Allan’s family history was quite complicated and much of his ancestry is lost to me just as it was to him. JMH, my father, often remarked that he felt Allan had noble features and a kingly air about him. He even went so far as to romantically suggest that he looked as if he might have been descended from Irish or Viking chieftains.
So here he is with his little brother Paul who was about 5 or 6 years younger than him. Paul and Allan had a fairly close and loving relationship. Paul clearly loved and adored his big brother. He looked up to him and idolised him as only a little brother can.
Only he wasn’t his brother, he was actually his cousin. Paul’s mother died in hospital from tuberculosis when he was only a baby and Paul was put in an orphanage. I don’t know how long he was in the “institution” as Joan used to refer to it but it was certainly long enough for him to have recurring nightmares about it. When Joan got her job as a school cook he confused her white uniform with that of the carers in the home. He even thought that she had been one of the carers there and would scream and beg her to remove the white clothes as he thought she was going to take him back . It was clearly a horrible place which scarred him for life.
I cannot remember his mother’s name, although I am sure Joan did tell me….but that was over 45 years ago. His mother was the sister of Jim Moran, Allan’s father. I got the impression that she was unmarried when she became pregnant and that Jim and Joan never met Paul’s father or knew who he was.
Jim and Joan had visited Paul in the home several times and what they saw there soon convinced Jim that he should either adopt or foster his little nephew and give him a home. Joan wasn’t quite as sure as Jim but memories of her own very happy childhood within a close and loving family sealed her agreement.
Now I said that Allan’s family history was complicated. A major factor in Joan’s decision was that at the age of 18 she had been told by her own parents that she too had been a foundling and that they had fostered her from a baby. She always said that her foster parents had always treated her exactly the same as her other brothers and sisters and she had had no idea that she had no blood connexion with them. Joan said that by fostering Paul she wanted to give back a little of the love that had been given to her.
The past few weeks have been a bit tricky for our family with several travel, technical and home related mishaps.
The first mishap happened when I had gone with my daughter Laura to a hospital appointment related to her pregnancy. On his way to pick us up from the hospital her partner had a slight accident when the car in front stopped suddenly. Now the result of that little bump for the car in front, a Volvo was just a few scratches on its bumper but for Laura’s car it was a disaster! The entire front was a crumpled total mess…and in the end, an insurance write off!
Poor Laura! Not having a car has made life and especially work very difficult for her at an already stressful and tiring time in her life. So we added her to our insurance and have been sharing our car until she gets a replacement.
The second issue was with the front of our van.
As we had lent Laura our car, her partner gave us a lift up to where we store the van. We were off to Winchester and Eastleigh for a few days as it was our sister in laws 70’th birthday and we were also going to a John Ottaway gig.
Luckily, Arya noticed that something was hanging down loose at the front of the van. It was a sort of plastic cover for the under part of the engine and the screws that held it together had worked loose. God Bless him! He spent a good hour trying to fix it, but when we drove it, it came loose again. Finally we rang the garage who do the mechanical servicing of the van and they offered to help.
Good job we didn’t try risking driving south. It turned out that one of the brackets that support the anti roll bar which itself goes between the two front wheels, had broken. The “loose” anti roll bar had kept forcing the engine cover off and that’s why Arya had been unable to fix it. We were lucky he had spotted it though!
The garage had to “make” a new bracket before they could repair the van. So, after about 2 hours we were fully functioning and off on our travels.
The third issue was a leak we discovered when we got home again. Water was dripping through the top of the window in our bathroom, through the landing ceiling and also down our central, bathroom light fitting. Every time someone switched the bathroom lights on the whole house would blow a fuse! And even now we still keep forgetting not to use the light so that all the electrics keep going off and having to be reset.
The water turned out to be coming from pipework under the floor in the attic room above. After a few frantic texts to various friends we were able to source a recommended plumber.
He was with us in half an hour and in 5 minutes had found the leak and repaired it. Two sections of waste pipe work had come adrift under the floorboards and he just had to push them back together!
Apparently the plastic pipes were sitting on top of copper heating pipes and the heat had caused the plastic sections to come adrift. Now as the sink had a dripping tap that meant that water had been constantly dripping from the pipes into the ceiling void.
