Saturday, January 27, 2018

A week in January in West Yorkshire, learning new English words and expressions and a weekend with the girls in Manchester and other stories

Manchester, Sunday 28th January 2018

The 4 of us in Manchester - on Friday afternoon just after Suzy had arrived from London.
Hi again from England folks.

Well it's been a pretty cold and wet week here. Of course it is January so it was to be expected and we didn't come for the weather although we would have preferred a few more rays of sunshine and more than just the odd dry spell.

I left off last Sunday the morning after we had arrived in Keighley. While our guests Kathy and Phil and my husband were fast asleep, I got up very early and made my first cup of coffee in this house. It was strange not to have the dogs around me and I kept feeling guilty about poor little Pippa who would be wondering where I was.

After a lovely breakfast together, we got wrapped up as warmly as possible. Eladio wore his "puffer jacket",  the former being a new word for me in the UK, we set off. I was to learn more new English words and expressions this week to add to my depleting English vocabulary which of course stopped growing in the early 80's when I went to live in Spain and as modern life progressed here I didn't keep up with many new words which were added to the English language.  Every time my friends used an expression or word which was new to me, I wrote it down on a piece of paper to remember later.  Some of them were quite exclusive to Yorkshire and I knew them but hadn't heard them for years. The latter were music to my ears and always made me laugh. Actually just being with Kath and Phil is a laugh a minute. 

But back to our first morning. It was snowing as we left which was funny as I had told Kathy I would love to see some snow while we were here and she had promised to arrange it. She certainly did hahahaha. 
Kath and Phil's Yorkshire stone Victorian house
And here we are on the doorstep of their lovely Victorian terrace house just as we set off.
All wrapped to go out for a walk on Sunday morning

Our friends took us for  walk up to a country lane beyond their house along fields with sheep and what would have been good views of Keighley and its surroundings if the weather had been better. I had to be very careful not to slip. Here are Phil and Eladio walking in the snow very well wrapped up. In fact Eladio wore his thick puffer jacket under his duffel coat. It was not a bad idea to wear two coats in that weather. He also wore a wooly hat under his hood. 
Phil and Eladio walking in the snow
At the top of the hill we reached Phil's boyhood house, a beautiful large Yorkshire stone semi detached called Holllins Cottage but it was  much larger than a cottage. His elderly mother had recently sold it to move in with her daughter and I'm sure that was an emotional loss for both of them. It's funny how we get so attached to our houses. I was always attached to ours in Heaton Grove in Bradford which was my childhood home. However, I am not attached to the house we live in now, however nice and big it is, as we have only lived there for 12 years. 
Eladio and Phil outside his childhood home, Hollins Cottage in Keighley
We carried on walking and came to a flood in the road so had to turn back. The intention was then to walk to Cliff Castle and park, perhaps Keighley's most famous landmark which has been recently restored but the weather took a turn for the worse so there was no other option than to walk home.

We came home to a cup of tea or coffee, depending on one's preference and sat in their lovely lounge with a log fire, chatting and generally catching up on each other's lives. There was lots to share. 

We were to have a true British Sunday roast but it was planned for the evening, so for lunch we had a tuna salad. In England, vs Spain, the main meal of the day is dinner and lunch is generally a smaller affair. It being nearly 3 pm our time, Eladio and I were hungry. The men then had a siesta and Kathy and I sat in the lounge laughing and talking endlessly. We never run out of things to talk about which is what I love so much about my friend. I have to say we felt so at home in their house and  very welcomed. 

It was after the siesta that Phil, the chief chef here and he is a good one, started doing the pork roast on a slow oven. It would take 3 hours. Meanwhile Kathy and I drank chilled white wine and I helped myself to all the nuts and raisins offered to us. Thus I would not be very hungry when the meal was ready but I couldn't resist them. 

When the 4 of us are together we mix Spanish and English and talk both languages and continually ask each other how to say a certain word or expression in either English or in Spanish. Phil, as I told you last week, was a teacher of Spanish, the language he learned when he lived in Colombia many years ago. I don't know why but we got onto the Spanish word "cojones" which means "balls". Kathy, who understands quite a lot of Spanish, was being given an impromptu lesson in Spanish. So we explained to her how never to mix it up with similar words such as "cajones" (cupboard drawers) or "cojines" cushions which had us falling off our seats in laughter. She, in turn taught me a few new expressions and words in English which were new to my vocabulary. She described a certain situation as it having gone "tits up", an expression I understand but have never used. Then we tried to think of an equivalent in English and could only think of "pear shaped", both of which were damned difficult to translate into Spanish or explain to Eladio. Other new words and terms I learned this week were things like: "he got the short straw", "tree surgeon" and "white coat syndrome". There would be more such as "scratters" (the lowest of the low in the UK in urban language), "everything in the garden is rosy" or "not the full shilling", possibly my favourite.

