Tag Archives: quaker

All Shook Up In’th Shops (part 1)

13 Nov

Some readers of this blog will know that I don’t really do shopping. Well, high street shopping I mean. I hate the same blandness that 95% of the stores here in the UK  represent these days. I despise the way that the big chains and the corporates assume that we’re a bunch of brainless, zombified sheep – sleep-walking our way to unecessary consumer tosh accruement and purchasing-oblivion.

I am a big fan of Quakerism. Of keeping the material things in our life plain and simple. Of spurning the constant need that many of us feel – To Have, To Be, To Own.  But a great number of Quakers themselves – were actually the leading capitalist-philanthropists of their day (I am talking pre-1950s here – I am talking the Rowntrees, Cadburys, Frys and hundreds more who were committed to Quakerist life and practice in business.)  So I can’t really blame the Quakers for my horror of anything that involves numerical transaction. They were quite happily pootling along – selling widgets to punters. In as ethically and perhaps as paternalistically a way as possible of course…

So, no. Instead, I nominate Bill Bryson to blame for all of this anti-shopping malarky. Bill’s ‘Notes from a Small Island‘ had a huge effect on me when it was first published. This book is one of our 20th Century travel and civic classics.  A must-read where Bill charms us with take on Brit-life but also comments on the monotony – the bleak and barren landscape which now forms the shop frontages of most UK towns. His hilarious anecdotes and sarky-arse commentary precisely depicted what I was feeling as I hung out in various abodes during my late teens and early twenties; “Bloody hell! Am I in Manchester or Oxford or Oldham or Birmingham? It all looks the sodding same, these days!”

Still one of the funniest books that I've ever read...

Still one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read…

And don’t even get me onto some of the crimes of the built environment that have been carried out here in the UK. The wanton destruction of stunningly beautiful architecture – some of them hundreds of years old – in order to slap a franchised ‘Coronary 2 Go! Geddit it Gulped!’ cladding for your latest fast food outlet. Yes, Bryson’s gripes got into my head. So much so, that I’ve been pathologically avoiding Britain’s High Streets for many, many years now. (Mind you, thinking about it – the man has clearly saved me a bob or two. Cheers Bill!)

But this aversion to all things-high street extends to my other half. And the kids too. A suggestion of “let’s hit the shops” in my family is tantamount to saying “anyone fancy a bout of gastroenteritis this weekend?” So yesterday’s little excursion messed with my head somewhat. I visited a department store…. I know! A business named ‘Harvey’s of Halifax’.

Now, not being a born n’ bredder of Halifax (me being an East Mancunian defector now living on t’other side of the Pennines)  I was informed beforehand by ‘real locals’ that this trip to the shops might be a slightly less traumatic experience for me than giving birth without pain-relief in the Kalahari (which happened to be a barrel of laughs, believe you me.)  “Oooh – Harvey’s is lovely!” one friend said.  Another neighbour told me that she was “reet jealous!” that I was popping out to this particular shop. My mother also said that she had heard of them. And my mother is a lady for whom Lidl simply doesn’t cut the mustard…

So, I was all set to visit the shop. And okay, the plan was to just have a quick brew in their cafe. But I was initially impressed by the presentation of the building. And oh…dear, dear reader – if you are at all interested in urban design and heritage – you HAVE to check out Halifax for some stunning examples, the Piece Hall to begin with of course, as a ground-breaking bit of architecture. But Harvey’s building is also rather impressive.  The business began back in the 1920’s. But today it stands proud – with three historical buildings merged – to form the modern-day Harveys.  Although, I have to use the term ‘modern’ loosely – because the minute I stepped into the place I was catapulted back into the past. A reminder of that wonderful store named Lewis’ in Manchester. Many childhood memories of accompanying my Granny there via her Datsun Cherry (one of Granny’s first jobs back in the 30s was as a shop assistant in Lewis’).

The original Harvey's store

The original Harvey’s store

Immediately, I breathed in….what was it? Old World gentility. But not old-fashioned. No – it was far more upmarket than the Grace Bros (anyone remember ‘Are You Being Served?‘) Meaning that Harvey’s clearly rings those top class bells.  But … without that sense of snootiness. Without making you feel that you can only shop there if you enjoy the feeling of Being Better Than Thou. So the place doesn’t possess the up-itself attitude of your Harvey Nicks.  Sure, it’s enormous in size, but had been designed so that you didn’t feel too lost (although you probably were – if you were me – it happens to me a lot. I have a tendency to walk round ten square feet at least fifteen times without realising it.) The place was utterly bustling with what clearly were very loyal customers.

And I can tell you why the customers were loyal. This is because it’s a 100% family owned and operated firm. I witnessed many sales staffs assisting customers. Dealing with them in such a way that was a zillion miles from the  USA-induced corporate Stepford Wives customer-service faux friendliness. And I also saw the owner and Chairman himself stopping and chatting to at least a dozen customers – filling in for his daughter who is MD of the business. I noticed the Company Secretary dashing over to assist a disabled customer, I clocked her getting read to help with clearing up tables in the restaurant…

These customers don't need free booze to stay loyal (although wesh frobably likesh it!)

