A year in pictures – 2014

Having bought a DSLR camera late in the previous year, I thought it would be interesting to pull out one photo from each month in 2014. This was a difficult task, like judging the goal of the season competition on Match Of The Day.  However, the decision is made. Here is my year, one picture for each month.

January 2014

2014 in pictures
Granary Wharf on a cold night in January

This was before I had started my attempts to conquer all of the dials and settings on the camera, so still in Auto mode. I was keen to get out and about regularly to justify the outlay! It was a very cold, crisp night so I didn’t wander far. This is from about thirty yards from the front door to our building, looking towards the bridge. I just liked the colours.

February 2014

2014 in pictures
Golden light in Tenerife

In February, we were lucky enough to go to Tenerife for the second time in three months. The difference was that I had been on the dial and setting conquering course so the camera was out of Auto. Not a massive step to some but a bit scary. I certainly had a few ‘what the hell happened there’ moments when things didn’t turn out as I envisaged Here I was trying to capture the soft light against the orange wall from our hotel balcony at the Villa Cortes. Today I would probably be tempted to tweak in Photoshop but, at the time, didn’t know how!

March 2014

March 2014

Ruth was now getting used to me having to stop on street corners like a puppy (not quite – I was taking pictures not peeing on lampposts). This was on the way back to the train station in Saltaire after a day walking the canal, wandering around Salts Mill and drinking tea.It is very rare to get this kind of shot without cars parked everywhere. By now, I could have attempted removal of the van with Photoshop but decided I quite liked it.

April 2014

2014 in pictures
Railway tracks in Golden Acre Park, Leeds

The first signs of Spring took us to Golden Acre Park in Leeds.  The sun shone for what seemed like the first time in months. Lots of close up pictures of blossom, squirrels and ducks but I thought this was the most interesting. I admit the strange angle was added later.

May 2014

May 2014By May I felt I had taken shots of most bits of Leeds but, the big advantage of living in the city centre is that things are constantly changing. The iconic Yorkshire Post building on Wellington Street was being demolished. I always find scenes like this fascinating as it gives you a glimpse behind closed doors, quite often into the past. My main memory of being inside this building was attending Spanish lessons in the early nineties – strange.

June 2014

June 2014Now the sun was out! This was the weekend of the Food Festival and Leeds was gearing up for the Tour De France. After a few drinks and snacks in Millennium Square we headed towards home and a few more out drinks and snacks at the Engine House. This is looking back towards the courtyard at the Midnight Bell with Candle House in the background.

July 2014

2014 in picturesPicking one shot from July was particularly difficult with lots of long, sunny days out with the camera. In the end it had to be something from the most memorable of these, the Grand Depart of the Tour De France. We were in position early, at the bottom of the Headrow – outside the Lloyds branch. We stood for around four hours, much of it in the rain but, just before start time, the sun came out and the atmosphere was terrific. Mark Cavendish smiled for the camera but Chris Froome looked a bit scared of falling off – wisely as it turned out!

August 2014

2014 in pictures
Hay making in the Lake District

We enjoyed a fantastic week away in the northern Lake District. It felt like we had the place to ourselves when you consider the choking traffic just a few miles south around Windermere.  This is taken from the top of the lane that leads down to the car park at Loweswater, with Buttermere just visible behind the trees.

September 2014

2014 in pictures
The locks at Apperley Bridge on the Leeds – Liverpool canal

I had one of those moments when I wasn’t sure what button I had pressed, but all my shots on this morning were black and white! I didn’t notice until I got home but I think they still work. This is standing on top of one of the locks, looking towards Harrogate Road with our old apartment just out of shot behind the trees. Another great summer’s day that I seemed to have all to myself.

October 2014

2014 in pictures
The deli at Livin Italy

We called into Livin Italy for a drink and the only seats were right next to the deli. It felt like torture – everything looked fantastic. As we were out for the night I didn’t have the camera with me but the iPhone did a pretty good job. I love the colours in this almost as much as the porchetta (bottom left).

November 2014

2014 in pictures
A dry stone wall on top of Otley Chevin with a storm coming in

One of my favourite spots has always been Otley Chevin. I have been up there a couple of times with the camera during the year but never quite done the stunning views justice. I was walking back to the car when I saw the restored wall. I got a few shots before the downpour started!

