A Daffodil Weekend

Not quite Wordsworth but . . .

I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with this weekend. It ‘s the anniversary of my mum’s death, nine years ago, and I had planned to participate in an alumni weekend at Sheffield University. I’d gone last year and had thoroughly enjoyed the Music department’s alumni get together of rehearsals, meals and good conversation culminating in my participation in a wonderful concert in Firth Hall, scene of my graduation ceremony. But a couple of weeks ago I got word that the weekend’s events had been cancelled – so what to do?

Last year on April 6th I had surprised myself by setting out from my apartment to go to the Coop in town to buy some pasta, and had somehow found myself climbing up to Stoodley Pike. 8 miles later I did, in fact, call in at the Coop for some pasta. I had decided on that rather strenuous hike that I would celebrate my mum’s life each year by going on a hike.

Now my mum loved taffies, as she affectionately called the, and she was never prouder than when her daffies in her font garden in Tottington came in to flower, so I decided it would be very appropriate to go a ‘Daffy Hike.’ Fortunately it was a glorious sunny day and I decided to re-travel my steps through the Colden Valley, a walk I’d first done last Autumn when the fall colors were at their height. I had ancestors that lived at Hudson Mill so I took the bus to New Delight and retraced my steps in search of some daffodils. I certainly wasn’t disappointed and found lots of flowers seemingly planted at random along the old pack horse trail or scattered like yellow stars in the woods lining the track. High above Jack bridge I stopped to watch a couple of hikers crossing the narrow slab bridge and thought that next time it would be fun to be on the far side of the Colden Beck. The path was lined by trees and stumped that were covered in a feathery almost neon green moss that was so long it gently wafter in the little breeze. It reminded me of something from a Tolkien story, As I grew close to the two chimneys of Lumb Mill I decided to go and have a closer look. I was able to get right up to the base of the towering chimneys and even reach out to touch them. There’s a lot of building work being done there. It looks like a sizable house is under construction in the remains of the former mill. There were several picturesque bridges and fantastically shaped trees, and even a large spider’s web that was half concealed under a bridge.


Tolkien land

Reaching Mytholm I took a wander around St James’s churchyard, where many of the graves were bedecked in lots of daffodils in pots and jam jars.

Colden Mill
Bridge at Colden

Sunday dawned dull and dreary and although I had planned to possibly go on a guided walk about transportation in Sowerby Bridge the overcast morning didn’t inspire me to get up and go. So I settled for a while, engrossed in Enduring Love by Ian McEwan which I’d begun yesterday, and found was a real page turner. However, by 1 o’clock the sun was shining and I had itchy feet to be out and about. I got the bus to Blackshaw Head and headed along Davy Lane, a new path for me, so one I would mark on my OS map in pink when I got home. Blackshaw Head, as its name suggests is perched on t’tops and so I had extensive view in all directions. I could see Pry Farm and Scammerton Farm where some of my ancestors had lived and one, Giles Sunderland, had left the farm in during World War 1, never to return.

I thought she had twins, but then I saw lamb number three hiding

I passed by lots of newborn lambs. It’s usual for sheep here to give birth to twins, but occasionally triplets will be born. Next into view across the valley was a field of alpacas – yes, alpacas. You can take an alpaca trail – that might be fun!

Next came Great Rock – hmm, that’s its name. It’s a huge single boulder of granite. On bonfire night I came to Great Rock farm from where I could see other bonfires across the valley, but it was totally dark and I didn’t quite know where Great rock itself stood, but now I found it. Of course it’s covered in graffiti because it’s close to the road, but at least it’s antique etched graffiti rather than spray painted. I was enjoying being on t’tops so rather than take the track down to Eastwood I continued along the top road. I one point it dropped down sharply to cross a stream, then climbed up again. I could just see the top of Cross Stones church where I have ancestors buried. I’d only been on this moor once before (apart from bonfire night) and the views are fantastic, right across to Stoodley Pike. I could clearly pick out the trail that we’d used when my daughters came to see me last May.

Eventually I came to Martin’s Lane, marked on the map as a Public Bridleway and it was very well maintained as it led down towards the Calder Valley. I was most surprised when I came to the back of a large building with three arched doorways, now closed with iron doors but it looked very much like a church. Sure enough as I rounded the corner and the front of the building came into view I could see the house name was Chapel House. A man was gardening and I asked him about the building. apparently the first chapel on the site was built,t in 1707 but this one dates from the 1890’s. At various times it’s been both a Quaker and a Methodist chapel. But who attended? I was halfway up a hillside with no – I mean no – buildings around. Hmmmm. Something for a rainy day’s research!

The former Rodwell Lane chapel

The bridleway petered out at the chapel but the man assured me that the narrow track in front of me continued down into the valley. Oh, but my. it was soooo steep. I edged my way very slowly being careful not to slip on the loose stones. At one point there was a small memorial garden just off the path with several Bury Football Club scarves wrapped around the overhanging tree. Just below the site was the railway line and the path regained the main road by way of a tunnel underneath the track. I had planned to get the bus back to Hebden but I was so enjoying my adventure that I decided to walk back to Hebden Bridge by way of the canal towpath. It took me a little while to figure out an access point for for a little while I was on the far side of the canal but I was able to cross a bridge in Eastwood and returned to Hebden along the towpath. It was so warm that I had to take off my jacket for the remainder of the walk home, around 3 miles. When I reached the Coop where I’d planned on buying something for dinner greeter at the door informed me that they were closing in line one minute – at 5 o’clock.

It wasn’t until I took this photo after my hike that I realized the tulip socks I bought in Amsterdam match my sneakers!

5 miles yesterday, 6 miles today.

City break to Holland

The idea of this trip came from a few ladies in a Meetup group that I’d joined last year. We decided we’d like to travel together for a few days, somewhere within easy reach. We all put forward a list of choices and we decided upon Amsterdam. Unlike the others I’d never been to Holland. When I’d lived in England before moving to the U.S we’d always spent vacations in far away, exotic places, knowing that we’d be more comfortable travelling to places closer to England when we were older . . . little did we know that I’d end up living in the U.S for 32 years . . . but now that I’ve moved back to England here’s a wonderful opportunity to visit those places closer to home.


DAY 1

And just how close is Amsterdam from where I live now? Well, I had breakfast at home in Hebden Bridge, and elevenses in Holland! We flew together from Leeds/Bradford airport, a 45 minute drive from home, and the flight was 50 minutes. It was a lovely sunny day as we left but I didn’t get much of a view from my aisle seat on the plane either going or coming back home.

Our hotel was in Zaandam, a 20 minute train journey from the airport and only 12 minutes by train from the centre of Amsterdam. I knew that Zaandam was famous for some crazy architecture but that was about the extent of my knowledge. My trip to the U.S and moving apartments a few days after I’d returned had taken up my time and I’d done zero preparation for the Holland adventure.

The amazing hotel opposite mine!

We checked into Easy hotel which is on the floors above Primark! My room was on the 10th floor and I could see a large portion of Zaandam below me. It’s population is around 76,000 and the amazing thing is that apart from one elevated road in the distance I couldn’t see a single car! But almost every street had its own canal. We went to explore the city with its narrow buildings, all different and brightly colored, though I was surprised by the lack of blooming flowers in the city. I’d seen far more daffodils driving from Hebden Bridge to the airport than I could see in Zaandam. The same comment was to be made in Amsterdam too. We found the town square and parked ourselves in a bar there to people watch but it was rather chilly to sit outside. A large statue of a ship builder dominated the square and I was surprised to see that the name below was written in Russian. I needed to find out why – and who this person was. We found the main sluice gate to the main canal with its ornate stone columns and date stones and a new rusty iron sculpture of a sinking bridge has been added. I even found a Mozartstrasse. What’s Mozart got to do with Zaandam? We had dinner in an Italian restaurant where large black and white portraits of old Italian movie stars decorated the walls. By 9 o’clock we were ready to turn in for the night.

DAY 2

A day in Amsterdam.

We found a little coffee/pancake shop opposite the hotel to have breakfast it it became ‘our’ breakfast place each morning of the trip. It had rained during the night but there was lots of blue sky as we crossed the canal to get our morning tea – but it was decidedly chilly. Nowhere in Holland did we find pots of tea, and since our hotel, though excellent in many other ways, didn’t have a kettle in the room, we were constantly on the look-out for tea as we wandered around all day.

