The Theakston family have a long tradition of brewing in the North Yorkshire town of Masham, the original brewery having been founded getting on for two hundred years ago. I have a long tradition of taking photographs of pubs and breweries, these photographs of the Masham brewery and the nearby White Bear Hotel, were taken getting on for fifty years ago. You can’t beat tradition.
Category Archives: News From Nowhere
Whilst on a walk yesterday, I got to thinking about all the things I have missed over this last lockdown year. There are, of course, family and friends, holidays in the sun, meals out and parties at home. And there is the pub: that depot of contented neutrality, that refuge from the outside world; that reading room, that meeting space, that home from home. I miss your beery smells, your casual choice of pointless chatter or drinking peace. Soon, my friend, soon, I will return.
We had a computer when I was at university. When I say “we”, I mean the university had a computer. Just the one. An enormous mainframe job which had a building to itself. If you were lucky you might get to use it once in your university career. When I say “you” would get to use it, I mean someone would use it on your behalf; normal folk weren’t let within an airlock of it. You could ask it to do things: not fun things like play space invaders or send messages to the other side of the world, but process data, calculate stuff, find patterns in numbers. Communications with the computer were by way of punched cards: bits of cardboard with holes punched in them. Once your data had been transferred to punched cards, fed into the computer and the results had eventually emerged from the other end of the machine you were given your bundle of punched cards to keep. They made good book marks. And then 51 years later, as you were sorting out some old books, one would drop out and history would hit you with a punch.
Uncle Frank collected bus tickets. That’s not all: he also collected tape recordings of tv adverts from the 1950s, cigarette cards, and the occasional stamp. It was a relatively harmless pastime, and nothing like as disruptive to the family as, say, Auntie Amy, who collected husbands. I still have some of his old bus tickets and they are true works of art. The look, the colour, the very feel of them can transport you through time with the same effectiveness as the buses could transport you into town.
For over a century, Britannia has sat on top of the old bank building and the end of Elland Bridge, flanked by columns of Aberdeen granite, two pubs, and a host of mill chimneys. Whether she was looking at the old gas works, watching the traffic of the new by-pass or scanning Elland Woods – is that a meandering bear I see? – remains a mystery. Pubs, chimneys, gas works – and even bears – come and go, but Britannia remains, resolute in stone, ruling the occasional waves that appear in the Calder And Hebble Canal.
This is a photograph of unknown origin, the type of thing some people call an orphan image, which I must have acquired at some point as part of a job lot of old photographs nobody wanted any more. There is, however, an almost painterly quality about it: someone has taken the time to pose the group and the composition is outstanding. Equally, it has the ability to suggest both famous people and occasions: blink and I see President Roosevelt inspecting plans for the Panama Canal, blink again and it is Eiffel planning his tower. I’ve coloured it a bit and cropped it a bit, just to prove that you can’t spoil a good photo by messing with it. I even did a Google Image search to see if it was a copy of a more famous photo, and surprise, surprise, I found an exact match! It appeared in a blogpost five years ago by someone who said: “I have found this old photo and I don’t know where it came from!”. The post was from me – which just goes to prove two things: that life is a constant process of rediscovery ….. and my mind is beginning to go!
The colour has gone from my life. What was once a rainbow’s worth of saturated hues is now an endless progression of grey on grey on slightly more grey. This chromatic calamity occurred suddenly yesterday evening, and was apparently due to a blocked nozzle. I attempted to clear the blockage with some patent mixture I bought from a man on the internet. The process was long, and some people may find a full description of it upsetting, so I will limit myself to saying it involved plastic tubes, syringes and sheets of blotting paper. After a few hours I was left with blotting paper images that could give any Turner Prize winner a run for their money, colour-coded fingers …… and a blocked nozzle. I would be more than happy to ditch the blessed thing in the nearest natural beauty spot, but it is built like a tank and I’m not as young as I once was. Anyway, it still prints in black and white. It sits at the end of my desk and whispers things like, “monochrome used to be good enough for you, until you started all this colourising nonsense“. It taunts me and teases me with an occasional cyan promise. It was once my best friend, now it is nothing but a dead printer. RIP in DPI.
This is a photograph from forty years ago of Cannon Mills in Great Horton, Bradford. It is a hundred yards away from where my father was born and grew up. It is a mile away from where I was born and spent the first four years of my life. And yet, I hardly know the area other than through street names that ring distant bells of memory, and the scent of heritage that clings to the flagstones. Like most people, I have a bucket list of places I want to visit and revisit once this lockdown is over, and on that you will find your sunny Spain and your colourful Caribbean Islands. Such places have to fight for space, however, with the streets of the West Riding I proudly call my home.
This is a photograph from forty years ago of the statue to Michael Arthur Bass, First Baron Burton. It stood – indeed if Google StreetView is to be believed, it still stands – in front of Burton Town Hall, where the bronze baron supervises the car park. I took the photograph to illustrate a book on the lives of the great brewers, I was working on at the time (which like most of my books never progressed much further than a few scribbled notes on the back of a damp beer mat). Michael Arthur Bass – the great grandson of William Bass the founder of the brewery – was a prime example of members of the great brewing families that were elevated to the House of Lords, and collectively were known as “The Beerage”.