realise I hadn’t thought of that?! Clearly I should have talked to these guys a month back when we were planning this!
Later I was asked if I had been bought a lot of beer so I thought the best answer would be, not yet!
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 04 – A Step Down.
A Step Down.
There’s a few who say they use the city walls it turns out. Some just like to have a wander occasionally for the pleasure of it. Others use the city walls as a short cut and a break away from the roads. One regular here tells me he often cuts along the walls from opposite the art gallery, but if it is a warm day he then finds himself looking down into the beer garden for the Lamb and Lion and wishing there were stairs down to it.
An older guy who had a busy life, and always had, tells me how he was approached a few years back now by a group of workmates who were all about to retire. They were all worried about leaving work as they were not sure what they could do with their time. So his suggestion was that they went around the city walls. His plan for them was that as they wandered along they look out for pubs that came into view. Then as soon as they came to a set of stairs they should go down and go to that pub. He said they would be seeing new places, but they would also be meeting new people. Go in there and chat to people was his advice. Then the next time you go out start from the same spot and go along looking out for another pub to visit.
The guys took up his suggestion and a few months later at a works night out for retired workers they all gathered around him to report back. It turns out that as well as enjoying themselves going out together and the general enjoyment of meeting new people in pubs, there had been allsorts of opportunities that had come their way. One chap had got talking to someone who played bowls and had ended up joining the team. Another had seen a notice about a history group who met in an upstairs room and decided to join. A third had met someone and fallen in love. They all had found activities, hobbies and interests through simply chatting to people in York pubs.
The feller who had given them the advice in the first place was bought a few pints that night. And his finishing words to me were, if you want some interest in life, go out there and chat to people over a pint, you will be surprised by how interesting people are.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 05 – You Are Lovely People
You Are Lovely People
Everyone told me where to go; the landlord of the Ackhorne among them, lots of locals too: If you want to meet a character go see Mussy. He will have plenty to tell you, lovely chap. I didn’t have far the go, there he was at the corner of the bar. And they were right, he was a great guy. Folks tell me that he is likely to say things like, ‘Hello’, as people walk in the door, ‘you look like lovely people’. He greeted me warmly too. I was expected and welcomed. Mussy had brought allsorts of paraphernalia with him from his many happy times at the Ackhorne and was full of tales from here and from other real ale pubs around the city. He and his pals kept me company for quite a while and I got to see photos of all the characters who have visited this place over the years and become friends of the lively Mussy.
‘You stand at the end of the bar and the whole world comes in through this door.’ They all want to spend time with our friendly local too. Whether they are lasses from Norway inviting Mussy to visit, pals from Dundee with pics of cow pie, a crowd from Broughty Ferry, or a couple from Taiwan, they all keep in touch. Mussy has a collection of postcards from around the globe from people thanking him. Thanking him for, their very first cigar, a trip around the local pubs, an introduction to a quality real ale, and an offered friendship. Many return too.
Footnote: There were a whole host of beautiful stamps upon the collection of postcards and there among them I was surprised to see an actual Mussy stamp, all the way from Taiwan, and there is his face on the stamp on the card.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 06 – Turn into a Team
Turn into a Team
Among those who have become frequent visitors or regular locals since being welcomed to The Ackhorne by our pal Mussy are a whole host of characters with a wide turn of skills, trades and interests. Hammy who runs a string of sandwich shops in the west end, Lee who brings his bagpipes, a crowd of visitors whenever its fancy dress such as for VJ day when all the butties were wrapped in grease-proof, minibus trip organisers who offer to take the gang around the pubs of such as Liverpool, Railway Keith who strips down old locomotives and services them as his flourishing business in Henden, Whispering Bob; a top man at the gas board with the power to shut down motorways, Alan who has his own massive pub in Bennington, Steve who retired from the Thames Valley water board and Mr Gadget who sells telecommunication systems world wide. Quite a team.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 07 – Trips with the Team
Trips with the Team
Hammy is the leader and organises the coach driver and all the details, then off they go. All this started, I understand, when Mussy was at his corner of the bar and he overheard a group of guys talking about being from Stevenage which is his home town. They then went on to mention the Tilbury, his old haunt so conversations were definitely in need of being started. ‘Do you mean The Inn off the Green? Which it turns out is what everybody round there calls it, but only a local would know the nickname.’ They gathered straight away that he must be from around those parts, so as friendships grew, a trip was organised. Twenty years back that was.
