this month, having worked over the weekend, I
took a Tuesday off. To take a day away from the office during the week
when my wife is at work and the boys are at school is always slightly
strange and one must avoid the trap of simply reading the paper, going
to Sainsbury’s and watching Countdown (‘another consonant please,
Carol’). As the rain and hail were driving sideways across Rawdon, it
wasn’t a day for walking on Ilkley Moor or mooching around
Grassington. So I went to Saltaire; it’s all too easy not to go to
these places which are on one’s doorstep and which one would indeed
visit if one were a visitor to the area.
Salt’s great mill is now a retail outlet. By that I don’t mean it is
like one of those frightful out of town retail parks full of the usual
suspects – you know, Marks and Spencer, WH Smith, Boots, Gap, the chain
shoe shops and the card shops where you can buy whatever you want so long
as it’s vulgar or twee. What is available at Salt’s Mill is rather
more classy than that.
the ground floor is a gallery of Hockney paintings. There are tables and
tables of books through which one can leisurely browse. Tristan and Isolde
was being played through the PA system and the air was thick with incense
and perfumes. There is a furniture floor together with home furnishings
and a kitchen shop, the two separated by a café/restaurant which is
rather more inventive than the standard burgers and routine Italian dishes
and chips. Tucked away on the top floor there are photographs for sale. I
lingered quite some time looking at some rather fine black and white
studies of places in the West Riding. By strength of character, fear of my
wife and mindful of the fact that we would be pushed to get any more
pictures on the walls at home, I was able with difficulty to keep my
cheque book in my pocket. But tomorrow is another day…
6 April, the first day of the new tax year when all accountants are up
early, I was on the road by six o’clock as I had to be in Newcastle
Upon Tyne by nine. The sun rose as I reached the top of Pool Bank where
Wharfedale stretched before me covered in frost. The sky was clear and
it was an exhilarating journey. I left the A1 at Thirsk, where the real
James Herriot practised as a vet, and I followed the A19 west of the
North Yorkshire Moors to Teesside, then up through County Durham to
Newcastle. In bright sunshine I entered the city over the Tyne Bridge
noticing – one could hardly not – how the new stadium of Newcastle
United rather than St Nicholas’s cathedral now dominates the skyline.
Well, these are the cathedrals de nos jours and the faithful don’t
come much more devout than in the capital of Tyneside. One could be
forgiven for thinking that the black and white shirt of Alan Shearer is
the regional dress.
week we went to see Godspell performed by the sixth form at my younger son’s
school. It was a production true to its 1970s origin but at the same time
generously laced with irony. The fashions and styles of those days, oh dear.
Of course these kids weren’t alive in the ‘70s; they were born after the
Falklands War. (Feeling old?). In the intimacy of the David Hockney theatre,
where we were, I was struck by how brave these boys and girls are. I
couldn’t do it (though I did at their age). They put on a first-rate
performance without a hint of self-consciousness or gaucherie. They threw
themselves enthusiastically into the heart and soul of the musical. The
audience clearly enjoyed it and it was a fitting prelude to Easter.
Rigg, part of the Establishment at the Princess, is the epitome of the dry
Yorkshireman. Deadpan he returns the most wonderful lines. ‘The traffic at
Kirkstall lights gets worse and worse’, I said. ‘It’s never been the
same since they built the Abbey’, he replied.