20 November 2019

Dare to be Different

In the summer of 1999 Bradford Congress, a group consisting of Bradford Council and others, asked for ideas for 20/20 Vision, a document they were putting together to set out the strategy for the next 20 years. It would be a blueprint for the future of the city and the towns and villages that make up the Bradford District, a long term visionary plan that would all come to fruition by 2020.
A small group of us from the 1 in 12 Club's Publications Collective submitted our vision which is printed below. As 2020 approaches I'll leave it to you to decide how much has been achieved and by whom.

Dare to be Different
Imagine a small, stone built city centre surrounded by the most beautiful countryside in England.
Ugly 1960's concrete buildings have been re-faced in local stone, the city centre is car free. There are regular bus and train links with the surrounding towns and villages. Bus services within the city are free and are based on small vehicles operating on routes that follow a spiders web pattern, both radiating out of the centre and surrounding the centre in concentric circles. It is simple to move around the city by hopping from one bus to another.

The Bradford Canal has been re-opened linking the centre to Shipley and Saltaire. The canal is regularly used for transport and leisure by local people and by visitors. Shops, cafes and houses overlook the canal as they do in Shipley and Saltaire. There are well used cycle and walking paths along the canal.

Trams run along Manningham Lane between Saltaire and the city centre and between the centre and the Industrial Museum. There is a link to Manningham Mills. The trams are used for transport by local people and also provide an attraction for tourists.

There is a thriving tourist industry, which celebrates Bradford's industrial heritage. Attractions include guided heritage walks in Saltaire and the city centre, the tram and canal rides between sites and links with surrounding towns and villages. Other attractions such as the Photographic and Colour Museums are popular and well known.

Bradford is known nationally and internationally for its thriving food economy.
The city centre is dominated by Britain's largest local food market housed in a beautifully renovated Market Hall.
Ingredients and specialities are available for the wide range of cultures which make up Bradford. There is a special emphasis on local produce and a thriving organic sector.
Around this has grown up a wealth of successful cafes and restaurants celebrating every type of food and drink. There are specialist food shops, cookery book shops, kitchen equipment shops and producers of raw materials and ingredients. Manufacturing has regenerated with the demand for catering and food production equipment.
Farmers and growers from the surrounding areas supply both the public (directly through the market) and the shops, cafes, restaurants and food processors. The availability of fresh, locally produced food and the awareness of its importance has had enormous benefits in the health of Bradfordians.

The business community is independent and self sustaining. Jobs have been created and business opportunities opened up by the exciting and unique eating and shopping experiences.
The city celebrates creative "do-it-yourself" cultures, enterprises and voluntary activities. Independent film, television, music and internet companies all contribute to the reputation Bradford has for being a place where people make things happen for themselves.
The local economy creates local wealth for local people and communities are supported as they create their own opportunities. There is a thriving Arts scene. Bradford Festival continues to flourish. Manningham Mills has been renovated and now houses a theatre, cafe, music and art studios, a range of arts and crafts businesses as well as flats and houses. Green spaces flourish and are protected. There is a moratorium on building on green field sites.
The city is clean and litter free. Public safety is managed by making the city well lit, easily served by public transport and essentially busy. Every available space above shops and offices in the city centre has been turned into apartments so that Bradford is truly a place to live, work and play. Surrounding the centre housing is of good quality, built in small groups not sprawling estates. Old housing stock has been replaced by attractive energy efficient homes with gardens, all with safe play spaces, shops, medical centres, schools and community centres all close by.
Local government is decentralised with the towns and villages surrounding the city being run independently.

All of this is possible. Every idea suggested here builds on a strength our city has already - its cultural diversity, its industrial heritage, the reputation of the Curry Capital, Saltaire's regeneration, the oldest Organic Show in the country, the great achievement of the Local Produce Markets, etc. etc. We are unique - geographically, culturally, historically and we should value our uniqueness not try to ape other cities. Congratulate Leeds on its successes but let it keep them. We don't need to open shopping centres, hotels or conference centres - they are all a short train journey away. Instead we should be celebrating our differences and creating our own identity.

6 October 2019

Art Attack

I've recently had an inner ear infection that left me dizzy and struggling to focus. Reading, typing and scrolling down screens just made it worse. I couldn't do much outside for fear of falling arse over elbow and anyway it rained most of August. I was beginning to crawl the walls with frustration when I spotted an online art course. It was a free taster to promote the artist's more expensive content and involved daily prompts to encourage you to have a go. So I did. I've always made birthday and Christmas cards so I had some paper and I found a box of acrylic paints that I'd bought for visiting children. 

I'd never painted before. I'd tried setting up a rose or a trio of pears on the kitchen table and making a wonky pencil sketch then sloshing watercolour at it until I chucked the whole muddy mess in the bin, admitting that my art teacher was right all along and I really couldn't draw.

This was different. We were told to put paint straight onto the paper, to whoosh it about with a credit card or a spatula from the kitchen drawer, encouraged to let it dribble or run and to make marks with a twig from the garden. It was like being 4 years old again before the pressures of 'what is it' and 'is it any good.' set in.

