Nora Batty’s seriously wrinkled stockings

15 12 2012

So if you’ve no idea who Nora Batty is, firstly check out a few classic episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. It’s based in Holmfirth, a lovely little place in West Yorkshire.

Kathy Staff as Nora Batty. Source Jane, over on Noisy Shoes

Anyway, apart from the inherent value attributed to it simply because it’s a mention of Yorkshire, the reference is entirely irrelevant. If you’ve already been and checked out Last Of the Summer Wine – I apologise. It’s not very funny, is it? But the scenery is worth it. I have no idea how they found so many non-raining days to film the series!! I can attest that a great way of upsetting your spousal partner is to frequently interject with “I’ve been there”. It works wonders at whittling away marital stability it seems.

Anyway, now we’re safely back from that cul-de-sac (Literally “bag’s bum” in French), on to the real tale…

I often have lunch at Murchie’s in Richmond, near my office. It’s actually their distribution centre, but they have a little café on the side which sells lovely salads and of course their luxuriant range of tea. The lovely serving wenches there (I jest – no comments thank-you. I wouldn’t DARE call them wenches to their faces. Or bottoms, for that matter) are very friendly and pleasant. To the extent that the whole point of having a salad at lunch seems lost on them. I often have a serving so large that it cascades apologetically over the tub (designed to standardise the portions!) and onto the paper plate added to the ensemble for the purpose. I always have Russian Caravan to drink. I am reportedly the only person to have it, yet am teased frequently with questions of whether I’m having “my usual green tea” or the Earl Grey.

Anyway, where was I? Holmfirth, Murchie’s, tea, ah yes…

So Murchie’s often have the radio going just to add a little ambiance to the otherwise rather stark room. They’ve done their best with the addition of a (non-functional) pot-bellied stove and some half-hearted Welsh dresser thing as a display cabinet, but when all’s said and done… it’s an industrial unit. And it looks like it!

But the music helps. I’m normally trying to read some book or other, and the music helps set the mood. Usually it’s Sirius satellite radio (why do North Americans pronounce it “serious”?!) The time of day I’m there, it’s some acoustic programme, and they often have classic songs being re-imagined either by the original artist or someone covering it. There’s no commentary (cheap radio production), but thanks to Shazam, I can usually figure out who is singing any songs I like, and I can acquire a version when I get home.

There was one tune on pretty frequent rotation, and it really hooked me. I used Shazam, and it turned out to be Norah Jones – Say Goodbye, from her brand new album Little Broken Hearts.

Bring me back the good old days,
When you let me misbehave.
Always knew, it wouldn’t last,
But if you ask, I’d go again.
Yeah, I’d go again.

Here she is performing it live

So anyway, I duly ended up getting the whole album, which is moody and opulent. There’s some boppy yet thoughtful tunes like Happy Pills

And the downright creepy Miriam. Ms Jones is plainly not someone to cross in matters of love!

Anyway, I now listen to this album on rotation in my car, alongside Regina Spektor, Coldplay, Mother Mother, Lloyd Cole (who was VERY cool and personally messaged me the other day!) and a bunch of other equally eclectic tunesmiths. And then I hear the other day that Ravi Shankar has died.

Wikipedia: Ravi Shankar

I confess that I was only vaguely aware of his work, and that was strictly in the orbit of George Harrison and the Beatles. A tiny fraction of his work and influence. And those two threads might have stayed forever blowing independently in the breeze until this evening. This evening (after watching Life of Pi), Mrs E casually mentioned that Norah Jones was his daughter! Turns out her full name is Geethali Norah Jones Shankar. Her half-sister Anoushka Shankar took after their dad and is an accomplished sitar player too.

Music it seems really does flow through your blood!


Salt Lake City

19 04 2012

So I’m not what you might call “religious”. Well, I suppose you you could, (it being more than likely that you live in a free-ish country if they let you even access this web site), but you’d be wrong.

I actually have a lot of respect for people who have a personal spiritual faith. We all have faith in our lives, just not necessarily a spiritual one. I mean – think about it. When you drive down the street, you inherently have faith that everyone else out there steering 1/2 tonne machines will stay to their side of the road. When your faith turns out to not be well founded, the results can be a bit, well, “messy”.

