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: http://www.ghostwalkyork.co.uk/

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

                                         AS

 

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: http://www.ghostwalkyork.co.uk/

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 Death.dog

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 beast.dog two

Nip not down a ginnel, turn not from the main-way, stay in the light. The barguest beast gleams its red eye tonight.dog 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: http://www.ghostwalkyork.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

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?”

“No.”

“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: http://www.ghostwalkyork.co.uk/

 

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

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

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

Back to Ales and Tales – for tales from other pubs

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories

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Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 01 – Right Reverend

Right Reverend

Well I think my first encounter set the scene for the rest of project. Ales n Tale around the pubs would bring me York residents who had very wide ranging and interesting experiences to relate. My very first conversation was with an intriguing young woman; widely travelled and adventurous and apparently a minister too.

She had returned to York to focus on her art work which very much drew on her international travels and the timeless symbols of the cultures she had gathered from. I thought I was adventurous going around the pubs asking people to help me out with a tale; here was someone who had dropped everything, popped on a back pack and headed off into the depth of a jungle.

She had heard of this tribal community in the Peruvian Rainforest, and as she had always had an interest in the mythology and historical culture of the forests there, she had enquired about visiting.

Here was a village within the rainforests where local people lived and shared, and visitors were welcomed to join and belong for a while. The cost of staying there as a guest was a little more than she would like to spend so she had contacted them and asked if there were other ways she could become involved. There was a good response to this and her way forward turned out to be, to save up for a flight to South America, then arrange herself a long bus journey to a town at the edge of the forested area, and then another bus deep into the wilder areas.

Once in the village itself, as well as spending time with all the visitors from around the world, she worked in the kitchens with the local people. She tells me she had a wonderful fun time mixing with people who had no English and who spoke a language she had never heard of before.

I heard a great deal about the whole experience and it seemed fascinating. I was also impressed however with her next plan. She had decided that while she was in the Americas that she ought to visit the United States too. Indeed she was invited to the Salt Lake City area to spend time in an artistic community there. It was there that she became registered with a ministerial order and that she was now registered to perform ceremonies. This was a possibility for the future, but her main focus was her art work and illustrations contracts.

I moved on across the pub intrigued to see who I would meet next.

Footnote: There was only one problem with all this travelling; none of the places she had visited had decent cider! No matter where you go it is always good to get to York.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 02 – Peeked

Peeked

Two guys who are regulars here, had been expecting me along, and were very animated when I arrived, they had been reminiscing at full whack for a couple of hours, a couple of thirsty hours; so I went up to them as soon as I had settled in, but they said that they had peeked too early and were ready to go. They did however, before they nipped home for a nap, have a chat about steam days and the things that went on a shovel.

So here for you now is the tale of The Duke and Young Ronnie. We are going back to the days when a driver had his own engine, he perhaps didn’t own it exactly but he was definitely the only driver, to the point that there was a brass plaque in the cab with his name on it. Young Ronnie the fireman knew that for certain, because he had to polish it every shift.

The Duke’s cab was all well polished, and he made sure the engine was well fired and full of steam. Well he made sure Young Ronnie kept it all so. Once all was done though, there was always the time for something to eat. And with all that coal ablaze you had the perfect cooker. The cooking pot wasn’t too appetising however; the shovel! They would clean it off and then pop it in there for a little while to sterilise, well almost sterile?!  Eggs in lard = five seconds, Onion roasted = two minutes Bacon = three minutes to crispy etc

That shovel had a long handle, and the engine driver had a strange sense of humour. Both came in useful when they were stuck outside York waiting for a signal. It was a goods train, so there was only the two of them, and it was a long wait, so they started to have a good look around. There in a field several trucks back down the line from them was a farmer wandering about. He was of more intent than they had realised though, as he walked right up to the hedge, had a look around, all he saw were empty fields and a long row of goods waggons behind him. Unaware that he was being watched from the far off engine cab, he had clearly felt a call of nature, for he unbuttoned his britches and squatted down behind the hedge. He hadn’t taken the quirky sense of humour of The Duke into account; The Duke and his long handled shovel. He crept down from the cab, and ever so quietly snuck along the side of the waggons till he was right at the opposite side of the hedge to the farmer. Yes, you guessed it, and I am sorry to relate such an unsavoury idea of what is funny from way back in the past, he quietly slid the shovel through the hedge and under the farmer. After a while he withdrew the shovel and snuck back along the line side, back up into the cab and Young Ronnie had the fire-door open ready, in went the shovel.

Now I don’t know if it is true but I am informed that when you have a call of nature when you are, er, out there in nature there is a tendency to turn and have a look back at what you have left behind. This may well be true, it definitely was in this case, and ‘naturally’ there was nothing there to see. The engine driver and his fireman were peeping out of the cab looking back and laughing with glee, as the farmer searched the area, round and round, ‘Maybe it was further over there?’, he scratched his head in mystification, no he was sure it was here. At that the signals changed at last and they were able to pull away, as they did they could not resist a last look back. The farmer was in the process of unbuttoning those trews of his and was going to have a look in there. He probably never worked out what had happened and forever wondered.

It is hoped that before setting out again on their next shift they requisitioned a new shovel.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 03 – Long Tall Teller

Long Tall Teller

As I was here doing Ales n Tales I felt I ought to have some ale, it seemed only right and proper, but I didn’t want to be drinking large quantities of strong ale, especially as I was doing two sessions in the first day. So I opted for a taster tray. It turned out to be of some interest all around this friendly hostelry. The landlord brought out the wooden platter and set three glasses in the holes. For around the price of a pint you get three dinky quaint glasses; a third of a pint each. I thought random was the way forward so said I would have the first three from the left.

When I was asked to stand and tell a couple of tales to kick start the session I stood there with my miniature pint and strangely felt very tall. A guy I talked to later wondered if I felt stronger.