In all our laughter and chatter, Phil burned the roast potatoes and had to do them all over again. Thus we ended up eating so late. However, the wait was well worth it. This was our delicious English pork roast we had that night.
True British roast dinner - pork roast which we had last Sunday night
None of us could eat another morsel so skipped on the promised Eton Mess dessert unfortunately. We were all so full it would have been far too heavy. But don't worry we would have it another day.

Once again we chatted until late, about travel which was a much lighter topic than the one about the problems with our ageing and elderly parents with all their ailments and problems of looking after them. It would be a much commented topic throughout our stay as of course it is on all of our minds all the time.

We finally made it to bed at nearly 1 in the morning which is extremely late for me. We had had a wonderful day.

Monday dawned and it was raining outside again although rain was not forecast. The plan for that day was to visit Malham, a beautiful village in the Yorkshire Dales but first we had to go shopping. We went to our friends' local supermarket which is Sainsburys, one I particularly like. Here I stocked up on underwear, toiletries, fruit, bread for Eladio and a few other things until it was time for checkout. I had no idea what the process is as I don't live here. Sometimes I think I'm English, yes, but that I'm on another planet as I don't know how many day to day things work as they have changed drastically since when I lived her more than 40 years ago. Thankfully we didn't have to face the self service check out which is so abundant now in the UK as there I get completely stuck. And here we are Kathy and I at the till. I also have to say that the choice of products and range of products at Sainsburys is so large it is actually a little overwhelming for me, used to Spain's much humbler Mercadona hahaha.
Shopping at Sainsbury. Love it. 

I bought lots of things but later realised that I should have looked at the footwear section to get some suitable boots as my Geox trainers would be totally inadequate for the our wet and slightly muddy walks in The Dales. 

I think Monday was the least rainy day of this week so really it was the best day for walking in The Dales. Our friends took us to Malham which we love and which bring back many memories from when I was a child and teenager  living in Yorkshire.

In Malham on Monday morning
I also remember it a lot from my girl guide days. I know Malham and have visited the famous Malham Cove, Malham Tarn and Gordale Scar many times but had never been to its other famous landmark, Janet's Foss. Foss come from old Norse meaning a waterfall and Janet comes from a tale about fairies. Well it was quite  magical place I must say.
At Janet's Foss
Of course it would have been better to visit Malham in finer weather.  The paths were very wet and I got my feet wet but there was not much I could do. The photo below is of Eladio and I on that wet but lovely path to Janet's Foss.
With Eladio on our wet walk in Malham on Monday to Janets Foss
January is certainly not the best month to come to Yorkshire but even so I loved it. We walked down back into Malham via sheep littered fields, many of them in lamb and made our way to a famous pub there called The Buck
The dog friendly pub in Malham
Here we entered what was a very dog friendly location, nothing like we have in Spain where you can't take your pet anywhere. Everywhere were signs welcoming dogs. At the front of the pub it said "Muddy boots and dogs welcome".  I particularly liked this sign which is typical British humour haha but with a lot of truth in it. 
The sign at The Buck in Malham 
By the fireplace there was a bowl of water for dogs and even a treats' tin. I also spied two baskets, one with towels for dirty dogs and one with towels for clean ones. 
Towels for dogs at the pub in Malham
We had lunch at The Buck and we all chose fish and chips. Eladio and I were craving for them and were not disappointed as those served at this pub were of excellent quality.

Fish and chips at The Buck in Malham
Choosing the dessert which we didn't need at all as we were already full, was difficult as I liked nearly everything on the menu. In the end I went for what must be one of my favourite British puddings, "sticky toffee pudding" which I can never resist hahaha.

Sticky toffee pudding, what a treat. At the Buck in Malham
After lunch we went for another walk as luckily it had stopped raining. The paths were still muddy though with lots of puddles. We were well equipped except for our footwear. We decided to walk to the famous limestone Malham Cove which is really a giant rock with caves inside and a river running from inside into the Malham Beck which eventually pours into the Aire River, one of the  main Yorkshire rivers.  Both were overflowing, something we are not used to in Spain where we are undergoing a drought at the moment. 

Off we went out of the village to Malham Cove passing fields on our way with stiles (gates) warning that it was lambing season and that dogs should be kept on their leashes. I love the way the Brits look after their countryside. Spain could learn a lesson or two here.

The stile with the lambing season warning on the path to Malham Cove

Love the signage not to disturb the lambing season in the Yorkshire Dale national park
Malham Cove did not disappoint. This huge limestone rock formation  is a major landmark in the Yorkshire Dales.
Malham Cove
I would have loved to climb the 220 steps up the side of the rock to the top but it was far too slippery. Thus we shall have to come back one day to do so in  dry weather.

It was nearly 5 pm and dark when we walked back to the village and time to go home. On our way, our friends stopped at a lovely farm house shop called Keelhams which has the most exquisite display of local Yorkshire produce as well as other gourmet food, drink and kitchen ware. I loved the place. It is near Skipton and no doubt I shall be going there again one day. I do hope so.