Since then two of the guys have a flat in York which Mussy was instrumental in finding for them, and from then on there have been trips together many times, for real ale pub crawls, to such as a pub in Lancashire which has 16 hand pumps and, wait for it, 300 whiskeys. I think they stayed there quite a while.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 08 – Mussy by the Bin
Mussy by the Bin
That shot of Mussy stood by the bins had all his mates wondering why he had taken a picture of the pub bins. He hadn’t, he had captured the memory of that pint that was stood on show on the wheelie. This caused the group to wonder why on earth you would want a record of a pint of beer. The answer is, that this, wait for it, was a pint of Orkney Red McGregor. Now all understood. We are talking a very special occasion, we are talking about the party of the decade; Mussy’s fiftieth. What a do. There were seventy in here that Sunday afternoon, and the beer was flowing. That excellent character Fred would have been in here bless him, was bound to have been, because this was a Sunday. Lots of old pals from far and wide; Ian and Lee and many others. All the way from Stevenage, Lee had brought something very special with him; his bagpipes. That was brilliant. Those who had just happened to call in for a drink without knowing it was a special party for Mussy’s fiftieth would have been talking and wondering. For once any fellers came back for the loo they would have been telling their party of the surprise they had had. Lee had to warm up his pipes you see, and he need to get them get them pumped up, so he had gone into the gents to get them going, quite a surprise for the unsuspecting visitor: Even more of surprise for all though when he piped the Orkney Red McGregor in.
What a welcome, what an announcement for such a special beer. The landlady had gone to a lot of trouble to get that beer delivered all that way for this special party. We are talking Mussy’s favourite beer. It became a favourite of quite a few of the party that afternoon: That afternoon which is still talked about.
(I am thinking of making a trip to Orkney)
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 09 – Ten Years On
Ten Years On
Yes we have moved forward in time, to pub regular Mussy’s sixtieth. Now this was an event, and it definitely is still being talked about. It wasn’t in the Ackhorne though. No, it wouldn’t do to put his big party on in the Ackhorne, because he wanted all his pals on the staff to come along and enjoy themselves. So the plan was to go off to its very popular sister pub; The Slip. It took a lot of organising, but everyone was willing and keen to make Mussy’s ideas work.
A special thank you to Lucy, he couldn’t have done it without her. Now the Slip Inn might not be the largest pub in the city but it has a big back yard and that’s where the food was going to be. Mussy knew what he wanted. He got looking in the Yellow Pages and he found the place that would do the job. Over near Hull there was a firm who would bring over a hog roast. He asked how many it would serve and they said 180. It cost him a fair few hundred, but he knew what he wanted for all his mates.
Then there was the beer. There were two beers of choice that Mussy must have. Yes you guessed it the renowned Orkney Red McGregor, and from the Treboom Brewery in Shipton By Beningbrough; Kettle Drum. They were glad to get him the brilliant Kettle Drum sorted, but the other big favourite was a bit of a worry. They don’t do deliveries of that stuff any lower down this nation than Newcastle.
There was the suggestion that a few York pubs could come in on doing an order big enough to entice them down here. Take note here, neither the brewery nor the collection of landlords and landladies would take any charge from Mussy for all work involved. Dark Islands was a popular choice for a few pubs following a recommendation from our party host, and the Tap ordered a barrel of another Orkney beer too.
I commented at this point that he must be very well thought of, as they had all gone to a lot of trouble for him. Mussy told me that there had been a slight concern at one point. They owned The Swan as well and the landlord from here was down The Swan having a drink and he heard folks mentioning the name Mussy. So he asked them how many people they thought he would manage to get in. Did they think he would manage to get fifty in? The reply was, ‘You don’t know the power of Mussy!”
