Digest #3: Saltaire, landlords, the formations of humanity & Leeds

I’ve begun to quite like this digest-style posts. Like a family newsletter, but just about me, and possibly less interesting. Saves me from stretching out  my writing to fill space. Although it does unfortunately mean I don’t really engage with much that I’m writing about – well, not seriously. Maybe I’ll do more of that one day.

Salt Aire

Saltaire from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

Saltaire from the Leeds-Liverpool Canal

I went to Saltaire (check it out: www.saltairevillage.info) last weekend. It really is an amazing place, and it reminded me how lucky we are in Yorkshire when it comes to natural scenery and awesome historic, industrial architecture. I’ve recently finished reading the latest book from The Idler, called Back to the Land, in it, several essays stress the importance of being near nature, greenery and unspoiled spaces to our own happiness, and reports links between urbanisation and depression. It all sounds awfully credible too me, so we’re fortunate to have magnificent dales in Yorkshire like those surrounding Saltaire and well, just about everywhere in the county, really. Between them and our stunning local park, there’s enough greenery to keep me jolly.

The main thing Saltaire is famous for though is the magnificent Salts Mill (www.saltsmill.org.uk). This glorious mill was built by one Titus Salt, a kindly man and mill owner who built the village of Saltaire, the church, the shops, damn near everything (except a pub, he was a Quaker) for his workers, so as to keep them from poverty. How very lovely.

Nowadays, the Mill has a mixed life. Some of it is offices for boring old businesses, but much of it plays home to galleries exhibiting work by Bradford’s very own David Hockney – a great artist who has some very interesting things to say in the aforementioned book by The Idler, look at his impressive work here: www.hockneypictures.com – plus other artists, a great book shop, an art shop, and some smaller not-permanent exhibitions, often rooted in the history of Saltaire and The Mill. There’s a great antique shop too, where I nearly bought a watch and my wife-to-be bought some tins (I’m veering into dull family newsletter ground now).

Saltaire is also on the Leeds-Liverpool canal. Which is great, and seems to pass through loads of interesting places. Bargers must have good taste.

Since this is still, nominally at least, a beer blog as well as me rambling about stuff, it should be pointed out that Saltaire has a brewery, and pubs these days (the most amusigly named, and apparently best, pub is called Fannies [titter]). The brewery is wittily called Saltaire Brewery (www.saltairebrewery.co.uk) and makes some great beers. I had a half of their blonde while in Saltaire and it was a great, light, session ale, with plenty of bitter hoppiness. They make some odder, and more exciting beers too, including a Hazlenut Coffee Porter and a Double Chocolate Stout. Check ’em out.

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Navigation Tavern, Mirfield

Shock horror, I’m actually blogging right now about a pub. That’s not happened for a bit. It was my stag do a week or so ago. It was jolly good fun, me and some chums doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail (I’ve mentioned this before here & here). One of the highlights though has to be arriving at the Navigation Tavern in Mirfield, some 10 or 11 hours in to the trial, having already booked rooms to stay there for the night. As we were pre-warned there was a Motown disco in full swing, we were not, however, warned about the landlord there, Kevin.

The greeting was, perhaps, not as warm as we’d hoped for: “we’ve given your rooms away now lads, you’re not much use to me at this time!” was the opening gambit. We were apologetic, and Kevin seemed to warm to us while we were there (except when one of us sprawled out on the chairs – he was not amused by that). The pub is a proper old community pub, everyone there seems to know each other, it does a range of great ales, and Kevin is clearly the man that the pub revolves around. He was either funny, or terrifying, and we couldn’t quite work out which. We had a good time though, and the rooms cost £30.50 with breakfast, which, plastic eggs aside, was stupendous, and served with the same mix of humour and threatening behaviour as our rooms had been the night before, especially when he found out that my father-in-law to be was a vegetarian – what a look of shock and disgust. It was a proper Yorkshire pub experience.

Away from Mirfield, the other truly awesome pub was the Station Buffet Bar in Staylbridge (www.buffetbar.org). This station side bar looked like it hadn’t had cosmetic work done since the 70s, and the menu hadn’t changed its prices since that decade either. £2.50 for pie, pies and black beans? Yes please. A truly quaint little pub the kind of which you just wouldn’t expect to exist any more.