December 2014

 

2014 in pictures
Just as the sun is rising, taken from City Pier, Anna Maria, Florida.

Three weeks in Florida was the perfect way to round off 2014. Anna Maria is a tiny island off the west coast of Florida. It is narrow enough to walk to whichever coast has the best light at the time. This was taken just as the sun rose above the horizon. The fishing boat had been out all night and chose the exact moment to come into shot. The Grouper was near perfect at lunchtime as well.

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Wine – is a little knowledge a good thing?

Wine – is it worth learning the difference between grapes, regions and climates or just go for what is reduced or most expensive?

Most of us have had that moment of panic. You are with a group of friends for a meal; the waiter hands you the wine list and everybody says that you should choose. You have no idea what people will be eating – does it matter? Do you go for the house plonk and look cheap? How about the expensive one at the end of the list – too flash and bound to cause an inquest when the bill comes. My wife maintains that she has never had a poor glass of wine from a bottle with a nice label, but wine lists rarely come with pictures of labels – Livin’ Italy being an exception to this rule. Maybe somebody there works on the same theory. Asking the waiter to recommend something is fine in theory but, in practice is fraught with risk. They may be even more clueless than you and could easily push you towards that bottom end of the list – dangerous territory. The obvious cop out is to pick a red and a white at random from somewhere in the middle of the list and cross your fingers.

Wine - Go by the label?
Wine – Go by the label?

There is another way. Just a little knowledge can go a long way, the rest you can fake. So, you want to learn enough to get by, where do you start?

Whatever the subject, my first port of call tends to be the excellent Dummies series of books and, as you would expect there is Wine For Dummies. This covers all of the basics of wine varieties, regions and how to get the most out of tasting.

If you want something a little more sociable, wine is meant to be enjoyed with friends after all, why not try an organised class or wine tasting session? The Yorkshire Wine School run regular events at both the Radisson Blu in The Light and at Livin’ Italy on Granary Wharf. The Radisson sessions include lunch and introduce the world’s major wine growing regions and grape varieties. You will learn how to taste like a professional and where to buy. Best of all your tutor will guide you through tasting twelve wines As you would expect, two hour sessions at Livin’ Italy concentrate on the wines of Italy and how they pair with different foods. It is worth attending for the nibbles alone!

Wine - Livin Italy - The Deli
Livin Italy – The Deli

My advice with events like this is to drink water as well as the wine and take notes. The memory can prove a little unreliable after a few glasses. Some years ago, on a visit to London, my wife and I spent the evening at Vinopolis, described as a “wine experience” – they weren’t wrong. The huge building near London Bridge is a series of tasting rooms, each dedicated to a particular type of wine. After an introduction where you are taught the basics of tasting, you are armed with a charge card and let loose with detailed tasting notes. A swipe of the card and a machine dispense a small glass of your chosen wine. You then rinse and repeat as often as you wish, touring the worlds wines in the maze of arches beside the Borough Market. Afterwards, you can enjoy a meal in the restaurant and order any of the wines that you tasted earlier – very civilised. After starting out very seriously, reading the notes and comparing the warm and cool climates we started to sound as if we know what we were talking about. As the evening progressed, the notes seemed to be printed in a smaller font and unaccountably caused giggles. There was big talk of hitting the Absinthe room once the wines of the world were exhausted but for some reason we never made it. We did however enjoy a great meal and a terrific night out. We both remember to this day the difference between warm and cool climate wines but after that it is still a bit of a blur – remember to take notes!

If all this fails, you could always try buying what is on special offer at the supermarket! If this is your strategy, why not at least use an app such as Vivino to record your thoughts. It will help you remember what you like (and don’t like) as well as getting the views of others.

So, is it worth learning the basics? Yes, without a doubt. Just as you would with a sport, painting with oils or cooking. Grasp the basics and you open up a world of experiences.

As for that panic moment, with a little knowledge, you will realise that you can’t please everybody. Ask a few questions – do people want something light, fruity or powerful then set your new knowledge to work. If that fails – simply choose something that you will enjoy – the others can please themselves.