Now they say things happen in threes… so that was our three!
Then as is my wont, I was listening to Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 when an interviewee was suggesting that people were likely to be experiencing travel, technical, home, health and communication difficulties at the moment as Mercury is in Retrograde.
A planet being in retrograde is how a planet appears to be changing its normal orbit even though it really is not. In Mercury’s case, the planet looks like it’s moving backwards. In reality, we just perceive it that way because of how Mercury and the Earth move relative to the sun.
Apparently this happens 4 times a year and is a real astronomical event. However, believers of astrology reckon that this event has a negative impact on our lives. As a naive teenager I used to believe in astrology and even went so far as to cast horoscopes. Now in my cynical dotage I can no longer accept that the stars and heavens affect and reflect our lives and personalities.
But there again… there were all those travel related mishaps. Then there is the world wide travel disruption caused by Covid-19….. all just a coincidence?
Sadly, I don’t for one moment think that all the ramifications from the Coronavirus will magically dissipate after March 9th when Mercury leaves its retrograde phase….but it would be marvellous if it did!
These posts have been inspired by the imminent arrival of my first grandchild. I want to share the little knowledge I have about his heritage and his family …before all is forgotten and lost in the mists of time. Clouds have started gathering and I already struggle to remember some things that I think I used to know.
So working backwards. Here is Laura’s father, Allan Moran with his mother, Joan and his stepfather, Alan Jackson.
I say stepfather….but I don’t think Joan and Alan Jackson ever married. I think he came to Joan as a lodger when she was a widow struggling to make ends meet with two young children.
When romance actually bloomed for the two of them I dont know, but they were living together when, as a naive 16 year old I first met them. They were certainly sharing the same bedroom at that time, but Joan did occasionally refer to him as “the lodger” and he very affectionately called her “The Duchess” and did all he could to look after her and make her happy. The rest of her family always called him Jacko and it was clear to me that he was well liked by them all.
In those early days of my relationship with Allan…my first long term boyfriend, Jacko worked at the Croda Chemical works at Knottingley and Joan was a school cook. They were friendly and welcoming people who soon took me under their wing.
Every Sunday evening we would play card games, usually for pennies from the big jar Joan kept for just such occasions ….all the while listening to “Play Something Simple ” on Radio 2 or was it the Light Radio station then?I was always partnered with Jacko and Joan with Allan in any partner whist games. This odd partnering had gradually developed as Jacko’s less than expert play would infuriate Joan and led to much squabbling and bickering between the two of them
Connections are strange and pop up all over the place. When I first met Jacko he told me that he was a Knottingley lad and it soon turned out that he knew of my father and all his family who were also from Knottingley. He was slightly older than my father but spoke with some affection, respect and even I sensed admiration for the Hargrave family. My own father wasn’t sure that he could exactly place Jacko, but in later years whenever they met up they enjoyed chatting about the old days in that tight knit village of Knottingley and the eccentric characters and events they remembered from their childhood days there in the 1920’s. But that’s a different set of memories…
Life can get in the way of keeping up with friends and sometimes no matter how close they once were the connections you had with them slip and slide away.
Sadly this has been true with one particular friend who I first struck up a friendship with over 30 years ago. This is despite the fact that she only lives 5 minutes walk away and that we have many other interlinked connections and relationships.
It was through Carol that we bought our very first VW camper from her friends, Colin and Mary. They had called the van Bessie and had had many adventures with her throughout Europe before parting with her. We continued this tradition and have maintained a love of camping and travelling ever since, albeit through a series of camper vans. After many adventures, Bessie has been long gone, mainly due to her temperamental nature and the difficulties around securing parts for constant repairs!
I had first met Carol about 32 years ago. I was teaching in a school attached to a children’s care home with some of the most disturbed and distressed young people I have ever met. Carol was a new teacher and my first encounter with her was memorable. I was in the corridor outside the room she was teaching in when the door burst open. Carol flew out of the room a vibrant bundle of energy and started banging her head on the wall all the while shouting repeatedly “I am not a tomato!”
After a few repetitions of this announcement she quietly returned to her class and shut the door.