‘So you are doing ales n tales then are you?’ I was asked, as I came over to the bar with my titchy glass. ‘Are you on expenses?’ ‘Do you get to claim for all the beer you can drink?’ I was devastated to realise I hadn’t thought of that?! Clearly I should have talked to these guys a month back when we were planning this!

Later I was asked if I had been bought a lot of beer so I thought the best answer would be, not yet!

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 04 – A Step Down.

A Step Down.

There’s a few who say they use the city walls it turns out. Some just like to have a wander occasionally for the pleasure of it. Others use the city walls as a short cut and a break away from the roads. One regular here tells me he often cuts along the walls from opposite the art gallery, but if it is a warm day he then finds himself looking down into the beer garden for the Lamb and Lion and wishing there were stairs down to it.

An older guy who had a busy life, and always had, tells me how he was approached a few years back now by a group of workmates who were all about to retire. They were all worried about leaving work as they were not sure what they could do with their time. So his suggestion was that they went around the city walls. His plan for them was that as they wandered along they look out for pubs that came into view. Then as soon as they came to a set of stairs they should go down and go to that pub. He said they would be seeing new places, but they would also be meeting new people. Go in there and chat to people was his advice. Then the next time you go out start from the same spot and go along looking out for another pub to visit.

The guys took up his suggestion and a few months later at a works night out for retired workers they all gathered around him to report back. It turns out that as well as enjoying themselves going out together and the general enjoyment of meeting new people in pubs, there had been allsorts of opportunities that had come their way. One chap had got talking to someone who played bowls and had ended up joining the team. Another had seen a notice about a history group who met in an upstairs room and decided to join. A third had met someone and fallen in love. They all had found activities, hobbies and interests through simply chatting to people in York pubs.

The feller who had given them the advice in the first place was bought a few pints that night. And his finishing words to me were, if you want some interest in life, go out there and chat to people over a pint, you will be surprised by how interesting people are.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 05 – You Are Lovely People

You Are Lovely People

Everyone told me where to go; the landlord of the Ackhorne among them, lots of locals too: If you want to meet a character go see Mussy. He will have plenty to tell you, lovely chap. I didn’t have far the go, there he was at the corner of the bar. And they were right, he was a great guy. Folks tell me that he is likely to say things like, ‘Hello’, as people walk in the door, ‘you look like lovely people’. He greeted me warmly too. I was expected and welcomed. Mussy had brought allsorts of paraphernalia with him from his many happy times at the Ackhorne and was full of tales from here and from other real ale pubs around the city. He and his pals kept me company for quite a while and I got to see photos of all the characters who have visited this place over the years and become friends of the lively Mussy.

‘You stand at the end of the bar and the whole world comes in through this door.’ They all want to spend time with our friendly local too. Whether they are lasses from Norway inviting Mussy to visit, pals from Dundee with pics of cow pie, a crowd from Broughty Ferry, or a couple from Taiwan, they all keep in touch. Mussy has a collection of postcards from around the globe from people thanking him. Thanking him for, their very first cigar, a trip around the local pubs, an introduction to a quality real ale, and an offered friendship. Many return too.

Footnote: There were a whole host of beautiful stamps upon the collection of postcards and there among them I was surprised to see an actual Mussy stamp, all the way from Taiwan, and there is his face on the stamp on the card.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 06 – Turn into a Team

Turn into a Team

Among those who have become frequent visitors or regular locals since being welcomed to The Ackhorne by our pal Mussy are a whole host of characters with a wide turn of skills, trades and interests. Hammy who runs a string of sandwich shops in the west end, Lee who brings his bagpipes, a crowd of visitors whenever its fancy dress such as for VJ day when all the butties were wrapped in grease-proof, minibus trip organisers who offer to take the gang around the pubs of such as Liverpool, Railway Keith who strips down old locomotives and services them as his flourishing business in Henden, Whispering Bob; a top man at the gas board with the power to shut down motorways, Alan who has his own massive pub in Bennington, Steve who retired from the Thames Valley water board and Mr Gadget who sells telecommunication systems world wide. Quite a team.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 07 – Trips with the Team

Trips with the Team

Hammy is the leader and organises the coach driver and all the details, then off they go. All this started, I understand, when Mussy was at his corner of the bar and he overheard a group of guys talking about being from Stevenage which is his home town. They then went on to mention the Tilbury, his old haunt so conversations were definitely in need of being started. ‘Do you mean The Inn off the Green? Which it turns out is what everybody round there calls it, but only a local would know the nickname.’ They gathered straight away that he must be from around those parts, so as friendships grew, a trip was organised. Twenty years back that was.

Since then two of the guys have a flat in York which Mussy was instrumental in finding for them, and from then on there have been trips together many times, for real ale pub crawls, to such as a pub in Lancashire which has 16 hand pumps and, wait for it, 300 whiskeys. I think they stayed there quite a while.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 08 – Mussy by the Bin

Mussy by the Bin

That shot of Mussy stood by the bins had all his mates wondering why he had taken a picture of the pub bins. He hadn’t, he had captured the memory of that pint that was stood on show on the wheelie. This caused the group to wonder why on earth you would want a record of a pint of beer. The answer is, that this, wait for it, was a pint of Orkney Red McGregor. Now all understood. We are talking a very special occasion, we are talking about the party of the decade; Mussy’s fiftieth. What a do. There were seventy in here that Sunday afternoon, and the beer was flowing. That excellent character Fred would have been in here bless him, was bound to have been, because this was a Sunday. Lots of old pals from far and wide; Ian and Lee and many others. All the way from Stevenage, Lee had brought something very special with him; his bagpipes. That was brilliant. Those who had just happened to call in for a drink without knowing it was a special party for Mussy’s fiftieth would have been talking and wondering. For once any fellers came back for the loo they would have been telling their party of the surprise they had had. Lee had to warm up his pipes you see, and he need to get them get them pumped up, so he had gone into the gents to get them going, quite a surprise for the unsuspecting visitor: Even more of surprise for all though when he piped the Orkney Red McGregor in.