Soon every surface was covered in paintings - some drying, some waiting to have layers added or be painted over or be rubbed with sandpaper to reveal the colours underneath.

I tried quick sketches

and impressionist-y poppy fields

and light abstract skylines

and discovered a love of dystopian landscapes. 

But best of all I realised that just because you can't produce an accurate charcoal drawing of a sheep's skull it doesn't mean you can't have fun.


19 July 2019

Like the Mayfly

A story I wrote for a flash fiction competition following a conversation about how we can pass the time of day with someone - at work, in the pub, on the street - but really know very little about them.


She was a cheerful little woman, brisk, with a smile for everyone. She walked
her dog through the woods every day and was always up for a chat in the post office. 
Once, after the dog died, she told me that she still took the lead for a walk every day. I thought she was joking. 
The man who found her said you wouldn't think a dog lead could take so much weight.

12 June 2019

Now What?

It’s nine in the morning and I’ve got the all house lights on. In June! The glowering sky and blustery rain are doing nothing to lift my mood but I can’t blame this melancholy entirely on the weather. 
Five years of walking holidays
It’s been two weeks since we got back from Scotland. Two weeks since we finished walking the Cape Wrath Trail, itself the culmination of a 5 year project to walk the length of mainland Britain. Five years when we talked and planned and walked and planned and walked some more. When every holiday was built around the next stage of the trail and every conversation started with ‘when we get back from...’ or ‘after we’ve walked to...’ Five years of revising our kit lists to lighten the load as our knees got older and the paths got rougher and five Christmases of dry sacs and liner socks. In short it’s been my life. 
The end is nigh. The track to the Cape Wrath lighthouse.
And now it’s over and I don’t know what to do with myself. I feel like I did when I first retired. The sudden lack of structure, the long days that stretch out endlessly, the numerous things that I could do and the zero motivation to do any of them. I know I’m not alone. My friend Carol suffers from post walk blues and makes sure she always has a wish list of trails to tackle. Maybe that’s the answer. Another challenge to concentrate the mind. I fell in love with Orkney recently so maybe island bagging, or the Hebridean Way or... Watch this space.

4 April 2019

Stroke of Luck

Below is the script of a 5 minute monologue that I wrote for Leeds Pub Theatre. It was performed by Irene Lofthouse on March 7th as part of Leeds Literature Festival. Enjoy!

Stroke of Luck

Trish is in her van singing along to David Bowie's Space Oddity at the top of her voice.

'Here am I floating in a tin can...'
Doesn’t look much like a tin can does it, not now I’ve got the curtains up. 
I got them off the internet. EBay. Some people make their own but I was never any good at the girly stuff.  

Not like his sister. The blessed Ann. She’d have been straight in there with her pinking shears and her Cath Kidson offcuts, posting pictures of her pelmets on ‘Ladies luv Campervans’.  

It’s a thing you know – women and campervans. There’s websites and facebook and everything. I found them when I was trying to work out what to do. Some of it’s a bit crocheted seat covers and homemade bunting for my taste but some of it’s ok. You just have to find your tribe. 

His sister’s never liked me. She’s known me 37 years and she still calls me Patrica. I tell her it’s Trish every time but she just stands there fanning herself and blowing down her blouse. I tried asking her about the hot flushes. Something we’d got in common, a bit of solidarity and she was alright at first, she opened up, but when I told her that Graham wasn’t showing much sympathy she soon.... (mimes zipping her mouth). 
Mustn’t criticise her precious brother must we. Oh No.  Well her precious brother got very arsey I can tell you. Dereliction of duty he called it. I even bought some stuff from Asda. One of the upsides of self checkout, not having to send your lubricating gel down the conveyor with the Aunt Bessie’s and the Cillit Bang.  

He hated me buying Aunt Bessie’s. 

‘You should make your own’ he’d say. ‘Ask our Ann, she’ll show you how.’  
Ann ‘Mary Berry’ Bradshaw, round our house every bloody week, with a plastic box clasped in front of her like one of the Three Wise Men; scones, Victoria sponge, once she even brought us a meat and potato pie.  

She wanted me to sell the van. 

‘I don’t know how you can set foot in it’ she said. ‘Not after what happened.’

I was ready for her. It’s what Graham would have wanted I told her. I’m doing it for him. That soon shut her up.

I don’t know where it came from, this idea of his. He never even liked driving. 
I’ve always been the chauffeur in our house. All those years and I never heard him mention camper vans, not once. Then suddenly this appears on the drive.

‘My retirement present to myself’ he says and tells me he’s going do it up so we can go travelling. Together. On a road trip.

I said no of course. No way. Me and Graham, 24/7, in a tin can, but he just ignored me. Said I was spoiling his dreams and built up the driver’s seat so I’d have a better view over the bonnet. 

He was under the van when it happened. Checking for rust with his feet stuck out.  

How was I to know he’d had a stroke. He didn’t always answer when I took him a cup of tea. 

They said if he’d got help sooner it might not have been so bad. He might have pulled through, but four hours .........  