Pancakes for breakfast

We spent the day in Amsterdam, traveling there by train in 12 minutes from Zaandam. I was excited to step foot in the city but I soon realized that my idea of Amsterdam in my imagination was nothing like the vibrant modern city that I was seeing. It seems primarily a city made up of people in their 20’s but perhaps that can be said of most capital cities, and probably reflects more my age than anything else. Fast moving bicycles were a devil to negotiate, making me realize just how much I rely on my hearing to cross roads normally. Here silent bikes charge towards you, suddenly appearing from around corners at crazy speeds. Dodging between the trams outside the train station also took some skill. Canals were everywhere, not just the four main canals but a veritable fabric of interwoven watery threads bordered by immaculate four story houses painted in beautiful colors but often perched at crazy angles as though they are falling over – and that comment was made before I’d had my first beer at lunch time! Who built them? When? Why? My head was filled with questions. But then, that’s one of the reasons I enjoy traveling to new places.

Bikes on the ferry

Leaving the station, where the mirrors on the ceiling had the interesting effect of portraying everyone upside down, taking our life in our hands we crossed the tram tracks, moved swiftly to avoid bicycles and jumped on the free ferry across to the A’Dam centre. It was very, very windy and the water was choppy on the ferry. There seemed to be just as many bicycles as people! The A’Dam tower is a high rise building housing clubs, restaurants, a music school, a lookout tower and a crazy swing that swings you over the edge of the top of the building. Rising 100 meters in 22 seconds, complete with light show, we found ourselves in a bar with spectacular views, but even better was the outdoor platform where the booming sound of the wind was amazing. Several times we were almost blown over, and I couldn’t imagine how the swing was still allowed to operate in such windy conditions.

Atop the A’Dam tower

Heading past 100s, probably 1000s of bikes on racks at the station I found myself wondering how people remember where they’ve parked their bikes. I mean, who hasn’t forgotten which floor they parked their car on in a multi story car park? There are around 880,000 bikes in Amsterdam and on average between 12,000 and 15,000 are pulled out of the canals each year. Amsterdam also has 4 full time divers who are on 24 hour standby to pull out occupants of the cars which fall into the canals – about one per week! The three main canals were built in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age when the Dutch were exploring and colonizing many places around the world and were becoming one of the most important trading nations. Even the Tzar of Russia came to learn the tricks of the trade from the Dutch . . . no, not from the famous Red Light district but from their ship building experts. But more of that later.

Even Primark had gotten into the spirit of the scenery!

Nice one!

We had lunch in a loverly little cafe bar and continued exploring the large square with their imposing buildings. Most of the paths and squares are surfaced in brick tiles, sometimes in intricate patterns. Apparently because the ground surface is so marshy macadam roads would disintegrate but the brick absorbs the water and makes the paths quiet stable. The same can’t really be said of the oldest houses in the cities. The oldest I saw dated from 1590 but many proudly sported date stones in the 1600’s. To find stable ground to form the foundation of a building wooden poles had to be sunk to find the stable sand and these formed the footings of the buildings. Because stable, dry land was at such a premium buildings tended to haver a space footprint and so extended upwards rather than outwards. Merchants built their warehouse adjacent to their home. Overhanging winches were used to get the wares into the warehouses and apparently these winches are often updated and still used to enable large piece of furniture to be taken up onto the 3rd and 4th floor apartments.

Black clouds promised rain but there was only a sprinkle

Westerkerk spire

The Prince’s canal was began in 1612 and during the 50 years it took to complete the population of Amsterdam had grown from 50,000 to 200,000 making it the 3rd biggest city in the world after London and Paris. Built in 1630 the Westerkerk has the highest spire in Amsterdam and Rembrandt is buried somewhere in the church although the exact location has been lost.Very close to the church is the Anne Frank house and the spire with its clock face was visible from the attic and Anne described in her diary the chiming of its carillon as a source of comfort. There is a photo in Anne’s house of the Nazi troupes driving right past the church.

Anne Frank’s House

We’d booked our tickets to Anne Frank’s house before we left England and we had been lucky to get tickets at such short notice. We’d got the final time slot of the day, yet even so it was packed. I’ve never read her diary, but Anna had visited the house a few years ago so I knew it was worth going to. I think the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the silence. Yes, everyone was given a listening commentary and so everyone was intent on listening to the commentary so no-one was chattering to their friends and family. The journals Anne kept reminded me so much of my journals which I wrote at around the same age – and still have – filled with little sketches. The posters that her father had put on her wall I found very poignant. Only Anne’s father Otto, survived out of the 8 people who were in the house, and I found his interview much later in his life very hard to watch.

We’d planned on having dinner in the Grand cafe at Amsterdam’s grand central station situated in the former 1881 waiting room with impressive Art Nouveau decor. We hadn’t made reservations and we were fortunate to get a table, but it was very busy and when I asked our waiter to take a photo of us enjoying our meal he told is flatly that no, he was too busy. We had already noted and commented on the rather brusque service we’d had in several cafes and bars and I read an interesting interpretation of this characteristic. Holland is flat. The landscape is bare, open. There’s nowhere to hide. Perhaps this accounts for the forthright demeanor of the Dutch: they say it like it is. No gratuitous smile masking the real feeling that is so often the order of the day in other countries. Maybe there’s something in that. One of the more bizarre residents of this restaurant is a white cockatoo by the name of Elvis!

We’d planned on having dinner in the Grand cafe at Amsterdam’s grand central station situated in the former 1881 waiting room with impressive Art Nouveau decor. We hadn’t made reservations and we were fortunate to get a table, but it was very busy and when I asked our waiter to take a photo of us enjoying our meal he told is flatly that no, he was too busy. We had already noted and commented on the rather brusque service we’d had in several cafes and bars and I read an interesting interpretation of this characteristic. Holland is flat. The landscape is bare, open. There’s nowhere to hide. Perhaps this accounts for the forthright demeanor of the Dutch: they say it like it is. No gratuitous smile masking the real feeling that is so often the order of the day in other countries. Maybe there’s something in that. One of the more bizarre residents of this restaurant is a white cockatoo by the name of Elvis!

Elvis looking very grand in the Grand Cafe

DAY 3

The next morning we were to go exploring rural Holland and we began our day by going to Zaanse Schans where restored and reconstructed windmills still operate, but now primarily for tourists. Our journey didn’t quite work out as we expected since we got off at the wrong station but not to worry. We figured it out. There’s a comfort in being with a group, even when we all get it wrong! Eventually we back tracked on a bus and found a student who was going our way and was happy to walk with us to the village. We had to wait to cross a draw bridge which was just being raised to let a couple of boats through, and then it got stuck going down, but eventually we were able to cross and soon found ourselves confronted by several picturesque windmills. It dawned on me that this is what I’d been expecting in Amsterdam! Yes, crazy, I know, but in my imagination Holland is Monet and Van Gogh’s paintings of the country – pre-industrial revolution. It’s this ubiquitous tulip strewn landscape, dotted with windmills and clog wearing millers that Holland promotes to tourists, and I had fallen for it hook, line and sinker – ha! But now we were firmly in tourist land and I set off to explore by myself arranging to meet the others for lunch later.

I set off along the canal bank to the farthest windmill, stopping to take lots of photos, and ultimately decided on visiting the saw mill that was hard at work. An interesting movie showed the rebuilding of this windmill. So many moving parts – amazingly intricate. The sound of the sawing was interesting too and I stopped to watch the sawdust piling into clear bags in layers. Another of the mills grinds spices and another grinds pigments for paint. One had a date stone of 1667. I was surprised to see that the body of some of the mills were thatched. At the height of its power around 1720 there were 600 mills in this area. Traditionally, the wood processing and food industries have been the most important industries in the Zaan region. In the 17th and 18th centuries, along the banks of the Zaan there were weaving mills, forges and various other processing industries (tobacco, cocoa, paper, paint, candles), but also shipbuilding and maritime shipping were well represented. Almost every village in the Zaan region participated in whaling. In 1697 almost 80 Greenland sailors sailed on the Zaan at the same time, with no fewer than 40,000 barrels of whale bacon!

