Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories – revisited

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

Darkly Seen

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

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

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

Golden Happenings

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

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

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

Golden Readiness

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

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

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

Snappy Break

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

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

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

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

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

Rest Room

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

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

Pipe in Pipe

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

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

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

Whimsical Discovery

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

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

Final Attempt

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

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

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

A Good One

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

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

Keep this guy, he is a good one.

Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 010 – Sprightly


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

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

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

Bonfire Fever

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

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

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

Rattling Gun

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

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

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


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

A Lady’s Wildness

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

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


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

It Just is Cricket

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

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


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

Little Reassurance

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


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

Party Crasher

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


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

Spooky Attic

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


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

The Nature of Hob

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

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


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

House Hob

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


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

Spotted Fairies

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

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


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

Craning You See

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

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

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


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

Final Facts

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

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

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


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

Same Old Same New

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

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

Folks in pubs think deeply.


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

Not Like That

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

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

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

‘Have a drink on me.’


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

Like That

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


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

Indigenous Welcome

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

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

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


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

The Full Story

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


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

Spooky Rachel AD

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

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

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

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


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

The Devil’s Door

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

The devil gone through the devil’s door.


  Ales n Tales – The Golden Ball Stories 030 – Choched


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

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


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

Ghost with Teddy

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

Back to Ales and Tales – for tales from other pubs



Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

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.

Adrian Spendlow




There is a strict no swearing policy and definitely no entertainment allowed, in the vibrant, friendly, (and gay friendly), little pub by the York Minster; The York Arms.

You may feel like swearing though if you were to use the stairs. you will be on the floor. As the stairs only lead to the private accommodation it will serve you right for either not paying attention or for being up to no good. The stairs are guarded. You may see the figure of a previous landlady or you may not. If you do you may have a moment to consider how elegant she is with her flowing hair and long gown. Whether you see her or not you will feel her presence. Just in the instance of a strong sensation of anger at your intrusion you will feel her push you very hard. You are on your way down. All in the back bar will see you and definitely hear you as you crash to the floor by the serving hatch. You may still be conscious but are unlikely to be able to run, or to even get up; so you will be apprehended for your crime. For the crime of interfering with the privacy of the lady on the stairs. She keeps her fellow residents safe.stairs

Even less friendly is the ghost across the road, he is running away, running away to cause trouble. Especially if chased. Especially on the eve of his death, death, death.




Tortured, hanged, drawn, quartered and then burnt over and over again. No wonder he causes fires if disturbed.

Yes we have left York Arms and across from there you can see, you guessed it, the Guy Fawkes Tavern (formerly Youngs Hotel). You have passed the main doors of the Minster and more poignantly St Michael Le Belfry. That’s where we are coming from. That’s where the ‘guy’ (sic) was christened. Contrary to what you may have heard of late Guy was his real name. It isn’t now, but it was when he was christened. Guy Fawkes. He was a hero. A hero of Catholicism; a servant of the Pope. Remember remember his whole world was Catholic; the whole of Christendom as they referred to it.

The British (*spit*) protestants were anti-Jew and anti-Catholic, quite an austere lot altogether really. Mr Fawkes was following a Papal Bull – a holy command.

Britain was up against the world and the Pope issued instructions to do whatever you could to destroy the new faith.

Guy was a hero in Spain and his righteous valour caused him to be awarded the more fitting first name of Guido, this he preferred and this we shall call him from now on.



Guido the terrorist, globalist, servant of the Pope, soldier, did not blow up the houses of parliament, he did not try to blow up the houses of parliament, well he did yet it is not the purpose of his endeavours. He was just a distraction so the King’s boys could be abducted and brought up Catholic. The future of the throne was the main intent.

Thus it is that on a certain date, (Remember remember the ‘fourth’ of November), his angry restless spirit appears to storm home from St Michael Le Belfry to his birthplace, through the tavern to the read annex where he was born.

His storming figure has been seen in the residential area. Two women told my mum of their experiences there. This was the fourth of November, the eve of his death. This is, of course, a death which has been re-enacted countless times.

The fifth of November is Bonfire Night and upon every bonfire, (originally fires of bone), is placed an effigy of Guido Fawkes. No wonder he is angered into haunting as his horribly cruel death is venerated over and over again culminating in explosive cheers and sizzling bones. Everywhere they dance to his death, everywhere except St Peters School. He is an old boy of St Peters. So, it is told, that they never burn a guy – they burn a gal. Victims of their ritual burnings are said to have included Victoria Beckham, Maggie and Katie Price.



The year the two women saw him that rule was planned to be broken – St Peters school planned to burn a guy, ‘the’ Guy, their Guy. No wonder he stormed home.

“Excuse me,” cried one of the ladies as they ran down the stairs from the residential area, “There is a strange man upstairs,” “Yes,” added her friend, “an intruder.” The bar ‘guy’ ran upstairs and sure enough there was the intruder, a sinister figure in a long black flowing cloak. “Oy,” he half turned towards the bar man’s call then marched on. On into the end of the corridor. On, right through the wall.guido The office beyond burst into flames at just gone midnight – November the fifth.

There are ghosts in this ancient city and my mum knows that for sure. She met many of the witnesses. She worked for the author: John Mitchell. He wrote Ghosts of an Ancient City. It is still out there and it started it all. Not the inventor of the ghost walk though. The original ghost walks were invented by…

My mum’s pals.

A gang of them. They got together and chatted and the next thing mum knows the phone is ringing. “You know how you were the researcher and met all the witnesses first hand?”

“Yes.” Hang fire here comes the invention of ghost walks…

“Why don’t you take us on a walk round York and tell us the stories where they actually happened.” Now there are eight or nine companies doing ghost walks every night of the week.



Yes my mum was in on it at the beginning but she didn’t know that my sister Ginny was too. John Mitchell ran experimental groups which would have several lasting repercussions. It is only in the last couple of years that it has come out that they both attended these groups.

The library at St Olavs is dedicated to John Mitchell, but his chief work was undertaken while he was teacher, and later ‘head’ at the ancient school of St Peters.

People from all walks of life were invited to experiential workshops with experiments, practices and discussions.mitchell

Mum listened to voices among white noise, talked to the dead, discussed the power of visitation with the then late H G Wells, held vigils late into the dark, felt upturned wine glasses fill with power,

“So did I,” proclaimed my sister, “with my teacher.” Her teacher from Mill Mount School for Girls had recruited her for one of John Mitchell’s projects. Light in the dark; wisdom for the believer.