The children we were working with had all suffered trauma from the emotional and physical abuse they had encountered. In the classroom the outward symptoms of their emotional turmoil could take many forms…..and they loved to test out the patience and understanding of new members of staff . As far as her English class was concerned, Carol was “fresh meat”. Which was why I was casually positioned in the corridor outside her room in case things inside her room became “tasty”. Carol’s outburst was in fact a clever, considered response to the complete silent treatment and refusal to engage that the pupils inside the room had been set upon following. Her tactic worked, the ice was broken and the stunned class began to respond and become involved in their lesson.
We soon became good friends and along with other like minded female teaching colleagues from the school formed a close friendship group. In an ironic salute to the characters from the comic Viz we referred to ourselves as ” The Fat Slags”. I can recall several occasions in local curry houses, the astounded faces of other diners when Carol bellowed to me across the room…” Oi! You Fat Slag!” upon randomly encountering me there.
In times gone past we had almost always attended Carol’s annual Christmas party, held the last Saturday before Christmas Day. A boozy, exuberant evening of Christmas Carols and other festive songs. But this too had slipped away.
In the weeks before Christmas, as I passed the end of her street, weighed down with Christmas shopping, I did wonder if she would be hosting one this year. All the while acknowledging that it was unlikely I would go…..I was far too busy following the life path that had diverged from the one that led to her house. But, heigh ho that’s the way it goes.
Then just before Christmas Eve I bumped into one of the many connections we have with Carol. It was at a Mik Artistik gig at the Brudenell. This connection was in the form of Angela, one of Carol’s stepdaughters.
Although, Carol had split from their father decades before, she had remained on very close terms with all her stepchildren. Angela with her husband, Alun, had also worked with my husband, Gary at a challenging, Leeds secondary school. A great and lasting camaraderie among the staff there had been created by the difficulties they had faced together and whenever we bumped into Angela and Alun we always enjoyed a catch up.
As I said our links with Carol are complex and our lives in Leeds are closely intertwined even if we have somehow let our friendship slip aside.
Carol, Angela told me, was seriously ill in hospital. So ill that she wasn’t expected to recover. She and all the rest of her family had been keeping bedside vigils in the hope that Carol would recover from the pneumonia and other illnesses that had struck her down in November.
Her illness was a huge shock to everyone in her very wide circle of friends, family and work colleagues She was much younger than me, a larger than life character full of wit, joy and laughter. She had once laughingly referred to herself as the female version of my equally lively and sociable Gary.
Instantly I was torn. I wanted to rush off to the hospital to see Carol and support and help her. But, what use could I be? Also, I still remember how bitter I felt towards the couple who came to see my mum when she was very ill with liver cancer. I felt they stole the last of her precious energy. So I knew I mustn’t butt in on this vital time with her close family.
As it was, I waited until a few days after Christmas. Then other Carol connections kicked in. I found out through another mutual friend, one of the original, Fat Slags, that Carol had fought back against all the odds. Despite the fears of the medical staff her condition had improved and she was getting better.
Although she looked emaciated and exhausted and her skin had a papery, yellow tinge she looked much better than I could possibly have hoped for when I visited her in hospital that week.
She was still the same engaging, generous and thoughtful friend she had always been and we chatted easily about her illness, medical treatments, our families and mutual friends.There were some changes though. Her wonderful, wild tangle of hair which had been such a glorious feature had somehow finally been tamed and become impossibly thin and straight. She had always been a voracious reader, gobbling up books by the bucket load, reading at least a dozen or so every week. But the measure of her exhaustion was clearly highlighted by the fact she hadn’t had the inclination to even touch a book, newspaper or magazine for over 8 weeks.
A few weeks later when I visited her and Adrian at their home I took Carol a little crocheted, cat bookmark I had made and a copy of the book I had so enjoyed reading that Christmas, The Soul of an Octopus. This was all in the hope that she had rediscovered her joy of literature . It was a great relief to find that she had indeed taken up reading again.
Ever the English teacher, she even engaged in a lively discourse about the failings of D H Lawrence as a writer explaining that she felt he was over rated and that although she had loved his work when she was in her twenties she had “grown out” of him. Not quite sure about my own thoughts there….I will have to reread his major works to check that consideration out.
