Wednesday, August 05, 2009

A memory packed holiday in Yorkshire, reunions, church and too much food.

Robin Hood's Bay as seen from the Cleveland Walk in the direction of Whitby. I love that place.
Hi again

It’s been quite some time since my last post but that’s because I’ve been on holiday to England and haven’t had time. Now I’m in Montrondo again for the annual family gathering which is actually coming to an end and finally I have a moment to write my blog and recount the experiences of our holiday in Yorkshire.

As I write my mother-in-law is repairing some old jeans of Eladio’s sitting next to me on the “poyo”. A “poyo” (pronouced the same as pollo = chicken in Spanish) in Montrondo is not a chicken, but a stone slab attached to the houses that people sit on like a bench. The men are cutting wood from the trees they felled yesterday, the women have gone to see the house Primo is building and the girls, Suzy, Laura, Alicia and Paula have come home for a mid afternoon snack. My father will be having his siesta in Murias where he stays at the b+b called El Holandés Errante and where they take great care of him.

It wasn’t just a normal holiday in England. It was the first time we were taking my 90 year old Father back to Yorkshire since he left to live with us in October 2005. I should add for clarification that just the three oldies went; Eladio, my Father and I.

We spent the first 5 nights in Brontë country, at the superb 5 star guest house called Ashmount House in Haworth and the last 3 on the North Yorkshire coast at the charming little fishing village, Robin Hood’s Bay, two very beautiful places that meant so much to my Father and I and brought back many memories from my childhood and our past. At the latter we stayed at Manning Tree Bed and Breakfast. It was not in the same league as Ashmount House, but lovely, simple and clean and with a much nicer landlady. Katy took great care of us there. Thank you very much, by the way Katy, for the raspberry jam you gave my Father, the one your Mother made.
Ashmount House guest house in Haworth which was the old surgery.
We had a very tight programme as there was so much to pack into the 8 days. The first day was spent visiting Haworth, the parish church and the Brontë parsonage museum, after which we went for a wonderful walk by the moors where Eladio picked bilberries for my Father.
Eladio picking billberries on the walk outside Haworth.
The walk by the moor in Haworth
Afterwards we drove to one of our favourite places in Yorkshire, Ilkley, where we had lunch at Betty’s, that quintessential English tearoom and walked up to Ilkley Moor for old times sake. This was where my Father used to bring my brother George and I many a weekend and when he used to call me “his little moors girl”. At the time I hated walking but now I love it although I still have an aversion to walking up hills. My Mother would always stay at home as she hated going for walks.
The Brontë Parsonage where the sisters and their family lived. Today it is a museum but just as it was in their day.
That same day we had a reunion dinner at Valya and George Konzeviche’s house in Leeds where we joined by Richard Davies and Misha. Valya had been my Mother’s colleague at Leeds University where they both taught Russian. Richard was also a colleague and is still there. Richard and Misha were both instrumental in the publishing of my Grandfather’s poetry whereby they fulfilled my Mother’s life time dream for which my Father and I are eternally grateful. We had a grand time and the Russian blood in me flourished that evening and even had me singing songs like “Lietat Utki”. The food, as befits the great cook Valya always was, was, of course Russian and the table heaved with delicacies we had not eaten for many years. The reunion was emotional to say the least and brought back memories of my visiting my Mother at Leeds University when I was a teenager and proud she had an office and where Valya would always greet me so lovingly.
Dinner at the Konzeviches
On Friday we went into the centre of Bradford, the home of my childhood and where my Father had lived from 1965 until 2005, a mere 40 years of his life. I always hated Bradford, although I loved the surrounding countryside and vowed I would never live there. I hate it and still do but many memories were stirred that morning as I went from the Halifax Building society to Marks and Spencers and into Boots and all the old shops. It was raining and felt at times as if life had stood still as I watched the inhabitants shopping that morning. The only difference perhaps is that now there are even more Asian immigrants than before. It was difficult to spot white people on Broadway.

Soon it was time to drive to Baildon to Charlestown cemetery to visit my Mother’s grave. My Father and I stood in the rain looking at her tombstone with the inscription which includes some lines from her beloved Father’s poetry. It was a very sad moment.

We soon cheered up as we drove on afterwards passed our old home on Rownwood Road and via Hollin’s Hill where my brother once had a bicycle accident and to Guisely for lunch at the famous fish and chip restaurant, Harry Ramsden’s. We were to be joined by Andy and Amanda who had come down from Surrey to join us for the weekend. Amanda is my childhood friend and Andy was part of our “gang” and also my Father’s former pupil at Bradford Grammar School. The weekend was going to be full of memories for them too as well as for Simon and Gill, Amanda’s brother and wife. Simon too was a past pupil of my Father’s and very much part of my childhood.
Harry Ramsden's world famous fish and chip shop. We always go back there.
Harry Ramsden’s had not changed and we enjoyed our lunch immensely. We all laughed at Andy’s “challenging” portion which he got through with no problems.
Andy's portion of fish and chips.
Our whole stay in Yorkshire was marked by eating and by reunions and Friday evening was going to be the same. Amanda and I were going to drive to Manchester for a school reunion and “the boys”, Eladio and my Father were to have dinner at Embers in Haworth with Andy, Simon and Gill.

