Looking at Paintings (4) – ‘Trenches’

On the 1st July 1916, the Battle of the Somme was launched during World War One. By the end of that day alone 60,000 British and Empire troops had been killed or wounded. It should be remembered too, that the overall Somme campaign led to over half a million German casualties. Among the advancing troops on the 1st July 1916 were 2,000 members of the ‘Bradford Pals’ – men drawn together as volunteers at the start of the war from the...

Read More

Silsden Riot!

RIOT! The small town of Silsden, a few miles from Ilkley, in West Yorkshire is a quiet, law-abiding place; little disturbs the peace there today. But on Saturday April 8th 1911, over 400 local people protested outside – and many attacked – their local police station, smashing every window in the building and in the police house next door. Policemen hid inside the building and the police sergeant’s wife and children locked...

Read More

Looking at Paintings (9) David Hockney ‘The Road Across the Wolds’

When David Hockney’s Yorkshire landscape paintings were first shown at the London Royal Academy in 2012, they attracted mixed reviews. The art critic of The Economist admired some of the works, but wrote, “Others, I would argue, would not be celebrated at all if they were not by Mr Hockney, such as this ‘The Road Across the Wolds’.” But he was wrong. The painting, now on permanent display at the Hockney Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire,...

Read More

Book Review: ‘The Lie’, by Helen Dunmore

The year is 1920 and Daniel returns to his Cornish village after his wartime discharge from the army. He is badly traumatised by the loss of his best friend, Frederick, blown to bits in No-Man’s Land in France. Daniel’s mother, a widowed cleaner, has died during his absence, and her rented cottage has been reclaimed by the landlord. Daniel, rootless and unemployed, is drawn back to the memories of his childhood friendship with...

Read More

The Charge of the Light Brigade – an eyewitness account

On the 25th October 1854, during the Crimean War, a brigade of British officers and cavalrymen, commanded by the Earl of Cardigan, rode into a Balaclava valley, seemingly to reclaim artillery cannon captured by their Russian enemies. However, because of a miscommunication, they rode into the wrong valley – and into slaughtering cannon and musket fire on three sides. Of the five regiments involved, making a total of 670 officers...

Read More

Book Review: ‘Still Alice’

“They talked about her as if she weren’t sitting in the wing chair, a few feet away. They talked about her, in front of her, as if she was deaf. They talked about her, without including her …” There have been many non-fiction books and articles written on the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. But sometimes it takes a work of fiction to really connect. Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, published in 2007, is such a book. It captures the slow...

Read More

Looking at Paintings (8) ‘Tell Your Fortune, Lady’

Over 70 years after it was painted, ‘Tell Your Fortune, Lady, still has the power to stop me in my tracks. It was one of a series of paintings of gypsies at Epsom and Ascot race courses, England, by the artist, Laura Knight (1871 – 1970), created over a ten year period in the 1930s. The Artist Laura grew up in Nottingham where her strong-minded mother gave art classes to support her children. Laura showed early talent and...

Read More

Looking at Paintings (7): The Conchie

The painting, ‘The Conchie’, by the British painter, Arthur Gay (1901 – 1958), was first exhibited in 1931 to a sympathetic public reception. A decade earlier this would not have been the case. Background In 1916, with the Great War raging unabated and the number of volunteers drying-up, the British Government introduced military conscription. The Military Service Act compelled men, aged 18 to 41 (later extended to 51 years) to serve...

Read More

‘Stanza Stones’ (5): The ‘Rain Stone’

As I walked Blackstone Edge, above Ripponden, I could see the rain coming my way. It was falling on Manchester in the distance, but the wind was blowing it fast into Yorkshire. I was on my way to see the ‘Rain Stone’ – my fifth journey to find the six ‘Stanza Poems’, all carved on rock, and all bearing poetry written by Yorkshire poet, Simon Armitage, and chiselled by artist, Pip Hall and her apprentice, Wayne Hart. A mile or so along...

Read More

The Real Junk Food Project

I hate to see good food dumped. This goes back to my 1950s childhood when rationing still affected Britain so there was very little food to waste. It was also bought on as-needed basis from local shops and cooked that day or the next. But today food waste is prolific – and shocking. One third of all the food in the world gets dumped, amounting to a staggering 1.3 billion tonnes a year. Yet nearly 8 million of the world’s population...