From all of those groups came the search for witnesses, from these came a book, from this came the ghost walks. From those decades of ghost walks came an invitation for me to tell ghost stories to young people. Ghost stories in St Olavs school in the John Mitchell library. I told stories but not for long as you will see.



I did them ‘the worst thing about doing ghost walks’. The worst thing about doing ghost walks is – there is always someone on my ghost walk who knows a better story than me! It is just not fair!

Take the lady who told me of coming home from work late. It was a large terrace house which had been split into two and her and her husband had the top part as their apartment.

She was late home. Work were keeping her. She managed to let her husband know. She would not be in till 19.30 but he would have a meal ready.

She got off work not as late as expected and headed home. She let herself in and started up the stairs, as she neared their apartment she heard voices.

There was someone talking to her husband; it was a woman.

There was a woman inside her home. She could hear her voice. That woman was in her living room.

She burst open the door. There was no one there.

She could still hear voices. They were in the bedroom.

She crept to the door; she burst it open. There was no one there.

They were in the bathroom. She could definitely hear them talking. She burst open the door.



There was her husband looking in the mirror and shaving. As he slowly looked round, she asked, “Who were you talking to?”

He answered haltingly, “I, thought, I was talking to you.”

Then he was staring to the side of her – to – behind – the – door. She peered around the door and there was a young woman. She was dressed smartly, but rather old fashioned; her full-skirted black lace dress had frilled cuffs and a ruff at the neck, “I must be in the wrong house.”

The young woman walked out and around my friend and past her into the lounge. They watched as she opened the main door, they heard her clunk down the stairs. They heard the front door open and close. They came to their senses and ran after her.

They ran down the stairs. They got to the door – it was locked. Locked, twice, and both bolts were across and the chain was on.

By they had it open the woman was gone. They locked up and went back up into the lounge. He flopped in one chair and she in the other. They stared for a second then one said, “She was as real as me and you.”

Then the other said, “But,” and then they both said at the same time, “She didn’t have any feet.”

Yes she was as real as me and you but she disappeared from the ankles down.

After a few more such tales as this it was time for the kids, and boy did they know tales.



They frightened each other; the girl with no face, the lover who turned out to be long dead, the figure you just know is right behind you, the building no one ever goes in and no one ever returns from, the ribbon around the neck which must never be removed, the fingers in the trunk, the light over the gravestone, the warrior who slowly turns towards you, the romans in the cellar, the roman in the Minster, the angry figure. They frightened each other.

I reminded them of whose library we were in. John Mitchell would certainly be listening, he spent his life trying to discover the truth about life after death. He was York’s man of ghosts, now his school’s pupils were telling ghost stories in his library, of course he was listening, and going by the bristling tension we had created, of course he would be proud.


Click links below to see previous editions

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #3 Tosh Alleyways

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

Request to receive emails to keep up to date.

I highly recommend:

See also my Nordic Prose poems of the Gods and Goddesses series…

Norse Gods and Goddesses Prose Poems – #32 Lay of Hymir









Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro


Storytelling is… #11 The Poem


Storytelling is…


Holding the attention

Making everyone feel four again

Embracing culture, heritage, nature


Ritual, history, memory, family, conversation

Reinventing without losing

Creating from what we have


Establishing, guiding, nurturing, directing

A magical, empowering, captivating,

breath taking, energising experience

Nothing new, ancient always

That which was, in the now,

in a new and old way all at once

Forever respectful

Universal, singular, local, specific, worldly, oral

Perfect yet fluid


Sit down at the metaphorical fireside

You, are a storyteller



Adrian Spendlow


Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #3 Tosh Alleyways

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #3 Tosh Alleyways


The twisting details of the brick-work and the aged woodwork seem to be seen in full detail despite the lack of lighting.

Shiver if you will in these ancient streets and wayfares.

Do not step on the cracks, as they lead down below these old flags to layer upon layer of deathly past.

Impossible mists climb down among the yellow lights to amplify the darkness of the forth-coming archway.

Amalgamation of structure covers centuries and has only one thing in common, amid the various quaintnesses, is its lack of straightness.

Leaning in and over, meanwhile tilting and steadily shifting, erstwhile attempts at formality house the living amongst the dead.

Impassable infrastructure passable easily for spirit – echoes of earlier denizens.

Angled byways call into question any semblance of accessibility leaving behind away from this city all concept of normality.

Ghostly accessibility is superior to the earthly footway.

Watch it visitor, spooky York is wonky.



The Dead

(a round by Adrian Spendlow)


Just west of here amid the mists

No step aside; a stumbling list

Simply twist here to find

A tear within the veil

Timeless as the instance of awareness

Solid as old stone’s transience

Always within the wanderer’s perspective

Those who are not of your precious now

Who your hope of logic flaunt with firm avow

A promise you will one day know

There you will reside, you hear it said

For you will walk among




Click links below to see preivious editions

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #3 Tosh Alleyways

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

Request to receive emails to keep up to date.

I highly recommend:

See also my Nordic Prose poems of the Gods and Goddesses series…

Norse Gods and Goddesses Prose Poems – #32 Lay of Hymir


wonky 01 sketch on wash pencilled enhance wetted pre ironed







Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast

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.

Adrian Spendlow

#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.window man

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.butter The instant her mate looked up to see it too it dropped out of the air. It smashed in the sink.butter rough 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. glassesThere 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.table



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.jovik hotel

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.squaddie times two 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.squaddie two

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.reflection

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.on bed

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.pie

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.bakers

Back to hauntings or at least monstrous beasts but first torture along the way.

The Board Inn – The Hole in the Wallholeinwall – we are heading down the alley at the side of there but let us mention the ancient torture chamber reported indungeon 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.war etc

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.under

It is not the dead we are concerned about just now it is becoming dead. Being scared to death. Jinxed. Hexed. Summoned. Cursed.wo

We are stepping down into the realms of the Black Dog of

It is an ancient beast and it is down this alleyway, or the next, or the next.hole 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.013

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.longship

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.flame eyes

York city sits upon death, it venerates it – thus we have the barguist two

Nip not down a ginnel, turn not from the main-way, stay in the light. The barguest beast gleams its red eye three

Oh yes, listen here for those rules of York…


And here for the poem on the dog of death…




cat dog

Click links below to see previous editions

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #3 Tosh Alleyways

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

Request to receive emails to keep up to date.