A cheese shop showed the cheese making process (something that I’d seen for the first time in Sicily last year) and the servers were dressed in traditional costume. We explored some of the local merchants’ houses, very pretty 17th to 19th century, with swans gliding along the small canals and then we had lunch in D’Swarte Walvis. 20 years ago it lost its Michelin star but at least that means it’s now within my price range. we had a lovely window seat and were occupied by watching workers preparing the gardens and courtyard for the upcoming summer season – power washing everything.

As we returned to the station we could smell chocolate coming from a large cocoa factory, another tradition of this region.

The gardens of Keukenhof were next on our itinerary. It had been overcast in Zaanse Schans but here at Keukenhof it was decidedly chilly too, and it felt a little weird to be wandering around these lovely gardens in such weather. In fact the gardens only opened a couple of days ago for the season so they probably weren’t looking quite their best. What I found quite lovely however, were the 6 or so buildings featuring amazing floral displays. Around 7 million bulbs are planted annually. It opened in 1950 in the grounds of a former castle dating back to the 15th century. The theme of this year’s displays is Flower Power and the displays were inventive, colorful and amusing at times. I particularly enjoyed the orchid building, and reading the names of the tulips. I tried to find names of people I know: I found a Marie Jo and a Danny – and Oracle! There was even a Pleyel piano bedecked with flower pots.

We headed back to Zaandam after a full day of beautiful colors and experiences, not to mention 8 miles of walking! We had dinner in a bar in Zaandam and were alarmed to find shards of glass on the table. We moved tables and were even more alarmed to find shards of glass on that table too! Walking back I noticed Tulip Vodka for sale – hmmm.

DAY 4

Haarlem was our destination this morning. The railway station had the most beautiful gift shop which, if my understanding of the Dutch sign above the entrance served me correctly, used to be the first class waiting room. But I was anxious to get my first glimpse of the city and we spent a lovely three and a half hours wandering the streets and taking in the sights. It seemed a more more approachable place than Amsterdam. Most of the bikes here were more like people carriers with carriages for children attached at the front. The window displays in the shops were incredible, and I thought of Paul McCartney whose goal in life was to be a window dresser! A bakery caught my eye, where the window was filled with suspended bread rolls. The entrance to a cannabis shop was guarded by a fierce, good looking policeman who posed with me for a photo! A boutique with brightly colored dresses invited more exploration and I found a dress that Sarah would have loved – every color! For myself I couldn’t resist buying a lacey pale blue shirt. it will look good with my newly purchased tulip socks and windmill earrings!!! The coffee shop that George Clooney advertises looked like no coffee shop I’ve ever seen before. I even found a variety called Arpeggio. Street art graffiti was tasteful, and reminded me of the colorful walls in Reykjavik. The town square is dominated by the Grote Kerk. The church is dedicated to St Bavo who died in 653AD. After fires damaged the original church the current church was built between 1370 and 1538. The organ was built by Christian Muller between 1735 and 1738 and underwent extensive renovation in the early 1960’s. It is a stunning piece of craftsmanship consisting of over 5000 pipes, 68 registers and is almost 30 meters high, but I wasn’t able to see the three manual organ console. Mozart played this organ when he was 10 years old and Handel played it too. There was quite a lot of modern art too, stained glass, sculpture, painting, reminding me of Blackburn cathedral, but here it complements the ancient artwork too.

For once it was warm enough to have lunch at cafe overlooking the square. I had a lovely Thai chicken skewer and a Belgian beer – delightful. Town squares and streets in general are set with bricks rather than macadam so that they don’t buckle with the dampness of the underlying soil. A line of espalier trees provided resting places for birds but I’m glad our table wasn’t directly beneath!

Next we were off to the seaside – or Overveen – Amsterdam’s beach. It didn’t take long to get there by bus and we were lucky that the weather was so good. Beautiful blue sky and a long almost deserted beach to explore. Thousands of razor shells were washed up and walking on them made a wonderful scrunchy sound. We could see high rise buildings of Zandvoort in the distance through the sea mist.





Back in Amsterdam we were bound for an hour and a half’s cruise on the canal. I was anxious that we too late in the day for good light for taking photographs but it was fine. Occasionally we passed by a gap in the rows of merchants’ houses and the low sunlight was able to skim the canal surface – very pretty. I elected not to listen to the running commentary on the headset and just soak in the picture in front of me – beautiful. We passed the dock where the Viking river boat cruise liners dock. They are huge! In the Amstel district we saw the row of houses called the Dancing Ladies because they are now situated at rather weird angles as they sink into the wet soil. Yet all these picturesque houses are immaculately maintained. Apparently there’s a city ordinance requiring this.Also in the Amstel district is the modern opera and ballet hall, built onto the canal, its location and architecture again reminding me of Reykjavik.



It was getting dark by the time our cruise was complete and we headed to the Red Light district which was busy with people my age eager to see what the fuss is all about. The sex toy shops were doing a roaring business. I expected seeing scantily clad girls beckoning guys into the blue movie houses or girls posing seductively in red lighted windows as was the case in Brussels. Perhaps it was just too early in the evening.

Back in Zaandam we tried to ‘go Thai’ but the restaurant didn’t look particularly inviting (lighting makes such a big difference to the ambiance of a place) so we ended up at the nice Italian place for a second night, hungry after another full day of sight seeing and walking 8 miles.

DAY 5

We had planned to spend the morning exploring more of Zaandam before our mid afternoon flight home. I began the day by trying to find postage stamps for the postcards I’d written. This was easier said than done. The first concierge I spoke to didn’t know where I could buy stamps. The second suggested I try the supermarket. No luck there, but a helpful assistant suggested I should try the bookstore. Hmmm. So I set off in search of the book store. Success. Then I asked where I could post my postcards sporting their new stamps. “Ah,” she said, “You need to go to another book store.” This time her instructions of how to locate the bookstore with the mail box was less than accurate, but at least I was having a good time exploring the streets of Zaandam. Having given up and retraced my steps I found the bookstore and, hey presto, there was even a mail box for my postcards!

Crazy angle in Tzar Peter’s house

Next was a visit to Tzar Peter’s house, one of the oldest buildings in Holland. This is the building in which Tzar peter de Grote stayed in 1697. he came to Zaandam in order to learn the trade of ship building. At the time Russia was a country that was way behind the Netherlands in its industry, exploration of the world, and transportation and so Tzar Peter came, incognito, to learn the shipwright’s trade. Incognito was difficult for him because he was 6’8″. The Russian tzars and Dutch monarchs realised that the house needed protection from the elements and in the 19th century a building was built around the wooden house to protect it.

A death mask of Tzar Peter is on display. The windows are completely covered in scratched signature spanning several centuries, and the subsidence causes everything to learn at a precarious angle. it was a great place to take photos and since there were only another couple of people touring the site I was able to take lots of pictures. The were even bottles of Russian Imperial stout for sale, named, of course, Czar Peter.

Back in the town centre I had half an hour to wait for the rest of the group so I indulged myself at a lovely cafe, which was named an ‘American’ cafe. the deserts looked amazing , and I was disappointed that this was the wrong time of day for such extravagance! Still, the place provided me with the best cup of tea on the trip.

Our next port of call was the Monet Atelier located in a house right above the canal. Monet lived for 4 months in Zaandam in 1871 and painted 25 works. He was just in time to capture the old Zaandam, the one that I’d pictured in my mind. The Industrial Revolution, which had taken hold throughout most of Europe, and the advent of the steam engine, would within a few years irrevocably change the characteristic landscape of the Zaandam area, dotted with windmills, as Monet saw it. The small building contains replicas of all 25 paintings and its wonderful to see these all gathered in one small room, when, in actual fact, they are scattered around the world in museums and private collections.

It was time to set off on our journey home and our flight was delayed an hour but Schiphol airport is not a bad place to spend a little extra time. The flight was only 45 minutes and we landed in a lovely sunlit Yorkshire. I took the bus to the centre of Leeds passing Kirkstall Abbey. Perhaps it warrants a day out now that I know it’s quite reachable by public transport. From Leeds a train took me back to Hebden Bridge where I called in at the Chinese to take home some dinner.