Read More

Looking at Paintings (6): Self-portrait of William Shackleton

This is a self-portrait of the artist, William Shackleton, born in 1872 into a prosperous Yorkshire family. The oil painting, 54 x 40 cm in size, is part of the permanent collection at Cartwright Hall in Bradford. William Shackleton was the son of a prosperous Bradford paper manufacturer and merchant. He was educated at the local Grammar School, studied art at Bradford Technical College, and in 1893 won a scholarship to study at the...

Read More

City Girls

Think football (or soccer) and you think men: men shouting, waving, cheering, chanting, booing. But here in my home city, Bradford, West Yorkshire, many female fans of all ages attend both home and away matches. They come with their male partners or spouses, they come in female pairs, they come with their kids or grandchildren, and some come on their own. And they can be as passionate as the men about the game. In 2015 a local...

Read More

Alberta Vickridge – forgotten poet and printer

The Forgotten Bard. Alberta Vickridge? You’ve probably never heard of her. Which is a pity – because in her lifetime she was a poet of considerable talent, including poetry that won her a Bardic Crown and Bardic Chair at an Eisteddfod in 1924. She also ran her own printing press from her home in Yorkshire at a time when women in printing were uncommon. Her poetry was admired and praised by writers, such as Agatha Christie,...

Read More

Illustrating ‘Alice’

Alice – and Her Illustrators. On one hot summer day in 1862, a shy, introverted mathematic professor, Charles Dodgson, told a story to three young girls whilst rowing on the River Thames. One of the three girls, Alice Liddell (his favourite) begged Dodgson to write it down and give it to her. He did. And ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’ was born. So too, was ‘Lewis Carroll’, the pen name adopted now...

Read More

What’s the Point of Art?

Have a look at this painting of South Bay, Scarborough, by Yorkshire artist, Arthur Kitching. Do you like it? Yes? OK, why do you like it? No? Why don’t you like it? Or are you indifferent to it? Same type of question – why are you indifferent? I guess these questions go some way to answering the one posed in the title of this article. A work of art inevitably provokes a response from the viewer. You are drawn to it – or not...

Read More

Looking at Paintings (5) – The Big Skies of Yorkshire

Painting skies successfully in oil or watercolour is tricky. Not many artists can capture successfully the range of colour, grandeur and rapidly changing nature of Yorkshire skies, which, as you would expect a Yorkshireman to say, are the grandest of them all. And, thus, only a Yorkshire artist could do justice to them. But here are four Yorkshire artists – two now dead, and two very much alive – who have done it. Bertram...

Read More

Four Faces of Stress

Four Faces of Stress Here are just four causal faces of stress, as seen by artists (photographs taken by me from books in my collection). (1) Fear Hilary Paynter’s wood engraving, titled ‘Stress’, catches the anguish of the rats as they cower together. The rats express their fear in individual ways. Some sink to the bottom of the pile, their eyes closed or glazed over in submission, whilst others huddle together for protection. One...

Read More

Four Faces of Happiness

Four Faces of Happiness What makes us happy? Here are just four faces of happiness, as depicted by artists whose work I admire. (Photos taken by me from books in my collection) Friendship The late, Beryl Cook, one of my favourite artists, captures a night out: a group of women friends unwind and have a good laugh together. The woman in the foreground, cracking-up with laughter, makes me happy every time I see it. To be able to relax...

Read More

A Splinter of Wood Engravers

Wood Engravers. My aim in this article is to introduce you to the art of six contemporary wood engravers whose work represents all that is inspirational to younger engravers and collectors of this art form. I hope that this article will inspire you to find out more about modern wood engraving, particularly as book illustrations – the most readily accessible way of collecting wood engraved illustrations. A splinter of wood...

Read More

Saucy Seaside Postcards

Saucy Seaside Postcards Growing up in the 1950s, a visit to the seaside with my family was always a treat. One day, I was walking along the promenade when I saw a group of teenage girls giggling over a rack of postcards. I asked my mum what they were laughing at. “Mucky postcards”, she said, “And you stay away from them!” I didn’t, of course, and I still have a soft spot for the bawdy humour on seaside postcards in Britain,...