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 010 – Mussy’s music
When the landlord was concerned that enough people would be at Mussy’s sixtieth he was informed by those in the know to expect about a hundred: there was an open invite out to all his many pals and to all his mates at the post office. They were to expect crowds at the Slip. As well as sorting out his favourite beers and that much looked forward to hog roast with its 180 sizeable portions there was the music to think about. Mussy likes his blues, so Lucy got the Money Makers in who are well known for playing at the Volunteer Arms. Lots of harmonica, just as he liked. There was another feller for him to go and talk to, the soloist that plays The Maltings. Mussy goes down there on a Monday night so he asked him if he would bring his popular covers of such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan to start the afternoon off.
On the day, everyone was outside in that big beer garden so the acts said they would play out there and the party kicked off around two and ran right through to the England match in the evening. I asked if it had turned out busy? It turns out, that hog roast which would fill a hundred and eighty bellies had not only gone down well it had completely ran out in less than two hours! That’s a party!
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 011 – The Power of Mussy
The Power of Mussy
Stood at Mussy’s corner of the bar chatting about his sixtieth birthday do, and he told me how he had told everyone he didn’t want presents. Did you get any? I asked. Turns out seventeen people bought him bottles of malt whiskey. I couldn’t help commenting that it would take a week or too to get through that lot. As a night worker, there is nothing like a morning cap before you go off to your kip. It had lasted him six months. By you are reading these stories from Mussy he will have retired from the post office and I expect he will have had a load more presents brought when he left.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 012 – Fave Picture
At 6 in the morning passing the end of the lane, Mussy had found himself looking up there and thinking it was a view he wanted to capture for posterity. The lane towards the Ackhorne, there was Barnum’s Barn on the left opposite the pub, selling second-hand furniture, long gone now of course and the grand row of terrace houses and the old church along the sides of the pathway. This was Mussy’s favourite picture out of all his collection of Ackhorne pictures.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 013 – Least Fave Picture
Least Fave Picture
Mussy’s picture of the alley leading up to the Ackhorne may have been his favourite photo; Not so for me. That picture made me think of running away. I did run away in fact, not during Ales n Tales (I was enjoying myself too much), we are talking way back. I will give you an idea of how far back, (for all of you who have been in York for an age and a bit anyway), I am going back as far as the old Wednesday night acoustic sessions at the Acorn (note spelling). Now those are a thing that is definitely still talked about. They were heaving. This is back when there were two rooms there, and a bit more room behind too, before it was all knocked through into one. That main room on the right as you came in was really bustling. That’s what I ran away from. A lady-friend at the time had seen my poetry and said I should go along and read some out. So I had got my courage up and gone up that alley. When I got to the door I bottled (as Mussy’s mate put it) and turned round and ran home. Nobody was expecting me, nobody knew I wrote poetry even, I could have walked in and sat and sipped a pint quietly in a corner, but no, it was too terrifying; I ran. The very next Wednesday however, I picked myself up, marched up that alleyway, strode up to the door… and turned and ran home!
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 014 – Acorn Accoustic
A couple of Ackhorne regulars recalled the old Wednesday night events, and even remembered me getting up and performing in there. They wouldn’t believe my story in fact, of me running away too frightened to go in and perform. Back then I became a regular and was recalled as a wild challenging and slightly crazy poet (oh how things change). Yes though, I had been terrified of getting up, but on the second Wednesday I went there, my name was announced as soon as I appeared through the door. We are talking a lot smaller a room then and as many as two hundred folk squashed in there with hardly room to raise your glass. While they were clapping I had to squeeze my way through and jump onto the raised area. The following week much the same, except I was introduced as the Acorn’s Resident poet! Was I thrilled, and I took to writing especially to perform there.
In no time of being a regular there I was offered a couple of paid performances, in folk clubs and art galleries, and, (foolishly perhaps), thought ‘I could make a living out of this’. So it is thanks to the wonderful nights at the Acorn that I turned fulltime.
Footnote: One of my drinking buddies commented wryly, ‘And look at you now’.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 015 – Thank You Mussy
Thank You Mussy
As the photos got popped away Mussy concluded, ‘That’s my history of the Ackhorne. It has been home for a long time; it has been good. The place is consistent, with a variety of people in, from locals, to new to York, to tourists from around the world.’
His only regret? That they don’t do corn beef hash anymore cos it used to soak up the beer.