As we re established our acquaintance, recounted past memories and caught up on each others lives in the intervening years I discovered Carol had developed a new talent.
She had begun to write poetry. Not only that, but she had had one published in the Morning Star. It was her own personal reflection, as a devout Scouser, to the long awaited justice for the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. With the final Hillsborough memorial service for the 96 people who died due to take place at Anfield on April 15th this year her poem is a poignant reflection of the horrors of that day and the ” fake news ” stories that surrounded it 31 years ago. Here is the link if you would like to read her tribute. https://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-b6a4-carol-ann-dunn-theyll-never-walk-alone
So, I was very lucky. Carol is still slowly recovering from her illness and our friendship and connection have been securely re-booted.
So, still on the theme of Laura and her early years. Here is a lovely picture of her with Allan Moran, her first, or rather, her biological father.
Laura looks a lot like Allan and even has inherited some of his gestures. So much so that my brother once commented that he had just seen a ghost coming out of our van….meaning he was shocked by how closely she resembled Allan and even moved like him. This was despite the fact he had died when she was still very tiny.
All the wet weather recently has meant that for the first time ever, we struggled to get the van off a very wet and muddy campsite while we were staying at Halifax. Well not exactly Halifax…..actually we were based at Hipperholme which is a couple of miles out of town.
The site itself is a small Certificated site, affiliated with the Camping and Caravanning Club, RSH Southedge Works. When we arrived at the site we were helped to negotiate the slightly muddy entrance to the camping field by Robin , the site owner and without too much difficulty Gary was able to drive on to our allocated hard standing. Strong winds were predicted for our stay and we hoped that they would dry the ground out so that our exit would be easier than our arrival. This was indeed true and by Saturday, the day we were due to leave, the water had drained away leaving the ground much firmer. But, we were having such a good time there that we decided to stay another night………
Of course, torrential rain fell from midnight on the Saturday and continued through Sunday morning. So by the time we were ready to leave the ground was thoroughly sodden and the van soon became well and truly stuck in the mud as we attempted to move the van the small distance……a matter of twenty feet or so to the safety of the tarmac at the site gate. However, help was on hand and Robin and his daughter came to our rescue. After much shoving and pushing we got the van half way towards the gate and then Robin was then able to attach a tow rope to his Volvo estate and that provided sufficient extra torque so that with another hard push the van was free and we were homeward bound.
So what was the attraction that induced us to linger at this site.
This is a rather quirky place hidden in the middle of an old industrial estate. The amenities are fairly basic. Hard standings for about 5 units, electric hook up, drinking water and a chemical toilet disposal point . No shower block, so you need to be able to be fairly well self contained. However, the toilets for the pub next door are left open for the free use of campers overnight.
Yes….the pub next door…..which is actually a micro brewery as well…..I think you can begin to see some of the extra attractions of this rather lovely oasis. The pub, The Cock Of The North, is rather unusual too. It is housed in a series of old portacabins but is warm and friendly inside with a wide selection of beers. The bar is based around a huge fish tank with lots of beautiful fish swimming around.
The pub seems very popular with the locals too and was filled with folk of all ages who were there to chat and enjoy a quiet beer.
Immediately outside the site is a bus stop with buses every 20 minutes or so into Halifax.
The centre of Hipperholme with pubs, restaurants and shops is only a 5 minutes walk away. One of the other neighbours on the industrial estate is a beauty salon offering a range of services from manicures and facials to massage!
At only £14 a night the site offers a great place to stay for anyone wanting to visit Halifax or Shibden Hall. I am sure we will be back….hopefully in warmer, drier weather!
Today, February 9th, would have been my big brother’s 71st birthday.
Here are a few photos of him…..actually working for his degree ….taken by our father, JMH when he and Bat visited Bob in Norwich in the early 1970’s.
The last photo, below, was taken much earlier when Bob was an undergraduate at University College, Oxford studying Maths and Philosophy. He went there when he was only 17 and led a rather hedonistic lifestyle with only a little studying. Here he is effortlessly enjoying a laid-back punt on the river.