I highly recommend:





Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal

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.

Adrian Spendlow

Heralding a Great Show


You don’t tend to notice any metaphysical atmosphere in these particular passageways you are where you wished to be; you are a thespian. Carrying large holdalls of make-up and costumes up the steep twisting stairway here is more about destination. It is a convoluted route to being on the stage; for you are climbing to the theatre dressing rooms. The excitement of your prospects tends to lift you; you are climbing to dizzy heights.008

This is the Theatre Royal, York and it is a tennis court.010 Plays take place in this tennis court but that is what it is. Back in the year which in this modern age you can look up for yourself it started out that way.

“Can we have a theatre here?”


“OK then we will have a tennis court.”

The population of York and far and wide were invited to the tennis court to watch King Lear.

“You are putting on plays.”

“This is a tennis court.”009

(NB I chose King Lear as it is often described as impossible to stage in a theatre but this was in a tennis court.)


The winding stairs were built afterwards.004

Some of the rooms those stairs lead to were there already it seems. The reader is leaping ahead now and deciding we are about to hear all about the existence of the Theatre Royal’s Grey Lady,012 well the reader is wrong, there are two ghosts in the theatre, both are Grey Ladies; yes there are two of them.022

Pray for a good death, live a good life; a fair one, even so a trick of fate, a cruel wickedness, can lead to centuries of wailing.

What quite leads to age upon age of mischievousness is not so clearly understood unless it was loving a building too much.015

‘The’ Grey Lady roams the place and is seen often and word is out on her that if she is seen there will be a full house; that the show will have a successful run. This legendary advantage is evidence in itself that she is seen quite often, not because there are regular full houses, but that when a member of the acting profession is upset because of the sight of her the joke is on you to be told, “Don’t worry it is a sign of a good show.” Thus the legend continues in an unhelpful way by making fun of the poor sobbing thespian who is scared to go backstage;016 to stand in the wings, or to look out into the audience.


For this is where she is; if you are stage left you will be wondering, as you await your cue, who the mature lady is, so still in concentration upon you from the distant stage right.021

If you are due to come down on a wire she is in the rafters, (do not go down a shoot from centre stage whatever you do), if you look out at the audience seeking to meet the eye of a safe looking face don’t be too sure that they are still alive.

For these are places she is often seen, by actor or audience member alike, (or perhaps I am being over inclusive simply to increase interest), no, it is so.

Marie of the theatre staff told me of seeing the Grey Lady in all of these places and a guy in a pub told me too.

To bring you back into the realms of believability this is a ghost tale which goes back in popularity to well before ghost walks. It is as old as the theatre, well no, as old as the Grey Lady.

I sat at that pub, in the beer garden, telling my sister of a commission to collect ghost stories for broadcast when a guy across the way overheard. He had been in the post of Domestic Services Coordinator for the theatre and he had seen the Grey Lady.017


There had been a huge response to their advertising for more cleaners and it was decided they would all have to sit in the stalls. They set up an interview area on the stage and worked their way through. At last mid-afternoon his assistant said they had finished and being a thorough chap, he pointed out that they hadn’t finished as there was still the lady in grey who was sat further back. His assistant said everyone had gone and he insisted the lady had been staring at him from the back all afternoon.018

“There is no one there.”

“Yes there is,” he stood up and pointed, no there wasn’t.

She is mischievous though, which leaves one wondering on her reason for haunting; if there is a reason for the sight of a ghost. Perhaps yes, she loved the place too much and could not bear to move on upon her death.

For she is seen at performances and rehearsals and makes her presence felt;014 lights go on and off quite frequently. Staff will be extra sure they have made every safety check upon locking up for the night. As they look back upon wandering away there is a light shining. (I note there are never reports of taps running or doors unlocking or anything which may endanger the fabric of the building or the surety of future shows.) 019


Yet when they plod back up those narrow stairs they find that the light in question is no longer on and as they work their way back down another light now is.

There is a more definite reason for the other famed haunting – she doesn’t know she is dead.025

For those of us with an awareness of spirit there is a blatant sense of despair. Most of us are sensitive in such places and are affected though not all people know why they react the way they do.

I would like to think that I knew that the story behind the experience was true but I knew the tale before I went in there and picked up upon it though.

The walled-up nun. Several different folks who may each describe themselves as clairvoyant mediums have reported the same or similar.005

Well they all match up to the long-told story; she was bad.024


Actually she may well have been a victim; a modern view might well have seen a situation thus. Even in some present day societies the dark ages concept of a woman being ‘tainted’ by the actions of a man still have currency – the word ‘despoiled’ comes to mind.

You can tell your dates and places, you can look at the history of consensual respect – she had sex.023

The man, for it was a man, doesn’t seem to be haunting anywhere, so probably wasn’t walled up or castigated – she was.027

They may have slipped tit bits through a crevice to prolong her existence but be assured she was in the dark, her ability to move was severely restricted, there were no facilities, no warmth and there certainly was no hope. This was a dead woman breathing.020

She is dead now, she is not breathing, she is still in existence. Admittedly, as a ghost she is steadily, very slowly, dwindling. There is as nothing of her left in fact except the despair and (multiply those type feelings a tenfold and then you come up with a word for it): She is bad.


It is just a story.

Go in that dressing room then.

The one next door is identical; rows of mirrors with lights: 028

The acting profession are famed for being protective of their space. Their ‘slap’ is laid out and this is their mirror with a chair demarking their area – Do not go near. Now go next door.

They are all down one end and they are sharing one or two mirrors. They may not be fully aware of why they are so close together and do not feel too comfortable being expected to have to explain to you.

Hey, you go up the other end beyond where the old wall of so long ago crosses the room.

Let us leave the Theatre Royal behind us and go seeking some fresher air – and possibly some hope.

Click to read the whole series:

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #1 The Theatre Royal

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #2 The Exhibiton and the Barguist Beast

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #3 Tosh Alleyways

Son of York’s First Ghost Walker Wanders the Winding Ways; a Recollection – #4 The Burning

I highly recommend:


Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories

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Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 01 – Slice it Thin

Slice it Thin

Each of the Ales n Tales sessions had a different feel to them, a unique atmosphere and a whole bunch of expectations. Here we were in The Court; the bistro bar at the Dean Court Hotel the home of the monthly Open House for storytellers and poets, at this session the feel perhaps was less to do with memories of the personal experience and more a sense of story. Here we have an exception to this, in the tale of the ham family.