To sum up; get yourself down the Ackhorne – and go and meet Mussy too! Me? I am already looking forward to his seventieth.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 016 – At Heart
There was a lot of talk of those bigger birthdays, and how they come round quicker once you are past your big fortieth. We also talked of holidays, but when we were on the subject of being over fifty, or being over sixty, or….. well, these things creep up on you and you don’t always notice them coming. It doesn’t matter though; it was decided by all around, because you don’t feel that age. All of us, of the more mature variety, all said it, inside is what counts, inside we all feel like we are 17.
As for holidays, one was reminded of their trip to Egypt and of looking round the pyramids and museums. All the images of pharaohs that you see are looking young, because they were thought of as gods it was believed. They might have lived to a ripe old age but the image adorning the wall made them all look about 18. If a pharaoh had died before this age, they were still depicted as looking in their prime of being 18, but for one difference, they are sucking their thumb. This denotes that they passed away before adulthood. As for all the eternal pharaohs who are depicted as being forever youthful, whatever age they were, they would all have been the same as us we decided; in their heart they were 17. Just like us.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 017 – Staring Into the Middle Distance
Staring Into the Middle Distance
One gang at a table got on the topic of maturity, maturity as it heads towards the extreme as one of them put it. All of us around were the same age, and had lots of similar recollections. ‘So’, one summed up, ‘we will all be 59 this year’. ‘Ah’, one of them said turning to the life-long bachelor guy at the corner of the table, ‘you are bit older than the rest of us. So, you will be sixty this year.’
The guy at the corner was just about to take a swallow of his drink, the glass was just about to his mouth, he paused, looked stunned and then said,’ No, no.’ the glass went down, the glass went back up again, it paused again, and he said, ‘No, No.’ This piece of information was clearly not accepted.
He put the glass down on the table, stared into the distance, for a full ten minutes, then when there was a lull in the conversation he said, ‘Oh, god, you are right, I will be won’t I!’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 018 – The Boss
Have they told you about the cat? The pub has a cat. Ask the landlord he’ll tell you, there is a pub cat right. And there are two doors if you look. There is a door at that end and a door at the other end. Well, if you sit by on of those doors, you can bet your life, you will have to get up and let the cat in. Whichever door it decides it wants to come in, it will be there and you will have to let it in. We all know. We laugh when people sit there, because they don’t know and they soon will. They will probably have to let it out again as well.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 019 – That Burns Night
That Burns Night
We are going back a lot of years, well if we are going to be totally accurate, a lot of years and a week. One of the times when the gang from here headed off together. As one among them was a Lance Corporal in Fulford Barracks catering there was an open invite for them all to head off for a real Burns Night, an all in Burns Night at the barracks: the Officer’s Mess no less. What a night. At four in the morning one of the officers called them together, ‘Look, you Ackhorne guys have drank us dry of whiskey, so I think it is time for us all to go.’
He got on the phone and called in one of the squaddies to drive them all home. It turned out the squaddie was new to York so it was quite a long journey as they all tried to explain where each of them lived. He got them all home though, and it was quite a night.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 020 – Dream Jobs
I wasn’t the only one with a dream job, (listening to people’s stories in real ale pubs), when you did an apprenticeship at the carriage works in York and quite a long career in similar fields, the Pickering Gromont railway was a great place to be offered a job. After taking early retirement the opportunity came up and off he went. He was all smiles talking about it, renovating old steam engines and carriages for this steam team. There was constant maintenance but he relished every task and was happy to see all the people climbing aboard a train that was running because of him. Not that he said a lot, it was his mates who told me the whole story while he sat and smiled, ‘Yes I suppose it is a dream job, I am very happy there.’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 021 – Steam-days Bathing
‘I know where you live.’ Hearing this might have concerned me had it not been in the middle of a conversation on the topic of renovating steam days carriages. A regular visitor to The Ackhorne does renovations so I thought I would chip in with the tale of the railway carriage at our old house. There were some there who already knew of it. York is a small place, but then again so is the world. I explained how I had been performing at a folk festival in Warwick and had been telling a steam enthusiast there about the railway related bathroom at my parent’s house. Their bathroom was actually a railway carriage on legs. It was an LNER director’s suite. Much like the Queen’s train I suppose, with a bedroom, lounge ect. This was the original bathroom, with a huge deep bath and lots of brass and old wood fixtures and fittings. Around a month after I had told the guy in Warwick about it my parents said that they had looked out the back and a bunch of folks were getting out of a minibus and standing in the lane taking pictures. They had come all the way up from Warwickshire just to see it. When I was relating this tale in The Ackhorne a couple of people in the group already knew of it and had been to have a look as well. We don’t live there any more and I am thinking of taking a walk over to see if it is still there.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 022 – Theatre Prompts