3 weeks back in the U S of A

Impulsive trip to Guernsey


Omg, it’s a propeller plane

Sunrise

Coming down into St Peter Port



I had set my new alarm clock for 4:50 and my phone for 5 a.m. I’m not used to getting up at this time! I set off at 5.25 and the taxi across the street was waiting for me. It took exactly 55 minutes to Manchester airport. There was no traffic as we passed through streets lined with frost covered cars. Most of the houses were still in total darkness. It was really nice being dropped off at the terminal. It’s the first time I’ve used a taxi, and like going business class for the first time it’s something I could get accustomed to! It took 45 mins to get through security – after they had tasered my 4 tubes of watercolour paint. It was probably a busy day for people to travel, the day after New Year’s Day and even at this time the airport was bust but there was no line at Guernsey Airline check-in desk.  A was surprised, a little aghast, and rather excited to see that I was to fly on a plane with propellers for the first time. A tiny little plane, 3 seats per row, one bathroom and two flight attendants. Even the pilot was female! Apart from the noise level as we took off and landed I didn’t find any significant difference in the flight. I know Rachel has taken propeller flights on her travels but ‘no vom-vom’ as Sarah so succinctly put it.

We flew over Wales where it was less cloudy and the mist hovering about the rivers in the frosty countryside was very beautiful. The next thing I could see was the rocky coastline as we came to land in Guernsey. There was no time to look at the little airport as my host, H, was waiting with my name on a sign. It was about 20 paces to her car – so different from the big airports like Manchester and San Francisco where you have to take a bus to the parking lot. She took me ‘the long way round’ to Vazon cottage, meaning that it took about 25 minutes. The roads were very narrow and when two vehicles need to pass one automatically pulls onto the sidewalk continuing at the same speed. There are no street lights, so they are not in danger of running into a light! The road hugged the coast the whole time and then the first thing H did on arrival on my new home for 4 nights was to make me tea while I made friends with Jasmine, the friendly kitty. H had bought the house in 2007 and had added an addition. She had worked in a ceramic business and she’d made the flooring herself from concrete and recycled coloured glass – quite unique. Her son, who I met, works in China teaching English and her daughter is in the UK working as an upper class Mary Poppins. She invited me to walk around the reservoir (where she picks up litter) but I was in need of some food so I wandered over to the busy Vista café on the sea front for a delicious crab sandwich. Feeling much refreshed I headed out along the headland towards the German bunker. The Channel Isles were the only British territory to be occupied by Germans during WWll.

I had the beach entirely to myself, and though heavily overcast it wasn’t too cold, or windy. I found the bunker very disturbing – this concrete monstrosity in this beautiful coastal landscape. As I looked around I could see dozens of these German fortifications built during World War 2. I noticed signs everywhere on the island. There seemed to be a lot of rules – about everything. There was up to a £1000 fine for not cleaning up after your dog. After an hour or so exploring, and finding cuttlefish skeletons (thank you Michael) I jumped on a bus to ‘town’ as St Peter Port is known as. There were lots of shops on the cliff above the harbor but at this time of the year there were no ships sailing, just row upon row of docked yachts. I could see the castle on the rocky promontory and I took a little look in the church that was decorated in dozens of Christmas trees just like Halifax minster. Someone was practicing the organ but the console was curtained off otherwise I would love to have played. I popped into the Visitors’ Centre and though the lady was very helpful it was disappointing to find that many of the attractions are closed for the winter season. I got a take-out coffee from a tiny coffee house where I was the only customer and then, seeing M&S I popped into to buy food supplies.

I took the bus back and despite it only being 3.30 I had to really fight to stay awake. I read the brochures I’d picked up to get the lie of the land and ate some cocoanut prawns in an effort to wake up. H has a roommate, L, who has been there a couple of years. I asked L if there was a friendly local pub I could walk to later that evening and she offered to go with me! H and her son were going out for an Indian before he flies back to China so he dropped L and I off at a hotel in the town to our north, Cobo. As we drove there it seemed an awfully long way to walk back  after our drink. There was a public bar showing the footy and the lounge bar which was packed with family groups at long tables with children glued to ipads to keep them quiet. I had a sample of a couple of the local ales and L got stuck into the gin and tonics as we secured comfy chairs by the fireside. L had worked in a Guerney knitwear factory knitting and finishing Guernsey jumpers, and she’d recently completed a complicated cross stitch picture.

Our walk back was in the total darkness, there being no street lights, and we used our phone flashlights to assist. We took a short cut over the hump of the hill rather than going back along the winding coast road and we were back in no time. I couldn’t believe it was still only 8.30 but I went up to my room to explore it. In the bathroom were the usual supplies of soaps and shampoos that previous guests had left for other guests to use, but this was the first time I’d seen a foil of durex in an Airbnb. I joked with my daughters about this thinking about the song by Gabriel Kahane. Anna said wouldn’t it be embarrassing because the host would know who had used it. I relayed this to H and L later, and H commented that she hoped whoever used it looked at the expiration date: it’s been there a while. I recalled leaving something important – a set of keys? –  in the bedside table at the Izaak Walton on my honeymoon and asking if they’d mail the contents of the drawer back to me – completely forgetting that the drawer also contained some little foil packets! One episode of QI was enough to send me straight to sleep by 10 p.m.

Left over from the German occupation

Rusty door frame on German bunker

I was up at 8 to make a cuppa and begin reading Engleby that I’d borrowed from the library at Northlight Studio. Then I painted for an hour in the kitchen overlooking the bird feeder and the pond and then headed up to explore. First on my list was the chapel of St Appoline on La Grande Rue. So far I’d come across very little in the way of history predating WWll but this little chapel seating just 14 people was constructed in1392 by Nicholas Henry and contains a 14th fresco of the Last Supper. It was an hour’s walk, first along the beach but then along little lanes, bust with traffic. I found it absolutely impossible to tell the dates of the house. They are almost all single storey detached bungalows, stone built, some with the stone left exposed and others in which the stone has been painted delicate pastel colours – quite unlike the fishermen’s cottages in Ireland and  Scotland where strong vivid colours are the order of the day. But on Guernsey some houses dates from the late 1770’s while others were from the 1970’s the I couldn’t tell one from another. Vazon cottage had outer walls 2 feet thick but was built in the early 1900’s. It gives the impression of being much older. Of course, I was the only visitor at the little church, and neither H nor L had been there. It’s dedicated to the patron saint of dentists, and since two of my Hebden bridge Gibson ancestors were dentists I thought it very fitting that I should visit this church.

Leaving the church I headed back towards the coast. All the roads are lined with houses. There is no open space apart from fields for cows and greenhouses, so apart from the bit of land close to the cliffs there are no viewpoints. I waited for a bus and, without a timetable I just jumped on the first that came by. There’s a great system of any bus rid being 55p and since there are  many bus routes that both criss cross the island and go all the way round the coast road you can pretty much get on any bus and end up at the town Terminus at St Peter Port. This articular bus was going to the north of the island which is basically one huge golf club.

After a late lunch in a café of a cheese toastie in a café overlooking the jetty with the castle at its end  I walked out on the jetty. The castle, which was first built to protect the island from Napoleon was closed for the season but there were several fishermen who had caught long eel looking things that were gasping for air on the jetty. Rachel send a photo to Michael and he identified them as needlenoses. One of them squirmed away as I was taking a video. I guess he was camera shy! I could see France from the lighthouse at the end of the jetty.

Next I headed inland to try and find the Guernsey tapestry museum. H had made several quilts entirely by hand including the one on my bed, and she had a quilting frame in a corner of the living room with another one on the go. She told me it takes about 4 years to create one. I was in a much older part of town here with nooks and crannies set at odd angles rather like Hebden Bridge. It was growing dark by this time and so I changed my goal to that of finding Victor Hugo’s House. I did find it but it’s now a private house and he only lived there for a year or so. I learned later that there’s another house he lived in but that’s closed for extensive renovations at the moment. I passed some  terraced gardens on the steep hillside that must look wonderful in the summer time. There were even a few daffodils out in full bloom. In Hebden Bridge the spring flowers are just beginning to poke their heads through the soil. It probably looks quite like the Amalfi coast in the summer.

I was quite thirsty with all that hill climbing so I took the bull by the horns and entered into  the semi darkness of the Albion Bar. It’s in the Guiness book of records as having the closest bar to a church. There was only me, one man and the bar tender in. I thought it would be busy with holiday visitors as the street seemed to be. I ordered a Thatcher’s Haze, which I actually enjoyed better than my usual order of Thatcher’s Gold (I found it at the Co-op when I got home). As I left the music on tap was the Eagles’ Hotel California – how appropriate.