Only small and visiting the distant relatives for an experience that would never be forgotten. We are in the Wolds and we are in the late fifties and we are with a family that are a little careful with their money; a little too careful. Hams were hung over the fire to smoke and there were several of them, so many so that some of them were starting to mould. You have to have a store of cured meat and it would seem almost a crime to give food away; to the extent that sometimes you would go round to visit, we hear, and there would be a ham on the fire, so old it was only of use as fuel.

There was a mat on the quarry tiles in front of the fire, it was a sack; it got smaller and smaller until it was too small to kneel on when one was setting the small fire, then at last it would be replaced from the stock in the corner.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 02 – Stack it High

Stack it High

In the splendour of our surroundings, with an enormous meringue and a froffy pint it seemed incongruous to hear more of the ham family. Whilst visiting the Wolds to see this family of distant relatives the first thing you would see upon entering the large farmhouse room were the large rectangular piles. One couldn’t tell what they were initially, for all around the room were large blocks all along the sides of the room. These piles were all the papers they had ever read, they were laid flat and unfolded in date order so the piles at the start of the room were very dark brown and the last, unfinished pile was crisp white.

Years later, when the old couple passed away and these newspapers were cleared away, this huge archive was got rid of, but as the piles were being carried out onto the smallholding to make a bonfire someone noticed something else in the pile. In among the newspapers, again laid flat, carefully hidden, was lots of money. The family that used an old sack for a carpet had stored away all their money among the papers all their lives. The money at the modern end of the pile was crisp fresh fivers and tenners, then as you went along the pile ten shilling notes would start to turn up, till by you got to the darkened end of the piles you would be finding those massive white five pound notes.

Footnote: Apparently it was thought that the old money was out of date and it went on the bonfire, with the newspaper archive that themselves would be worth a quite a lot nowadays.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 03 – A Case Full of Family

A Case Full of Family

distant grandmother.jpgThe ‘above’ stories of the ham family came up as a result of my opening my battered old case and bringing out the set of old photos. Two in particular had caught their attention, I believe they are my great great, and a few more greats, grandparents and I suppose this is by way of a ghost story, as my parents tell me of the original pictures flying about. These stern sepia photos have brought out all sorts of stories as I have travelled about; telling people about how they won’t stay on the wall has brought even more tales. Dad tells me that whenever they talk about any of the family from way back they hear a bang and when they look in the hall g. g. g. g. granddad is on the floor.distant-grandfather

Recently Dad set too and fixed it to the wall with a drill, brass fittings and a great deal of determination, ‘There,’ he said, as he walked back into the lounge, ‘he won’t be going anywhere.’ Crash!

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 04 – Old Hat

Old Hat

So yes, I had my battered old suitcase with me at the Dean Court Ales n Tales evening and it is full of props I had been using at a previous performance and a few people wanted to see what I had in there. After a good rummage between us, (darning mushroom, old beer mats, Romany peg, old bottle opener etc), we came to, the knitted item. Younger members of the gathering wanted to know what it was, while older people were able to tell them straight away; it was a tea cosy. Well that’s what they said, but not to me it wasn’t, we are talking a tea cosy that my mum has had since I was very little, so as soon as it was out of the box I had to do with it what I had always done throughout my childhood; put it on my head! The ears no longer stuck out of the spout and handle holes, but it fitted on my head all the same. I must say it was much admired so I may well wear it down the pub more often.old hat 01.jpgold hat 02.jpgold-hat-03

  Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 05 – Shoshanah’s Tea

Shoshanah’s Tea

The tea cosy tale brought us memories from one of a group, Shoshanah; a lady who had lived in Israel for six months as a teenager and had brought back a gift for her mother-in-law (future mother-in-law rather). Yes she had brought back a tea cosy but it was a rather unique one; for a start, she had made it herself but there was a bit of a problem with it too. She had been in a Bedouin market and had seen large piles of naturally coloured wool that had caught her eye. She liked the mixture of browns, whites and creams and the texture was totally different to any wool she had ever used before. When she asked about the balls of wool she discovered that they were very cheap and were camel wool rather than sheep. The idea that it was natural and hadn’t been processed in any modern way quite suited her and she bought a bag full. She had missed knitting since she had ran out of the wool she had brought with her so had set too straight away. Yes, of course, the thing she made was a tea cosy, and she couldn’t wait to give it to her future mother-in-law, (even though she did have somewhat of a reputation with her own mother for wonky knitting). At the end of her sojourn and eventually returned, she brought out all her gifts; her mother-in-law appeared thrilled with the unusual hand-made gift. Upon inspection everything looked to be as it should be, this seemed to be Shoshanah’s first attempt at a knitted item that wasn’t totally wonky, her mother-in-law-to-be must have been impressed, as she went straight away and made a pot of tea. Shoshanah was quietly pleased with herself that at last she had knitted something that had worked out. The tea cosy went in place and the milk was poured into the cups in preparation and the tea brewed.

The raw wool however still had the essence of its source within it and as it gradually warmed, the whole house was filled with the overpowering odour of camels.

 Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 06 – Deep Winter

Deep Winter

It’s a year since Ronnie and Connie came to the Open House here but people still recall them and their performances; such as, eating sweets in church and being a good Yorkshire wife. Someone even managed to tell us one of their tales from memory. 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 there was a brass plaque in the cab with his name on it; Marmaduke Wildman Pickering. Young Ronnie the fireman knew that for certain, because he had to polish it every shift.

This is 1947, the terrible winter of 1947 and Ronnie the fireman struggled through impossible conditions to clock in on time at the loco-shed. The Duke (pronounced Dook) was already there and had been informed that they wouldn’t be going out on that frozen morning. At that the managers came striding out of the office with two very official looking gents, (turns out they were officials). The line was closed a few miles out, there was a whole valley full to the top with snow and the lines lost far beneath. Their job today was to drive their steam engine out to the brow of the hill to look down on the snow so the officials could ascertain how long the line would be closed. As they climbed up to the open side of the cab The Duke commanded through gritted teeth, ‘We are going to need a lot of steam Ronnie, a lot!’ So, sure enough, once the two inspectors were up and by them in the cab Ronnie got shoveling that coal. ‘Proceed.’ commanded the inspectors, and off they went. The speed got up, the steam was full and they were approaching the hill in little time. The inspectors instructed that they should progress to the top of the hill so they could survey the situation. Up they went, at full hurtle, and when they got to the top – they kept going. The inspectors were shouting for them to stop, but they carried on, right down the other side of the hill and through the valley. As they tipped the top they headed straight into the lake of snow, they kept going. The engine drove straight in, it pushed the snow as it went. The strange thing being that as the snow was forced out of the way in front it turned to ice along the sides and started coming into the open sides of the cab. As they careered along in the darkness the fire was bristling and the ice was a wall at each side getting closer and closer. There was less and less room in the cab and the inspectors were screaming. Down the hillside they went, and across the deep valley floor then up the further hillside and eventually Boom they were out and at the other side of the valley. Marmaduke looked at the two very shaken inspectors, who had been sure they would never have survived the journey through the tunnel and said, ‘There. You’re line is clear now.’

  Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 07 – Siren Call

Siren Call

Whilst sitting sipping a glass of the guest ale in The Court I was intrigued to hear this tale from a young woman who is a regular visitor here. Her early school memories were of air raid sirens. They were often practices but you could never be sure, especially as she was only four. At the time, in her school in Saudi Arabia, there was constant fear of the threat of attack from Saddam Hussein’s regime. As she recalled it, there were several different alarm sounds; there was a warning sound, then a sound that meant they had to go under their desks, followed by a sound which indicated time to crawl to the door, there was a whole process. They would be alerted when it was time to proceed along the corridor and then down into the cellars, then of course they would wait in anticipation, and hope, of the all clear sound.

As well as all this disruption in her school time it seems she recalls some disorder and noise at home too. This was less disturbing but a little unsettling perhaps; a memory from the time was of lots of work being done on the house, there always seemed to be workmen milling around. She does recall at least one of the workmen being friendly and helpful around the home however.

  Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 08 – Love Conquers

Love Conquers

As I heard the previous tale of memories of childhood experience in times of strife I had a feeling there was more to come and I was right. The young lady who had experienced the war sirens, and to some extent, the noise of workmen being around at home, also had a recollection of trying to climb out of her cot; she was perhaps at four a bit too old to be in a cot, or at least a bit too young to be expected to stay in one. She had climbed out in the night, but the drop at the outside of the cot was a bit far and she fell. As she laid there crying on the floor someone came to help her; her recollection was that it was one of the workmen. He lifted her up and smiled at her, then laid her back in her little bed and smiled at her, she said she had a feeling he felt he shouldn’t be there, but that he was glad to have been able to help her. He had seemed familiar and she had always remembered him, because, she said, as well as being caring, he was quite ugly. Somehow she felt safer and cared for and had more settled nights afterwards.

Years later as a young adult she was spending time with her grandmother and while tidying she came across an old box of photos; so they sat down with a cuppa and had a look through them. In among the many happy memories and smiling faces of loved ones, there suddenly in her hand, was a photograph of that ugly man from back in her childhood. She exclaimed of how she recalled this man and how helpful and caring he had been. She was told that she could not possibly have met him as he was her grandfather who had died before she was born.

  Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 09 – Behind the Door

Behind the Door                                                

The glass of ale I had been sipping whilst I listened to the story of the loving grandfather from beyond was the York Brewery beer; Ghost Ale. Commenting on this brought up the tale of a York pub and its forgotten room. A local landlord who was brought up in a very eerie room in a haunted pub had explained how he was never frightened of the ghost in his bedroom.

He did recall his father’s experience however; his father had told him of the noises in the night downstairs, of how he had heard disturbance in the pub below in the early hours. Three in the morning or so, his father had been woken by banging sounds downstairs, and had rushed down the stairs, flung open the door, snapped on the light and stared into an empty pub. Then slowly he became aware of a figure, or rather a shape, a shape of a man; a man who was stood on an old floor beneath the present surface. A man who was a warrior. He was there, yet he was translucent. He was there yet unaware of this world. Then slowly as the landlord stepped towards the figure despite himself, the shape started to become aware of him. The warrior from times gone by slowly started to turn in his direction. He slowly came to realise there was another in his presence, and his eyes latched on to what he perceived as an intruder, an enemy; the landlord saw those eyes and turned and ran, ran back up the stairs to his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him. His son, who was brought up in the haunted room upstairs would never forget this tale.

  Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 010 – Beyond the Door

Beyond the Door

Once you have recovered from the tale Behind the Door ‘above’ you may well be ready to move on to this follow-on tale. We hear for the landlord who was brought up in a haunted room, interestingly he was just a child then of course, and his father was the landlord, now years later he has returned to the pub he was brought up to become the landlord himself; he returned not just to the pub but to the haunted bedroom as well, the haunted bedroom we must add which he had never been afraid off.

Now this room has a small door in it; a small sealed door which is set at higher than bed height. There is a number eleven on this door which suggests it is the missing house next door; the numbers along the street seem to miss this number out. When he was a small boy he used to say that he had heard crying coming from beyond the door. Indeed over the years as he grew he said that the crying started to move along the wall away from the door. Then, when he was in his teens, the door burst open, spilling its six inch nails across the floor. He and his father dared to investigate and found a small room within with a small bed and a small chair in it.

Recently he had been awakened in the night, not by crying, but by a strange noise downstairs; the bar has a large bell behind it for calling time and he distinctly heard it ring out three times. There must be an intruder! He ran down the stairs, grabbed the door to fling it open, then he remembered his father’s story of long ago of a ghostly warrior figure who stood in the bar in the night. He didn’t open the door; he turned and went back up the stairs. He went back up the stairs to the haunted room that he had never been frightened of.

  Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 011 – Joy of Bargains

Joy of Bargains

We shared a joy within the group at the thought of our mutual love of charity shops; one even worked in one just because she had a love of a rummage. Finding bargains when you work in a shop is a joy discovering items that will sell well to raise funds. Finding bargains when you visit a charity shop is a whole different thing, between us we counted seventeen items of clothing or footwear which had been bought, or should we say grabbed, in charity shops around the York area.

One who worked in a charity shop told us of how the belts are hung on the wall in a line and people often come in asking for a belt. The main reason that people decide to buy a belt is because they have put on weight. They often ask yes, and what they ask is, which of the belts will be bigger ones. The shop worker says she replies that the bigger ones are those which are longer than the others on the rack. Obvious isn’t it.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 012 – Mother Earth’s Typhoon

Mother Earth’s Typhoon

You can’t really predict what will come out at such gatherings, getting a group of people together to share stories brings their own idea of a good topic and the following was an intriguing piece of mythology which came out of our gathering.