My prompt cards were of interest and people enjoyed picking one and getting an idea from it. One fell flat though. A chap chose the card; Treading the Boards, and then said that he never had. Any kind of performance memory would do, being best man, having a go at karaoke, any situation of standing up in front of people; nope nothing. Then it turns out, he used to run the theatre bar. We are going back to the days of the De Grey Rooms having a bar, (back to the times when Theakstons had just hit York). Myself and a few others recalled dropping in there for a drink. When he ran the bar that was where you went for a drink if you were at the Theatre Royal, so, before a show and in the interval. It was a popular bar throughout the evening but when the theatre had its interval it would get really busy. Then after the show all the actors would be in there.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 023 – An Unusual Life
An Unusual Life
The prompt cards created interest and brought out memories and tales. One of those cards had said, Not all relationships are the same…
This made people think of individuals who lived life their own way. It also reminded us that people are not predictable, you think you can look at someone and get an idea of that they are like, this often isn’t so.
There was a recollection of a quite elderly fellow who was always at the corner of a bar, sitting quietly sipping his drink, and how, upon talking to him on one occasion it turned out he had had quite an unusual life. (The teller of the tale mentioned that the guy had been in his nineties and that this conversation happened around twenty years ago.) Someone had mentioned marriage and he had stirred from his usual quiet reveries to comment that he had never really been married. The small group turned in anticipation. It turns out that when in his twenties he had been invited to visit a lady for the weekend. Not only had this worked out well, but that he had continued to visit each weekend for many years; until she passed away at the age of seventy five in fact. He added that for all those years, each weekend morning there had been a knock at the bedroom door and a breakfast tray was brought in for them.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 024 – Lift That Sneck
Lift That Sneck
A bloke who does the shelves in Morrisons said you aught to use the names of beers to set people off. There are loads of intriguing names nowadays. You could do a tour of the beers and have a tale for each bottle. When this was shared with the group one well known beer came to mind; Snecklifter.
There were a couple of theories around this name.
One was that there was a ‘sneck’ on the door at the back of the pub that led to the outhouse in the yard; and that drinking this beer would cause you to need to go fairly often and the name was a warning that after a few of these you would become a snecklifter.
The other suggestion was, that there is a latch or sneck on the front door of the pub and you would not be able to go in there, (by lifting that sneck), unless you had money. You might want to get down the pub with your mates, but if you were hard up it would be beyond your pride to turn up and expect others to buy you beers. If you could afford one drink however, you would be able to go in. Who knows, once in there, if you sipped at your beer for long enough someone may say, ‘Shall I get you a pint?’ If you were real lucky that one drink that got you in there might lead to you being in there all evening. There would always be other times when you would have money and you would remember them if they didn’t have more than the price of a pint. By having the price of a pint you hadn’t had to actually ask any one for a beer. So, a snecklifter was the price of a pint; the price of lifting that sneck and going in without the shame of not having any money. All about pride perhaps, but it is likely that you had gone to a friend at work beforehand and asked for, yes you guessed it, a snecklifter.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 025 – That’s Jazz
You see someone propping up the bar and until you get to know them you have no idea what they might have experienced. There was this old man, quite some time ago we are told, who was always in the corner of the bar. Turns out he had been president of the York Jazz Club back in the 1930s and had put on all sorts of well-known acts. All the greats had come through to perform. Among the names was Duke Ellington and it was he who had said at the end of the gig, for the president to jump into his limo and head back to the hotel for a drink. The crowd of them had sat up jamming and drinking brandy until the early hours: had been a highlight of his life.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 026 – Test of a Good Wife
Test of a Good Wife
Can I pester you for five minutes I asked and the guy who wasn’t expecting to be at Ales n Tales looked up and said yes of course. When I elaborated he wondered what sort of stories I was after and my explanation and offer of my prompt cards brought out a fair few tales. We started off with Romance, and this made him think of how he first met his wife. They had met on holiday in Spain and as she was a Mansfield lass they were able to get together again afterwards. The second time she came over to visit he thought it was time she met his pals. There was a group of about eight strong and they all hung about together on an evening for a drink around the pubs. They had started drinking as teenagers and back then they would have a drink locally and then go and see if they could get in in town. Now, when just a little older, they still met up at the Rose and Crown on Hull Road. Mostly they didn’t have girlfriends so he felt he should warn her of what to expect. Said to her as they headed there, the lads are going to tease you, either through, well, just to see how you react;’ they will try and get a jibe off yer, to try to get at me, cos I am bringing a girl out, stuff like that.