We came home to rest and have a cup of tea and chatted in our friends' warm and inviting lounge until it was time for dinner. Phil served us a superb salad with cold pork and beef which was followed by a sort of Eton Mess, another of my favourite British desserts. We went to bed past midnight which is very late for me but I was on holiday so who cares.

Tuesday came and it wasn't raining when I got up and afterwards would remain more or less dry. I was up late, at 7.45 UK time which is amazing for me. Maybe it was due to the cider I had drunk the evening before or simply the Yorkshire air. 

That morning our friends took us to visit Cliff Castle which had been recently restored. I had only once visited it and that was when I was a child aged about 7. It was on the day of Winston Churchill's funeral I clearly remembered. I was bored by it and having come into some money, possibly half a crown, for my birthday, my brother and I decided to go on a little trip but didn't tell our parents. We took the bus on our own and went to Keighley to see Cliff Castle. The only thing I remember clearly was the toy section of the museum which I loved and was keen to see again this week. We got into huge trouble by the way when we eventually returned home. So 53 years later I found myself standing in the grounds of the castle and remembering the day I visited it with my brother George. It is an impressive building as are the grounds and inside there is much to see; the reception and ball rooms and many items from the original owners, as well as costumes, tools from the time and a lot of WW2 memorabilia such as rationing cards and gas masks. 
Cliff Castle, the main landmark in Keighley
It was built  in around 1870 by mill owner Christopher Netherwood. It was the wool trade in the Industrial Revolution in Yorkshire and Lanchashire that made many men rich. Later it was sold to a local businessman, Henry Butterfield a Victorian mill owner and millionaire. He made it even grander. In the middle of the 20th century I think it was bought by the local authorities and became a museum and park.  

I was particularly interested to see the antique toy section which I remembered from my escapade when I was only 7. It was still there and just as  how I remembered it.
The toy section of the Cliff Castle museum
Later we walked in the extensive grounds admiring the glass conservatories, statues and lake. Of course we had to have photos taken by the lake. They came out a bit dark owing to the poor light from a very cloudy day.
Kathy and Phil at Cliff Castle by the small lake

Eladio and I by the small lake at Cliff Castle
We left the park, extremely impressed by what we had seen I should add, and walked into town. It was funny to see a huge mosque opposite the castle grounds. There are many mosques in Keighley which is because of the large Asian population. I wonder what Mr. Butterfield would have thought about that hahaha.

Kathy took us to a discount store called TK.Max or something like that. Here I got some kitchen ware which I look forward to using when I go home.

We all made a quick lunch and then Kathy I left to go shopping and pick up her youngest grandchild, 3 year old Freddy, from his nursery school. Phil stayed behind cleaning and Eladio rested. At Sainsbury's I got more great underwear and we bought enticing cold cuts for  dinner later that week. Freddy's play school was in Skipton and there was quite a lot of school traffic getting there and coming back. I loved his little play school where the children were sitting in a circle eating a snack and listening to their monitors or teachers. Little Freddy was surprised to see me as he had expected Kathy, his grandmother and "grand dad" to pick him up. He kept asking where "grand dad" was.  Once home, Phil got out his treasured miniature car collection which he had had when he was a boy and which his grandchildren adore. Kathy and I had fun playing with him and the cars as you can see in the photo below.
Playing with Freddy. Notice how his Grandmother plays with him while enjoying her gin and tonic hahaha.
Freddy adores Phil's  miniature car collection and we played with him, creating a game on the table which he loved. We played the colour game, putting cars of the same colour together and I chuckled as he said "wed" instead of "red" when we lined up the red cars hahahaha. It was a great game which the 3 of us enjoyed.

I fell in love with this little boy. You may know that babies do not interest me at all but I love toddlers when they can  walk and talk. Freddy was a laugh a minute too with his "Man United" football shirt on. Apparently he won't wear anything else but football kit haha. I loved the way he talked, making typical mistakes for a child his age. So instead of saying "I fell", he would say "I falled". He was very well behaved by the way, something to appreciate in this day and age when children are pampered and over protected.   His mother picked him just before we sat down to dinner and I was rewarded with a huge hug and cuddle when he left. 

We had another great dinner that night, courtesy of our in house chef Phil; gammon with jacket potatoes and runner beans. That evening Oli's latest programme on Spaniards living in Montpelier in France was broadcast but we couldn't watch it from the UK and would have to wait until we got home. I'm looking forward to seeing it. 

Wednesday morning was dark and wet. It was the day we had planned to visit York, that most majestic of British cities famous for its cathedral called a Minster, its Roman Walls, railway museum, Castle Museum and the "Shambles", supposedly the narrowest street in England. 
York Minster, as magnificent as ever
My first visit to York was as a very small child on a school trip there which I always remember because my parents gave me a whole pound note to spend. No doubt I spent it all on sweets hahaha. This ancient Roman walled city is also the seat of the northern capital of the Church of England and is one of the most beautiful and most popular towns for tourists in the country. I had been back many times and with Eladio but it was perhaps 15 years or so ago since we had last visited it and I never tire of beautiful York. 