Read More

The Art and Craft of Wood Engraving

Wood Engraving. I want to share my attraction for wood engraving with you. My retirement profession now is book seller and I make a point of selling books with wood engraved images. Some are so sublime it is difficult to part with them – although they pay my bills when they go. The aim of this article is to highlight the work of some talented wood engravers, past and present, and to share the beauty of their work with you. My...

Read More

Faces on Wood

Grained by Life. Wood engraving can be a fine medium for capturing the dignity of the human face. The grain of the wood can be utilised to emphasise the age of the sitter – and the contrast between light and dark, in both the background and facial features of the subject, can be highlighted by the engraving process. Let me share some of my favourite ‘faces on wood’ with you. I hope this may encourage you to seek out...

Read More

Looking at Paintings (3): ‘The Emigrant Ship’

‘The Emigrant Ship’ This is the third in my ‘Looking at Paintings’ series of articles. This painting is titled ‘The Emigrant Ship’ by the Yorkshire artist, Charles Joseph Staniland, and is exhibited at the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Bradford. Each group of people in the painting has a story to tell – or perhaps gives us the opportunity to tell it for them. (Image: Copyright – Bradford...

Read More

Looking at Paintings (2): ‘The Dole’

Looking at Paintings This is the second of my articles on 19th century paintings in art galleries in Yorkshire that caught my interest. This one, ‘The Dole’, painted in 1867 by the Yorkshire artist, James Lobley, is an example of ‘narrative’ painting – one that tells us a story. In ‘The Dole’ the story is about social class, dependency, poverty, charity, and the impact of charity on others....

Read More

Looking at Paintings (1): ‘Signing the Marriage Register’

Looking at Paintings. I enjoy visiting local art galleries, finding a painting I like, then learning more about the painting and the artist. This one is called ‘Signing the Marriage Register’, painted around 1895 by James Charles. It hangs in the Cartwright Hall gallery, Lister Park, Bradford. It is typical of 19th century genre paintings, which were very popular at that time. I like it for its close observation of people,...

Read More

Book Sculpture

Books as Art. Every day thousands of old books are sent for recycling. Nothing wrong with that, you might say, and I would agree. But there is another use for discarded books: as book sculptures. The image in this introduction is by book sculptor, Justin Rowe (used with his permission). Other photographs in this article have been taken by me from books in my collection. New art from old I came across Justin Rowe’s work when...

Read More

Beautiful Bookbinding

Designer Book Bindings. Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of bespoke or designer book binding. These are bindings commissioned and made for a particular book and are fusions of craft and creativity. The finished works are often beautiful – often exquisitely so – and highly collectable items. In a world of standardised mass production, they stand out for their uniqueness and individuality; there will be only one...

Read More

Collecting Fine Press Books

Fine Press Books. I have been a bookseller for 20 years now. But ten years ago I went to a book fair that specialised in fine press books. And it was love at first sight. These beautiful creatures gradually pushed aside their greyer companions and began to take over my bookshelves. This is the story of how I came to specialise in selling fine press books. I hope to share my passion for them with you. All the photographs have been...

Read More

The Street Characters of Bradford

The Street Characters of Bradford. By the mid 19th century, Bradford in West Yorkshire had become one of the most affluent cities in Britain. It had become a world centre for the manufacture of worsted textiles and its population had rocketed from 47,000 in 1831 to nearly 108,000 by 1851. The rapid growth of mills had created work for thousands, great wealth for hundreds – and misery for many who fell between the social cracks....

Read More

An English Country Lane

Paradise. If I have a choice – and there is such a place – then my idea of paradise would be to wander along quiet English lanes in late Spring with the sun on my back. This article is about just one of the country lanes near my home in Yorkshire. The aim? Simply to reflect the pleasure this quiet byway gives me and to share this with you. (All the photos have been taken by me). Up, Down, or Along I live in Yorkshire...

Read More

‘Stanza Stones’ (4): The ‘Beck Stone’

Beck. ‘Beck’ is one of seven poems carved on rock and located in moorland in the South Pennines area of Yorkshire. All the poems, written by Simon Armitage, feature water in one of its many forms. To find this one you have to hike up and alongside a tumbling beck on Ilkley Moor. You stumble on it, almost by accident, and there it is. The Beck Stone (Images: all the photos you will see have been taken by me). The...