She didn’t say owt, and in we went. One lad was first to try, said, ‘Right, I hear you are quite a lass.’ ‘Because I’d told them, you know,
all about her. Said she was different to everyone else, cos I was falling in love with her.’
So, mi mates says, ‘Tell you how you can prove it, if you are coming out with us. Here’s this pint, I’ve bought you a pint.’ (Tetleys as it was then
In the Rose and Crown) ‘If you can drink it straight off…’
She took it off him, picked it up she did, and without a word… She drank it straight off. Downed it first time she did.
They came to me said, ‘She is going to make you a good wife.’
And now we are married.
Does she still drink all the beer I asked? She likes fruit beer.
Still drinks pints; Fruit beers, ciders, stuff like that. We go to all the beer festivals together.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 027 – Feeling Ginger
My drinking pal took another prompt card. Slightly connected to his tale of going out round the pubs, was his love for different real ales. He started to drink real ale when he was still fairly young but none of his mates did. One thing he still likes to do is go to pubs he wouldn’t normally go to and sit and have a few drinks; try a few beers. He will sit at a table, maybe read the paper. In no time somebody will come up to you. This one time, eventually people came up to him and started talking. You get on, even though you are never going to see them again.
The Tap and Spile on Monkgate was having a beer festival. Eventually it gets full, and two couples sit near him while he’s reading the paper. They’re talking; he is listening as he reads the paper. They see him smirking, so they know he can hear them; so they get talking.
And then they ask what he is drinking. He couldn’t remember now what brewery it was, but he recalled the name of the beer and it is one I cannot repeat here. They reckoned there was no such thing and they had a five minute conversation about whether there was.
He didn’t think I would be able to use his story, but I said I would be able to use it when I was at the next Ales n Tales pub.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 028 – Castle Passage
This time instead of looking through the prompt cards my drinking pal went for picking one at random; he got The Unexplainable. It turns out his tale was of something that was unexplainable but got explained in the end. His brother in law; his girlfriend’s family, run a hotel, well it’s a castle, in Scotland and he had got them a weekend away there. So off they went.
In one of the sitting rooms there’s a door at one end and a door at the other end and the door at the one end seems a lot smaller even though the floor didn’t slope or anything; so they couldn’t work out why it looked smaller.
They had a few drinks and still didn’t work it out, and were looking, and then all of a sudden one of the bar persons seemed to appear, he didn’t come out of that door and he didn’t come out of that door, he just suddenly appeared collecting glasses. Where the heck did he come from? They said and stuff like that.
Eventually they found out, the guy who owned the castle, well, he used to own the castle, he was only a short guy. Turns out he didn’t want to look small when he appeared in the room, so what he did was, he had the door at one end made smaller, and he would appear there so he looked taller. He had a secret door fitted and he would come through there and stand in front of the small door. So when he was announced they would look up and see him looking tall as he was looking down the hall at them all. So they just use the secret passageway now so the staff seem to appear suddenly from nowhere. Have a look if you are ever near Edinburgh, round by Castle Dalglish.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 029 – Teatime
‘So what have you got there?’ my next group asked. Well I had been busy listening and hadn’t thought about it. In fact I had started at the wrong end of the taster tray, in the opposite direction to the order they were poured.