Next door spotted him when she let her dog out. I was in the front room watching Antiques Road Trip when she knocked.
Turns out road trips are alright after all, just depends who you go with. Who your tribe are. 

Meeting ‘Van Driving Women.’ Now that was a real stroke of luck.

(sings) ‘This wheel’s on fire, rolling down the road, best notify my next of kin........’
Best not.

There's a knock at the door. Trish pulls a bottle of Prosecco from the fridge.

Come in girls.

24 March 2019

Happy 50th birthday Dales Way - and many more of them.

Easy to see why the Dales Way is one of of the UK's most popular walks
March 23rd 2019 was the 50th Anniversary of the first public walk on the Dales Way, the 80 mile walk from Ilkley to the shores of Lake Windermere.  Today around 4,000 walkers a year complete the trail making it one of Britain's most popular long distance paths. 
Our Jess at the start of the Dales Way in Ilkley
The end is in sight
In 1968 an Act of Parliament, the Countryside Act, gave local authorities powers to allow public access to riversides. Members of West Riding Ramblers approached the Countryside Commission and the old West Riding County Council with a plan to create a path that followed the banks of the river Wharfe. The authorities turned down the idea but undaunted WRR went ahead anyway and the idea of the Dales Way was born - a long riverside trail from Ilkley to the source of the Wharfe high on Cam Fell. 
High on Cam Fell
Colin Speakman and the late Tom Wilcock took on the job of surveying and planning the route and Colin went on to write the first guidebook which has been in continuous publication ever since. 
Colin with the 1st and 11th editions of his guidebook
They quickly realised that Cam Fell isn’t a great place to end a walk so continued across the watershed and followed the River Dee down Dentdale and the River Lune from Sedbergh to finish on the shores of Lake Windermere. An 80 mile walk from the edge of the industrial West Riding to the Lake District through the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The article in the paper
On Monday March 10th 1969 an article appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post about this new path inviting readers to join members of the Ramblers Association to walk the first section from Ilkley to Burnsall on Sunday March 23rd returning by bus. Colin remembers the group expecting a dozen or so walkers. Around 130 turned up and the bus company had to put on extra buses to get everyone back. Sadly no photos survive of the day.

The Dales Way Association is planning a series of events to celebrate the 50th Anniversary year including a recreation of the first walk that Colin will lead. 
You can see them on the website at www.dalesway.org

9 January 2019

Fading Fast

I was delighted that my story 'Fading Fast' has won a Flash Fiction competition run by The Craft House at Saltaire and judged by Alyson Faye, an author whose work I enjoy very much. Here it is - enjoy!

 Image result for courgette
The first thing Kate gave up was carbs. She swapped spaghetti for courgetti and tried unsuccessfully to make pizza without dough. When her daughter made muffins at school Kate showed her The Truth About Sugar on YouTube then chucked them in the bin.  

Meat came next. Sunday dinners became a thing of the past and the mere suggestion of a burger provoked a shudder of disgust from Kate. Her husband started taking the children for walks after tea and Big Frank at the chip shop was happy to oblige, double wrapping cod suppers for them to eat in the park.

Dumping lattes for ‘Americano, no milk’ signalled the end of dairy and the fridge was purged of eggs. The kids rebelled and refused to eat the crispy kale that was no substitute for Walkers cheese and onion and made them both targets of ridicule at school.

Alcohol was the last to go. Kate struggled to accept that anything as reviving as her evening pinot grigio could be seriously bad for her.

‘You’ll fade away,’ said her mother, secretly wondering if a change of diet might do the same for her cheekbones as it had for Kate’s. Her reluctance to attempt to pronounce ‘quinoa’ in Aldi and her love of millionaire’s shortbread soon put paid to that.

By Easter (no chocolate, the children got grapes) Kate was colour coding her food. A traffic light diet of plant based, guilt free, clean-eating meals.

Green for breakfast, a smoothie of cucumber, spinach and kale. It tasted disgusting, a sure sign thought Kate it was doing her good. Amber at lunch time; pumpkin soup and carrot sticks and mango lassi made with almond milk and turmeric. And red in the evening for suppers consisting of cranberries, tomatoes and plums. Her husband took the children and moved in with his mother.

As her flesh melted away Kate experienced a lightness of body and mind she had never previously known. She rejoiced as the outline of her skeleton became clearly visible through her increasingly translucent skin, no longer muffled by pillows of muscle and fat.

She stopped going to work; shopping and juicing took up most of her time. She barely noticed her children were gone.

Before long her bones took on a crystalline quality. Still solid, but see though and shimmering. Passing the hall mirror one morning she was amazed to see the reflection of the coat rack that hung on the wall behind her quite clearly through the reflection of her own face.

Delighted, Kate reconfigured her menu to include only clear foods; ice cubes and cabbage water, ginger tea and lemon jelly set with agar-agar. She considered adding vodka but decided against it.

When her mother called round she was sure Kate was out. She was about to leave when she felt a draught, a stirring of the air in the apparently empty room.

‘Hi mum’, she heard Kate’s voice. ‘You’ll stay for a glass of water?’