Read More

Pic of the week: A Poem for Granddads Everywhere

A Poem for Granddads Everywhere. I’m four and know about an old woman who swallowed a cow – But I don’t know how she swallowed a cow. I know about Jameson whisky (it’s for his chest) And that Postman Pat and Maisie are the best. My Granddad told me that. My Granddad’s worked as a teacher, clerk, and railway cop, careers adviser, and in a camera shop. He danced once on a famous show; they called it ‘Ready, Steady, Go’ My Granddad told...

Read More

‘Stanza Stones’ (3): ‘Mist Stone’

The Mist Stone. ‘Mist’ is one of six poems, on the theme of water, all carved in stone, and located on moorland in the South Pennines area of West Yorkshire. This article describes my walk, past cairns and old quarry workings, to the ‘The Mist Stone’, high and remote above the village of Oxenhope. Images: all photographs taken by me. Beyond Wet There are four stages of wetness in Yorkshire. First, with sinking...

Read More

‘Stanza Stones’ (2): The ‘Dew Stones’

Dew. ‘Dew’ is one of seven poems written by Yorkshire poet, Simon Armitage, and carved in stone by artist, Pip Hall. The poems – all dedicated to the element of water – are carved on local rock and located on hill and moorland in the South Pennines area of Yorkshire. Six of the stones are publicly accessible in identifiable locations, but the seventh, bearing the simple inscription, ‘In memory of...

Read More

‘Stanza Stones’ (1): The ‘Puddle Stones’

A walk to the Puddle Stones. I live close to Ilkley Moor, a large and untamed upland dominating the West Yorkshire and South Pennines landscape. Ancient man carved symbols into the rocks – and in the last two years more carvings have appeared. But this time Bronze and Iron Age symbols have been replaced by modern poetry. Seven poems: the Stanza Stones, written by Yorkshire Poem, Simon Armitage, have been carved into rock: three...

Read More

Gobly Cake Recipe

Who wants a slice of Gobly Cake? Gobly Cake is a recipe I found in the West Yorkshire Archives today. I was searching for something else and found this instead, and couldn’t wait to try it out. The recipe appears to date back at least 70 years. ‘Gobly’? Most likely because it’s tasty so you want to gobble it down. It’s the sort of daft Yorkshire word you would conjure up here to describe something...

Read More

Lunatics

Lunatics. Lunatics. An ugly word now, but was the common description given in the 19th and early 20th century to people with mental illnesses. A few miles from my home stood a large psychiatric hospital. It opened in 1888 as ‘The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ and housed a large population of people with mental illness. For many detained there, it was where they lived – and died – their bodies abandoned and...

Read More

Yorkshire Cooking: Herders’ Fattie Cakes

Herders’ Fattie Cakes Recipe. High on the Haworth to Colne road, on the borders of West Yorkshire with Lancashire, stood an old inn: The Herders Inn. Like many pubs in Britain, this one closed a few years ago and became increasingly derelict (see photo at end of this article). In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the inn was a half-way stopping off point for the cattle and sheep drovers who drove their livestock to market along...

Read More

Pirates, Treachery – and Murder: a true story

Pirates. In 1981 I was on holiday in Suffolk, England, when I found a commemorative stone with an intriguing story carved on it, in the churchyard of St. Edmund Church, Southwold. The inscription on it led me to a history trail that stretched from the coastal town of Southwold to the Gulf of Florida in America, and on to Charleston in South Carolina. It led to a tale of piracy, betrayal, murder – and eventually retribution for...

Read More

‘Sacred Hearts’ by Sarah Dunant – A book review

‘Sacred Hearts’ is a novel set in the Benedictine convent of Santa Caterina, Ferrara, in mid 16th century Italy at the time of the Reformation. At that time young women were either sent, willingly or unwillingly, to convents, who required a dowry for their entry to the religious order. The admittance of these young women into nunneries often solved a problem for families: of what to do with a single woman unwilling or...