What a welcome, what an announcement for such a special beer. The landlady had gone to a lot of trouble to get that beer delivered all that way for this special party. We are talking Mussy’s favourite beer. It became a favourite of quite a few of the party that afternoon: That afternoon which is still talked about.

(I am thinking of making a trip to Orkney)

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 09 – Ten Years On

Ten Years On

Yes we have moved forward in time, to pub regular Mussy’s sixtieth. Now this was an event, and it definitely is still being talked about. It wasn’t in the Ackhorne though. No, it wouldn’t do to put his big party on in the Ackhorne, because he wanted all his pals on the staff to come along and enjoy themselves. So the plan was to go off to its very popular sister pub; The Slip. It took a lot of organising, but everyone was willing and keen to make Mussy’s ideas work.

A special thank you to Lucy, he couldn’t have done it without her. Now the Slip Inn might not be the largest pub in the city but it has a big back yard and that’s where the food was going to be. Mussy knew what he wanted. He got looking in the Yellow Pages and he found the place that would do the job. Over near Hull there was a firm who would bring over a hog roast. He asked how many it would serve and they said 180. It cost him a fair few hundred, but he knew what he wanted for all his mates.

Then there was the beer. There were two beers of choice that Mussy must have. Yes you guessed it the renowned Orkney Red McGregor, and from the Treboom Brewery in Shipton By Beningbrough; Kettle Drum. They were glad to get him the brilliant Kettle Drum sorted, but the other big favourite was a bit of a worry. They don’t do deliveries of that stuff any lower down this nation than Newcastle.

There was the suggestion that a few York pubs could come in on doing an order big enough to entice them down here. Take note here, neither the brewery nor the collection of landlords and landladies would take any charge from Mussy for all work involved. Dark Islands was a popular choice for a few pubs following a recommendation from our party host, and the Tap ordered a barrel of another Orkney beer too.

I commented at this point that he must be very well thought of, as they had all gone to a lot of trouble for him. Mussy told me that there had been a slight concern at one point. They owned The Swan as well and the landlord from here was down The Swan having a drink and he heard folks mentioning the name Mussy. So he asked them how many people they thought he would manage to get in. Did they think he would manage to get fifty in? The reply was, ‘You don’t know the power of Mussy!”

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 010 – Mussy’s music

Mussy’s music

When the landlord was concerned that enough people would be at Mussy’s sixtieth he was informed by those in the know to expect about a hundred: there was an open invite out to all his many pals and to all his mates at the post office. They were to expect crowds at the Slip. As well as sorting out his favourite beers and that much looked forward to hog roast with its 180 sizeable portions there was the music to think about. Mussy likes his blues, so Lucy got the Money Makers in who are well known for playing at the Volunteer Arms. Lots of harmonica, just as he liked. There was another feller for him to go and talk to, the soloist that plays The Maltings. Mussy goes down there on a Monday night so he asked him if he would bring his popular covers of such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan to start the afternoon off.

On the day, everyone was outside in that big beer garden so the acts said they would play out there and the party kicked off around two and ran right through to the England match in the evening. I asked if it had turned out busy? It turns out, that hog roast which would fill a hundred and eighty bellies had not only gone down well it had completely ran out in less than two hours! That’s a party!

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 011 – The Power of Mussy

The Power of Mussy

Stood at Mussy’s corner of the bar chatting about his sixtieth birthday do, and he told me how he had told everyone he didn’t want presents. Did you get any? I asked. Turns out seventeen people bought him bottles of malt whiskey. I couldn’t help commenting that it would take a week or too to get through that lot. As a night worker, there is nothing like a morning cap before you go off to your kip. It had lasted him six months. By you are reading these stories from Mussy he will have retired from the post office and I expect he will have had a load more presents brought when he left.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 012 – Fave Picture

Fave Picture

At 6 in the morning passing the end of the lane, Mussy had found himself looking up there and thinking it was a view he wanted to capture for posterity. The lane towards the Ackhorne, there was Barnum’s Barn on the left opposite the pub, selling second-hand furniture, long gone now of course and the grand row of terrace houses and the old church along the sides of the pathway. This was Mussy’s favourite picture out of all his collection of Ackhorne pictures.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 013 – Least Fave Picture

Least Fave Picture

Mussy’s picture of the alley leading up to the Ackhorne may have been his favourite photo; Not so for me. That picture made me think of running away. I did run away in fact, not during Ales n Tales (I was enjoying myself too much), we are talking way back. I will give you an idea of how far back, (for all of you who have been in York for an age and a bit anyway), I am going back as far as the old Wednesday night acoustic sessions at the Acorn (note spelling). Now those are a thing that is definitely still talked about. They were heaving. This is back when there were two rooms there, and a bit more room behind too, before it was all knocked through into one. That main room on the right as you came in was really bustling. That’s what I ran away from. A lady-friend at the time had seen my poetry and said I should go along and read some out. So I had got my courage up and gone up that alley. When I got to the door I bottled (as Mussy’s mate put it) and turned round and ran home. Nobody was expecting me, nobody knew I wrote poetry even, I could have walked in and sat and sipped a pint quietly in a corner, but no, it was too terrifying; I ran. The very next Wednesday however, I picked myself up, marched up that alleyway, strode up to the door… and turned and ran home!

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 014 – Acorn Accoustic

Acorn Accoustic

A couple of Ackhorne regulars recalled the old Wednesday night events, and even remembered me getting up and performing in there. They wouldn’t believe my story in fact, of me running away too frightened to go in and perform. Back then I became a regular and was recalled as a wild challenging and slightly crazy poet (oh how things change). Yes though, I had been terrified of getting up, but on the second Wednesday I went there, my name was announced as soon as I appeared through the door. We are talking a lot smaller a room then and as many as two hundred folk squashed in there with hardly room to raise your glass. While they were clapping I had to squeeze my way through and jump onto the raised area. The following week much the same, except I was introduced as the Acorn’s Resident poet! Was I thrilled, and I took to writing especially to perform there.