FFF

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Super League Neutrality

At this time every year the anticipation starts to build. Re-runs of past Grand Finals on Sky, half hearted pre-seasons friendlies and scanning the sports pages for last minute signings. Super League is back, or will be very soon. This year, there is one big difference. My beloved Bulls are no longer invited to the party.

Don’t get me wrong, I think relegation was deserved. Fans and players alike spent more time worrying if there would be a club at all to worry too much about results. With the odd exception, the results were pretty bleak. There were encouraging signs at the weekend that Jimmy Lowes’ clearout of the squad and rebuilding has gone well. Jake Mullaney looks like a real star in the making.

However, it all feels like I have been dumped; my ex is simply carrying on with life as normal, having a whale of a time and planning a weekend away in Newcastle. In fact, it is worse than that. An ex lover could be unfriended on Facebook and forgotten. But the game I love will be televised several times a week and I am compelled to watch. What’s more, I can’t resist wondering about future performance and who will end up on top! Of course the ultimate goal is to go off with new friends, batter them and get invited back by the ex for next year.

So, can I enjoy Super League as a neutral? As a lover of the greatest game, the obvious answer is yes. I am proud that I have attended every day of every magic weekend so far. I still have the frostbite scars from Edinburgh to prove it. The problem this year is – who do I want to win? I could say I don’t care but that is too much like school sports day where it is the taking part that counts. No, you have to pick a team, but how?

Having moved from Bradford a few years ago to the centre of Leeds, the Rhinos may be an obvious choice for most people. I can see the ground from my apartment window after all. But, come on, I am a proud Bulls fan. It couldn’t possibly happen. St. Helens are out for similar reasons – all those Super League Grand Finals and it wasn’t a knock on by Withers in 1999.

I have nothing against Wakefield, Hull, Hull KR or Salford but, let’s face it, we are likely to be playing them in the second half of the season so they are out as well. Actually, Hull KR – charging an extra two pounds for away fans to sit in an uncovered stand – not forgiven. I have a long if slightly selective memory.

I have always had a soft spot for Paul Anderson since his days as a Bull. He does the right things as a coach and builds success on the back of a good pack. My only reservation is that one or two of the Huddersfield fans still have a chip on their shoulders from all those years struggling. Please – enjoy the good times and start watching your entertaining team with a smile on your faces. Widnes are building in the right way but I am still scarred from working in Runcorn for a while – too close. Nobody said picking a team was based on logic.

Super League - Wigan at Old Trafford
Wigan at Old Trafford

Wigan were always a bit like the Man United of Rugby League so they are out, sorry Paul Deacon. I always enjoy a trip to Castleford and, with Luke Gale organising them they could go a long way this year. Obviously, there is a but coming. If Inter and Milan can share a stadium, surely Cas and Wakey could, making both of their fantasy stadiums a reality. Somebody should bang their heads together. I am not talking about a merger, thankfully that sort of talk is in the distant past, but sharing a ground should be easy.

Super League - Perpignan, France - Home of the Catalans Dragons
Super League – Perpignan, France – Home of the Catalans Dragons

The best place to watch Super League has to be Perpignan, despite the torrential storm that soaked us to the skin a few years ago. The trouble is, each game would involve a couple of weeks away (too nice not to) and it is a long way on the bus – Catalan rejected. That leaves Warrington. Undoubtedly, the best fans in the game at the moment. They turn out in numbers and make a huge noise. They also take the prize for the best fancy dress turnout year in year out. Tony Smith has them playing attractive rugby.

So, is the answer Warrington? Well, no actually. They seem to have developed a nasty case of losing the play-off games that matter and I just can’t face going back to that. My only option appears to be to enjoy every game in Super League, picking a favourite for each based on any one of a thousand daft reasons and make sure that the ex takes me back next year. Roll on 2016.