A couple of minutes away was the bus station with various destinations written on the bus stop. I boarded  a bus that came to the ‘Grand Rouques, Cobo, Vazon’ stop and followed the route (it was now entirely dark) on my GPS. It took 45 minute to get to Cobo on the North West coast (where I’d walked home from the pub) but then imagine my surprise when it headed NOT to Vazon but back to the bus station. But now the castle was looking splendid in its floodlights. Arriving back there an hour later I saw that the places written on the bus stop had a tiny ‘OR’ between them. I inquired of people waiting at the bus stop what time the next bus to Vazon was and they assured me it would be at 5:30. It was now 5:00. Just to be on the safe side I crossed to the bus inquiries office and they told me there would be a bus to Vazon at 5:15. So back outside I went. It was very cold waiting. 5:15 came and went but no bus did the same thing. I went back into the office. They tried to reach the driver of the 5:15 on the walkie talkie but he didn’t answer. Then the guy on the front desk said ‘Hang on a moment. I can hear him. He’s in the canteen.’ He should have been driving the 5:15, so he came running out, picked up a parked bus and soon we were on our way! Oh, well, I wasn’ t in a hurry to get to anywhere and it had only cost me £1.10!

Because there are no street lights even when I got off the bus in Vazon bay (I could see Vistas bistro lit up) I couldn’t actually see my road but with the help of my phone flashlight I got back safely. I ate my frozen dinner and spent the evening looking through the books in my room tucked up in another handmade quilt, and was in bed again by 10pm.

Le trepied megalithic burial tomb, St Saviour

I started the morning by painting again. Why can’t I do this at home? Then I got the 10.25 correct bus (!) to the German Occupation museum. I’ve done very little in the way of museum visiting during the last few years but the impression of these German bunkers along the entire coastline of this island had got me intrigued. And what an amazing place it was. I think I expecting some modern steel framed glass affair but no, this was in a typical Guernsey farmhouse. I was one of 3 visitors and the man who took my £6 was the owner and curator. He opened the museum in 1966. I watched 2 short movies about the occupation of which I knew nothing until getting to the island. St Peter Port had been bombed with the loss of 33 civilian lives and the following day the Germans had invaded. Over half the population had been evacuated. During the 5 year occupation both the people of Guernsey and the German soldiers had faced starvation. All cars and radios were taken by the Germans and so only horse drawn carts were available for transportation. The  Germans brought in ‘slaves’ ie prisoners of war to build the bunkers, lookout towers, batteries and underground hospital and these men lived on the brink of starvation too. There was a women’s bicycle on display with the tires made from hose pipes, and people had to get written permission to purchase anything, even such a small thing as a bar of soap. The upper floor had been turned into a Guernsey Street with mannequins – all quite realistic. Much of the German clothing on display had been left behind in situ when they signed the armistice and the soldiers  left. The building was incredibly cold and I was looking forward to a free cuppa and mince pie in the little tea shop, just to warm up. But the owner introduced me to a man and his wife, also having a cuppa. He was 90 and had lived through the occupation and he spent the next hour telling me first hand about his experience being 9-14 years old including how his family had befriended a German soldier whom he had kept in contact with for many years after the war was over. Boiling broccoli stumps to stave off starvation, making a crystal radio, finding his dad’s gun hidden under some hay in the barn – all the while the soldier saying ‘Verboten.’ I think that was the first word I learned on my first trip abroad to Switzerland  in 1975! It was very visible on the trains.

By now I was seriously hungry – and cold – so I asked for recommendation for somewhere to eat. They suggested The Deerhound in the village. He even offered me a ride. 90, and still driving on these roads?!? Hot soup and a pear cider were just the ticket, though I did send the ice in my glass back to the bar. I chatted with the French bartender who has a friend in Bradford.

Next stop was Moulin Huet, bay that Renoir had painted several times when he’d stayed in St Peter Port for a month. There was a real windmill minus its sails where I got off the bus, and, following my GPS I headed along a lane in the direction of the coast. I soon found myself at the end of the lane and in the garden of an enormous mansion. As luck would have it someone was just taking their car out of the property and a young girl was holding the gate open for the car to pass through. I asked for directions which she gave me in great detail and off I went. The path followed a small stream, walled in on both sides, and was muddy, slippery and very steep in places. I met another path, turned left at the toilets that were, of course, closed for the winter (as if no-one needs to pee when it’s winter!) and headed down into the bay. It was a lovely scene with jagged rocks littered in the bay. Three pastel coloured cottages made the scene quite idyllic even in the gathering gloom of a wintery afternoon. I followed an easier path back to the bus stop and found myself in Iceland – well, at ‘an’ Iceland. I’d never been in to one of these chain stores and since I needed food for dinner I went in to explore and came out with a frozen dinner. I got a bus back to St Peter Port and since I had a little time to wait for the bus I called in at the beer and wine store that L had recommended beneath the Albion Hotel where I managed to find a couple of tiny bottles of Jack Rabbit Chardonnay from California. Just the ticket for the next two evenings at home. I did some more painting and then H and L invited me to share in the crab dinner they were preparing together. Apparently H has taught L to cook, and delicious it was, with roast potatoes cooked in some special electric contraption, and avocado salad.

Sunset
Jasmine

5th

I’d purposefully left my final day on the island open. I painted in the morning and then L offered to take me to the fairy ring,  After a little drive we parked in a bay close to a lighthouse. Above us was a lookout point where the lighthouse keeper’s wife would communicate with him by semaphore. The fairy ring itself was constructed in the 17th or 18th century. I commented on the lack of boats around the island but L pointed out that in the winter most of them are taken indoors. We could see two tractors doing just that. Then we drove to the Tiny chapel built by a monk. There was a large a catholic school close by where the monks had taught and one of them set up this tiny chapel constructed from broken pottery and clinker (what’s left when you burn coal to heat a greenhouse. It looks just like lava). One million pounds needs to be raised to preserve the site, give wheelchair access, add café and toilets.

Home for lunch and then some more painting. I was just about to go out for another walk before it started to get dark when H asked me if I’d like to accompany her on a trip to the north of the island. She collects litter on open spaces and so I went with her to the Common. On the way back we stopped at a farm to pick up some bags of logs and I ended up chatting to the farmer about the ruined greenhouses. There are 4 acres of glass that used to be a freesia farm until the farmer died and his wife could no longer carry on the business and so they just got overgrown. Back home I was invited to have dinner. A friend, Maxine, was picking up a Chinese takeaway in St Peter Port and they knew it would be 12 minutes before it arrived! I’d already purchased my dinner but we all ate together. Maxine was French and Judith had met her last New Year. After dinner we all played Jenga and I pinched myself as to how much fun I was having – 4 divorced ladies of a ‘certain’ age playing games. After they went to watch Bargain Hunt where they make it into a game between them but I need to go and pack for my journey home.

5th

I slept til 4 a.m. but I know I never sleep properly before a journey if I have to get up very early. H was ready and waiting to take me to the airport at 7:30. It seemed really weird to think that we were leaving the house  only 15 minutes before check-in time at 7:45, but I put myself in her hands and we made it.  It’s a tiny airport with two conveyer belts at security, and only one was in operation. I bought a cup of tea but then found that I wasn’t allowed to take it on the plane. The lady at the check-in desk suggested I just stay in the lounge until I’d finished my tea and then I’d see the people in line beginning to go out onto the tarmac and I could join them. Fair enough! I found myself sitting next to someone on row 7 and since the window seat in row 6 (the one I’d sat in on my outbound flight) was available I asked to move. Fine. Now I had that perfect seat to watch the propeller.

Flight time was an hour and 10 minutes so I was in Manchester by 10 a.m. How weird is that! For most of the last 30 years every flight has been across the Atlantic, being in the air at least ten hours.

Manchester airport, train to Piccadilly, tram to Victoria, where, with a little run I made it to a train earlier than the one I expected to catch. It was raining, of course, as I walked from the station in Hebden Bridge but I was back in my apartment by 12:30. I spent the rest of the day resting, washing clothes, emptying my case and writing up my journal.

museum
Recreation of a Guernsey street during the occupation
Chatting to a man who lived through the occupation
The road down to Renoir’s beach
My favourite wall – all made from cut logs

Foster Mill

Circa 1900. Foster Mill, owned by Redman Bros, was part of the Hebden Estate Company. William Henry Cockroft designed the Methodist Chapel. Moss Lane on the hillside leads to Heptonstall Road. Top left is Cross Lanes Chapel with the Manse on the right. The group of houses, right of centre, is Slater Bank.
Both chapels and the mill all now demolished.