I had chosen a taster tray of three different beers in little third of a pint glasses and it was wondered which I had tried. I had asked for the three from one end of the row of pumps, and we worked out that the beers I was sipping were Hobgoblin, Strongarm and the middle one was an unusual one; Orange tea beer; Clockwork Orange. Its quite hoppy, so not all of us would like it it seems. I enjoyed it. The Hebden Bridge tea company donated the tea to make the beer with, there is the equivalent of a pillowcase full per brew. I had wondered why they had given the tea for free and was told the guy knew the brewer personally and he reckoned they had given the orange tea just so they could get their name on the pub clip. Selling tea from beer, this seemed approved of all round, more tea more beer.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 030 – The Scruffy Daves
The Scruffy Daves
I offered my pick-a-card set to see if a random one brought up any tales. Out came, How Things Used To Be. Well there was Scruffy’s came the response; Scruffy Murphy’s. It’s not that long ago, he tells me, but that he is still relatively young. It was a fantastic pub. They often went there, the five of them. Five of them all called Dave, yes so one night there were literally five of them all called Dave in a line along the bar and they started thinking they ought to have individual names.
So they decided they were called:
Cajun Dave, because he worked across at Old Orleans
Spud, as in spuds and gravy rhyming slang for Davey
Neurotic Dave – ‘I am not saying anything about that one’
Codders from Hull
What is that Marmite Dave? Turns out this was because he was in the army, this meant nothing to me, seems it was an advert I don’t remember, my mate Marmite.
‘Yeh good times in that pub.’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 031 – Pub Trip
There was the time you fell down the stairs and broke your nose.
Yes, I blame the single shot of Tequila at the end of the night.
That you were bullied into drinking? Oh yes, definitely, by Marmite Dave in fact. Yes nothing to do with the 8 pints of Guinness earlier, no of course not. Definitely the Tequila shot. Yeh, it was a swan dive right down the stairs, landed right on my nose.
Now father and son have matching noses, as Dad used to be a boxer when he was younger.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 032 – Slipping Home
This winter’s heavy snow and sudden freezing had brought a few calamities for folk wandering home. Leaving Lendal Cellars seems to have been the one that caught everyone’s attention; that slope. Half way up, slip, fall, get back up, slip, fall, this went one for quite a while and in the middle of it the guy saw another feller going backwards down the slope. He was stood straight up but with no way of stopping himself, as he passed our current storyteller he looked round in a wild-eyed panic. As our friend eventually pulled himself back up to his feet he reckoned the feller slipping by had gone right in the door of Jamie Oliver’s! That wasn’t the end of the journey, for our teller, three more occasions of the feet going out from under him, and a passer by advising, ‘Take Pixy steps!’ he eventually made it to the taxi rank. That path at that rank slopes, now he is sure that no one knocked in to anyone, but in unison the whole queue started sliding forwards in a synchronised journey to the curb. As one they slipped off the curb and were all stood in the gutter, just as a load of taxis arrived.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 033 – Mild Only
‘Oh I don’t know if I have any tales’, a guy’s dad assures us, ‘I’m so old it’s all forgotten’. Son seems to think that Dah used to go in the Volunteers. Turns out not so, it was the Locomotive next door to there that was his first haunt. Yes, that place is gone, it’s flats now. He used to live round there, so would go in. In fact he was only a teenager so they wouldn’t let him drink bitter because they said he wasn’t manly enough. It was alright to have a pint of mild though.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 034 – First Wage
Loads of people have said about going out with work mates. The first wage packet it often was. So all the team at work would say right it’s your first wage packet come on you are coming out to the pub with us. Often only a teenager and dragged out.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 035 – For a Leek
For a Leek
Up in the North East if you were going out on the strength of your first wage packet it was a whole different experience. It was recollected for us how, with that first ever earned money you would be down the working man’s club with all the crowd from work, and after a couple you would be in the need of a trip to the gents. You weren’t allowed however, all they would say was, you can’t go to the loo, it is Dave’s turn tonight, or Bert’s, or Gus’s or whoever depending on the turns. All would make sense at the end of the night, by which time he was absolutely busting to go. They would all head off together, and down an alley towards Dave’s backyard. His wife was there to open the door into the back garden and there lined up were Dave’s prize leeks. There was big money in them prize leek competitions and they had to be protected and given everything they needed. Here available were some nutrients that would help them to flourish; all the guys would line up and, er, water the leeks.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 036 – Festival Square
Festivals in St Paul’s Square. We only really went to have a drink because pubs stayed open all afternoon because of the festival. The zany magician and his assistant wee recalled, she used to climb on his back under his cloak to ‘disappear’. One a little younger among us recalls the opening hours just before the law changed, and how when he was just 18 they still were closing in the afternoon. ‘You would go out and they would kick you out just after lunch.’
