Gary Strachan – "Write" Said Fred

Off The Wall Essays From Deep Within A Capricious Mind


Wednesday 6th June – I had a sojourn to Ilkley this morning/early afternoon. Accompanied by my spouse and doubts about the government’s Brexit strategy, we journeyed 17 miles by trusty steed (well, trusty Vauxhall Astra) north west of our bustling metropolis.

Ilkley, West Yorkshire’s spa town with it’s core of Victorian architecture, quaint stores, Betty’s Tearoom and the official start of the Dales Way – A 84 mile hike over the Dales to Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria.

A town of sharp incline, or decline depending on your outlook, sitting on the southern bank of the River Wharfe. Renowned for a colloquial folk song about a man risking death from exposure by strolling Ilkley Moor without a hat.

Like medicinal compound’s efficacies to the eponymous character in The Scaffold’s 1960s refrain ‘Lily the Pink’, in the 17th and 18th centuries the town’s spa water gained a reputation for it’s healing properties . A renown that attracted visits from the likes of ‘The Origin of Species’ author Charles Darwin, and latterly French artist Madame Tussaud.

A big advocate of the health-affirming qualities of the spa water, Mrs Tussaud was often heard waxing lyrical about Ilkley. Over-bearing platitudes that reportedly got on her audiences wick.

See what I did there?…… Madame Tussaud waxing lyrical and getting on people’s wick….. ha, ha, ha…… Inspired!

Ok, I admit it was hopeless, but you try padding out a blog with a minimum of 500 words on a daily basis…… It’s not chuffing easy I can tell you…….Oh, and can you in Mansfield pull your flies up please, or the man of folklore strolling Ilkley Moor without his hat won’t be the only one risking problems from exposure.

While in Ilkley, my wife Karen treat me to a gifts of two books. The reading matter benevolently purchased for me by my wee missus the literary classics ‘Of Mice & Men’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.

Two tomes, along with a couple of as yet unbought epitomes, I intend to store between the mantelpiece bookends I’m currently looking to acquire. Books purchased not only with a view to read, but an ornamental display to replace the candles that currently reside on the fireplace. Biblelots that have had their day in the sun, which will retire gracefully to my patio table.

An idea I got from a quaint home furnishings store in Ilkley. That particular shop’s stock of bookends weren’t quite the style I sought; nevertheless I thought it an inspired decoration. As a result, tonight I’m going to ask online retail god Amazon if he/she can recommend anything more suitable.

I decided I’m going to display classic literature between the bookends, an unwanted consequence of Karen refusing to let me undertake my original idea of exhibiting Viz annuals on the fireplace mantle.

Talking of bookends regresses me to childhood and holiday trips from Gateshead to my grandma and granddad’s bungalow in Reighton Gap, North Yorkshire.

During the odyssey south we’d repeat play Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits on an eight-track cartridge player in my dad’s Ford Cortina. One of those laments the short but thought-provoking ‘Bookends’, which includes the verse:-

Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, A time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They’re all that’s left you

Categories: Blogs, family, fiction, humour

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