These customers don’t need free booze to stay loyal (although wesh frobably likesh it!)

This was down to earth, genuinely-give-a-toss-about-people northern customer service. To date, the closest I have seen to this attitude has been – not from a high street shop – but from a social housing landlord (the award-winning North West’s Irwell Valley Housing Assoc.)  Irwell Valley’s Tom Manion will tell you that employee happiness levels are utterly transparent to the general public and convey immediately either very good or very poor management. Roger Harvey would probably agree with him. Of course, there is the off-chance that the staff at Harveys are not *truly* a happy crew and that they’re  just damned good actors (and are being bribed to put on a good show for the consumers as their families are actually being held at gunpoint in the lingerie section.)

But the bees-knees of this particular visit was when I learned about the charity work that Harveys are involved with.  Again – none of your off the shelf corporate big charidee names stuff. The store is heavily involved with a range of local charities and arts groups. Many of them being the smaller names that you may not be familiar with, but which (in my opinion) are more worthy of praise than the Big Guys in terms of bang for bucks. And real heart. Indeed, I happened to meet one of their latest recruits – a member of staff who had been part of a programme run by Halifax based charity ‘Project Challenge’ and who had been unemployed but was now working at Harveys and still dedicated to raising money for them.

And best of all the store is an INDIE!   Not part of a big chain. Independent…going it alone…sailing the seas of creativity and entrepreneurship. Like me in many ways. But with better underwear. Yes indeedy, inspiring people in an inspiring place. I came over all giddy. So much so that I actually ended up buying things from the place. Flexing the old plastic. Now, this is a dangerous practice for me. The flabby muscle of rampant consumerism was beginning to twitch. I was only saved from purchasing a new coat by the fact that I was about to wet my pants (excessive caffeine) and that my parking ticket was about to run out. And we all know how evil, twisted and jobsworth those West Yorkshire Parking Attendents are…

Modern day Harvey's.  Perhaps the only store in the UK that could make me blog about it. Without any brown envelope exchanges or cash for question deals...

Modern day Harvey’s. Perhaps the only store in the UK that could make me blog about it. Without any brown envelope exchanges or cash for question deals…

Driving back towards homeland, I realised that I needed to break this new buzz of mine. All recovering addicts know that if you feel a new, heady vibe – you had better get back on the waggon – quick.  Try a spot of ‘what used to work.’

So tune in for Part Two (“Breaking the Addiction – with thanks to a local charity shop. And the consumer demands of my budgie.”)

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10 Reasons *Some People* Hate Yorkshire

31 Jul

***NB – this blog has been written with a very large slice of Tongue In Cheek. And Indeed – By a Lassie Of The North…***

Yorkshire Yorkshire Yorkshire. It’s all that we ever hear these days. I think that it’s about time that we had a full and frank commentary in relation to the damned place.

So here are 10 good reasons why you should not even contemplate visiting Yorkshire. Or having anything to do with Yorkshire Day.

1. It’s Bigger Than Yours

Try saying something like this to someone from Yorkshire;  ‘Hey – I’ve got an Auntie in Yorkshire. The next time I visit her, I’ll pop by and see you!’  And just watch them do this sort of sardonic sneer and go ‘Ha! Do you actually KNOW how big Yorkshire is?  We’re the biggest county in the UK! It’s not like your London! It’s not like you can jump on the tube and be at Stepney Green in 10 minutes flat. No, lad. You’ll have to climb, hills, valleys, dales for many a year before you can even catch a whiff of yer fish n chips in Whitby, you know…”

2. Tour de France/ Tour de Yorkshire.

They Got Too Giddy

They Got Too Giddy

Say no more.  I mean – how giddy did they get about all of that? Did you see people living in the other parts of the country that hosted the race? Did they get all emotional and start showing off their great tracts of land and all of that? No. Yet again, the Yorkshire folk went over the top and got all up- themselves and no doubt are still riding about on bicycles with yorkshire puddings balanced on their heads. Or whatever weird pastime they’ll be engaging in for the next 100 years as they tell their kids how glorious the nation of Yorkshire is and how a Yorkshireman invented the wheel, or whatever.

3. The Arts

Yorkshire people are simply not content with their lot. Lots of counties would be perfectly happy with the fact that they spawned Emmerdale, Last Of The Summer Wine or Heartbeat. But no. The tykes want to prove that they can do more than mass TV appeal. They start getting all la-di-dah about being literary and all of that. Like – “Oooh – we have the Brontes, Simon Armitage, Barbara Hepworth, Alan Bennett, David Hockney. the Yorkshire Sculpture Park nad oooh have you ever visited Hebden Bridge? It’s SO bo-ho y’know!”