Read More

Yorkshire Cooking: Fat Rascals

Yorkshire Fat Rascals. Yorkshire Fat Rascal cakes are a timeless favourite in the region, although they were only given this name in recent times. The recipe goes back to the 15th century and is based on a Yorkshire ‘turf bun’, so called because they were often baked on a griddle over a turf fire at the end of the cooking day. Left-over bits of dough and lard were squashed together with honey and fruit and baked into a...

Read More

Yorkshire Cooking: Yorkshire Ale and Rye Bread

Some folk might say to use good Yorkshire ale to make bread is a mortal sin. But as you only use half a bottle in this recipe, you can pour out the rest and enjoy it with a slab of this full flavoured bread and a hunk of Wensleydale cheese. If you do that all will be forgiven, and you will be at peace with the world. Save Print Yorkshire Cooking: Yorkshire Ale and Rye Bread Rating  5 from 1 reviews Ingredients 300g rye flour 200g...

Read More

My First Job

Are practical jokes still played on school leavers starting work these days? In 1963 I left school, aged 16, and started my first job in Oxford Street, London. I had tried without success to find work as a trainee photographer, visiting studios all over London, showing my snaps to hard-grained photographers who laughed me and them away. So the local Youth Employment Officer, in desperation, suggested I start as a junior sales trainee...

Read More

‘Dark Matter. A Ghost Story’ by Michelle Paver

What makes a good ghost story? For me, it is not the appearance of the ghost, spirit or demon, but the build-up of tension, reactions by the haunted to the apparition, and evocative description of location. I like too, a sense of ambiguity about the ‘ghost’ – is there one? Or is it the imaginations of the haunted playing dark tricks on them? Michelle Paver’s novel, ‘Dark Matter. A Ghost Story‘ , has...

Read More

Yorkshire Cooking: Parkin

Yorkshire Parkin. Parkin is a delicious ginger flavoured sponge cake associated with the north of England, particularly Lancashire and Yorkshire. There are regional variations, particularly with the use of spices and sugars – but this recipe keeps it simple and confines the spice to just powdered ginger. Every Yorkshire family that’s worth its salt can make Parkin (sometimes called ‘Tharf cake’), and this is my mother-in-law’s recipe....

Read More

Yorkshire Cooking: Mint Pastry

Yorkshire Mint Pastry. A Hidden Yorkshire Recipe Gem. This is a recipe from Yorkshire that tends to get passed down through families, rather than written in cookery books. It is a combination of garden mint with currants (or raisins) in a plain pastry tart that offers a taste surprise. The blend works surprisingly well, and the smell of fresh mint and fruit hot from the oven is sublime. The main ingredients are stock items in most...

Read More

On Ilkley Moor (Baht ‘at)

Baht ‘at? On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘at. This in Yorkshire-English means “On Ilkley Moor, without your hat” – which would be a daft thing to do, as it’s a bit windy up there. Let me show you around Ilkley Moor, Yorkshire. It’s near my home – I can see it from my window – so it has a special place in my life. And I’d like to tempt you to come and see it for yourself. But bring your...

Read More

The Queen’s Fool

The Queen’s Fool From the 12th to 17th century, most English monarchs paid jesters and fools to amuse and entertain them at court. Jesters were the equivalent of stand-up comedians today – they would clown around and joke; make people laugh (or sneer) at their antics. Royal fools could do these things too, but they often had a closer, more subtle relationship with a king or queen. Royal fools fell into two groups. There were the...

Read More

‘Child in Me’: Short Stories of Childhood

The Realm of Childhood. The realm of childhood can be a place of insecurity, uncertainty, as well as love, trust and boundless optimism for the future. Childhood too, has its own power; a power that children can quickly recognise and exploit. The anthology of 16 short stories, ‘Child in Me’, written for an adult readership, reflects a kaleidoscope of childhood experiences, as remembered by the fictionalised adults or...

Read More

The Mask of Ageing

The Mask of Ageing. The ‘Mask of Ageing’ is a description given to an idea about the match, or mismatch, between how old you look – and how old you feel, think and act. Does the ‘mask’ your age presents to the world truly reflect how you feel about yourself? Does your youthful or aged external appearance connect with your perception of the real you? My article briefly explores this idea. There are...