Mother Earth had been building her anger for a long time, Zeus had destroyed humanity in one way or another a few times now, and as he didn’t seem to be learning or mellowing she was building her anger into something momentous, something typhoon-like.

Out of the oceans burst Typhon himself, stretching up he was as tall as the sky. His thighs were snake bodies and his arms, which reached right across the world, were serpentine; each of his limbs was divided into a myriad of writhing serpents with ferocious poisonous bites. Up beyond the scattering clouds his head was the monstrous form of a donkey’s head and his eyes shot fire. When Typhon spoke the bellowing sound which could cause tidal waves was accompanied by hurtling boulders; each of his bellowing yells of dire warning sent out enormous boulders towards his victim.

So it was that word of his coming came to the gods, the last of the godly ones to hear the news was the goddess Athene and she flew to Olympus to see what Zeus had planned. He was nowhere to be seen, she searched and she searched and then there in the far field she saw a harmless group of farm animals. There in the meadow below she spotted a sheep, and she knew; she called accusingly to Zeus to show himself. The sheep grew to become the squirming Zeus. She told him he must overcome his fear and face the behemoth so reluctantly he did.

One blast of boulders was enough to knock him down and then Typhon swept him up in its arms and flew. He took him to a deep cave and pulled out his sinews, so Zeus lay there helpless.

The great Goat-Pan screamed his impossible scream and all the world froze, all except Hades who crept in under the darkness of his helm and rescued Zeus and his sinews.

Once repaired Zeus rode his flying chariot, carrying his thunderbolt and his golden sickle and this time he struck Typhon so fiercely that he fell so hard that he became a volcano. He burns still.

The Graphic novel version

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 013 – All or One

All or One

One of our number recalled a fairly recent visit to a production of Orland by the Nutshell Opera Company here in a York arts centre; a production which she tells us drew heavily on the original Ariosto and she told us of how we came to have this poetic book in English.

John Harington’s antics in court came to the attention of Queen Elizabeth I and she called him before her. It seems that he had indeed translated from the huge work of Ariosto, but he had only translated parts; he had translated pieces which were rude or titillating and had used these to amuse and intrigue the ladies of the court. He was punished for this intrigue which had allowed him to win over several of the courtly ladies; his punishment was metered out by the Queen herself. She said that he must be banished from her courts until such time as he had translated the whole mammoth work. It took him quite a while.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 014 – Chicken Dinner

Chicken Dinner

One of the pieces shared with the group had been created during the recent Journeys project by the group York Stars. The ICANGO2 group had been asked for advice on how to live your life and came up with this wonderful piece:

How to live your life well

Overcome your fears

Have strength, be healthy, keep up your muscles

Eat well, learn to be a chef

Being safe is important

Be calm and caring

Call for help if you need to

Always tell the truth

Being truthful is the best way

Help others when you can

Show others the way, teach others

Show them how to learn to fly

Take lessons

Learn storytelling

Do some acting

Act out to explain things

Keep positive

Be polite and be nice

Share your skills

Cook a chicken dinner

Above all be fun

And do what makes you happy

Get out more, meet people

You need to have friends

To tell your troubles to

To talk to

To help each other

Keep in touch, share, go out have a drink together

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 015 – Most Important

Most Important

We shared out the prompt cards and one lady drew the one saying most important things in life and she felt that – The most important things are children, they keep you sane, especially in later life where they keep you grounded.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 016 – Old Wormy

Old Wormy

One of those socialising in the Court bistro bar had recently been to Iceland where she had socialised with people who love a good folktale, and the love of a good folktale can be mainly centred around the strangeness of the tale. None less so than in the case of a little worm which I cannot quite give credit to here but will attempt to give you an idea. If you live alone and seem to do well in olde England you were suspected of being a witch, in Iceland, although it was similar, you would most likely be suspected of having one of these odd creatures as a pet. I say these things are small, but that is while they are heading off to the nearby farm. Once they have reached the farm they will grow huge as they milk all the cows. They will then return and grow small again as your churns fill with milk. This might be all well and good but the things were said to feed on you and drain you and you would age rapidly. The only chance of rescue was, wait for it, to gather up enough sheep poo to give it a good big meal and then it would have to leave. Well, something like that.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 017 – Unreal Whale

Unreal Whale

We are treated to another folktale with roots in Iceland, and partly in Denmark, while we supped our ale; the Guardian Spirits. King Harold Gormsson had plans to invade Iceland and he sent a wizard to discover the lay of the land; a wizard with the power to change his shape. He chose the form of a whale and off he went. He swam to the Fjord of Weapons and was confronted by a huge dragon which was surrounded by its followers; reptiles, worms and lizards. He hurried away from there and came to the Fjord of Isles in the North. There he was greeted by an enormous bird with wings that stretched as far as the mountains. The whale wizard swam to Wide Fjord, only to discover that it was guarded by a huge bellowing charging bull, a bull that was surrounded by fearsome ghosts. He turned again and sought to land at the Sands of Vikar, here he found an army of rock giants awaiting him.

He swam home.

Footnote: Ah so this is why the Danes invaded Jorvik!?

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 018 – Bull Story

Bull Story

Something in the Icelandic folktales we heard that night brought up a mystery for us all to consider; the place of origin of the tale of the bull in the church. Apparently this old tale relates to an old church close to York, the only clue we have at present to the whereabouts of this church is that it is cracked and bowed outwards. The old tale tells us that this was because of a bull and an evil priest. There was this story long ago of a priest that had risen to power out of a need to be cruel and selfish. He was spiteful to others all his life. Upon his sudden death it is said that a bull in a nearby field became wild and went on a rampage through the village. Priests were called to pray over the bull and to calm and cure its spirit. They lured the bull into the church and when it charged in after them they started to pray, it is said that the bull not only began to calm but began to shrink back in size too. The priests recalled the fearful leader who had just passed away and became afraid and lost faith. As soon as they faltered the bull became ferocious and grew and grew; it grew until it was so large that it began to burst the very walls of the church. At that a young priest new to this area prayed and the bull shrank back down and calmed and returned to its field and never roamed again. The church has never been repaired they say, so if you know where it is…