One of the many fabulous things about having the Van is that it is like having one’s own mobile hotel. We frequently use it for short trips away to go to gigs which otherwise might mean returning home to Headingley very late at night. This wasn’t much of a problem in years gone past when a music night out was always a late one, often finished off by a curry in the early hours of the morning at Nafees or perhaps the original Corner Cafe. However, such shenanigans are now beyond the limit for two aging geriatrics who are wiped out by staying up much beyond ten o’clock. Being aged and retired does have its advantages though, as it means that attending a music event some distance from home can be stretched to a 3 or 4 night trip away. This was the case with our most recent musical escapade.
We have been Mik Artistik fans for over a decade and have seen him perform in many venues in Leeds, the last one being the “Christmas Party ” at The Brudenell in late December. So, when we saw that the Square Chapel Arts Centre in Halifax was offering “An Evening With Mik Artistik” it was a no brainer and a campsite in Hipperholme was duly booked.
We had never been to The Square Chapel Arts Centre before, which abuts the stunning Piece Hall in Halifax. It was early evening when we arrived at the venue and were able to admire the almost Venetian beauty of the Piece Hall before seeking out the Arts Centre.
The interior of the Arts Centre is also very beautiful with a mix of modern art and Georgian architecture.
We had been intrigued by the event as it wasn’t going to be the usual type of Mik Artistik gig. It was based in the fairly small Copper Auditorium and so promised to be quite an intimate performance which involved a short 2011 documentary film, ” Who is Mick Artistic”, an interview of Mik and his faithful band member, Jonny Flockton, by the BBC Radio 6 presenter Chris Hawkins and finally a live music set.
First how to describe his music. Well it is certainly of the Marmite variety. We absolutely love it…..our daughter absolutely hates it…and that’s despite years of indoctrination. I find it hilarious, surreal and at times totally mad. A bit like Mik himself!
For a largely unknown Leeds figure he has some very famous fans. Iggy Pop recently named “Sweet Leaf of the North” on National Public Radio in America as his favourite song from the last decade “because it’s human, and it’s real, and it has soul”. What a great recommendation for a song that’s about a leaf stuck on a van windscreen!
Actually, I find it quite hard to categorise his music. It is often amusing, sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful, but always unpredictable. To give it the label “comedy songs” would be to demean it. I would perhaps put him alongside artists such as Ivor Cutler or Viv Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.
What he does at his gigs is provide a sort of cabaret performance of his songs….usually involving impromptu and off piste ” musicalarised ” reactions to events or people at the gig itself. How on earth his fellow band members manage to keep up with his diversions from the songs on the set list heaven only knows….but they do. Such moments are hilarious at the time but do not transpose well when written down. On Thursday night for instance, he knocked over his drink during the performance and then made up a song about cleaning it up and in doing so immediately won the aged, rather reserved audience over.
For me his songs are surreal, beautiful observations of the mundaneities of everyday life which so often resonate with my own experiences. The plaintiff, “I’m turning into Dad” reminds me of when I was once in a phone box and caught sight of a stranger who was a dead ringer for my mother…..only to finally reach the ghastly conclusion that it was my own reflection! Or the numerous occasions I either have or have been tempted to make that impatient mistake of walking to the next bus stop and then had to race there, all the time worrying that the bus would overtake me before I reached the stop. The song that describes that event so well “Car That Makes A Bus Sound”, always makes me grin.
The short documentary film did provide more insights about Mik although it left many of our questions unanswered.
He was born in a small village in Ireland in 1955 and with his family came to live in Armley in Leeds when he was 5. He had quite a tough childhood and struggled with the grey, grimy, and grim aspects of industrial Armley in the sixties. After several fruitless jobs he went to art college in Bradford and art remains a great motivator for him today.
His house is a riot of chaos filled with objects and bits of detritus he has retrieved from the streets of Holbeck which he then uses as inspiration either for his songs or his artwork. He particularly enjoys “rescuing ” small, broken toys that he then puts in pride of place on his windowsill.
Although he has used a wide range of media in his art, he is most famous for his “paper bag portraits”. Simple pen or pencil portraits of local people drawn on the back of paper bags in pubs, cafes, community centres and streets around Holbeck and Leeds city centre. He says he used the bags as he thought it an interesting concept as to what might be behind the portrait on the back of the bag or what might be placed inside. And all along I had just presumed that it was simply a cheaper and more readily available paper source!