Read More

Why Ghost Stories Snare Us

“Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses” “Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses”, asserts the prolific writer, Neil Gaiman, author of ‘The Graveyard Book‘. He says: “You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re still here, still safe.” Ghost stories have an enduring...

Read More

The Mystery of the Rocks

A walk to the Weary Hill Stone. I looked back, gasping now for breath. There was an early morning vapour across the valley bottom, but the sun was rising above the town of Ilkley below me, the spire of St. Margaret’s pushing its way through the mist. It was at 6.30 on a summer morning that I walked up Weary Hill on Ilkley Moor on my way to see the ‘Weary Hill Stone’. I knew there were prehistoric carved stones on...

Read More

What Might Britain Have Been Like Under Nazi Rule?

What might Britain have been like under Nazis rule? What might Britain have been like under Nazis rule if they had surrendered to Germany in 1942? This is the central point of the thriller, ‘Dominion’ set in the early 1950s. The author, C.J. Sansom, author of the ‘Shardlake’ Medieval detective series, imagines a post-war nation divided against itself, with many accepting or turning blind eyes to the excesses of Nazi rule...

Read More

Save Our Libraries

Save our libraries Two recent reports have highlighted the cuts facing library services in Britain. In the last 12 months nearly 50 libraries have closed, according to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. And over the last five years a total of 337 have closed in Britain – a decline of over 7.5%. Alongside these closures has been a significant loss of paid librarians – a 22% drop in paid staff over the last five...

Read More

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

Do you believe in ghosts? I had never thought much about this question – until one night in 1968. I was a young policeman on a lonely country beat. That’s me in the photo; the big guy, end of the row, right. And that’s the whole team at the village police station in a rural part of Essex, England, where I was sent after my basic police training. I had visions of fighting crime on mean city streets; a bit like ‘Dragnet’ on...

Read More

Wakes Cakes

Wakes Cakes The origins of Wakes Cakes dates back to the 7th century. Wakes days (and later weeks) in Britain were periods of localised celebration in honour of a patron saint of a particular church or parish. It was traditional to keep watch, or ‘wake’, in church on the eve of the dedication day, but over time the wake became an evening of feasting, often in the church-yard. This gradually degenerated into drunkenness and...

Read More

The Great Beer Disaster

The Great Beer Disaster of 1814. On Monday October 17, 1814, a huge vat of beer burst in the centre of London sending a tidal wave of black porter ale, 15 feet high, flooding into houses, drowning people, and demolishing property in its wake. At the heart of London’s retail centre today is a crossroads, where the Charing Cross Road, intersects with Oxford Street, New Oxford Street, and Tottenham Court Road. Just a few yards along...

Read More

Yorkshire Cooking: Sly Cakes

Sly Cakes. Sly Cakes originated in the North of England, probably early in the 19th century, and is likely to be a regional variation on Eccles Cakes, which were sold commercially in the Manchester area from 1793. Sly Cakes have a pastry surround with an inner core of dried fruits and nuts. It is baked in a rectangle brick-like shape, then cut into squares when cold.   It can still be found made in the Northern English counties of...

Read More

The Last Taboo

How do you tell someone they … stink? I think it must be as difficult today as it was for me 40 years ago. In the early 1970s I worked as a clerk in an East London Youth Employment Service. My job was to register young people under 18 for work and help them find a job. They had to sign on twice a week to get their unemployment benefit, which included checking with me to see what vacancies were on offer. At that time the employment...

Read More

Le Tour (de France) Comes to Town

Le Tour of God’s Own Country. In 2014 the Tour de France started in the mighty, magnificent English region of Yorkshire, and came right through the middle of our small town on the second day. I would find it difficult to identify individual competitors and say much about them. But what I do know is that this is a great sporting event of endurance, guts and stamina – and was one that shook our peaceful community in a...

Read More

My Yorkshire Garden

The Guilty Gardener. I always feel rather guilty when I read of devoted gardeners slogging their guts out every minute of the day, knowing the Latin names for all the plants, and sighing on about the joy of it all. Truth to tell, I would often rather sit and look at it, with beer in hand, rather than get stuck in. However, when I do build up the energy, or more likely, when my wife hard-working wife has shamed me to it, I will don my...

Read More