We set off a bit late after a lovely breakfast together and believe it or not it wasn't raining and didn't do so all day. However it was bitterly cold when we reached York. In fact we were so cold Kathy and I rushed into the first clothes shop we saw to buy a jumper each to go over the ones we were wearing and a scarf and hat. It was H&M and it was one of those times when I go there that I like nearly everything I see. Kathy did too. In fact we liked and bought the same jumpers haha. One of them was orange as you can see in the photos and we looked like sisters!!!  It was rather a hilarious moment and we had other people laughing in the store. 
At H&M buying jumpers in York
They were in the sales and only cost about 10 pounds each so I bought 2 jumpers. Kathy got 3 hahaha. From H&M we walked into the centre and were soon in The Shambles, the most famous street in York. It dates back to medieval times and was even mentioned in The Doomsday Book. It got its name from all the butcher shops which used to be there. They were bloody and a mess owing to it being the place where animals were slaughtered in ancient times and thus the word "shambles" crept into the English language to describe a mess, chaos and disorder.  That I learned from our guide and friend Phil. Here we had to have a photo to remember our visit to this street where the ancient timber buildings nearly touch each other in some places.
Eladio and I at The Shambles in York on Wednesday this week
Kathy and Phil at The Shambles too
There are no butchers shops left there but there is a small market called The Shambles Market. Here we bought dressed crab, a delicacy I can only find in England and absolutely adore. We bought it from a fishmonger who told us it came from "sunny Whitby". We would have it later that night for dinner.
The fishmonger who sold us the dressed crab at The Shambles Market
To go with our crab we needed bread and came across the most amazing little bakery in The Shambles. It had an Italian name which was rather ridiculous for York but I must say the bread was superb. Here is Eladio standing outside with the bag of bread we bought. 
Buying bread in York
They had a large display to choose from and we were told the bread was baked on the premises. I was particularly attracted to the mini Hovis loaves I knew from my childhood and which we used to buy from Chubs on Oak Lane in Bradford. They were called "penny loaves" then but they are now sold for 60 pence each!

After a quick glance and photo taking  of the Minster, we wandered into another famous street in York, "Stonegate". We were on our way to Betty's, the well known  Yorkshire tea rooms, and came across a Betty's there which we didn't know existed. We learned there are 2 tea rooms in York and this was the smaller one. The advantage of going into the smaller one was that there was no queue, at least when we went in.
The Betty's we had lunch at in York
We were quickly ushered to our table by an open fire by beautifully uniformed waitresses. I knew what I wanted as soon as I sat down; their famous afternoon tea which is probably the most popular item on the menu. Eladio went for a safe option, their amazing fish and chips. Here we are sitting around the table about to devour our delicious lunch. Eladio said I was eating breakfast haha.
Lunch at Betty's in York, the highlight of our day
It was the highlight of the day and one of the highlights of our trip to Yorkshire. A trip to Yorkshire in my mind always has to include Betty's. I just love the place. 

When we finished and walked outside, it was sunny and not so cold. But it was nearly 4 o'clock and it would be getting dark soon. It gets dark here at this time of year at 4.30 when it gets dark in Madrid two hours later. Our friends took us up the Roman walls for a walk around the city but we couldn't complete the walk as we wanted to leave before it was too dark. One day we must go back and walk all around the walls. 
Walking along the walls of York
We left at around 4.15 and very soon it was pitch black and I couldn't appreciate the beautiful ride back but certainly knew the towns we went through. We were home by about 6 pm. At about that time Olivia, our youngest daughter, the TV reporter, had just landed in Manchester and later we talked to her when she had checked into her room at the hotel the programme had booked for her there, The Manchester Piccadilly Mercure. We had also booked rooms there but, me, being me, reserved a superior room. I was glad I had when she told us her room was very small. 

Later we sat by the open fire in our friends' cozy lounge. They drank beer and wine and I had some lovely Rekorderlig cider which I adore and can't find in Spain. We weren't hungry but soon it was time for dinner. I helped Phil make our delicious meal of  king prawns with thousand island sauce, a salad and of course the dressed crab, all accompanied by the delicious bread we had bought in York. 

We went to bed early that night as the next morning we would get up really early as we had a full programme and wanted to make the most of the day, as the daylight hours are so short here. The plan was to visit my Mother's grave at Charlestown cemetery on Baildon Road and then drive to Ripley, one of the most beautiful villages in England, have lunch there at The Boar's Head and afterwards visit Fountains Abbey which, although I had lived in Yorkshire as a child and teenager, had never visited.