In no time of being a regular there I was offered a couple of paid performances, in folk clubs and art galleries, and, (foolishly perhaps), thought ‘I could make a living out of this’. So it is thanks to the wonderful nights at the Acorn that I turned fulltime.

Footnote: One of my drinking buddies commented wryly, ‘And look at you now’.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 015 – Thank You Mussy

Thank You Mussy

As the photos got popped away Mussy concluded, ‘That’s my history of the Ackhorne. It has been home for a long time; it has been good. The place is consistent, with a variety of people in, from locals, to new to York, to tourists from around the world.’

His only regret? That they don’t do corn beef hash anymore cos it used to soak up the beer.

To sum up; get yourself down the Ackhorne – and go and meet Mussy too! Me? I am already looking forward to his seventieth.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 016 – At Heart

At Heart

There was a lot of talk of those bigger birthdays, and how they come round quicker once you are past your big fortieth. We also talked of holidays, but when we were on the subject of being over fifty, or being over sixty, or….. well, these things creep up on you and you don’t always notice them coming. It doesn’t matter though; it was decided by all around, because you don’t feel that age. All of us, of the more mature variety, all said it, inside is what counts, inside we all feel like we are 17.

As for holidays, one was reminded of their trip to Egypt and of looking round the pyramids and museums. All the images of pharaohs that you see are looking young, because they were thought of as gods it was believed. They might have lived to a ripe old age but the image adorning the wall made them all look about 18. If a pharaoh had died before this age, they were still depicted as looking in their prime of being 18, but for one difference, they are sucking their thumb. This denotes that they passed away before adulthood. As for all the eternal pharaohs who are depicted as being forever youthful, whatever age they were, they would all have been the same as us we decided; in their heart they were 17. Just like us.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 017 – Staring Into the Middle Distance

Staring Into the Middle Distance

One gang at a table got on the topic of maturity, maturity as it heads towards the extreme as one of them put it. All of us around were the same age, and had lots of similar recollections. ‘So’, one summed up, ‘we will all be 59 this year’. ‘Ah’, one of them said turning to the life-long bachelor guy at the corner of the table, ‘you are bit older than the rest of us. So, you will be sixty this year.’

The guy at the corner was just about to take a swallow of his drink, the glass was just about to his mouth, he paused, looked stunned and then said,’ No, no.’ the glass went down, the glass went back up again, it paused again, and he said, ‘No, No.’ This piece of information was clearly not accepted.

He put the glass down on the table, stared into the distance, for a full ten minutes, then when there was a lull in the conversation he said, ‘Oh, god, you are right, I will be won’t I!’

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 018 – The Boss

The Boss

Have they told you about the cat? The pub has a cat. Ask the landlord he’ll tell you, there is a pub cat right. And there are two doors if you look. There is a door at that end and a door at the other end. Well, if you sit by on of those doors, you can bet your life, you will have to get up and let the cat in. Whichever door it decides it wants to come in, it will be there and you will have to let it in. We all know. We laugh when people sit there, because they don’t know and they soon will. They will probably have to let it out again as well.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 019 – That Burns Night

That Burns Night

We are going back a lot of years, well if we are going to be totally accurate, a lot of years and a week. One of the times when the gang from here headed off together. As one among them was a Lance Corporal in Fulford Barracks catering there was an open invite for them all to head off for a real Burns Night, an all in Burns Night at the barracks: the Officer’s Mess no less. What a night. At four in the morning one of the officers called them together, ‘Look, you Ackhorne guys have drank us dry of whiskey, so I think it is time for us all to go.’

He got on the phone and called in one of the squaddies to drive them all home. It turned out the squaddie was new to York so it was quite a long journey as they all tried to explain where each of them lived. He got them all home though, and it was quite a night.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 020 – Dream Jobs

Dream Jobs

I wasn’t the only one with a dream job, (listening to people’s stories in real ale pubs), when you did an apprenticeship at the carriage works in York and quite a long career in similar fields, the Pickering Gromont railway was a great place to be offered a job. After taking early retirement the opportunity came up and off he went. He was all smiles talking about it, renovating old steam engines and carriages for this steam team. There was constant maintenance but he relished every task and was happy to see all the people climbing aboard a train that was running because of him. Not that he said a lot, it was his mates who told me the whole story while he sat and smiled, ‘Yes I suppose it is a dream job, I am very happy there.’

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 021 – Steam-days Bathing

Steam-days Bathing

‘I know where you live.’ Hearing this might have concerned me had it not been in the middle of a conversation on the topic of renovating steam days carriages. A regular visitor to The Ackhorne does renovations so I thought I would chip in with the tale of the railway carriage at our old house. There were some there who already knew of it. York is a small place, but then again so is the world. I explained how I had been performing at a folk festival in Warwick and had been telling a steam enthusiast there about the railway related bathroom at my parent’s house. Their bathroom was actually a railway carriage on legs. It was an LNER director’s suite. Much like the Queen’s train I suppose, with a bedroom, lounge ect. This was the original bathroom, with a huge deep bath and lots of brass and old wood fixtures and fittings. Around a month after I had told the guy in Warwick about it my parents said that they had looked out the back and a bunch of folks were getting out of a minibus and standing in the lane taking pictures. They had come all the way up from Warwickshire just to see it. When I was relating this tale in The Ackhorne a couple of people in the group already knew of it and had been to have a look as well. We don’t live there any more and I am thinking of taking a walk over to see if it is still there.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 022 – Theatre Prompts

Theatre Prompts

My prompt cards were of interest and people enjoyed picking one and getting an idea from it. One fell flat though. A chap chose the card; Treading the Boards, and then said that he never had. Any kind of performance memory would do, being best man, having a go at karaoke, any situation of standing up in front of people; nope nothing. Then it turns out, he used to run the theatre bar. We are going back to the days of the De Grey Rooms having a bar, (back to the times when Theakstons had just hit York). Myself and a few others recalled dropping in there for a drink. When he ran the bar that was where you went for a drink if you were at the Theatre Royal, so, before a show and in the interval. It was a popular bar throughout the evening but when the theatre had its interval it would get really busy. Then after the show all the actors would be in there.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 023 – An Unusual Life

An Unusual Life

The prompt cards created interest and brought out memories and tales. One of those cards had said, Not all relationships are the same

This made people think of individuals who lived life their own way. It also reminded us that people are not predictable, you think you can look at someone and get an idea of that they are like, this often isn’t so.