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 037 – Bit of Trouble in the Big Coach
Bit of Trouble in the Big Coach
The Big Coach was remembered, now derelict (on the corner along from Dutton’s for Buttons) and a sad waste of an old building, there are still memories for a few of us of going in there. You had to be quite brave to go in though. It was known for the fights and gangs and for trouble. One of our Ales n Tales team sat here relaxing told us of how he had been in there with a friend when they were young men and there had been trouble. Trouble is an understatement; he said the whole pub was fighting, like something from an old western, the whole pub except for him and his friend. They were sat quiet in a corner, gripping their pints and watching it all.
It had revolving doors, so no one could be thrown out who was in a fighting mood still, and the doors had been jammed by the landlord. As the fight was eventually going out of everyone, the police arrived. They were let in through the back in great numbers and the sergeant turned to the two sat quiet in the corner and said, ‘Get out of here,’ and gesticulated towards the back way. Now this might have been because he knew his father, but most likely it was because he didn’t want any witnesses, as back in those days they dealt with such troublemakers on the spot and metered out a heavy punishment before dragging them all out of there.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 038 – Lock In
Keep the troublemakers in. Others recalled times when a pub somewhere or other had suddenly had a fight going on, and the landlord’s way of dealing with it was to pull down the shutters on the bar and lock the front door so no one could get out. The younger guy telling us this reckoned that this worked in that it kept the troublemakers in so they could be dealt with by the law, but for him it meant that he and his friend were locked in with all the fighting, and they would far rather be off and away from it all.
Footnote: The Karaoke carried on throughout.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 039 – A Footnote
I went back to the guy who had been sat alone at the end of the room and started talking about that beer that I cannot name, and half way through asking him about his (beer name censored) I realised it was a different feller who had happened to sit in the same seat. He did look at me strange.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 040 – Gin and Shivers
Gin and Shivers
There had been a birthday party and as people turned up at this cosy gathering they were getting out their bottles. One visitor brought out a bottle of gin. Then there was a wonder about what to mix it with. The guy who was having the birthday remembered how way back, when you were in a pub how spirits were served. Those days, believe it or not, if you ordered a gin, it would be gin and orange; no we are not talking a long tall drink, this was a gin with cordial, just cordial, no water. So the party-goers had tried it, it was awful. The face contorted and the mouth turned to the consistency of a prune. Those listening around The Ackhorne who were younger couldn’t believe this. A few recalled though, those small short drinks, and one commented, ‘You weren’t meant to enjoy it you know!’ All the spirits were the same, a vodka and lime was this small green thing that almost burnt your mouth. A rum would be a rum and pep, a short blast of peppermint with a bite of rum within. Pretty intense: and pretty dehydrating too.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 041 – Wine Invented
These were the choices, bitter, lager, spirits and that was about it. If you wanted a soft drink there was probably only the option of a bitter shandy. Oh and the lager? You drank lager with lime in it, or perhaps worse still with blackcurrant, you weren’t meant to taste the lager.
This was before the invention of wine! Well, that’s what one of our visitors recalled. I am not sure how far back we are going, but if you wanted wine you went to a very grand shop and paid a fortune. Then suddenly one company brought out a wine that was sold through ‘off-beer shops’. Suddenly you could buy wine to have at home; it was a social revolution. Dinner parties became the thing, with your guests bursting in the door full of excitement brandishing a bottle, ‘I’ve brought a bottle of wine!’ ‘So have I!’
This exotic drink was a social revolution.
Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 042 – Dinner Parties
What was the usual fare at a dinner party back then? It was almost always; prawn cocktail, Chile-con-carne and lemon meringue pie to follow.
Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 01 – 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
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
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
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!
Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 05 – 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.