I was up at 5 believe it or not while the others slept until 7 in the morning.  We left quite early and  by 9.30 or so were at Charlestown cemetery. It took a while to find my Mother's grave. While I was looking for it with the help of Eladio, I got some very good news via an unexpected email. It felt like a little  miracle coming from my Mother. It's a coincidence I know as I don't really believe in miracles. However, thinking about it, whenever I have had some trouble something good has always happened as though I have a lucky star. Who knows if it's not my Mother looking after me from above? I like to think it is.  I finally found it and it is this. I touched it and reached out to my Mother, shed a tear or two and once again realised how much I miss her. She was so special. All of you who knew her would agree I know.
My Mother's grave at Charlestown  cemetery
On her headstone there is a verse of poetry and a date. It's in Russian of course and I thought it may be one my grandfather's poems. I asked a friend and ex pupil of both my parents, Andy M who studied Russian to translate the poem for me.  He told me it was by Alexsander Blok, a Russian poet and  translated it for me. 

This is the verse in Russian and below Andy's translation into English.

Когда коса мой срежет колос,
Свистя в безжалостной руке,
Услышишь ли мой жалкий голос
Зовущий где-то вдалеке?

Быть может, лишь тогда узнаешь,
Что сердце пело в тишине
О радостях цветущих рая,
О недоступной вышине

When the scythe cuts down my wheat,
Whistling in a ruthless hand,
Will you hear my sorry voice
Ringing somewhere in the distance?

Perhaps only then will you realise
That my heart was singing in the silence
Of the flowering joys of heaven,
Of the heights that can’t be reached.

(Date: 27.10.1942)

But it's still a mystery why the poem is there. It must have meant something special to her and I have to ask my Father. I hope he is able to clarify the mystery. 

From the cemetery we set off on our way to Ripley. However we had plenty of time on our hands and decided to stop for a short visit to Otley (yet another town in Yorkshire ending in "ley" which I think means a field or meadow). Otley is a "posh" market town in West Yorkshire and was always on my bus route. You see, my parents never had a car and my knowledge of the area is only from the bus routes or the occasional trip out with friends. Otley was definitely on my bus route and I remember it well.  It's a beautiful town, very unspoiled and I especially liked the main square which I think is called market square.
In Otley
From Otley we drove on towards Ripley which was never on my bus route either so I never went there or to Ripon or Fountains' Abbey when I lived in Yorkshire from the age of 7 to 18. So this was going to be a first. Ripley was named number 17 out of the 20 best villages in Britain in 2017. It is really a satellite village of Harrogate, a few miles away.

Here we visited the magnificent castle and grounds, Ripley Castle, home of the Ingleby family for 700 years. It is a Grade 1 listed 14th century house and the seat of the Ingleby baronets for centuries.
Ripley Castle a stately home in North Yorkshire

We were bowled over by the magnificent grounds and the views of the lake and gardens, not to mention the hot house where the Ingleby family once grew peaches and other exotic fruit which was probably very unusual for that part of the world so long ago. 
In the grounds of Ripley Castle
After exploring the castle and grounds, we made our way to the Boar's Head pub where we had booked a table for lunch at 12 o'clock noon. We had decided to have an early lunch so as to make the best of the sunlight hours in the afternoon. It is a beautiful old coaching inn and part of the Ripley Castle estate and supposedly one of the Great Inns of Britain. I loved it and could have moved in hahahaha. One day we shall go back and stay there as it also offers accommodation. The pub restaurant is considered the best in the area and I could totally agree with that.
The Boar's Head in Ripley

After a magnificent lunch, followed in my case and Phil's by perhaps my favourite dessert, sticky toffee pudding, we left the pub and continued our itinerary of the day. Our destination was to be the world famous Fountains's Abbey which I had never ever been to and had always wanted to visit. I have been to Bolton Abbey countless times but never here. 
Fountains' Abbey
Fountains Abbey is one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. It was founded in 1132 and became one of the wealthiest monasteries in England until its destruction during the "dissolution" period under Henry VIII in 1539. The Dissolution of the monasteries came about after the conflict between this famous King and the RC church which eventually led to the seizure of the Church properties of the state. Over 800 were destroyed. This came about after his famous divorce to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. He also needed to reduce the power of the Church as well as find money to fund his wars against France and Scotland.  So the place is steeped in history. 

It was raining as we walked around the Abbey and bitterly cold but we were well wrapped up and later the rain ceased and we were able to enjoy the views on our walk through the grounds which were created as gardens in the 18th century to please the eye and pleasantly surprise any visitors and they certainly did that day. They were amazing and I can only imagine just how beautiful the whole area is in the summer. We must come back again soon. 
The grounds surrounding Fountains Abbey
It was a long walk around the Abbey, 5 miles in fact which was a good thing as we had eaten so much at lunch. God knows how many calories were in my sticky toffee pudding hahahaha. 

We left just as it was getting dark at around 4.30 and drove back along winding roads to Keighley, only stopping on the way in Ripon where we got a quick glance of its famous Cathedral, at Morrisons for a few provisions. We all agreed that when we next come back to Yorkshire that the four of us would stay 2 nights at The Boar's Inn and explore the area more. We had had the most fabulous day and are very grateful to our hosts and guides, Phil and Kathy for their warm hospitality.