 

 

Foster Mill

The building over the bridge was the stables for the mill

Photo of Foster mill cottages , and in the background the side of the stables and the bridge

Today, Dec 13, 2018, I’d planned to take a short stroll into Hardcastle Crags – mostly because it wasn’t raining and there was a hint of blue sky. I’d spent yesterday in the archives, the first time in 6 months. For the previous few days I’d been finding out interesting things from an interactive historic map of Calderdale and had come up with the idea of printing out a map and marking on all the houses in the area (basically the ones I could walk to from my apartment) that my ancestors had lived in, and those they had built. From this I’d discovered the whereabouts of Foster Mill. And wouldn’t you know it! It occupied the space on which a row of newish houses has been built, as far as I can tell the only new houses to have been built on flat land in Hebden Bridge since 1900. When Anna was here in May we’d gone to have a look at a house for sale on that very street – Spring Grove. Foster mill had been worked on extensively by my Wrigley builder ancestors. In 1842 the mill chimney had been plastered by Thos. Jas. & Geo Wrigley for Wilm & Jas Saga – 14.5 days work.

Bedding boxes form part of the Community garden. Was the building behind part of the Foster Mill complex?

In 1890 they had rebuilt the mill after a devastating fire and in 1908 Foster Mill shed and cottages had been painted outside. Only two days ago I’d gone out after a storm and taken photos of an old building close to the site of Foster Mill and had chatted to a guy who uses it to house a car repair business. I’d remarked on the number of quirky decorations on the buildings close by – very Hebden Bridge. So today, outside this old building a man was planting some bedding plants in some waste ground. On impulse Iasked if he knew if the building had once been connected with Foster Mill. “Perhaps,” he said. “That very old on the left, just before the bridge was the stables for the mill.” I’d taken several photos of that building since I’d moved to the town, simply because it had some great doors with flaking paint – one of my specialities. “There used to be a row of cottage where we’re standing. I have a photo of them. Would you like to come in and see it?” and with that he led the way over to one of the houses on Spring Grove. The photo was framed and on display in his living room. One of my ancestors lived in a cottage at Foster Mill. I wondered if it could have been one of these. I commented on his piano, where music for a Chopin Nocturne and the obligatory Fur Elise were on the music stand. I mentioned that I teach piano and we exchange info with the possibility of him taking lessons. It turned out that we had met once before in that connection when I was looking for a space to teach piano!

Foster Mill packhorse bridge built to connect Heptonstall to the fulling mill

From Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale companion:

Next to Hebden Vale Iron Works on Victoria Road / Foster Lane, Wadsworth.

There was a corn mill, then a fulling mill [in the 17th century]. Around 1808, it was converted to a worsted spinning mill. In 1851, it was described as 6-storeys and was driven by an iron waterwheel 36 ft in diameter and 14½ ft wide, a 23 hp engine, and a 16 hp engine. The mill was destroyed by fire on 1st December 182814th December 1853, and 17th May 1888 In 1888, it was one of the largest cotton spinning mills in the valley. After the fire, the mill was rebuilt by Redman Brothers. On 27th April 1891, photographs of the neighbourhood were taken from the top of 168-foot high chimney by R. S. Blackburn. The day was dull and the negatives not very clear. The building was demolished in 1985. The base of the mill chimney is still visible.

 

I took my leave of Mr ____ and carried on, over the bridge, which only this week I discovered is named Foster Mill Bridge. It’s similar to Hebden Bridge being very very steep, narrow, cobbled and with very low parapets. This was because the horses that used these Pack horse bridges were laden with bolts of woven fabric which clear the height of the parapets. It was built in the 17th century

Today, now that I knew its precise location, I could clearly make out Dog Bottom house and even see the progress of the stone wall since chatting with the mason two days ago. My friendly blue heron was nowhere to be seen today but I did take notice of a sign that I must have passed before. Well, I’d read it before but since I didn’t recognise the names of the places the sign mentioned, or the lay of the land in the vicinity, it hadn’t meant anything to me. Today I understood it all – yeah! Just another day of feeling connected to the landscape.

 

Dog Bottom!

The area enclosed is red is Dog Bottom

 

Thomas’s business card

Today I went in search for Dog Bottom. Well, with a name like that who wouldn’t! Thomas Gibson was living there in 1861with his wife, Sally, nee Wrigley, who was living in Lily Hall at the time of her marriage in 1838. In 1841 Thomas and Sally, my great great great great aunt and uncle  were living at Lily Hall too.

Thomas was a well known local photographer. When I first found his address on the 1861 I discovered that Dog Bottom was the name given to a small area of flat land on the way to Hardcastle Crags, just across Hebden Water from Hebden Bridge Bowling club. I often walk along here just to get out and about. Recently I’ve been making friends with a blue heron that often stands right on the weir just past Dog Bottom. This morning, through looking at some historic maps I found that there is an actual building named Dog Bottom so I set off to find it. Soon I encountered a couple who were letting their dogs swim in Hebden Water, despite the chill in the air. I chatted with them and asked if I could take a photo of their dog in ‘Dog Bottom.’ She gladly agreed and I explained why! “Ah, you can see Dog Bottom house through the trees if you go a little further,” she suggested. “They’re having a lot of building done there. I’d love to go inside. It’s a really old house,” she continued.

Dog Bottom: Current home of Freud’s great grandson, and former home of my great great great great aunt and uncle

So, having looked for my heron, unsuccessfully, probably because it was so late in the day I headed across the river and soon came to a sign. Well, at least I know I’m in the right place. Masses of new building work was under construction and after taking a few photos of the original house I got into conversation with one of the builders who was laying a stone wall. He told me that the name Dog Bottom is derived from a pack of wild dogs that used to roam the area. First of all I asked if the owners were friendly – and explained my interest. He was eager to tell me all he knew about the owner – none other than Siegmund Freud’s great grandson! Wow. That was a turn up for the books. The psychologist’s grandson was Lucian Freud the famous artist who owned to fathering 14 children, though friends put the estimate at around 40, and the current owner of Dog Bottom is one of those 14 children: From the Daily Mail https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5094559/Artist-Lucian-Freud-s-legacy-sex-sorrow.html

  1. The Whirling Dervish

Growing up, Francis Eliot, 45, considered himself the son of Perry, the raffish 10th Earl of St Germans, although it was an open secret that he was the issue of Jacquetta’s long affair with Freud. Francis Eliot was named after artist Francis Bacon. It was an open secret that he was Lucian Freud’s son. He was named after Freud’s fellow artist Francis Bacon, giving rise to a sardonic joke from Perry, who knew he was not the boy’s biological father: ‘How do you like your bacon ? Freud?’

Francis is married with two children and lives in an artistic community in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. He is an expert whirling dervish, the eastern dance practised by Islamic mystics, and teaches dance in the 5 Rhythms method, combining movement and meditation.

I rather think my photographer ancestor would have appreciated this story! This was not the outcome that I’d anticipated when I set off for my little stroll this afternoon!

Lucian Freud Biography: https://www.who2.com/bio/lucian-freud/

Artist

Lucian Freud was a German-born British painter known mostly for bold and realistic portraits and nudes. His 1995 painting of a nude, obese woman, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold in 2008 for $33.6 million, a record high price for the work of a living artist. The grandson of Sigmund Freud, his background was primarily in drawing, and he was a tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art in London in the late 1940s and ’50s. Freud began getting recognition in the early 1950s, making his mark as a new kind of realist, with muted colors and heavy brushstrokes that emphasized the flesh. Freud was known to spend thousands of hours on a single portrait; he often painted people he knew who were willing to endure months of sitting under the gaze of a probing eye. A retrospective exhibit in 1987 and 1988 in Paris, Washington and London helped make Freud an international star. By the end of his career, Lucian Freud was among a handful of painters described as the world’s best, and the value of his painting began to soar. The National Gallery of Australia bought Freud’s After Cézanne (2000) for $7.4 million in 2001, and in 2011, a few months after Freud’s death, his Boy’s Headsold for nearly $5 million.

