Let’s make this easy shall we?

As I write this, its the Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend in most of the UK …..but not Scotland…they are holding out until September for theirs. And theirs is known as the September Weekend…no Marketing consultants or focus groups for naming things required here folks!

Unfortunately, so far it is actually the coldest August Bank Holiday weekend for 20 years according to the weather statisticians. Forget any ideas of picnics, walking in the moors, trips to the sea or al fresco dining of any kind. What the weather did invite however was a trip to our nearby independent bookshop.

Our local town Holmfirth (known to many 40+ year olds in the UK and perhaps beyond, for the Fictional TV Series ‘Last of the Summer Wine’) has a good mix of craft shops, eateries, cafes, independent stores and a recent addition of a small bookshop.

As covered in a previous blog, Bank Holidays are a somewhat curious quirk of the uk and yet another example of our use of the English language using a term that is blindingly obvious to us native speakers, but very confusing to others.

Yes for sure the bank staff get a holiday on these days but so do many other people in industry , commerce, education and government but of course not those in essential services or indeed shop workers who rely in some ways on the rest of us not being at work to give them some added footfall through their shop doors.

So on the subject of shops, back to this one. There is actually not a moments doubt as to what is sold in this shop….. it is books …its called Read. Holmfirth is a tourist destination so even for non native speakers you will know what the offering is here.

Its a great little bookshop with well selected fiction (and many of the books are signed) The only downside is, you may have to queue to get in…its not a huge shop, and with current social distancing rules, if one family enter the store that’s it…until they vacate to make a space for you

It did strike me that actually very few shops in the UK have such a simple and obvious name. We rely on tourism in many parts of this country so why not make things a bit easier for visitors?

Ok, for those of you who are UK residents or at least familiar with the UK High Street you are now reeling off a list of names and brands that provide ‘what it says on the tin’, so as to speak. Yes, I too can think of a few UK examples past and present : ‘eat’ is a chain of outlets that sell …yes, eat in and take away eats; Toys ‘r’ Us, (sadly departed) , ‘Patisserie Valerie‘ (ok, of course Patisserie is a French word, but you get the idea) , The Perfume Shop and so on.

However the ones that may confuse a non native speaker are far more commonplace: ‘Curry’s’ are not a restaurant selling Indian food, but are an electrical goods retailer; ‘Boots’ are a chemist with not a chance of any footwear being on sale other than perhaps a Dr Scholl sandal; ‘Lakeland’ – garden pond accessories? …sorry, its a cookware retailer; ‘Jigsaw’ – not a single children’s puzzle for sale here. You get the idea……

Anyway, this is just nothing compared to what we at least historically named our pubs (and our beer!) …but that’s another story for another blog for another day.

I’m off to the Bulls Head for a Pint of Old Peculiar now……….

The Wheels on the bus go round and round

The wheels on the bus was a very popular song for my children and their generation.In fact it seems equally loved by the next generation , as our our prime minister during electioneering for his current post some 6 months ago decided to do a quick verse of it when visiting a primary school in a vote garnering exercise.

Three important lessons – one: only sing a song if you know the words; two: only sing if you can sing and three: (the relevant bit now) …be careful what you wish for. Boris, did you really want to become Prime Minister? To be fair, he probably thought the worst demons he would have to face would be Brexit (both the remainders and the leavers), angry Northern Ireland Unionists and even more angry Scottish Nationalists.

He most definitely didn’t get the memo saying there would be a pandemic.

Boris actually has quite a history with buses. Being a keen cyclist he got rid of bendy buses when he was mayor of London, and then had a new jump on, jump on bus designed to replace the old iconic routemasters that had the open platforms. Very convenient but not very high on health safety…or warmth.Anyway, back to the wheels on the bus……We live quite near a senior school and we see the school buses trundling by at the beginning and end of each day and it reminds me of my school days…or at least the travel to and from.I was fairly ambivalent about school, not really falling into either camp of ‘best days of my life’ or ‘worst days of my life’, but I did enjoy going on the school bus.The school bus was the place where you caught up with homework on the way there; caught up with the gossip, used it as a taxi service to get you to other places you wanted to be after school such as friends houses, shops or wherever.Homebound it was generally a journey where you let off steam and had fun, be that playing stupid games, flirting (actually, that perhaps also was in the stupid games category) , or even fell in love. I went to a catholic secondary so many of the pupils were from Glasgow’s large Italian community, and being an impressionable 13 year old boy with an eye for the girls, my heart was broken a few times by the blossoming beauties in my midst…but just for the record Francesca, I’ve got over you now!In the UK we don’ t generally have the specific purpose built school buses, normally yellow in colour, that are common place in the US, Canada and some other countries, but would just get any vehicle that a local bus opertor could provide.When I say any vehicle, I really mean that!Somewhat unusually, my secondary school was completely newly and opened with an intake year one and therefore only 1 years worth of pupils initially, we only needed one coach from my local area.The contract was awarded to a ‘one man and dog ‘ operation with an ancient coach, but a very personable driver Henry Crawford (aka the owner of the company).The bus didn’t even have radio, but after Henry learnt the hard way from a few noisy journeys that a radio would drown out the noise of the pupils, he found an old car radio and fitted it to the charabanc.Designed for a car , it needed amplification so he rigged up an old record player loudspeaker in the bus to assist in amplification.As the school added a new intake each year, so did demand for the buses and Henry grew his business to become a sizeable and respected Bus and Coach hire company .Many years later, I remember seeing a sleek, modern, very new , state of the art coach parked on London’s Park Lane opposite the Dorchester Hotel bearing his name….I am sure Henry is no longer with us, but it seems the next generation have really developed the business to a new level.Conversely, my own children have a habit of seeing their school buses in unexpected places. One of the more unusual locations was high up a mountain in the Austrian Alps when it pulled into the car park alongside our car!It is a small world!

Just add salt…

The town of Saltaire just north of Bradford in Yorkshire was founded by philanthropist and mill owner Titus Salt.

Salt had mills in the city of Bradford but decided to build a large new textile mill, known as Salts Mill and create an entire model village on the banks of the River Aire, near Shipley.

This allowed him to provide much improved accommodation for his workers away from the slums of the city.

The name Saltaire derived from his name and the name of the local river, the River Aire.

Salt created a village of stone houses for his workers with running water, bath houses and even a hospital and an institute for recreation and education.

The village also had a school for the workers children, allotments for the families to grow fresh vegetables, almshouses and a park.

In December 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

So what now…rather than just be a preserved relic of past Victorian ideals, Salts has a vibrant new life.

The mill is home to art by way of permanent exhibitions of Yorkshire artist David Hockney’s work, a truly amazing book shop and some other specialised retailers.

This is no ordinary bookshop..on the ground floor of the mill it has a cathedral like feel, grandeur and ambience.

On the higher floor, a more esoteric style where presentation and space is the emphasis.

Every window provides a backdrop of Salts vision..rather than a shopping mall, retail park or mundane high street.

I can’t think of many bookshops adorned with fresh lillies!

Everywhere in the building there is evidence of both Hockney and the original purpose of the building and this just adds to the magic of the place.

Salts mill draws the crowds for its history, the books, the art and even the restaurant and tea shop.

I visit regularly – its a great place on a winter sunday, a rainy summers day or whenever the mood draws you.

If you are visiting West Yorkshire it’s a “must do” visit. A great example of getting preservation just right.

Salts is very alive with many one off events and opportunities to embrace books, music and art in a wonderful setting…oh and yes it’s completely free other than special events.

Sure you have to buy books if you want to take them home..but otherwise it’s there to enjoy!

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