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 019 – Looking at Luck

Looking at Luck

One of the items from my case of many things that was handed round caused interest and responses in a few of the bars visited and I will gather the lucky peg tales here. An old peg, a wooden peg, and for those of you who have seen one before there is the familiar circle of tin around the top to hold it together. Before this old peg was handed around anywhere there was a need of a little note of caution; as it was a lucky peg, people needed to be made aware of this before they chose to touch it. The thinking behind this was that people are funny about luck; some don’t believe in it and don’t want to encourage it, some are very pleased for the thought of a bit of luck in their lives, but there are some of us, it has been discovered by experience, who are frightened of the idea. Nonetheless most people took the peg as it came around and smiled at the thought that they had allowed their selves to believe in such a thing.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 020 – Gripping


Now the tale of the peg that has been passed around in all these Ales n Tales bars goes something like this. A relative, who has now passed away, told of how he had made this peg among a batch a long time ago, while encamped on the outskirts of York. He had been six at the time and had sat in with the others as they set too to make these much admired tools of the washing line. They had done very well, it might be said that they had done too well, as there were far more pegs than could be sold door to door in the time they were in the York area. So, father, had decided that they would hide them away; a leather bag was brought out and the spare pegs were stashed in the depth of an old hedge at the side of the site. The plan was, that when they were next travelling to this area they would retrieve them and have a ready product to sell. They never returned to that particular site. The maker of the pegs did though, sixty years later, and the partly rotting bag was still there and the pegs in one piece. This is one of those pegs that we pass around our group now, and this is the tale of it.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 021 – Enjoining


‘Ah a gypsy peg,’ commented one feller upon sight of this old clothespeg. He looked at it with admiration and with a hint of a wry smile. This was a feller who had told me several stories; a chap who had been brought up to speak well, which in his trade as a joiner had sometimes caused others to comment. He had been asked his trade in many a pub and often people from Llandudno to Edinburgh would take note of his clear way of speaking and say he couldn’t be a joiner – he was, he explained, a gentleman joiner. With this old wood peg in his hand he started to relate times of seeing them before. Nowadays one might be expected to say Romany or Traveller but he recalled how folks who knocked at the door with pegs back then would have described themselves as gypsy and probably done so proudly.

Several observers have commented that these pegs were proper pegs, you could jam them right on and they would stay put. They didn’t fall apart like the plastic ones which were made from chemicals and oil resources. Such comments were rife among places visited, here however there was a different reaction recollected. Our chap with the peg said how his mother was terrified when there was that knock at the door, she would peep out of the curtains and mutter about curses. She would pull herself together and go to the door to buy a peg, to be on the safe side.

He looked at the peg fondly and then asked what wood it was made of. My reply was, well I had thought I should ask a joiner.

Footnote: His opinion was that the peg was probably made of Ash or Meadow Willow. The clip of metal holding it together was of course snipped into shape from a cocoa tin or a treacle tin, or was that perhaps a custard tin.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 022 – Gentleman Biker

Gentleman Biker

Our joiner friend recalled how at the age of 16 he had a motorbike, nothing flash and nothing too expensive, but it went. It went so far, then it broke down, on this particular day anyway. He was a long way from home and on a road outside of the circle of York and he felt stuck. There was nothing for him to do but start pushing; it would be a very long journey back into the city.

After much effort he was passing an encampment of trailers and vans when a head popped up over the hedge: an elderly lady, ‘Lads!’ she shouted and out of a gap in the hedging a few young fellers came running, ‘They’ll push yer,’ She explained. ‘Come and have a rest and a cuppa.’

The guys pushed his bike so far into the camp and then stopped, ahead was a fire and there by it was the old lady nodding him over. He described her as an old granny who had experienced a lifetime out in the weather who was sat in a pinny smoking a clay pipe. In her red headscarf and shawl she nodded to the proffered cup in her thin hand. He took the hot sweet tea and was about to take a thankful gulp when she looked at him over her pipe and said, ‘Now then young Gregory, what are you up to?’ He froze, looking into her glinting eye, his first thought was, ‘She knows me,’ then a little more pondering and he thought that, no, he had never seen her before. He just sat there with his mouth opened for quite a while, after a while she nodded a smile towards his cuppa and he set too to drink it. When he was done she nodded over behind him toward his bike, as he turned and looked one of the lads was kicking it off; it started and the lads laughed. While he had been sat staring they had been fixing it for him. He thought back to how his mother had always feared the curse and it seemed to him that he had been blessed.

Footnote: His lad by his side commented that his dad had always had amazing luck all his adult life, and perhaps here was the answer. I took the peg back.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 023 – Tick Tick Tick

Tick Tick Tick

An image displayed during the Ales n Tales in the Dean Court Hotel that set off a fair few memories and experiences was the test card, the old BBC black and white test card.

A child watching an old black and white comedy came to mind, who turned and asked, ‘Dad? Were you alive when everything was black and white?’

One or two of us there might not have lived in a black and white world (nobody ever has) but we were old enough to recall when there was something terribly different about television; it wasn’t on all the time. You had to wait for television to start. If you turned it on before the programs were due to commence what you would see was, the test card. Someone tells us that this was the Redifusion test card, and it was on there because you had hired your set from them.

Others recalled the test card with the girl with the teddy, but no this was much later, it was in colour in fact, so much later.

You might be disappointed when all there was was the test card looking at you, but when the next change came you would be excited; when the card went and the clock appeared. What you did then was, you watched avidly as the seconds ticked away till the third hand got to the top. That was when the programs started. The rather grand crisp clear voice would announce a welcome to the British Broadcasting Corporation and on would come the things you wanted to see.


Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 024 – What We Call Entertainment

What We Call Entertainment

Well, when we looked back at what we would watch in the old days of black and white television, we might have been looking forward to it all, but entertainment wasn’t quite the same in those days. One well recalled feature for those of us of the more mature nature was – the interlude. Yes we would be ‘entertained’ by such delights as a set of hands turning a pot upon a potter’s wheel, or another set of hands (presumably) strumming a harp. Someone recalled the images of spectacles spinning, and of course the footage which was accompanied by John Betjamin reading W H Auden’s Night Mail as the mail train hurtled through York.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 025 – Bit of a Clanger

Bit of a Clanger

Suddenly someone went and did it and mentioned Tales of the Riverbank, all those old enough to remember it were sitting back and sighing, ‘ahhhing’ and smiling wistfully, so the younger among us had to ask… Describing it didn’t make it sound all that appealing, as far as we could all remember it was a model boat with hamsters and guinea pigs running about on it and a voice-over pretending they were doing things.

Further forward in time were similar reactions to Bagpuss, very wobbly, but very fondly recalled.