FFF

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Play To Win – a short story

Play To Win – a short story

When I was your age my passion was “Tin Can Squat”. Does this game still get played? Maybe you know it by another name? Let me explain. The rules were quite simple. Two teams, between two and twenty in a team, depending on who turned up. Each game started with a hunt for the equipment. A tennis ball was usually easy enough, there always seemed to be one around. We all scanned the street in search of ice-lolly sticks. You needed three, each being broken in half to give six pieces. Somebody, usually me, was then despatched to the dustbin to retrieve a medium sized tin. A baked beans tin was best but soup would do just as well. I sometimes had to go to Mrs. Parker’s bin as we mostly used family sized tins after my sister was born.

This size of tin can was perfect
This size of tin can was perfect

The tin was placed in the middle of the street with the sticks on top. The teams stood at opposite ends of the street, twenty paces away from the tin. I usually counted the steps. We once let Lanky Colin mark it but his legs were so long we were standing miles away and nobody scored before it got dark. Each player took a turn to throw or roll the ball at the can. If it hit, your team had to rebuild the pile of sticks on the tin without being hit by the ball. The other team had to get the ball and hit every player before the pile was built. You got a point for hitting the tin, another for rebuilding the pile or one point if you stopped the other team. The team with the most points won. The game was over when the owner of the ball got called in for tea or it got dark or Dr. Who was starting.
Anyway, that summer we played every afternoon. Lanky Colin’s dad was a teacher and organised a five-a-side league. Each street on the estate had at least one team, sometimes three or four. By the third week in August my team had just edged out Smelly Ibbotson’s from Dacre Close to win the league. Lanky Colin and me were in the social club, looking at the league table when we saw the poster.

Tin Can Squat World Championship Final
August Bank Holiday Monday
3pm

England Vs. France

Tombola and cake stall.

“Wow!” I stared at Lanky Colin. “You never said anything about this.”
“Dad told me last night.”
“I didn’t even know they played in France.”
“Dad says these guys have been on telly and everythin’.”
“Let’s go tell the others.”

Slow Mo and Toast were in their garden. They hadn’t seen the poster but soon got very excited. It was Toast who realised the problem first.
“When did you say the match was?”
“Bank Holiday Monday” Lanky Colin and me said together.
“That’s no good. Tweedle went to Blackpool this morning. He’s not back ‘til after the game.”
This was bad. Tweedle was our best player. He could dodge the ball no matter how hard it was thrown and he was the fastest runner on the estate.
“Who else could play?” I asked, panicking.
“What about our Jen?”
“A girl?”
“She can throw a ball harder than you can.”
“True.”
“And she can run quicker.”
True. But a girl!”
I was quickly out-voted. Jen was in the team.

The day of the game was like all of the others that summer, hot and sunny. The difference was the excitement in the air. Lanky Colin’s dad had put red, white and blue balloons all across the front of their house. My dad was running the tombola on the edge of the field next to our garden. All of the neighbours had turned out and all the kids that had played in the league. They would all watch from the field, the match had to be played in the street and gardens.
The French team arrived in a minibus at half past two. Lanky Colin’s mouth dropped open as they emerged, in matching blue tracksuits. All were much bigger than we were. For once it was Slow Mo who spoke first.

“They’re gonna murder us.”Even Toast stopped chewing.

“Look at the size of him.”
It was Jen who snapped us out of it.
“Come on you lot. They might be big but they haven’t got our secret weapon have they?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Me, you idiot!”

Lanky Colin’s dad made a speech to welcome the French team. He said something in French that nobody seemed to understand, and then we all lined up to have the official photograph taken. The French team stood to attention, smiling at the camera. We shuffled about with hands in pockets. As usual Toast had a splodge of jam on his tee shirt. Only Jen stood up straight and smiled. The rest of us looked like a bag of washing.

The two captains were called forward. My nose was level with the cockerel on their captain’s tracksuit. He had his name, Pierre, embroidered on the chest. Lanky Colin’s dad produced a new ten pence and I called heads. It came down tails. Things could only get better. They chose to go first and I pointed to the cul-de-sac end. We took up our positions. The crowd cheered as the French team removed the tracksuits to reveal matching blue shorts and shirts. Slow Mo turned his baseball cap backwards and spat on his hands. I’m not sure what Toast said but it’s probably a good job his dad didn’t hear. Then there was a hush as the tall blond captain stepped up to start.