There was a recollection of a quite elderly fellow who was always at the corner of a bar, sitting quietly sipping his drink, and how, upon talking to him on one occasion it turned out he had had quite an unusual life. (The teller of the tale mentioned that the guy had been in his nineties and that this conversation happened around twenty years ago.) Someone had mentioned marriage and he had stirred from his usual quiet reveries to comment that he had never really been married. The small group turned in anticipation. It turns out that when in his twenties he had been invited to visit a lady for the weekend. Not only had this worked out well, but that he had continued to visit each weekend for many years; until she passed away at the age of seventy five in fact. He added that for all those years, each weekend morning there had been a knock at the bedroom door and a breakfast tray was brought in for them.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 024 – Lift That Sneck

Lift That Sneck

A bloke who does the shelves in Morrisons said you aught to use the names of beers to set people off. There are loads of intriguing names nowadays. You could do a tour of the beers and have a tale for each bottle. When this was shared with the group one well known beer came to mind; Snecklifter.

There were a couple of theories around this name.

One was that there was a ‘sneck’ on the door at the back of the pub that led to the outhouse in the yard; and that drinking this beer would cause you to need to go fairly often and the name was a warning that after a few of these you would become a snecklifter.

The other suggestion was, that there is a latch or sneck on the front door of the pub and you would not be able to go in there, (by lifting that sneck), unless you had money. You might want to get down the pub with your mates, but if you were hard up it would be beyond your pride to turn up and expect others to buy you beers. If you could afford one drink however, you would be able to go in. Who knows, once in there, if you sipped at your beer for long enough someone may say, ‘Shall I get you a pint?’ If you were real lucky that one drink that got you in there might lead to you being in there all evening. There would always be other times when you would have money and you would remember them if they didn’t have more than the price of a pint. By having the price of a pint you hadn’t had to actually ask any one for a beer. So, a snecklifter was the price of a pint; the price of lifting that sneck and going in without the shame of not having any money. All about pride perhaps, but it is likely that you had gone to a friend at work beforehand and asked for, yes you guessed it, a snecklifter.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 025 – That’s Jazz

That’s Jazz

You see someone propping up the bar and until you get to know them you have no idea what they might have experienced. There was this old man, quite some time ago we are told, who was always in the corner of the bar. Turns out he had been president of the York Jazz Club back in the 1930s and had put on all sorts of well-known acts. All the greats had come through to perform. Among the names was Duke Ellington and it was he who had said at the end of the gig, for the president to jump into his limo and head back to the hotel for a drink. The crowd of them had sat up jamming and drinking brandy until the early hours: had been a highlight of his life.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 026 – Test of a Good Wife

Test of a Good Wife

Can I pester you for five minutes I asked and the guy who wasn’t expecting to be at Ales n Tales looked up and said yes of course. When I elaborated he wondered what sort of stories I was after and my explanation and offer of my prompt cards brought out a fair few tales. We started off with Romance, and this made him think of how he first met his wife. They had met on holiday in Spain and as she was a Mansfield lass they were able to get together again afterwards. The second time she came over to visit he thought it was time she met his pals. There was a group of about eight strong and they all hung about together on an evening for a drink around the pubs. They had started drinking as teenagers and back then they would have a drink locally and then go and see if they could get in in town. Now, when just a little older, they still met up at the Rose and Crown on Hull Road. Mostly they didn’t have girlfriends so he felt he should warn her of what to expect. Said to her as they headed there, the lads are going to tease you, either through, well, just to see how you react;’ they will try and get a jibe off yer, to try to get at me, cos I am bringing a girl out, stuff like that.

She didn’t say owt, and in we went. One lad was first to try, said, ‘Right, I hear you are quite a lass.’ ‘Because I’d told them, you know,

all about her. Said she was different to everyone else, cos I was falling in love with her.’

So, mi mates says, ‘Tell you how you can prove it, if you are coming out with us. Here’s this pint, I’ve bought you a pint.’ (Tetleys as it was then

In the Rose and Crown) ‘If you can drink it straight off…’

She took it off him, picked it up she did, and without a word… She drank it straight off. Downed it first time she did.

They came to me said, ‘She is going to make you a good wife.’

And now we are married.

Footnote;

Does she still drink all the beer I asked? She likes fruit beer.

Still drinks pints; Fruit beers, ciders, stuff like that. We go to all the beer festivals together.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 027 – Feeling Ginger

Feeling Ginger

My drinking pal took another prompt card. Slightly connected to his tale of going out round the pubs, was his love for different real ales. He started to drink real ale when he was still fairly young but none of his mates did. One thing he still likes to do is go to pubs he wouldn’t normally go to and sit and have a few drinks; try a few beers. He will sit at a table, maybe read the paper. In no time somebody will come up to you. This one time, eventually people came up to him and started talking. You get on, even though you are never going to see them again.

The Tap and Spile on Monkgate was having a beer festival. Eventually it gets full, and two couples sit near him while he’s reading the paper. They’re talking; he is listening as he reads the paper. They see him smirking, so they know he can hear them; so they get talking.

And then they ask what he is drinking. He couldn’t remember now what brewery it was, but he recalled the name of the beer and it is one I cannot repeat here. They reckoned there was no such thing and they had a five minute conversation about whether there was.