As his business card tells us Thomas had a studio on Crown Street, Hebden Bridge. I have yet to find out which building his studio occupied, but I currently live adjacent to Crown Street!

Muddy paw prints on my jeans was a small price to pay for such an interesting afternoon!

I  visited their grave a while back  – a very imposing memorial – in Heptonstall cemetery. I must visit it again now that i know a little more about them.

The 901 bus to Huddersfield – a fabric artist’s view

The 901 to Huddersfield.

 

Blue-butted sheep clinging to the hillsides are woollen smudges on green felt

Faintly mottled with age and growing decrepitude.

Fragments of ancient walls crisscrossing the quilted landscape

Are half finished seams defining and redefining the juxtaposition of fabrics.

Hand embroidered backstitches create paths through the panorama

While roads are unravelled seams bordered by messy ditches to be constructed, moved and rethought time after time.

The motorway looming below is an ugly fray, brutally ripped open, causing mayhem to the surrounding countryside

Xs mark the placement of buildings clustered in their cross-stitched confusion along

A trailing blue ribbon slip-stitched in meandering waves through darkened valleys of worsted cloth.

 

It’s late afternoon and the winter light is fading.

In my workspace I turn on the overhead light causing the sun to break through brocade clouds

Bringing a luminescence to the tightly woven silken threads.

Circles of shining sequins sowed like seeds over the felt

Are reservoirs feeding thirsty machines and people

Living in their cross-stitched villages, in the shadows of their buckram chimneys,

Connected by their ribbon river and their running stitched roads

And tonight, secure in their blanket stitched beds.

Set in Stone?

Set in stone?

 

On viewing the West wall of Manchester Cathedral

 

A first view:

Black, pitted,

Scored by aeons of weather

Scared by centuries of man.

Man and horse struggled

Through the penetrating precipitation

Of a Mancunian winter to carry that once-golden stone

Masons left their marks

Gauged with chisels, struck with hammers, polished it until smooth.

 

Set in stone implies ‘forever’

Yet here the ravages of time, be they made by man or Nature’s serendipity

Have destroyed those chiseled lines,

Blurred those straight edges,

Roughened those smooth surfaces until

Only scattered remnants of fine tracery peak out with blinded eyes from beneath its wretched face.

And now, like an ancient mummy the once-smooth skin is black and pitted,

A volcanic crater of aging epidermis.

 

But wait,

A second viewing, now informed by a Father

Garbed in mockery of the knights that lie prostrate beneath our feet.

That ancient wall that spoke to me of medieval masons

Whose marks I’d traced with hesitant fingers,

Yearning to connect across the centuries,

Its marks are mutilations, wounds wrought by virtuous Victorians

Intentional disfigurements of medieval craftsmanship

By prim men in straight-laced garb

Yearning to cover the ancient disorder with modern clarity of line.

 

This wall, with its pock marks and scuffs bore witness to my forefathers,

Their birth, their love, their demise.

Music shrouds their spirits for

Without them I wouldn’t exist.

“That wall needs a face lift.

Cover the blemishes, obliterate the scars,” the renovators had said.

Today that white wash has flaked away into its own oblivion

Leaving the pitted West wall to conjure its own convoluted saga.

A musician’s view of the 12:27 to Leeds

The 12:27 to Leeds

 

“The next train to depart from platform one will be the 12:27 to Leeds

Calling at Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax, Bradford Interchange, New Pudsey and Leeds.”

The contralto’s opening recitative sends ‘shivers down my spine.’

This platform change has me running Prestissimo beneath the bridge passage synching my pulse to the finale of the William Tell Overture.

I slip for a moment on the wet cobbles but managing to avoid a fully fledged glissando,

I run up the stairs in whole steps and, with the leap of a tritone, like the Devil I jump aboard.

The iron Lion growls and lets out a roar as this Carnival of human Animals settles back in its seat to enjoy this Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

 

The Water Music to our left softly serenades with Tales from Vienna Woods

While the Ash Grove placidly sits on the hillside above soulfully singing Dido’s Lament over a ground bass provided by lowing cows.

Below me Mytholmroyd church still manages to keep its asymmetrical head above water

But with much more rain it’ll become La Cathédrale Engloutie.

But for now in these green quilted fields Sheep May Safely Graze

Farther along the valley abandoned factories resound to the rhythm of Bolero

As ghosts perform a Danse Macabre on the skeletal remains of neglected buildings.

 

Through a dense mist of atonal fog Britten’s Night Mail performs an accelerando through the entire Four Seasons

Coming at last to a rest in Winter at Sowerby Bridge

Where the platform is humming to the Waltz of the Flowers as Eidelweiss pirouttes with Roses from the South

But at this time of year all respectable Bumble Bees have already taken Flight.

Continuing at a tempo moderato the train goes ‘past cotton grass and moorland boulder’ and eventually

Rows of saw-toothed weaving sheds climax in Halifax’s phallic folly

As, through the rustling leaves of Der Lindenbaum, I glimpse The Lark Ascending.

 

Heading over Coley viaduct a phrase of staccato raindrops bounce off Satie’s umbrellas keeping dry the heads of men intently involved in Le Golf

As, high above them, marching with Pomp and Circumstance, huge pylons stomp across the course con moto like Martian fighting machines.

 

At length a dolce phrase from a Bach Suite greets our arrival After Eight in Halifax, home to Mackintosh and Quality Street.

And several crochets climb aboard accompanied by small quavers stoically holding hands.

They scale the half steps and jump eagerly onto the two lined staff stretching across the page

While white haired minims and legless semibreves prop up the bar.

 

Subito, we plunge into the blackness of the Hall of the Mountain King,

Where sparsely orchestrated Catacombs lurk at ever diminishing intervals

“Where’s our Lux Aeterna when we need one?” I ask the ripieno gathered around me

‘But answer came there none’

For a grand pause was written into the score and everyone was silent.

 

Back under the Nuages Gris and ever onward past Jardins sous la pluie

We pause for a brief fermata at Bradford station

Where the train suddenly goes into retrograde motion for the remainder of the trip.

As we make a controlled ritardando into New Pudsey

The vast expanse of Asda’s car park is revealed as a Land of Hope and Glory

Wherein ‘the machine of a dream’ vies for space with a mercury Queen.

Ponies scatter on the sodden field dreaming of a life in the sun in Copland’s Rodeo

While at the Major’s poultry farm I spy a Ballet of Unhatched Chicks

Caused by a sharp cat wandering into the flat yard

And causing havoc in The Hut on Hen’s Legs.

Hen’s LegH

“Oh puss, get out” I cry to myself, sotto voce,

But my voice is lost in a cacophony of cell phones

As aleatoric pings Come Together in a final cadenza

Heralding not The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba into Leeds railway station

But a Fanfare for the Common Man.

James Wrigley – my great great great grandfather – therein lies a tale.

James Wrigley – my great great great grandfather – therein lies a tale.

 

Between 1809 and 1811 James and Mally Wrigley moved from their home on Toad Lane Rochdale to Heptonstall. Toad Lane Rochdale is famous all over the world for being the home of the Cooperative movement. In fact, I went to a lecture last night given by the Hebden Bridge Local History Society about the origins of the first cooperative mill, Nutclough Mill which just happens to be in in Hebden Bridge, and how it was eventually bought out by the Cooperative Wholesale Society. It brought back memories for me of going to the Coop in Bolton, not just for food, but I had my elocution lessons in a room upstairs, was a member of the verse speaking choir (which is why I can recite so many poems) and the singing choir. Verse speaking and elocution festivals were held in the ballroom about the food store. I also went to the Coop dentist and Coop opticians in that building. The first coop on Toad Lane Rochdale is now a museum which I visited during my summer trip to England last year. The site of the museum at 31 Toad Lane was where the ‘Pioneers’, 28 working people opened a co-operative store on the 21st December, 1844.

 

I’d discovered, surprisingly, that James and Mally Wrigley are my great great great great grandparents. It’s from my connection with them that I am related to the Wrigley builders of Hebden Bridge, and the Gibsons of Hebden Bridge. Between the birth of their fourth and fifth sons the growing Wrigley family moved from Rochdale to Heptonstall. I don’t know where they lived immediately but by 1840 they were living in Lily Hall. Lily Hall is pivotal in my family history.