It was warm hospitality indeed, something I realise now is innate in the Yorkshire people and which makes them so different from those from the South of England. They talk of the North South divide in the UK, the north being poorer than the south and more depressed. Well they maybe less rich, but the people from Yorkshire, at least, I find are the kindest and loveliest people in England. No wonder Yorkshire is called "God's own country". Yorkshire people also seem to have a great sense of humour, something I appreciate greatly and they have lots of expressions and words only people from here would understand. Although I lived here in my formative years and understand the dialect well, I have learned lots of expressions I didn't know this week. My favourite came from the owner of a shop in Otley which sells "collectable items". As we opened the door and came in she said "shut wood in hole", meaning, "shut the door". It took a while to click. We said we were just coming in to have a look to which she wittily replied: "you might wanta buy someit too" or something similar. I just love Yorkshire people they are so special. 

Once home we all rested and I collapsed on our hosts' beautiful Laura Ashley red velvet sofa in their lounge. In my right had was a glass of my favourite Swedish cider, the last I would drink under their roof. It was to be our last dinner with Phil and Kathy too and it was an enjoyable one. 

Just before dinner, I rang Oli who was in Manchester. It was funny to think that the four of us, Suzy, Oli, Eladio and I, were all in England; Oli in Manchester, Suzy in London and ourselves in Keighley.  Soon we would be all together which was the whole purpose of the trip. She told me she had filmed a Spaniard living in Manchester at the Midland Hotel that day, famous apparently for it being where Mr. Rolls met Mr. Royce. 
Oli filming in Manchester on Thursday
After the meal I was shattered and I just had to retire to bed as I had been up since 5 in the morning. So off I went and my eyes were closed shortly after getting into bed, tired but happy after a wonderful day, only tinged with sadness after the visit to my Mother's grave, bless her.

Friday dawned and I was up at 5.30 which is actually 6.30 Spanish time, so more or less in line with the time I get up in the morning in Spain. I had slept 7 hours and was feeling great. We were leaving that day and our friends and hosts would drive us to Keighley station to catch a train to Leeds and from there another train to Manchester where we would spend the weekend with the girls. We had had an amazing week with our wonderful hosts and friends. We feel so at home at their lovely Victorian house. Their hospitality was best to none and hopefully we can return their kindness when they come to see us this summer in Spain when we shall take them to our beloved village Montrondo.
Our friends house in Keighly, it's the one on the far right of this row of 4 houses
 At the station which was just how I remembered it, we had time to kill. Our train to Leeds wasn't leaving until 12.05 and we had half an hour to kill. We spent it with our friends having a coffee in the very nice bar there. Here we said our goodbyes and took photos which you can see below.
At Keighley station café saying goodbye

At Keighley station saying goodbye
Soon we had to make our way to the platform to get on the train which arrived punctually and would only take 25 minutes or so to reach Leeds. Here are Eladio and I with our luggage about to embark on the second stage of our journey in England.
On the platform at Keighley train station
I knew every single town we passed on our way, all so familiar from my childhood: Bingley, Shipley and of course Saltaire, the famous Salts Mill and village. It  was built by Sir Titus Salt to accommodate all the workers at his wool mill and a product of the Industrial Revolution. He built a whole village for all his workers. When we used to live in Yorkshire, our house was about a mile or so from Saltaire and we never used to think twice about it or that it was anything special. Now it's a world heritage sight and one of the most important landmarks in the area. 

Leeds was the station from where many of my journeys began to trips abroad when I was young and it was funny to be back. I love train stations as for me they are always symbolic of the start of many adventures. Well we had a bit of an adventure there when we arrived as we had just 8 minutes to find the platform for the Manchester train, the Trans Pennine Express coming from Hull. The station is huge and rather bewildering but we made it, just I should add. It took just under an hour to reach Manchester Piccadilly station which I think is not the one we would arrive at when my Father used to accompany me to see our dentist there, Mr. Carr. It was here that my Father gave me one of the best lessons in life. I used to find Manchester very ugly which is not so anymore as there have been many improvements since I was last there. I used to tell my Father how ugly the streets and terrace houses were. He told me that wherever there was something ugly that I should always look and find something beautiful. He was right and it has been one of my mottoes in life.  

We walked the short distance to our hotel in Piccadilly Gardens using the sat nav on my phone which I'm sure would have impressed my Father had he seen me. The Mercure Manchester Piccadilly, not my choice but where Oli was staying, is a modern and yes ugly building at Piccadilly Gardens by The Arndale Centre and bang in the middle of the town. My expectations of the hotel were low but it's fine, not luxurious but good quality and our room is very large. We were starving when we got there so had lunch in the restaurant with great views over the square. Eladio had chicken tika massala, apparently Britain's most popular dish today. It would have been banger and chips when I used to come to Manchester with my Father hahaha or something similar. After a lovely meal served by two very friendly waitresses, one from Ghana and one from Portugal, we went up to our room to unpack and settle in. Just as we had finished, Oli, who had stopped work for the day - she could only film before sunset which is at 4.30 here - came knocking on our door. It was super to see and hug her. Her room which she would share with Suzy was just 3 doors away which was good news as we would be in and out of each other's rooms all weekend.