He didn’t think I would be able to use his story, but I said I would be able to use it when I was at the next Ales n Tales pub.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 028 – Castle Passage

Castle Passage

This time instead of looking through the prompt cards my drinking pal went for picking one at random; he got The Unexplainable. It turns out his tale was of something that was unexplainable but got explained in the end. His brother in law; his girlfriend’s family, run a hotel, well it’s a castle, in Scotland and he had got them a weekend away there. So off they went.

In one of the sitting rooms there’s a door at one end and a door at the other end and the door at the one end seems a lot smaller even though the floor didn’t slope or anything; so they couldn’t work out why it looked smaller.

They had a few drinks and still didn’t work it out, and were looking, and then all of a sudden one of the bar persons seemed to appear, he didn’t come out of that door and he didn’t come out of that door, he just suddenly appeared collecting glasses. Where the heck did he come from? They said and stuff like that.

Eventually they found out, the guy who owned the castle, well, he used to own the castle, he was only a short guy. Turns out he didn’t want to look small when he appeared in the room, so what he did was, he had the door at one end made smaller, and he would appear there so he looked taller. He had a secret door fitted and he would come through there and stand in front of the small door. So when he was announced they would look up and see him looking tall as he was looking down the hall at them all. So they just use the secret passageway now so the staff seem to appear suddenly from nowhere. Have a look if you are ever near Edinburgh, round by Castle Dalglish.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 029 – Teatime

Teatime

‘So what have you got there?’ my next group asked. Well I had been busy listening and hadn’t thought about it. In fact I had started at the wrong end of the taster tray, in the opposite direction to the order they were poured.

I had chosen a taster tray of three different beers in little third of a pint glasses and it was wondered which I had tried. I had asked for the three from one end of the row of pumps, and we worked out that the beers I was sipping were Hobgoblin, Strongarm and the middle one was an unusual one; Orange tea beer; Clockwork Orange. Its quite hoppy, so not all of us would like it it seems. I enjoyed it. The Hebden Bridge tea company donated the tea to make the beer with, there is the equivalent of a pillowcase full per brew. I had wondered why they had given the tea for free and was told the guy knew the brewer personally and he reckoned they had given the orange tea just so they could get their name on the pub clip. Selling tea from beer, this seemed approved of all round, more tea more beer.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 030 – The Scruffy Daves

The Scruffy Daves

I offered my pick-a-card set to see if a random one brought up any tales. Out came, How Things Used To Be. Well there was Scruffy’s came the response; Scruffy Murphy’s. It’s not that long ago, he tells me, but that he is still relatively young. It was a fantastic pub. They often went there, the five of them. Five of them all called Dave, yes so one night there were literally five of them all called Dave in a line along the bar and they started thinking they ought to have individual names.

So they decided they were called:

Cajun Dave, because he worked across at Old Orleans

Spud, as in spuds and gravy rhyming slang for Davey

Neurotic Dave – ‘I am not saying anything about that one’

Codders from Hull

Marmite Dave

What is that Marmite Dave? Turns out this was because he was in the army, this meant nothing to me, seems it was an advert I don’t remember, my mate Marmite.

‘Yeh good times in that pub.’

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 031 – Pub Trip

Pub Trip

There was the time you fell down the stairs and broke your nose.

Yes, I blame the single shot of Tequila at the end of the night.

That you were bullied into drinking? Oh yes, definitely, by Marmite Dave in fact. Yes nothing to do with the 8 pints of Guinness earlier, no of course not. Definitely the Tequila shot. Yeh, it was a swan dive right down the stairs, landed right on my nose.

Now father and son have matching noses, as Dad used to be a boxer when he was younger.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 032 – Slipping Home

Slipping Home

This winter’s heavy snow and sudden freezing had brought a few calamities for folk wandering home. Leaving Lendal Cellars seems to have been the one that caught everyone’s attention; that slope. Half way up, slip, fall, get back up, slip, fall, this went one for quite a while and in the middle of it the guy saw another feller going backwards down the slope. He was stood straight up but with no way of stopping himself, as he passed our current storyteller he looked round in a wild-eyed panic. As our friend eventually pulled himself back up to his feet he reckoned the feller slipping by had gone right in the door of Jamie Oliver’s! That wasn’t the end of the journey, for our teller, three more occasions of the feet going out from under him, and a passer by advising, ‘Take Pixy steps!’ he eventually made it to the taxi rank. That path at that rank slopes, now he is sure that no one knocked in to anyone, but in unison the whole queue started sliding forwards in a synchronised journey to the curb. As one they slipped off the curb and were all stood in the gutter, just as a load of taxis arrived.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 033 – Mild Only

Mild Only

‘Oh I don’t know if I have any tales’, a guy’s dad assures us, ‘I’m so old it’s all forgotten’. Son seems to think that Dah used to go in the Volunteers. Turns out not so, it was the Locomotive next door to there that was his first haunt. Yes, that place is gone, it’s flats now. He used to live round there, so would go in. In fact he was only a teenager so they wouldn’t let him drink bitter because they said he wasn’t manly enough. It was alright to have a pint of mild though.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 034 – First Wage

First Wage

Loads of people have said about going out with work mates. The first wage packet it often was. So all the team at work would say right it’s your first wage packet come on you are coming out to the pub with us. Often only a teenager and dragged out.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 035 – For a Leek

For a Leek

Up in the North East if you were going out on the strength of your first wage packet it was a whole different experience. It was recollected for us how, with that first ever earned money you would be down the working man’s club with all the crowd from work, and after a couple you would be in the need of a trip to the gents. You weren’t allowed however, all they would say was, you can’t go to the loo, it is Dave’s turn tonight, or Bert’s, or Gus’s or whoever depending on the turns. All would make sense at the end of the night, by which time he was absolutely busting to go. They would all head off together, and down an alley towards Dave’s backyard. His wife was there to open the door into the back garden and there lined up were Dave’s prize leeks. There was big money in them prize leek competitions and they had to be protected and given everything they needed. Here available were some nutrients that would help them to flourish; all the guys would line up and, er, water the leeks.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 036 – Festival Square

Festival Square

Festivals in St Paul’s Square. We only really went to have a drink because pubs stayed open all afternoon because of the festival. The zany magician and his assistant wee recalled, she used to climb on his back under his cloak to ‘disappear’. One a little younger among us recalls the opening hours just before the law changed, and how when he was just 18 they still were closing in the afternoon. ‘You would go out and they would kick you out just after lunch.’