Our school reunion dinner was very special. Last year, Amanda and I attended the St. Joseph’s College centenary reunion and that spurred me on to organise a special dinner for a small group of us during our time in Yorkshire. I got together the closest group, Brenda, Ellen, Helen King, Stephanie, Jane, Amanda and myself. The first four all live quite close to each other near Manchester and Jane came from Cardiff for the occasion. Amanda, of course, came from Surrey.
The school girl reunion, class of 1975 at SJC.From left to right: Amanda, Jane, Helen, Stephanie, Brenda, me and Ellen
The evening started off with drinks at Brenda’s and from there we went to Picollini’s in Hale which is apparently Manchester United footballer land. There we were to meet up with Stephanie and Helen, the only two of the group whom I hadn’t seen since we left school in 1975. We had all been part of the Kappa class, except Ellen, and were a close knit group and so all had many memories to share that night. None of us were the “good girls” at St. Joseph’s and it is quite remarkable that we have turned out to be “pillars of society” to quote Amanda. Amongst us that night there was a teacher, two lawyers, a doctor, a highly qualified nurse and two PR professionals. I think we have done Sister Wilfrid, our head teacher at the time, proud or I like to think so. Here are Helen King's husband, Mark's set of photos and here are mine.

The night was not long enough for such a reunion and I know we would all have liked to spend many more hours together. Hopefully we will repeat the occasion, maybe even in Madrid, next year at the same time. At least that is what I have proposed.

The drive back to Haworth was something of a nightmare and we got lost on different motorways despite our sat nav. I had problems when I got to the Ashmount House b+b getting in. I kept ringing Eladio who had agreed to open the door for me when I rang him but he didn’t hear his phone which turned out later to be on silence. To my chagrin, Ray, the owner, heard my timid shouts to Eladio and came down in his dressing gown to open the door. I felt like a naughty school girl just as I had been at St. Joseph’s College. Thus the evening ended fittingly.

On Saturday Simon, Jill, Andy and Amanda came for us and we all set off for a long awaited trip to the Dales. The Dales is the countryside in Yorkshire which is actually a national park and is possibly the prettiest part of England. With its picturesque villages, stone walls, sheep farms, endless green fields and rivers it is somewhere I could happily retire to. When we lived in Yorkshire we would visit them often. I hadn’t been there since the girls were very small and was looking forward to revisiting them as was my Father.

Our first stop, of course, was to eat. Simon and Gill who are locals and know the Dales well, took us to a great little pub called “The Angel” at Hetton near Grassington. It was no less than the 7th best pub for food in the UK so our expectations were high. We were not disappointed, the food was fabulous. The service too, specially the gorgeous looking waiter, Georgio, who came from Georgia! I’d had a couple too many ciders and I asked him if he was related to Stalin!
Lunch at The Angel in Hetton.
From Hetton we drove to Hebden where our long afternoon walk was to begin. We walked along the river Wharfe all the way to Grassington via Linton. I was worried it would be a bit much for my Father but he never haltered, marching with us with the aid of his stick and thoroughly enjoying this glorious walk and afternoon when the sun shone throughout the two and half hours. We passed the superb suspension bridge in Hebden built by William Bell until we reached the bridge at Linton Falls, both with beautiful views of the river. I think this was the day I took most photos in all our time in Yorkshire. The afternoon ended with a cup of tea and beer at one of Grassington’s charming pubs.
On the walk in the Dales
I stopped writing there and have resumed now at home in El Bosque. We got home yesterday and here I am by the pool with Norah at my feet (how I like her best), Suzy working next to me and Eladio cleaning the pool. I can hear the hoover being used by Zena, our Ukranian cleaning lady and it is music to my ears. It is so hot in Madrid, a big change from England I must say.