Stalybridge buffet bar

Stalybridge buffet bar

The Formations of Humanity
Yep, the title did promise that I’d get round to talking about this, and I have look. It’s a subject that surely can’t fail to fascinate. How did we come about to be the dominate creature on the planet? To function in ways that no other creature does, to think in ways that no other creature does. Why do we appreciate and create art and music, and build tools, and yet nothing else does. Obviously I don’t have the answer, but it’s something I keep thinking and wandering about, and I’m keen to learn more about. I’m reading Alice Roberts’ The Incredible Human Journey (read what the Guardian said about it here) in the hope it might teach me something. I’m all ears if anyone has any better sources of info..

Leeds
There’s been loads of interesting debate going on about my home city recently, most notably just here: http://theculturevulture.co.uk/blog/?p=7098. Seems a lot of people are a
little unimpressed by what Leeds offers culturally and how the city present’s itself to the outside world.

And Finally…
If I could get a month or so off work, I’d
bloody love to go WWOOFing, learn some skills in farming and go back to nature for a bit. How very middle class of me.

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General Musings

I’ve not been writing much on this ‘ere blog for a while. Why? Well I guess I’ve not done much exciting beery stuff of recent. Apart from have a pint of Marble 57 at Further North. That was dead nice, marmalade-y and tasty. And I don’t really like just writing about what I’m drinking. It’s a bit tedious.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I’m going to start doing some non-boozy writing on this blog. So I might have to change the strap line from “A Leeds Drinking Blog” to something new. Oh I do hope my readers don’t abandon me.

So, here’s some short (very short, probably, although I’m not sure I’ve not written them yet) bits and pieces that aren’t about beer.

1. Hungry City
I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction recently. Learning stuff and that. It’s good. My most recent read has had the most profound effect though. It’s called Hungry City and it’s by Carolyn Steel. It’s amazing. It’s all about how food shapes the cities we live in, how these shapes are changing, and what effect this is having on the food producers (getting screwed), us (getting fat) and the supermarkets (getting really, really fucking rich). Within 50 pages I’ve decided to radically cut back on how much meat I eat (living with a vegetarian I don’t each much anyway, but I’m probably on about two or three meat dishes a week now, max) and to try and eat far more organic, fairly traded food (which is easier when your amazing street has a food co-op of sorts on it).

that final point brings me on the musing 2:

2.  Community Spirit
The street I live in in Meanwood, Leeds, is amazing. We have an annual street party (which happened this year in torrential rain thanks to the hard work – and massive tarpaulin – of a few people on the street), one of my neighbours (who may well read this) has been known to drop a couple of bottles of homebrew outside my door, we have a food co-op (of sorts), we actively socialise with each other fairly regularly. I love living here, and it’s a shame there aren’t more streets like it.

3. I Want To Ride My Bicycle
I don’t own a bicycle yet, but there is one in my front room about 3m from me. My neighbour is flogging it, and I want it. I may well close the transaction later this evening, all being well. I want a bike because my walk to work takes me 45 minutes, a bike ride will take a fraction of the time, and make me fitter. And I’ll drive less, which will be cheaper, and more fun, and more environmentally friendly.

4. Eels & Low
I’ve been listening to a lot of
Eels and a lot of Low recently. They’re two stunning bands. May I recommend ‘Old Shit/New Shit’ by Eels (it makes me want to dance around with my arms in the air) and ‘Starfire’ by Low (slow, ponderous, but somehow elegiac. I won’t try and describe them to you, just listen.

5. Politics
Anyone who follows my Twitter (@tomas311) will have noticed I was pretty pissed off with the result of the General Election. I really hate them Tories, and I suspect they’re going to do their level best to screw the North of England again. I know it’s hard times for the country, and I’m not clued up enough to know whether there are any real alternatives to their plans. All I know is that I don’t trust them, I think their ideologies are all wrong, and even a bit despicable. Maybe we could devolve the North?

6. Work
Politicians bang on about work, about how proud and empowered it makes people and about “doing the right thing” (ie working full time for some 50-60 years, saving up loads and retiring). I don’t like this attitude. Sure, some people do feel empowered by their work and love it (it probably helps if you’re on an MPs salary and making country-changing decisions day-to-day), but we’re really geared us a country to make work the be all and end all of what we do. It’s a bit sad, really.

7. Some Stories (I’m stopping now)
I went to see an amazing piece if theatre at Temple Works in Leeds, called Some Stories, read my review here, and look out for it coming back to Leeds (it might). Some Stories