Soon we were outside again in the busy and sunny square and made our way on foot to the train station. We were going to complete our group when Suzy arrived from London. I couldn't wait for the 4 of us to be together. Her train was arriving from Euston at 4.30. We didn't have to wait long. Here are Oli and her Father happily waiting at the station.
Oli and Eladio at Piccadilly train station waiting for Suzy
I don't know how but we missed her coming from the platform as there were so many people there but she soon found us. The photo illustrating this week's blog is of the 4 of us just after Suzy arrived. We were so happy to be together and it was to be a memorable weekend. 

Before heading back to our hotel we went in search of fruit and milk to have in our rooms. Well I needed the milk to make coffee as I need one the moment I wake up and there was a coffee making facility in the room but no milk. The 4 of us walked happily together through Piccadilly Gardens and around the Arndale centre and were amazed at so much life, people and music all around us. Manchester is a very lively city and the atmosphere was great. It was sunny but not quite as cold as in Yorkshire, although Suzy said it was colder than London. But we were well wrapped up and didn't care. We were soon back at the hotel and Suzy was able to settle in. The girls were hungry and it was my job to find a nice restaurant nearby which served fish and chips that Oli wanted and vegan or vegetarian food that Suzy wanted. That was not easy. The ones we did find and which had been recommended were fully booked. So I went downstairs to see the Concierge and get his help.  Harry was young and sweet and very helpful. I kept remarking to the girls just how friendly, open and helpful people from this part of the country are and it's true and we experienced it all weekend. Harry told me he had been on his first ever date the night before:-) He was a darling and found the perfect place for us, Browns, quite a famous chain of brasseries dotted all over the UK. I had been to one of them in London many years ago and liked it. What I didn't know though that the one in Manchester would be spectacular because it is housed in what was a branch of the old Parr's Bank later bought by Westminster Bank. The red sandstone building was built in 1901 and must have been one of the most opulent banking halls in the country. It was truly beautiful and a lovely place to build to house a restaurant.
Browns in Manchester housed in the old Parr's Bank
It was around the corner from our hotel and easy to find. We all loved the place and told our friendly Geordi waitress from Newcastle whose accent I confused with a Scottish one. She told us the history of the building. When we said we loved the place she said we would love the food even more. Well it was just amazing. Eladio had toad in the hole, a typical dish of the area and Oli and I had fish and chips. Here are the 4 of us enjoying our first meal together in the city.

A great meal at Browns on Friday night

We ate really early and by 8 were out on the street and decided to explore the city and walk to work off some of the calories hahaha. Oli, who had to acquire a lot of knowledge about Manchester for the programme she was doing, led us to St. Anne's Square where she told us the that after the Manchester Arena bombings people gathered there to mourn together, covering it with flowers. From there we walked towards what must be one of the most luxurious streets with shops like Harvey Nichols. It was here Oli told us that the IRA terrorist bomb exploded in Corporation street and destroyed all around it which had to be built up again. Unbelievably the two famous medieval "Shambles" pubs survived the bomb but later were moved piece by piece to the other end of the street in order to rebuild the area around the Arndale Centre. The Wellington and Sinclair's Oyster bar, from the Tudor period, to judge by the black and white paneling, are two of the most famous city landmarks. 
The old Shambles pubs in Manchester
On our walk that night around the city I couldn't help but notice how many homeless people there were begging and living on the streets. I had read earlier that day that there are more than 8000 in the UK and the figure is growing. Oli and I stopped to give a coin to a young man and we got talking. I asked him why he was on the street and if he didn't have any family to go to and why he wasn't at least in a hostel. His reply broke my heart. To start off with he said there were not enough places at the hostels and it was freezing. He then told me how he worked in a family business that had gone bust and that his mother was struggling. He also told me there were flats for homeless people like him and that he was on the list adding there were none available at the moment as they were all reserved for the Syrian refugees who had not arrived yet. How can a country or town hall not look after its own people first? All we could do was wish him luck. What a terrible story as he was not a drunk, just an ordinary man who had fallen on bad luck and had no one to turn to and nowhere to live apart from the streets. We would see many like him on the streets of Manchester during our stay. This is England in 2018 and I found the situation just inexplicable. 
There are many homeless people begging and sleeping on the streets like this man in Manchester
Once back at the hotel, Suzy and I went down to see Harry the concierge to ask what time breakfast was. It was just outside that we were approached by Brian who asked Suzy for a cigarette. He then told us his story which was equally as sad as the beggar we had just spoken to. Brian was an ex convict and had spent 28 of his 48 years in prison for stealing from cash machines. He seemed a very nice and normal chap. His worst problem and he had many was that he is unemployable because of his prison record. He told us he had 3 children who were in foster homes and that he was fighting for custody but that without a job the case would most probably go against him. He had to rush off to catch a bus but we hugged and said goodbye and wished him all the luck in the world. Wow, that was some conversation in the street I can tell you. The 2 stories I heard that night from a beggar and an ex convict made me feel so privileged and lucky.  

