rainI’m cold – seriously cold for the first time on my trip. It doesn’t help that several times every minute the doors  into the market hall open to the outside and a blast of cold, wet air ruffles my hair and cools my cappuccino. I’m sitting by the outside door  in Todmorden market hall, lured into this delightful coffee bar inside by the promise of ice cream, ice lollies, frappes on this cold wet morning. Valiant shoppers clad in their finest rain gear greet each other with ‘It’s like a monsoon’ and ‘I’m getting me sandbags ready’ inside of the normal ‘Yawreet?’ – and they’re not kidding.  ‘A medium latte and a weak tea.’ Blasts from my past hit me like stray water droplets which are, incidentally, currently descending from the roof in ever increasing numbers, many of them erring in their journey and missing the strategically placed buckets on the passageway below. Well, I presume the buckets are place to catch the mini-waterfalls, though many of them seem destined to trip the unsuspecting shopper.’The usual.’


Can I buy the baker?

There’s a travel mug for sale with the word Wakey Wakey emblazoned in blue. This was the catch phrase of Billy Cotton whose band show was a regular part of Sunday dinner time on the radio at 3rd Bungalow before we got a telly in 1965.  Mr Men and Little Miss travel mugs on the shelf in front of me bring to mind my daughters’ childhoods. Bombarded by so many characters I’m trying to decide which one would suit which daughter: there’s Little Miss Chatterbox and Little Miss Princess for sure. Suddenly my table takes flight. It turns out that my ‘table’ is actually a horizontal door and my barista needs to leave for what I suppose is a non-coffee-break.


Not quite three sheets to the wind


The market stalls here bring back my own youth. Bolton market hall was a similar building, just a bigger version,  with exposed wrought iron girders supporting a glass ceiling. Butchers’ shops display  tripe, black puddings, tomato sausages and pork pies. I ask the butcher about a beef steak wrapped in pastry. “Just the ticket,” he says, “for a romantic dinner for two.” “Do you supply the man?” I asked with a straight face. Bakeries tempt with vanilla slices (ok, I succumbed)  and Manchester tart (something from the red light district perhaps?)  the baker explains with a straight face that the Manchester tarts are firmer than  Bakewell tarts. And then  the cheese shop presents me with a very difficult decision between Wensleydale with cranberries and Wensleydale with apricots. At this moment my pen gives up the ghost. “Wanna use mine?” comes from my right. “Ta.”


Can I interest you in some tripe, luv?

The display of teas  in front of me is impressive: Elderflower, Artic Fire. “I wonder if that should be Arctic?” I idly comment to the man on my left. He considers the question rather more intently than I expected and suggests that the only artic he can think of is the colloquial term for an articulated lorry. We mutually decide that  it should Arctic. Other flavors beckon me to exotic, far distant land: Russian caravan, Jasmine Flower, Todmorden water blend – well, perhaps not that one!  Coffee blends include Rwanda Cocagi cup of excellence, coffee Sulawesi, Kalossi and Brazilian Ipanema (sounds vaguely musical). This bar would not be out of place as a high end coffee bar in San Francisco. Instead the Exchange Coffee Company has shops in Clitheroe and Skipton market halls, besides this one here in Tod. After taking photos of the canisters and chatting to people on either side of me I leave. I offer the pen back to its owner. ‘Yawreet” I’m told with a smile and a thumbs up sign.


Through the doors the outside market is slowly drowning in liquid sunshine. Rain is penetrating the punnets of strawberries (fresh from Southport) while the apricots (6 for £1) appear to be stewing themselves. Only half the stalls are up and running today. I chatted to the fishmonger. His scallops attracted my attention! Well, they were bright orange. “Coral scallops from th’ Isle o’Mann. Best money cun buy,” I was reliably informed. It wouldn’t have taken much more water for his haddock and kippers to swim back unaided to the sea. Bizarrely several dozen nighties are wafting vociferously in the gathering wind waltzing their own personal version of the Todmorden rain-dance. I dodge the waist-high  spray the cars kick up as they navigate the tiny streets and head back to the bus station, my bag considerably heavier than on the outward journey. Two incidents completed the adventure. The bus was hit by a passing truck – the second such incident on this trip. Neither vehicle stopped but we did come to  a grinding halt when a tractor inadvertently pulled out of a farm track. The farmer was wearing a suit and tie – no kidding!

home agian

My finds

Later that day  I had my first excursion by bus for an evening event. I went back into Todmorden to the Hippodrome Theater to see a production of Accrington Pals by Peter Whelan. ‘The title refers to the 700 strong Accrington Battalion that march jauntily off to war in the summer of 1916.’  Last night marked the re-opening of this historic theater (1908) after last year’s floods. It’s a grand affair with a  balcony. The play was staged to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the


Hippodrome Theatre, Todmorden

battle of the Somme. It was funny, intensely moving and very well produced. One thing I didn’t expect was full male nudity. When they used an arrangement for brass band of Elgar’s Nimrod I reached for my hankie. Movingly there was no curtain call since dead soldiers don’t come back.

I’d checked on the finishing time by putting a question on the company’s Facebook page which they’d answered immediately so I knew it wasn’t scheduled to finish til 10. It was still light (ish) as I walked back to the bus station, only to find that I was the only person there for most of the half hour I had to wait. It was only a couple of minutes walk from the bus t’th’ mill so I was back home by 10:45 after a very varied day.