Then here in our midst in this bar in York was someone with a revelation; a revelation and a connection. One of our number had worked with the person who did the Clangers. Now you all remember the Clangers, (if you don’t you should find out), they made noises. Fans will be offended by that statement perhaps, but yes they made noises, all you got from anything on the screen was strange sounds. Turns out, and here we go, there was a script. The writer actually wrote scripts for the whole series. They were found in his garage years later. There was a whole set of dialogue for each line, with all the details of what they were saying. Then, when they were filmed the scripts were handed out to the voice-over actors and they just made the noises of the words. It is recommended that you go back and have another look at the Clangers and see if you can make out what they are saying.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 026 – New Job

New Job

There were those among us who recalled working at chocolate factories in York, in particular Terry’s. There were tricks that were played, we are talking sky hooks and long stands and all the old old pranks that used to be thought of as funny. It seems it was even funnier if the big serious boss was brought in to play the trick. One recalled how as a teen in the midst of winter a container lorry had arrived, it was full of milk. When the lorry’s cargo was piped out there was some spillage, and of course, it froze. There was a layer of frozen milk all the way under the lorry. The newbie, the teen amongst the crew inside was brought out, they were told that they were the only one young and fit enough to do the job. The truck couldn’t move with all that ice under it and they were the one to do for the task of removing it. They were given a paint scraper tool and told to get under there and scrape it all away; there was loads of it. They did get under there and had a try at scraping, then after about fifteen minutes or so they looked up and the whole crew were outside watching them and laughing. One of them was holding a hot water hosepipe, ‘Run!’ he shouted and the ice was washed away in no time.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 027 – Set to Melt

Set to Melt

The teen from the Terry’s story ‘above’ who had only just got away from the burst of water remembered this incident and vowed never to be caught again. So it was that a week later they were called through into the next room to help out. Now this was a genuine incident, chocolate had spilled all over the floor of the work room and quickly set; the full team in there were on their knees trying to scrape it all away. The room needed to be cleared so the trolleys could be pulled through with the new deliveries on. They really were all scraping away at a bit of a horrid job, but one of them, the instigator of the previous prank had a trick up his sleeve for the newbie. What he told him was that the only way they would be able to clear this all away in time was if they had a bucket of steam. Now a bucket of steam might seem like a ridiculous thing to believe, but there was some logic in it. There in the room was a large mopping bucket on wheels and in the next room was an actual steam hose. The toffee room next door had a short hose attached to each machine that squirted hot steam at any stuck toffee to clear the workings. There was no way of course that the steam could be put in a bucket and wheeled back through, but they thought the newbie would fall for this. Our newbie teen had them worked out now though and thought of a way to go along with them. With a promise to be back straight away the mop bucket was pushed through to the next room. As the door was closing there was the sound of sniggering behind them. What they did was, went straight through to the next room and then carried on, straight through into the empty break room; feet up, coffee, cigarette, radio on, they stayed there an hour or so; then headed back pulling along a bucket of hot water. When they got back in there, all the work was done and the gang were all demanding to know where they had been. ‘Ah,’ replied the one they had tried to fool, ‘I’ve been trying to fill the bucket with steam but it kept melting.’ The smirk on the ‘newbie’s’ face was noticed and no more tricks were tried on them.

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 028 – Oh No, I’ve got a Pop Song Stuck Inside My Head

I was thrilled to be offered copies of these smashing two poems below. They were performed at the Ales n Tales evening and went down great.

Oh No, I’ve got a Pop Song Stuck Inside My Head

Oh NO, I’ve got a pop song,

Stuck inside my head,

It’s been in there all day now,

And it’s still there now I’m in bed.

It’s jammed between the synapses,

Of my poor aching brain,

And my mental tape-recorder,

Keeps on playing it again.

Nothing that I do,

Can seem to shake it out,

It just keeps on repeating and

Sort of echoing about.

This afternoon at half past three,

Whilst standing in a crowd,

To my dismay I caught myself,

Singing it out loud.

And I don’t even like the song,

In fact I hate the thing,

And I’m very sure the public,

Don’t want to hear the way I sing.

I know I’m not the only one,

With this tune stuck in their head,

I’ve heard several others humming it,

Or whistling it instead.

The very next one that I hear,

To you I hereby swear,

I’ll walk up calmly in the street,

And kill them then and there.

I don’t even know whose song it is,

Or how it first go in,

I just know that I can’t shake it out,

Oh this accursed din.

Who writes this kind of poppy-pap ?

And who plays it all day long ?

And how do you stop it maliciously,

Driving you to song ?

The situation’s now becoming,

Really rather sad,

If I can’t erase this from my thoughts,

I’m sure that I’ll go mad.

So concentrate on something else,

Fill my mind with peace,

Yes, this is surely the way,

To secure my release.

Oh no, oh damn, oh tish, oh poo,

There I go again,

That’s it, this bloomin tune

Has finally driven me insane !

There’s only one way out now,

I hope that you won’t cry,

Take out revolver, point, click, bang,

Goodbye, cruel world, good-byeeeeeeee.

        Dermot Boylan © Dermot Boylan 2013

Ales n Tales – The Dean Court Stories 029 – The Runaway Robin

The Runaway Robin

The shame has been a constant throbbin’,

Since the day I were run down by a Reliant Robin.

There’s a kind of shame that you just can’t hide,

When the tyre tracks go up’t middle,

As well as up’t side,

That says thy’s not as sharp as needs,

At getting out ov’t road in the middle of Leeds.

A sunny day, just after three,

When I saw the Robin coming for me.

Since it were one wheel short already,

It certainly didn’t look too steady,

But coming now straight for me, HELP,

I let out an unmanly yelp !

I darted this way, I darted that,

But in the end it got me, SPLAT.

I mean, if tha’ must be spliffed, do it in style,

By a Jag or a Merc or some expensive pile

Of metal that out of decency,

Has four bloody wheels instead of three !

A Robin, a Robin, of all damn things,

The very thought it nearly brings

My blood to’t boil,

Specially lyin’ there in’t shit and oil,

And everyone around me smirkin’

An’ looking at that stupid berk in’t

Road who didn’t have the nouse,

To stay this morning in his house.

Revenge, revenge is on my mind,

And other thoughts that aren’t too kind,

I’m going to buy a Sherman Tank,

And squash that Robin in the mank.

More subtle, though, perhaps, I feel,

To simply pinch it’s middle wheel !

        Dermot Boylan © Dermot Boylan 2013

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