We crouched nervously behind our line. He rolled the ball, lightning fast all along the ground. It zipped within an inch of the tin but didn’t hit. My turn: two inches wide. The French number two was even bigger than the captain. He collected the ball and stared at the tin for ages. Suddenly his arm came back and he threw. The ball bounced an inch in front of the tin before knocking it in the air. The ball whizzed over my head and landed, first bounce, in Tommy Coleman’s garden. Toast leapt over the privets, the rest of us scattering to head off the French team. The tin was back on its spot by the time Toast got to the ball. His throw was good, keeping low; it struck the Pierre in the middle of his back. One down. I raced after the loose ball. Before I could pick it up I could hear the celebrations. The stack was rebuilt and we were two points behind.
Slow Mo and Lanky Colin both missed on their throws, as did the French. Jen was up next. She rolled the ball slow but straight. She hit the can right in the middle. It wobbled and took forever to fall. She screamed and made for the can. I shouted for her to stop but it was too late. The French team flew into action. Jen, Lanky Colin and Toast were hit within seconds. Toast had made for the cover of his garden while I got behind Johnny York’s Cortina. I ducked just as the ball fizzed over my head. I was round the car and managed to get the can upright with three sticks on it before the ball hit me just behind the ear. As I rubbed my ear, I realised the ball had bounced off me and under the parked car. Slow Mo raced in and got the last three sticks. We were back in the game at 2-2.

As the game progressed, the afternoon got hotter and hotter. Half time was signalled when the ice-cream man arrived at just after four o’clock. We were behind 6-5. Lanky Colin’s dad bought everybody a 99 and we sat on our garden wall to eat them.
“Look at the bruise on my leg” moaned Toast, just before his ice cream dripped onto his tee shirt. Jen inspected her arm.
“I’ve got one here as well. They seem to throw the ball as hard as they can. Look at ‘em. Sitting there with their matching shirts. Let’s make sure we win this.”

“Yeah, come on everybody, let’s do it.”

The game re-started with Slow Mo scoring again. The ice creams seemed to have done the trick and refreshed everybody. The points flowed and, by the time Lanky Colin’s dad blew his whistle, we were in front at 20-19. He explained that there was time for one more throw for each team before the game was over. It was my turn. I knew that two points would mean that we had won.
My team patted me on the back as I picked up the ball. The crowd cheered, then went silent. I could hear my heart pounding as I stepped forward. I had to hit. I steadied myself. Suddenly, as I pulled back my arm to throw, Pierre ran forward, waving his arms, trying to put me off. The crowd booed and Lanky Colin’s dad gave him a good talking to. I turned away and tried to concentrate. With the French team back behind the line, I stepped forward again. I went underarm, rolling the ball along the ground, straight as an arrow. I heard the ball fizz along the road, my eyes glued to it. I set off and ran towards the target but at the last second, the ball bounced up and over the tin. I couldn’t believe it. I put my hands on my head and stared. There was one throw to come.

Pierre stepped forward as I got back behind the line. Two points would win them the title. If he missed or we got the point for stopping them building the tower, we won. I forced myself to look as he lifted his arm. He sneered at me, and then released the ball over-arm. The tin bounced about a foot in the air, the sticks flying in all directions. The scores were level. Toast chased after the ball as I moved towards the tin. He got to it first bounce and let fly at the French team. The ball hit one of them in the back and bounced straight into his team-mate. Two down. I swooped in and picked up the ball. I reached out and touched the tall number four with the ball. Three down with four sticks already rebuilt. Slow Mo called for the ball from behind me. I threw hard. He caught it and immediately passed to Lanky Colin who hit the number two from close range. As I turned, Pierre placed the fifth stick on the can. If he got the last one they won. I called but the throw was too high. My fingers touched the ball but couldn’t stop it. First bounce it was in old Mrs. Smith’s garden. I hesitated. Nobody went near that garden. She would set her big dog on you if the ball went anywhere near. It was Jen who pushed past me and leapt the fence in one go. She shouted at me to get back to the tin. I turned to see the French captain scrabbling on the floor. The rest of his team were screaming at him but still he couldn’t find the last stick. Jen’s throw was low and hard. I caught it and threw in the same movement. The French captain dived to the floor, the ball missing him by an inch.