After time together in our room chatting and generally enjoying being together it was time for "beddy bies" which was what we used to call bed time when I was a child. I went to sleep feeling blessed in life and I am. I could not ask for more. 

On Saturday we all had breakfast together. Oli had to leave at 9.30 to go off filming and we wouldn't see her until she had finished in the afternoon. Our plan was to visit the Museum of Science and Industry where we would learn about the history of the Industrial Revolution. It was a 20 minute walk in the rain but well worth the effort as the museum is splendid. 
The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry
Here we saw the first computer invented in Manchester as nearly everything we saw there. We loved the replica of one of the cotton mills and the explanation of how cotton was made in the 19th century and how child slaves were employed to clean the noisy machines often getting hurt in the process. 

Replica of a cotton mill at the museum
The first computer also invented in Manchester was on display and it was huge and 10.000 times slower than those today. It was called "Baby" hahaha.
The world's first computer invented in 1948 in Manchester
We also visited the Power Hall with all sorts of historic engines which were used in the Industrial Revolution.  

But what interested me most was seeing and hearing about the first commercial railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which was inaugurated in September 1830, the locomotive, the Rocket, now on display at the Science Museum in London,  having been built by the famous Robert Stephenson. 
The Rocket locomotive
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was the first public transport system on land which did not use animal traction power. We also visited the world's first railway station, Manchester Liverpool Road which was in use until the 70's.
The world's first railway station is in Manchester
Olivia had filmed the station and told me that on the inaugural day of the railway line, the Mayor of Liverpool, William Huskisson, had died by accident on that first journey while accompanying the Prime Minister, Lord Wellington. It was not a nice beginning but the railway went on to be incredibly successful and helped the Industrial Revolution really take off as transport became so much faster  than with using horse driven barges on the canal network. 

We were enamoured with the visit but after so much knowledge gathering, we got hungry and went in search of somewhere to eat. I had been told that nearby Spinningfields, in the financial centre was full of good places to eat. Suzy took us to The Alchemist where they had great food but it was very loud. 
Eladio with Suzy at The Alchemist on Saturday in Spinninfields
From The Alchemist we went to an M and S Food Hall actually to buy  some mini nylon carrier bags Dolores had asked me to get but also to buy more fruit and I also purchased  lovely birthday cards for the upcoming family birthdays in April and May. The choice is so much better in England for them than it is in Spain.

From Spinningfields we walked back to our hotel slowly exploring more of the city. We went past the famous Johan Rylands library, one of the finest in the world which we will be visiting today.  We also stumbled across China Town and also came across the Town Hall on Albert Square. 
Suzy in China Town
The Town Hall  is a Victorian Neo Gothic building and in my mind is similar to the one in Bradford. 
The Town Hall in Manchester
We were tired when we got back to the hotel  and rested a bit. Soon Oli was with us and while Eladio and Suzy slept, I joined her to go to the shops. We  walked across the Piccadilly Gardens Square with its fascinating fountains. On our way back we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw small children running in and out of the water and getting drenched. 
Kids getting wet in the fountains at Piccadilly Gardens
Dinner last night was at Tom's Chop House, recommended by Kathy's son. It's an 1870 pub and a cast iron frame building and one of Manchester's jewels. Here we are outside after our dinner at the exit on St. Anne's Square.
Outside the 1870 pub last night
In need of a walk to work off our dinner, we ambled back along streets which were now quite familiar. I was amazed at how scantily some women were dressed in sleeveless dresses, no tights or coats especially because for us it was so cold. There were many homeless people on the streets but also many playing music such as this old gentleman playing this year's most popular song "despacito". We had to watch as he was great.
Great street music
In fact Suzy filmed him and you can see the clip here. We took another video last night too of Suzy and I having fun at the fountains in Piccadilly Gardens which you can watch on this link. It was great fun and a great night out together.  

After some relaxing time together in our room the girls left to go to sleep and we went to bed almost immediately. Just as I was falling asleep we got a call from Zena our weekend carer to say there was a flood in the kitchen. We had to call our neighbour, Julio, who came to the rescue. Thank goodness he was able to stop the tap in the sink which had burst without having to switch off all the water in the house. I was worried for our Airbnb guests. Thanks Julio, you are a great neighbour.

And today is Sunday, our last full day here in England with the girls as we are returning tomorrow. It has been a great trip but soon to end.

Wishing you all a great Sunday and good week ahead, I shall leave off now as I have to get ready quickly to have breakfast with my family. 

Cheers till next week,

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