After Grassington we had dinner at Simon’s, which was a great effort on their part, after having spent the day with us in the Dales. They have a lovely house in Sowerby Bridge near Halifax with an amazing garden. We were joined by the kids: Becky and Abbie, Jake and his new love Tash (Natasha), Jane and Cordelia so it was dinner for 14!!!
The kids at Simon and Gill's
On Sunday morning we did something very unusual. We actually went to church, not to any church but the one in Haworth which is steeped in Brontë history. So why did we go you might ask? Really it was for old time’s sake, a sort of cultural traditional activity. I did it to remember my childhood but also for my Father. He is not religious and in fact told Eladio just as they entered that he is agnostic. But he is, after all, the son of an English vicar and I know he did it for his parents as he told me afterwards. The vicar was a middle aged woman, which was a bit of a surprise but a pleasant one. I wonder what my grandfather would have thought. Singing the hymns had my spine tingling as did taking Holy Communion. I suppose deep down I sort of believe but am not quite sure. Eladio was quite happy to leave at the end and I know he could not fully understand what we felt and why we went. I can fairly say it moved us as I knew it would.
Haworth Parish Church, always a bit gloomy but oh so meaningful to me.
After church Andy came to get us and we drove over the moors to Sowerby Bridge which was a spectacular route. And there waiting for us was a truly British Sunday lunch, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and all the works which Simon had lovingly cooked for us all.
Simon cooking for us all.
As I said our whole trip was full of reunions and the reunions meant more food. That Sunday we were absolutely stuffed but had awaiting us another dinner, this time at the Wrights, our neighbours at Heaton Grove which is where we lived in Bradford. Dinner was to be between 6 and 7 pm (so early for us) but in between we had to visit the Rothschilds, other neighbours at Heaton Grove and we were dreading food there too. Luckily we were only served sherry. I hadn't seen the Rothschilds since I was a teenager when I used to play with their children, Silvia, Joyce and Walter. Both Silvia and Walter are now rabbis. I remember being invited to their sabbath meals on Friday nights which I loved. I also remembering Mr. Rothschild making wine with us out of peaches. That I loved even more.
The Rothschilds at Heaton Grove, as we laughingly admitted, the poorer side of that famous family.
It was funny returning to Heaton Grove, the place my Father lived for 40 years. I only lived there from the age of 7 to the age of 18 but it was my parent’s home and meant so much to me. Our house looked just the same, as did our neighbours, Susan (in her mid 70’s) and her mother, Marguerite, aged 100. Certainly our trip included socialising with old people. They were very pleased to see us and had prepared a splendid dinner, thankfully a light one, on their beautiful dining room table where everything was “just perfect” including the 19th century Spode chinaware we ate off.
Dinner at the Wrights.
That ended our time in West Yorkshire for, on Monday morning, we made our way to the North Yorkshire coast, to that pretty little seaside fishing village near Whitby called Robin Hood’s Bay.

I included them on our programme as both Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay and indeed that whole area meant so much to my Father and I. I was also keen to show them to Eladio and knew he would not be disappointed.
The village of Robin Hood's Bay
My Father and I on the blustery pier at Whitby. That brought back a few memories for us.
We spent our time there exploring both places as well as the surrounding coastal villages of Sandsend, Runswick Bay and Staithes. But what we all liked most were the walks along the cliffs on the path that is called The Cleveland Way Walk. The views from both sides of the walk from Robin Hood’s Bay were spectacular and had we had more time we would probably have spent our whole days walking.
Eladio on the Cleveland way walk. You couldn't have a better backdrop for this photo.
Once again eating was an essential part of our programme in North Yorkshire and, upon the recommendation of my friend Kathryn Lindley, another ex SJC friend, we dined out at Estbek House in Sandsend. She told us we wouldn’t be disappointed and we weren’t. The food was delicious and the service very good too, although at times a little too "precious". The surroundings could not have been more beautiful.
Eladio outside Estbek House in Sandsend near Whitby
We had dinner the other nights at the Wayfarer in Robin Hood’s Bay upon recommendations from Katy at the Manning Tree B+B. It was actually around the corner from the B+B and to quote Katy, “at staggering home distance”. We did not stagger home but did have to fight off the wind and the rain and the cold coming home. Unfortunately the last two days in the area brought awful British summer weather with them.
Manning Tree House b+b in Robin Hood's Bay
The worst part of our trip, and the only bad part, apart from not being able to get into Ashmount House, was the drive from Robin Hood’s Bay to Manchester Airport. The weather was appalling, so much so, we later heard Heathrow had been closed for 2 hours due to storms. However we made it to Manchester in time to go through what I later called an obstacle race to catch our 2 planes, one in Manchester and one in London as unfortunately there are no direct flights. My Father was a hero on both trips, following us up and down escalators and through security and customs and walking endless corridors and refusing wheel chair assistance. I looked around and am fairly sure he was the oldest passenger to be seen. I could have cursed myself later when I realised we could have flown to Liverpool. Oh well, next time.

We arrived back to boiling Madrid to find our friends Andy and Amanda and their daughters Jane and Cordelia who have come to Spain to spend a month in Salamanca learning Spanish. It was late and there was no food at home, so it was yet another excuse to go out to dinner. We went to La Vinoteca in Boadilla and were joined by Olivia whom I hadn’t seen for a quite some time. Suffice it to say it was a fantastic night out.

As always it was great to be back but Yorkshire has left its mark on us all, so much so I think we will be returning next year to rent a cottage in the wonderful Yorkshire Dales.

That’s it for the moment, until my post on the annual family gathering in Montrondo which is where we went the day after we returned from England.

Cheers till then
PS the full set of photos, well the best selection of them, is on Facebook.

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