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 037 – Bit of Trouble in the Big Coach

Bit of Trouble in the Big Coach

The Big Coach was remembered, now derelict (on the corner along from Dutton’s for Buttons) and a sad waste of an old building, there are still memories for a few of us of going in there. You had to be quite brave to go in though. It was known for the fights and gangs and for trouble. One of our Ales n Tales team sat here relaxing told us of how he had been in there with a friend when they were young men and there had been trouble. Trouble is an understatement; he said the whole pub was fighting, like something from an old western, the whole pub except for him and his friend. They were sat quiet in a corner, gripping their pints and watching it all.

It had revolving doors, so no one could be thrown out who was in a fighting mood still, and the doors had been jammed by the landlord. As the fight was eventually going out of everyone, the police arrived. They were let in through the back in great numbers and the sergeant turned to the two sat quiet in the corner and said, ‘Get out of here,’ and gesticulated towards the back way. Now this might have been because he knew his father, but most likely it was because he didn’t want any witnesses, as back in those days they dealt with such troublemakers on the spot and metered out a heavy punishment before dragging them all out of there.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 038 – Lock In

Lock In

Keep the troublemakers in. Others recalled times when a pub somewhere or other had suddenly had a fight going on, and the landlord’s way of dealing with it was to pull down the shutters on the bar and lock the front door so no one could get out. The younger guy telling us this reckoned that this worked in that it kept the troublemakers in so they could be dealt with by the law, but for him it meant that he and his friend were locked in with all the fighting, and they would far rather be off and away from it all.

Footnote: The Karaoke carried on throughout.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 039 – A Footnote

A Footnote

I went back to the guy who had been sat alone at the end of the room and started talking about that beer that I cannot name, and half way through asking him about his (beer name censored) I realised it was a different feller who had happened to sit in the same seat. He did look at me strange.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 040 – Gin and Shivers

Gin and Shivers

There had been a birthday party and as people turned up at this cosy gathering they were getting out their bottles. One visitor brought out a bottle of gin. Then there was a wonder about what to mix it with. The guy who was having the birthday remembered how way back, when you were in a pub how spirits were served. Those days, believe it or not, if you ordered a gin, it would be gin and orange; no we are not talking a long tall drink, this was a gin with cordial, just cordial, no water. So the party-goers had tried it, it was awful. The face contorted and the mouth turned to the consistency of a prune. Those listening around The Ackhorne who were younger couldn’t believe this. A few recalled though, those small short drinks, and one commented, ‘You weren’t meant to enjoy it you know!’ All the spirits were the same, a vodka and lime was this small green thing that almost burnt your mouth. A rum would be a rum and pep, a short blast of peppermint with a bite of rum within. Pretty intense: and pretty dehydrating too.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 041 – Wine Invented

Wine Invented

These were the choices, bitter, lager, spirits and that was about it. If you wanted a soft drink there was probably only the option of a bitter shandy. Oh and the lager? You drank lager with lime in it, or perhaps worse still with blackcurrant, you weren’t meant to taste the lager.

This was before the invention of wine! Well, that’s what one of our visitors recalled. I am not sure how far back we are going, but if you wanted wine you went to a very grand shop and paid a fortune. Then suddenly one company brought out a wine that was sold through ‘off-beer shops’. Suddenly you could buy wine to have at home; it was a social revolution. Dinner parties became the thing, with your guests bursting in the door full of excitement brandishing a bottle, ‘I’ve brought a bottle of wine!’ ‘So have I!’

This exotic drink was a social revolution.

Ales n Tales – The Ackhorne Stories 042 – Dinner Parties

Dinner Parties

What was the usual fare at a dinner party back then? It was almost always; prawn cocktail, Chile-con-carne and lemon meringue pie to follow.

Back to Ales and Tales – for tales from other pubs

 

 

Ales n Tales – The Pre-Project Run-up

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Ales n Tales – The Pre-Project Run-up 01 – Skating on the Knavesmire

Skating on the Knavesmire

I mentioned the flooding on the Knavesmire and it set the whole pub off, if someone hadn’t seen it they had heard about it. There was much discussion but mainly all people were saying in the end was that it is like a lake. Then someone pointed out that they remember it being like that and then just as it was going down it froze, froze solid in fact. I actually recall this myself and it was just as they told us, well, amazing is the only way to describe it. It was more popular for York people than a firework display. There were thousands there, word had gone round, not just that it was frozen but that it was quite safe. The water had been subsiding at the time so there was only two or three inches of it when it froze solid. (Ice always freezes solid doesn’t it!) I think it was about twenty five years ago because I recall a mob of us going down there with all the kids. It was an amazing sight, we were well wrapped up and needed to be, yet I recall it was bright and sunny that Sunday as we all herded towards the huge open plain of white glittering ice. Yes there were thousands there, right across the area. We did hurtle on there and I suppose it wasn’t completely safe, as someone went straight over as soon as they set foot. Once we had the idea however that one had to move carefully yet confidently we were off. There were huge slides built and one could slide really long distances. Some slides seemed to be easier and safer as they were on a slight incline (that would never happen on a lake!) and one could set off slowly with just a slight push off and then go for ages. There were people skating, and what seemed most exciting, two or three people had brought not only their sledges but their dogs and were going flying by at great speed with the dogs roped up and hurtling forward across the ice field. The kids still talk about it now.

