Sunday 6 January 2013


Turning the key in the deadlock and leaving a wake of vultures – a flock of starlings really - devouring a turkey carcass on the bird table the day after Boxing Day at my humble abode, 3 days lay ahead in the wonderful Yorkshire city of Leeds.
I’d dusted off and de-mothballed several jackets for the jaunt, one being an old Stone Island, double layered paper jacket that I hadn’t worn for going on 4 years. Only the day I donned the nigh on 20 year old SI number to keep out the chill, it began to perish with flakes of the material shedding at an alarming rate. Ah well, nothing ever lasts forever. I gave – the soon to be/already legendary - new CC Overlook hat its first airing too.
The name Leeds derives from "Leodis", the name given to a forest covering most of the Brythonic kingdom of Elmet, which existed during the 5th century into the early 7th century. An inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as a Loiner, a word of uncertain origin though. Leeds developed as a market town in the Middle Ages as part of the local agricultural economy. Before the Industrial Revolution it had become a co-ordination centre for the making of woollen cloth; with white broadcloth being traded at the Leeds White Cloth Hall. Growth, initially in textiles, was accelerated by the building of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1699 and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816. The railway network connected Leeds in 1834, to both national and international trade markets and, links to Manchester and the ports of Liverpool and Hull.
*Leeds Utd play in a all-white strip only this isn’t because of Leeds history with broadcloth, but because Don Revie stamped his mark on the team when he became player/manager in 1961. Revie's radical vision was to transform the underachieving club; he ditched the blue and gold strip and began turning Leeds Football Club into the Real Madrid of Britain, and an assault – and a uncompromising physical style of football that didn’t win many friends - on trophies both domestically and in Europe. I know these facts due to being mesmerised while watching Leeds sublimely stroke the leather casey ball around the field of play – as well as booting lumps out of the opposition - on our black & white TV back in the Seventies.
There is also a historical rivalry between my native red rose Lancashire and white rose Yorkshire: The War of the Roses were a series of dynastic wars fought sporadically between 1455 and 1485 by supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York for the throne of England. Even to this day there is still a tad of disdain and antagonism towards each other’s county by both sets of kinfolk. And I’ve bore witness to this before and after football games over the years. Though as heated as I like it to get nowadays are the Black Pudding Throwing World Championships that are held annually in Ramsbottom, where participants toss black puddings in an attempt to dislodge a stack of Yorkshire Puddings placed on plinths on two levels.
The competition was originally started as a bit of fun many moons ago but, apocryphally it is said the contest stems from the War of the Roses in which opposing forces from Lancashire and Yorkshire are said to have hurled black puddings and Yorkshire puddings at each other when they ran out of ammunition.Anyway, today Leeds is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the UK and a Mecca for designer shopping, home to the Royal Armouries, which is Britain’s national museum of arms, and a wealth of decent boozers. The Royal Armouries is located at Clarence Dock, only a short distance from the centre of Leeds.
There are over 8,500 objects on display in its five galleries: War; Tournament; Oriental; Self Defence and Hunting. You could spend hours/days browsing through the wealth of artifacts and watching the brief information films. I spent a least two hours roaming through the galleries while the rain belted it down outside. I even ran in to an old antagonist of mine in the Defence gallery, only he didn’t have a lot to say for himself! I highly recommend a visit to the Royal Armouries if you find yourself over that way and with admission being free, yes free, it were also easy on one tight Lancastrians pocket – I did give a small donation though.
The walk to and from the Royal Armouries from the centre of the city is pleasant on the eye too. Modern architecture and redeveloped mills and warehouses turned in to offices and apartments line either side of the river Aire, with the Brewery Wharf as good as you’ll get anyway in the UK. The Royal Armouries constructed in Nineties is itself is a classic building that should stand the test of time and be a iconic landmark in decades to come.
Shop till you drop: Leeds is saturated with designer shops galore, too numerous to mention by name. Most of these shops are housed off its largely pedestrianised city centre for shopaholics to spend their wad. Situated in the city’s heart is the historic Victoria Quarter, a mix of covered ornate Victorian arcades offering an plethora of labels from their boutiques. And with the sales already in full swing, folk were out and about in their droves to grab a bargain - who said the world was still in a recession? There are also second-hand/retro shops awash with old sportswear and trainers, near to the grand Victorian Corn Exchange, in their window displays akin to what I wear wore to work in the Eighties following ruining such clobber at the match. The stuff is falling to bits.
And finally, the most important feature of the trip, the alehouses: Leeds has majestic pubs, quaint pubs, sprawling pubs, men’s men’s pubs, posh pubs, quirky pubs, hidden gems of pubs; massive, petite and lengthy pubs. So I filled me boots on the real ale they served. My top 3 are: Whitelocks, Duck & Drake and the Adelphi Hotel. The Whitelocks is nearly 300 years old and tucked away down one of the labyrinth of alleys in the centre of town. The interior ornate decor of a long marble, brass and copper topped bar along with etched mirrors and glass are all original fittings. The alehouse is very narrow, but can accommodate quite a few punters standing and seat more drinkers round cast- iron tables at the rear end of the establishment. They’d a good 6 or so ales on too. The Duck & Drake not only has 15 hand-pumps for you to sample, but it is a live music venue with bands on most nights of the week. I attempted to plough my way through the ales on sale and name the artists depicted on the mural behind the bar without 100 percent success. This may have been due to my lack of music knowledge, or more so, the influx of strong porters and dark ales that supped through the day. And last but not least the Adelphi Hotel, a Tetley Brewery original flagship pub. Sat on the corner of Hunslet Road, the Adelphi combines Victorian surroundings with contemporary flourishes as well as a diverse clientele that creates a warm, friendly atmosphere. The pub has four individually decked out rooms and a bar that has three local on and two guest ales that rotate weekly.
Making the Adelphi our last port of call one night, due to it being a hop, skip and stumble from our Hotel, I got a waft of something that is rare armour nowadays in most town and city centres – the smell of traditional fish & chips . Over the road from the Adelphi is the Fisheries fish & chip shop; and boy were the fish & chips bloody good that I staggered back to the digs with rounding off a cracking 3 days. If you haven’t ever thought of spending a few days in the white rose city of Leeds, maybe you should.

Bill, your Northern Monkey correspondent.

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