He was on his feet and searching again as Toast got to the ball. His throw was hard but again the target dodged out of the way. The crowd were cheering and Pierre was getting more and more frantic as he searched for the final stick. I picked up the loose ball. The captain was trying to escape. I passed to Jen who set off in pursuit. I watched in horror as she tripped over the kerb. It all happened in slow motion. Her left knee hit the ground first, then her left hand. Somehow, she managed to twist and throw. The ball missed its target but hit the lamppost. It rebounded and struck Pierre right between the eyes.

We went berserk. Toast and Slow Mo threw their arms around each other, and then remembered Jen who was lying on the ground. We all ran towards her. Her shoulders were shaking. I thought she must have hurt herself quite badly and was crying. She rolled over and we all realised that she was laughing so hard that the tears were rolling down her face. We picked her up and carried her on our shoulders towards our garden where Lanky Colin’s dad had set up the cup on a little stand. Everybody was clapping and slapping us on the back.
The French team were still arguing amongst themselves when I was presented with the trophy. We’d done it. We were world champions.

I think about that afternoon every week when I dust the mantelpiece. I still have the small silver cup. It sits in the middle, next to the photograph of Jen and me at our wedding. On the other side, in a little glass case, is half a lolly stick; the one they couldn’t find!

FFF

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Can Leeds a big city without a Premier League team?

Can Leeds be classed as a big city without a Premier League team?

Bridgewater Place
Bridgewater Place in evening sunshine

I always had a very hazy view of where Shropshire was. My knowledge of geography was largely based on following the exploits of Leeds United in the seventies. So, whilst I knew that Ferencvaros was in Budapest and Juventus played in Turin in Northern Italy, Somerset was a complete mystery, with no football league team. There was the odd non-league impact in the FA Cup but, largely, Somerset may as well have not existed. Maybe it didn’t exist – who knows?  My knowledge has now widened, thanks to life experience and getting lost on the way to Devon, but also, Yeovil were admitted to the league in the nineties. There are other counties without teams – Cornwall at least and who knows what else is lurking down south? The point I am gradually rambling towards is that the perception of a large section of the UK population and, these days the rest of the world, is based on weekly TV coverage of the Premier League.

So, can Leeds be classed as a big city without a Premier League club? The obvious competition is not encouraging. Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool all have two each, whilst London has six, admittedly including QPR and Crystal Palace which will probably prove temporary.  As you would expect, these top four cities in terms of population dominate the league. Leeds is fifth, followed closely by Sheffield, Middlesborough (Teesside), Bristol and Bournemouth – all outside the Premier League. It is only Stoke at 11 that has representation. Punching above their weight are Hull (24th in population), Burnley (43rd).

Kasabian at Leeds Arena
Kasabian at Leeds Arena

I admit that my view may be a little narrow. How does Leeds rate on other facilities associated with big cities?  As a music lover, the most glaring omission was a large concert venue. Of course, the Arena has more than made up the shortfall in that area. Some of the biggest names in entertainment (and McBusted) have been drawn to the superb venue. As a result, large numbers flock to the city to spend their money rather than the flow being to Manchester, Sheffield and even Nottingham.

There are many wonderful places to eat in Leeds but not a single Michelin star between them. Obviously, the list is dominated by London but Bray boasts four, albeit with a rubbish football team.  It is probably in one of those counties that doesn’t exist.

Grand Depart
The Grand Depart as Leeds puts on a show

I could go on and quote numbers of museums and the like but, you know what, I don’t care! The very essence of what makes Leeds special is that its size is manageable. I can walk across the city centre and be anywhere in 20 minutes – try doing that in Manchester or London. I like the fact that I can walk into bars and restaurants and be greeted by name – you don’t even get that in most workplaces in the capital. The city is vibrant and constantly changing – just look at the number of cranes on the skyline. A large student population keeps it young at heart with a lively live music scene. We still have a thriving, independent retail sector, not relying on the large chains that make most town centres replicas of each other. We need to cherish places like the Corn Exchange and make sure it sits comfortably alongside Trinity and Victoria Gate. We know how to put on a show – just look at the Tour De France. Think what kind of show we could put on for the European City of Culture. Leeds Loves Food, Live At Leeds, Leeds Festival, The Waterfront Festival – all firmly established as part of the calendar alongside many more.