Ales n Tales – The Pre-Project Run-up 02 – Spider Chasers:

Spider Chasers:

Raising the head above the parapet but still not reaching the conkers

When you stand up to perform you are stood up in front of people, well obviously, and they not only see you there telling stories , or singing songs, or whatever it is you do, they also see you as being in charge of everything; where the loos are, how the world works, everything. Take the recent Gunpowder Plod event, (which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way) someone marched into the marquee I was performing in as I was setting up and said, “You moved it.” Sorry? “You moved your tent.” I hadn’t. “When you made the map you put the tent over there and then when you set up the site you put your tent here.” I had found the tent straight away when I had walked in and that was before all the bunting went all over it, and of course I am nothing to do with site arrangements or the problem with avoiding pitching in a muddy area.

It is the same with York Stories 2012, well more or less the same. I am thrilled to be part of this exciting project and in particular to be hosting Ales n Tales around the pubs of York in the near future, but does that really mean I am to blame for conkers?!

“What are you going to do about this problem with conkers?” I was a bit taken aback and wondered how I could be responsible; I was also intrigued as to what the terrible problem was. I almost wish I hadn’t asked, for as soon as the explanation came out that it was to do with fear of spiders, not only did all the table prick up their ears and join in but so did the folks at tables all around. Fear of spiders, a very emotive topic. A topic that perhaps had fired my colleague up a little too much but, as with the map critic in the marquee earlier, she was actually a nice fun person. Turns out there is a shortage of conkers this year, not just outside the Acomb Working Men’s Club which is normally the scene every year of passers by of all types and ages stopping to gather pockets full of the shiny wonders but even in Scotland, even in Tang Hall (or is that walnuts?). The reason word has spread so widely is because it has been rumoured that conkers, wait for it, keep away spiders. This was not a rumour, I was informed, this, was a fact. One friend was quite put out that she had said this quite a while ago and no one had taken any notice. It wasn’t until someone mentioned it on local radio that interest was peeked. Then another friend, who reckons to be a witch or something, had been doing research into the Pendle Witches and had come across the claim, this  consolidated it into fact; Conkers keep away spiders! There, it was decided, but as word had spread so had running feet and all had returned with very low results. One conker here, a couple there. Social networking revealed that the problem was British Isles spread. Scotland, Ireland, Mull: postings, comments and tweets were spreading the panic wider and wider.

What we have to wonder is, what is all this to do with York Stories 2012, well it is a York story of sorts, but it is this responsibility thing, that we seem to like to foist upon the first person to dare to raise their head above the parapet or to ‘make a fuss’ about anything. “I would be gathering stories from around the pubs for Ales n Tales right!?” Well if you are gathering you had better be able to do something about them. Personally I wasn’t sure that’s how it works. But I felt responsible, so promised there and then that I would find a whole heap of conkers and bring them along as spider chasers. So far I have found two; and they were all wizened up at the back of a shelf at home. Perhaps a bag of Chestnuts would do the trick, or at least get me off the hook around that table.

I was about to say can any readers out there help? But no, I had better not I might get inundated, but if anyone has any further information, tales, anecdotes, other remedies for what ails us, do please send them in as stories for us.

Watch out for conkers!…..

Ales n Tales – The Pre-Project Run-up 03 – The Swans

The Swans

“What’s all this about you being asked to go round pubs collecting stories?” asked a friend of mine over a pint, “Ales and Tales isn’t it?”

I admitted that I was about to be spending time going around pubs, (as a complete change from my ordinary evenings out). At that a guy across the way called out, “I’ve seen you! You were doing a thing about swans. Waving your arms about all funny you were. – It were good”

“Nasty things swans” says my pal Gra, turns out he used to have two hang out near his takeaway where he worked. People were frightened of them but the swans were frightened of him. He would see people not daring to come across to the shop because the swans were there, and he would have to deal with it. One time a couple were in a car outside and there was a swan at each side looking at them and the couple shut the doors back up and sat tight, so Graham went out to sort it. He said he would just go out the door and look at the swans, swing his head and say “Go on, off you go” and they would wander off with their heads down.

Here is the swan story people may well have seen me telling (no arm waving this time though):

As a small child I was told by my mother that we were going out as she had heard of a special discovery and that I aught to see it. We walked down to West Bank Park and in through the huge ornamented gates, the path meandered, enclosed by trees and banked gardens, to approach the regal Victoria and then on through the rose walk. We came out as expected to the open garden of the park with the swings ahead; she carried on though, until we came to the woods. The woods that no one went in, there were no paths and this area had been left to nature, and to the dark.

She ceremoniously took my hand and we worked our way through the undergrowth, noticing others had been this way of late. In the depths of the wood as it seemed to me, there was a narrow covered clearing. Here in the gloom she walked me to the edge of a small pit. From the times of this whole area being known as ‘Yackum Sandoils’ by the locals, when the region was quarried for clay and gravel and all had been left to fill as ponds; here was one small example of this history. It was deep with steep sides with only a little water that had found its way through the trees. There in this shallow darkened pool swam an old old creature. This once elegant swan seemed drab and somehow downcast as it turned slowly around the circle of the pit.

My mother explained to me how swans when they meet mate for life. This old swan used to be seen upon the river with his beloved, always together. Then in later years somehow she had died and he was alone. Broken-hearted he wanted nothing from this life and had flown into the depth of this wood to live out the last of his days in deep sadness. People threw him scraps as they visited occasionally and he circled in there for quite a long time. On other visits as we played in the sunshine and rode on the swings, sometimes we would turn to each other and us children would whisper of the old old swan left alone in the dark of the wood. We would see adults wander away in among the ferns and briars to find him and offer him a little of our picnic.

They do say, that when he did at last pass away that his spirit rose up from that deep dark hole and flew low over the park, they say that if you were to walk across the path of that journey you would be overwhelmed by deep deep timeless sadness. They do also say that at the edge of the path where a clearing among the trees points across to the way to the river that if one was to pass through that area one would be intermingled with the echoes of the two beloved swans reunited forever and that as their necks entwine in embrace one would feel their spirit and be engulfed with a powerful lasting feeling of love.

Together at last their spirits rise to fly, to return to their home upon the ways of the river and they are together at last, in spirit and in future lives, forever a couple in love.

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