The Q and A conducted by Chris Hawkins did clear up another area of mystery. Several Christmases ago Gary was given the latest Mik Artistik CD by the family. He struggled to hide his disappointment…..he was convinced that he already had it in his collection. However when he played it later he realised that it did contain new material and indeed was a different album. It was just that the CD sleeve looked remarkably similar to the one he already possessed.
As you can see…..this is indeed true….
Mik told the audience that he deliberately kept the artwork on his all his CDs very similar as he enjoyed the thought that folks at his merchandise stall would be confused as to whether or not they had already bought the CDs on offer! This is clearly far more of a humorous prank than a sales tactic as most people will probably err on the side of caution and not buy the CD in case they already have it at home.
Being greedy I was slightly disappointed that the Q and A was not opened up to the audience so that some of my own burning questions could be answered.
Such as….was God still such a large feature in his life? In the film….now almost 10 years ago……he had said he went to mass every day …..albeit only with 6 old ladies and a priest with a club foot. As a Mik Artistik fan it had never occurred to me that he might be strongly religious.
Also although, it was probably not appropriate in that venue, I would like to know what had happened to the other regular stalwart of his band who had appeared in the film…..Benson, the bass guitarist whose musical talent my son and husband had felt irreplaceable.
Then came the moment we had all been waiting for an all too short, live music set featuring some of his best known and loved songs.
All in all a glorious evening was had by one and all.
And finally…if given the chance, what would you ask Mik?
Now that we are back home in Leeds, after spending almost 6 months on the marvellous island of Arran living in our Classic Hymer motor-home, we are having serious withdrawal problems.
Friends were amazed that living in such tight, close proximity to each other for 6 months that we didn’t fall out and that neither of us sustained or inflicted upon the other a serious injury. Especially as even at the best of times we are a rather argumentative if not combatative couple and are well known for squabbling about the slightest thing.
‘Tis true that I did complain about Gary’s insistence upon having the electric cool box in the van and about having to shift the bloody thing up and down, off the dinette, to under the table and then drag it down to under the drop down bed. Just so he could keep copious quantities of beer and wine cool for our many visitors. But, as Jamie pointed out, if having that kept him happy why be so mean as to quibble about it…..After all he was using it for the greater good. Also , to be fair, Gary did not moan much about the huge quantity of wool I had stashed about the van so that I could undertake almost any crochet project that took my fancy whilst we were away from the mother lode stash of yarn I have squatted in our cellar.
We miss Arran; its fabulous , ever changing landscapes, wildlife, beaches and fresh , clear air and we miss living in our cosy , snug van. It seems we have our best nights sleep in the van. Whether that is down to the bed or to the fact that we can seal the windows and skylights up so that hardly a speck of daylight can disturb our slumbers we do not know.
Now we are back in Leeds again my asthma is slowly worsening and breathlessness is returning. The air, here in Headingley is very polluted and we live close to one of the busiest roads into the city. The traffic along Headingley Lane was at a complete standstill this evening and the congestion stretched right from Hyde Park out to West Park….about 3 miles. Oh for the open roads of Arran. Travelling back from a night out in Brodick to Lochranza we only saw one car for the whole of the 15 miles! Although we did end up chasing a lone deer that got trapped in the glare of our headlights.
Once again Gary is struggling to sleep at night and is lucky if he gets 6 hours. In times gone past we could have blamed noisy students….or the “Stupids”…..as Gary prefers to call them. We are surrounded by hordes of them living both directly opposite in halls of residence and next door to us in a family house which has been converted into 3 flats which now accommodates 10 students! However, since our return in October they have largely been quiescent and apart from the occasional unreasonableness have been fairly quiet after the midnight hour.
We are missing North West Scotland and ache to return. In the meantime we have had to make “do” with trips away in the van to Bruges, Sheffield, Eastleigh, Skipton, Borrowdale, York, Howden and Penrith. Later this week we are off to a campsite at Hipperholme, Halifax. All wonderful places…..but not Arran!