It is not perfect, far from it. Manchester’s tram system would be great, but would it be worth the years of disruption to achieve? Rather than a headlong rush to be the biggest, let’s embrace what makes Leeds a great place to live and, until United allow us to live the dream again, maybe the Rhinos and Yorkshire cricket will continue to fly the flag. (As a lifelong Bulls supporter that last sentence was really difficult.)

FFF

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I looked like gravy in human form

They say that fashion is temporary but style lasts forever. I like to think my first work suit fell into the latter category but suspect not.It was a brown, three piece job, a bargain at £14.95 from Hepworth’s, one of the many tailoring chains then based in Leeds. I complemented the ensemble with a knee length, corduroy overcoat – again in brown. With matching suit and tie, I looked like gravy in human form. The coat proved to be pretty much useless at its primary function, namely, keeping the cold out. I remember being picked up from work to travel to Hartlepool for an FA Cup tie. It was January 1979 (just looked it up!) and Leeds won 6-2 but the wind off the North Sea must have been the coldest thing on the planet that night.

The journey to work each morning involved an hour on the 56 bus to Dewsbury. (I could have pretended another form of transport to refer to the gravy train but decided against). A few weeks into my glittering career disaster struck in the form of sitting on some chewing gum. After an hour, steaming on the damp bus, I was well and truly stuck to the seat. I tried to stand (frankly the alternative of life spent riding endlessly between Bradford and Dewsbury was easy to resist). There was a moment when the velour seat and brown suit seat fought a battle to see which could hold the gum longest and the trousers won.  I walked slowly around the corner to work, dreading the inevitable piss taking.

In that situation, everybody is an expert. I now know that putting the trousers in a freezer for an hour would have worked but not very practical in a bank, particularly when wearing only two thirds of a brown suit. Eventually, I was despatched to Boots to buy a bottle of carbon tetrachloride, the fluid used by dry-cleaners. Remember, this was the seventies and many dangerous things were freely available! I suspect this is not possible now in a country where paracetamol is only allowed in tiny packets. Another thing to have disappeared since the seventies is the role of bank messenger. Donald, chief messenger, was a lovely bloke, fond of a show tune in the afternoon and teller of the filthiest jokes I had ever heard. He was tasked with scrubbing at the offending spot with the evil smelling chemical. He insisted on doing this in open view of the entire office with a running commentary that left me blushing many weeks later. The final piece was removed to the refrain of ‘gotcha, you little fucker’ and a spontaneous round of applause broke out in the bank.

Donald
Every office should have a Donald

Every office should have a Donald. It was his instruction that enabled me to make a round of drinks for over thirty people with every conceivable combination of coffee, tea, sugar and milk that was humanly possible. I got it right every time – the consequences of error were just too terrible to contemplate. Today’s trainees get it very easy! I also got to help Donald with a job that would definitely be banned today. The banks in the town had an informal agreement that if one was running short of cash on a particular day, the others would help out. Donald soon twigged that walking around town with  briefcase full of used tenners was eventually going to draw attention from some of the many local villains. Instead, the two of us used to set off with pockets stuffed full of cash – sometimes as much as thirty grand. This was very exciting for a 17 year old in a brown suit.

Apart from the show tunes, one of Donald’s favourite topics was dog shit, the volume of it on the streets of the town centre and what he would do to the owners of the culprits. You can imagine. That brings me to the point of this ramble, if indeed there is one – PooPrints. What a brilliant idea for a business! Just in case you missed it in the papers this week and your mind is off on some bizarre Jackson Pollock weirdness, hang on a second. There is a company (American obviously) that offer a service of matching DNA found in dog poo to a database of dogs – genius. Apparently, where the scheme has been rolled out, dog poo has completely disappeared from the streets.This would make Donald very happy. But why stop there? A human database would mean we could be freed from bogeys stuck to the underside of desks, people who don’t understand the curtesy flush and, of course – chewing gum on pavements and bus seats.

Let me know if there are any other service my new company can offer!

FFF

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