4. They inject their Extremism into Neighbouring Territories

Not content with brainwashing their own offspring into their regionalist bigotry, they are now mounting covert campaigning over the border. Now me – I’m a Manchester, Lancashire born lass – but do you hear people from Lancashire wittering on about the red rose? About being ‘Proud to be from Lancashire!’  No. But there is now a disturbing trend of Lancashire folk who we all *think* to be living in Lancashire…. but who are wanna-be Yorkies. Get this folks – thanks to border confusion/changes – Oldham Council (a Lancashirebased Council!) actually supports – nay – champions Yorkshire Day and seems to be PROUD of the fact that many folk in the Saddleworth area feel strongly that they live in the west Riding of Yorkshire. They even have their own White Rose Society! There is still quite a lot of wrangling/consternation about this whole issue – but one thing is for sure –  travel around these Lancashire villages (according to the UK government) at the moment and see them bedecked in the white rose.

I ask you. Where will it all end? Pity the poor children of those part of Oldham who are already growing up all of a muddle about whether they are Lankys or not. If we aren’t too careful – these innocent kids will soon be neglecting their Eccles cakes in favour of a Fat Rascal.

5. They are Hugely Endowed

I feel sorry for the kids. It's all "Ooh! Look at our Yorkshire hills! Aren't you proud To be Yorkshire, eh?"

I feel sorry for the kids. It’s all “Ooh! Look at our Yorkshire hills! Aren’t you proud To be Yorkshire, eh?”

The hills, I mean. They have hills. Bloody great big buggers. Much better than the silly, roly-poly things that pass for ‘hills’ down south. And I mean – do we ever hear the end of this? So yeah, we all then have to agree that they do have the most stunning countryside in the country. And on top of that they have the seaside resorts, the moorlands, Bolton Abbey, the North York railways etc. etc. But I bet those tykes are all too tight to pay for the petrol for those *vast distances* involved for them in travelling there…

6.Nosh

The Yorkshire folk seem to think that they do the best food and drink in the country. They’re off there – spouting about their pork pies and their fish and chips and don’t even get them onto tearooms! It’s all ‘Betty and Taylors’ this and ‘Dark Woods poshest coffee in the world’ that.  As though when they turn the pig into bacon it has a white rose running through the middle of it! As though they grew the coffee beans in their own last remaining Yorkshire coal mine!  They’d probably lay claim to having invented Lancashire hot pot or making the first ever pan of Scouse, if you let them.

7. Historical claims

Recently, I read a most frightening little book (or should I say ‘propaganda’) named ‘Yorkshire’s Strangest Tales’ that stated that Robin Hood was not from Nottingham – but was a Yorkshire man. Along with Dick Turpin! And the author (this dreadful woman named Leonora Rustamova)  also waxed lyrical about the fact that Britain’s road network was invented by this dude named ‘Blind Jack’. From Knaresborough in Yorkshire. Or course. He probably invented the Concord, back in 1772, as well, didn’t he?Yorkshire strange tales

There is also much talk about Yorkshire being the base for the Saints – the first Celtic Christians that came to England. They also refer to their county as ‘God’s Own Country.’ Blasphemy! Utter blasphemy!

And I bet you that they reckon that Buddha had a flat in 1960’s Bradford, as well.

8. House Prices

So those Yorkshire folk, they sit there, all full of it lording it over the rest of us “Eee – I can own Harewood House, a yacht off Filey and a block of luxury flats in city centre Leeds – for the price of that cat-flap what you live in, in that London.”

And I think that this is due to something more than Yorkshire – tightness. There’s even a business group called ‘The Yorkshire Mafia’ and … call me a conspiracy theorist if you will – but I reckon its more than just a name!

9. Lost In Their Own Identity

Recently I have heard several famous people/pop stars etc claim “I’m Yorkshire, I am.” Or along those lines. I mean, have you ever heard someone say; “I’m Worcestershire” or “I’m London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, me I am.”

Exactly. The arrogance of these people is growing to monstrous proportions.

10.  Possible Neglect of Animals

I just find it strange… that Yorkshire people will pull anything out of their flat cap and claim it to be theirs – or to be better at anything and everything – than the rest of us. But think on this my friend. When was the last time you heard them getting excited about Yorkshire Terriers? No, indeed. There seems to be some kind of deep-rooted shame in the psyche of Yorkshire people when it comes to mentioning these small but hairy pooches.

In fact, I would go as far to say that Yorkshire Terriers are suffering from abject neglect when it comes to the marketing of Yorkshire.  The Yorkie terrier is the lost innocent in all of this madness!

A furry victim of prejudice? or simple neglect?

A furry victim of prejudice? Or simple neglect?

So dear reader – whilst certain commentators or politicians would like to see your concerns over extremism and issues of race and nationality being directed towards refugees, asylum seekers, muslims and the scottish – I think that we all need to look a lot closer to home.

Beware of Yorkshire Day, I say! These people are serious and they mean to take over the world…

 

 

(NB – if you got this far, finished the blog and still think that I am anti-Yorkshire, then you truly don’t get northern humour! And I feel pretty sure that Leonora Rustamova. Saddleworth White Rose Society and the Yorkshire Mafia will ‘get the plot’ too. But I do extend apologies to all Yorkshire Terriers everywhere. Because you deserve more PR than you are currently getting and I don’t mean to make light of this dreadful situation for you.)

 

*note* – this blog was inspired by a REAL conversation that I overheard. Thank you Crazy People On The Train!