Lily Hall, Heptonstall

But for the Wrigleys of Lily Hall I wouldn’t have the ancestors in Heptonstall and Hebden Bridge that first brought me to stay in this area with Rachel in the summer of 2015 which eventually led to me moving to Hebden Bridge in Sept 2017 after 32 years in the U.S.

When James (junior) was married at St Thomas’s, Heptonstall on March 15, 1840 he was living with his parents James and Mally in Lily Hall. His occupation is given as a white limer, one who paints walls and fences with white lime, and his father is a cabinet maker. James’s new bride is Mary Pickles of Rochdale. James and Mary both made their mark in lieu of signature so they were probably illiterate. A witness to their marriage is Thomas Gibson, a 20 year old whitesmith who was living next door at Lily Hall. Sometime the following year in 1841 Mary gave birth to a son, Thomas, who soon died and was buried at St Thomas’s on July 15, 1841. In 1843 Sarah was born and a year later Martha in 1844. In 1847 Mally was born – named after her grandma. By the census in 1851 James and Mary were living at Town Gate Heptonstall and James is a head plasterer, thus carrying on the family tradition of being connected with the building trade. In 1852 James’s wife Mary died at the age of 37. She’s buried at St Thomas’s: Plot #V1 9 Flat In memory of MARY the wife of JAMES WRIGLEY of this Town who died June 12th 1852 aged 37 years Also of JAMES WRIGLEY her husband who died Sept 2nd 1886 aged 75 years. Two years, 2nd July 1854 later he married another Mary, Mary Ackroyd, a widow whose maiden name had been Pickup. The following month (!) their daughter Mary Ann was born on August 21st. The next 3 censuses 1861, 1871, 1881 have the family living at Millwood, an area between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden near the Shannon and Chesapeake pub (which I noticed yesterday is closed and up for sale for £195,000). Mary died in 1876 and James lived to the grand old age of 75 and was buried with his first wife (!) at St Thomas’s.

Shannon and Chesapeake pub is for sale

So, how does all this tie in with MY family tree. Well, here’s an article I wrote explaining just that. It was published in the Calderdale Family History Journal:

Elizabeth Ann Whitham

In the summer of 2016 I spent seven weeks in Calderdale researching my maternal grandmother’s ancestry. Though born and raised in the tiny village of Affetside in Lancashire I now live in Northern California and I was eager to make this trip to find out more about my heritage. For the previous seven years I had been doing as much research online as possible but I had come upon a puzzling fact: my great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Whitham had been married twice, but had given the name of two different fathers on her two marriage certificates. First Elizabeth Ann married Ishmael Nutton at St John the Baptist church in Halifax on April 27, 1861.   His residence at the time of marriage was Skircoat and Ishmael’s occupation was woolsorter. Ishmael’s father, James Nutton gives his occupation on the marriage certificate as woolsorter too. Elizabeth Ann, whose residence was Halifax, gives her father’s name as William Whitham with the space for his occupation left empty. In the 1861 census an Elizabeth Ann Whittam (born Heptonstall, 1841) is a cook at a large boarding school on Hopwood Lane, Park House. So far, so good. The school was run by the Farrar family. John Farrar (1813-1883) born at Heptonstall (just like Elizabeth Ann) was the “schoolmaster: Classical, commercial and mathematical.”(1861 census). Interestingly the road that joins Shaw Hill in Skircoat is Farrar Mill Road.

Ishmael died from alpaca poisoning (sorting alpaca wool) on March 17 1876. I found his grave at Christ Church Mt Pellon. Elizabeth Ann, now 40, was now head of the household living at 20 Haigh Street, Halifax, with her sons Charles 18, John 17 and William 14. She also has a lodger, James Hainsworth Leeming, eleven years younger than her. In 2016 I went to find her house. Haigh Street is still there, partially, but as ill-luck would have it the part I wanted has been demolished. It’s a street sandwiched between factory buildings, many of them derelict. Five years later Elizabeth Ann married James Leeming, a widower, originally from Horton near Bradford. But here, things get a little more complicated because she gives the name of her father not as William Whitham but as James Wrigley, a plasterer. Try as I might I just couldn’t figure this out. She’d given two different names for fathers on her two marriages. The simplest explanation is that I’d got the ‘wrong’ Elizabeth Ann, but that didn’t seem likely since the birth years were about the same and they’d both been born in Heptonstall. Completely at a loss I just happened to find a person online offering to help with people’s ancestral brick walls in Calderdale. I emailed Roger Beasley of the CFHS one evening in August, giving details of my predicament and, lo and behold by the time I woke up the next morning he had solved my mystery. He wrote: “I think I may have worked out why Elizabeth Ann Whittham gave both William Whittham and James Wrigley as her father. Her mother, Sally Farrar, daughter of James Farrar, married William Whittham in 1822. Their children were: Hannah (b.1828), Farrar (b.1831), John (b.1833), James Farrar (b.1837). William Whittham died in 1837. In the 1841 census there was a James Rigley, plasterer, living next door to the widow, Sally. It seems possible that Elizabeth Ann Whittham was the illegitimate daughter of Sally Whittham and James (W)rigley. I couldn’t find a baptism for Elizabeth Ann Whittham which was common for children born out of wedlock. However, I did find the record of her birth in 1840 on FreeBMD.” Perhaps Elizabeth Ann herself wasn’t aware of her true father when she married for the first time. But Roger Beasley’s email also contained two other very important facts. I’d been unable to trace Elizabeth Ann’s mother. Roger found her to be Sally Farrar of Heptonstall. When I got the church records for St Thomas’s Heptonstall there are 190 Farrar baptisms recorded! Roger did find a birth record of Elizabeth Ann in 1840 on FreeBMD in which she’s registered in Todmorden. When her birth certificate arrived from England I found that, sure enough, as Roger had surmised there is no father named on it. Her mother’s name is Sally Whitham nee Farrar and Elizabeth Ann was born at Lily Hall. I can’t help wondering if James Wrigley and his wife knew that Sally was giving birth to James’s daughter literally in the next room – in Lily Hall.

Lily Hall

So in September 2016 I embarked upon some research into the family of James Wrigley. After all, if these facts are correct he is my great, great, great grandfather! I found two online Wrigley family trees with the correct James Wrigley, of Heptonstall. I contacted both tree owners and they both live in New Zealand. James was one of eight children. One of his brothers was Abraham and remarkably there was a photo of Abraham taken with his own son John. From Grace Hanley in New Zealand I found out that “John came to NZ in 1863, Edmund in 1865 and Hannah, James and their mother Sally arrived in NZ, 1883.” James Wrigley, Elizabeth Ann’s biological father had married Mary Pickles on March 15th 1840. One of James and Mary’s children was Mally Wrigley. She married James Barker of Water Barn, Rossendale on July 14, 1866 in Heptonstall. Mally and James were both weavers when they married but by 1871 and 1881 he was a cotton operative.

I will return to Calderdale this summer to further my research and would love to meet up with people who may have recognized some of their ancestors in my story.

With many thanks to Roger Beasley.

 

So, just two months after James married his first wife Mary Pickles, his next door neighbor gave birth to James’s child, Elizabeth, who took as her surname her mother’s married name of Whitham. On June 11th 1840 just 3 weeks after Elizabeth Ann was born at a petty sessions held at the White Hart in Todmorden in front of 2 justices of the peace James was acknowledged as Elizabeth Ann’s father and ordered to pay 4s 6p to the Overseers of the Poor in Heptonstall for the maintenance and support so far incurred and he is ordered to pay weekly 1s 6p weekly until the child reaches 7 years of age. When Sarah and I had lunch in the White Hart we’d no idea of how significant a role this building had been in our family’s history.

Through a couple more years of research, especially when I moved to Hebden Bridge I found out more about the Wrigley family. They continued to expand their building business, building some of the largest buildings in Hebden Bridge and surrounding area. But that’s for another post on my blog. Sally had already given birth to six children when she had Elizabeth. Their early deaths make very sad reading. Her first two children died less than a year old. Her third, Hannah, outlived her, dying at 66, then Farrar died aged 5 and John aged 2, then she had James Farrar (1837-1901) and 7 months later her husband, William Whitham died. No wonder she was living back with her parents in Lily Hall in 1840.

 

 

 

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