But people who have a sincere spiritual faith go beyond that. They believe their lives have meaning beyond the transportation and reproduction of genes. I don’t have to agree with them to have respect for their views. [Unless they’re dogmatic – I have issues with dogma, be it religious or company “rules is rules” merchants. They tend to make me take a contrary stance even if I actually agree with their core message. Blindly following anything is a dangerous step towards giving up free will. Remember how irritating it was when your dad always said “‘Because I said so!” in response to you asking “Why?”]

And let’s face it, the Earth would be a bloody boring rock to sail through space on if everybody had the same opinion – even allowing for rampant and squidgy sex.

Anyway, my point is that I draw a distinction between “faith” (respect), and “religion” (not so much). Organised religion tells you HOW to have faith. That’s like telling you HOW to love someone. Yeah, right.

All this as a rather tortuous lead-up to sharing my thoughts on my recent trip to Salt Lake City (SLC). I was there for work, which tends to help when visiting new places. Someone else is picking up the bill, and though it can restrict where you go and what you get to see, you do at least get to go to places you might not have chosen for yourself. This opens up the potential for surprises – both pleasant and otherwise.

So, if you didn’t already know, SLC was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and his Mormon followers. I guess they were big downhill skiing fans. Or maybe snow-boarders.

Contrary to commonly held belief though, less than half of the current population are members of this particular branch of Christianity.

Salt Lake City - Salt Lake Temple

Salt Lake City - Salt Lake Temple (Photo credit: Kwong Yee Cheng)

I had several business meetings during my visit, and one senior person asked me how I found the place. Resisting a parody of George Harrison‘s flippant Beatles-era response to “How did you find America?” which was something along the lines of  “We turned left at Greenland”, I gave a politically correct, neutral response. It turned out he himself was not a Mormon but characterised the church’s membership as being highly family oriented, hard-working, and generally unlikely to stray far from their roots. As he pointed out – there are plenty of worse communities for a non-member to live within!

Indeed, I found the whole place to be generally clean and not at all unpleasant, though I did notice the disproportionately high number of police cars I have come to associate with pretty much every US town I have ever visited. Unlike taxis, I might add! I was told I’d have to wait at least 15 minutes for a taxi from the hotel to take me the 1.5miles to the office. Were it not raining like the Vancouver I’d so recently left, I might very well have walked it.

Which brings me on to the last strand of tonight’s tale – the hotel. I was meeting up with some new colleagues from another office. I’d never met them before, and they were flying in from another US city. I’d been told their hotel, but unfortunately it was fully booked, and I’d had to find an alternative. Google helped out and I found one by the name of “Crystal Inn“. This turned out to be a local chain, and was excellent value. It was around $80 a night, included a great cooked breakfast, and best of all… the hotel shuttle took me right to the office every morning. Even better, the friendly red-headed young lady on the reception (who doubled as shuttle driver), insisted that if I was struggling to get back to the hotel, I should just give them a call, and they’d come and pick me up.

Crystal Inn, Murray, Utah

Obviously, being male, I’d like to believe that this attention was all due to my magnetic personality, my wit, charm, and possibly my dodgy English accent. However, in truth, I believe it was actually no more than sound customer service and potentially one more aspect of the Mormon community. I would stay there again in a heartbeat, and when all’s said and done, that’s what customer service is all about: good repeat business.

The Crystal Inn chain, I am reliably told, is named after a lady called, er, well Crystal obviously. Her father was allegedly a successful local oil refinery and petrol station owner with an eye for a good location – be it for a filling station or a hotel. He gave her the money to start her own business, and hotels were her choice. It became very successful by all accounts and she ultimately took over the oil business too.

The only downside I found to SLC was the rather arcane liquor laws. At least they have them now, I suppose. I am well into my 40s and was carded for the first time ever. It was quite amusing to watch the less than stellar intellect of a bar server try and work out why my BC driver’s license wouldn’t scan into her US-oriented barcode reader. Eventually she decided it wasn’t worth the effort. The bartender himself impressed me by knowing what a Caipirinha was, though admitted I would be unlikely to find one within the state.

Prior to the Salt Lake Olympics, I understand finding alcohol was harder than finding rocking horse shit. Not to mention coffee, or a decent cup of tea. Stimulants, you see? Dogma…

On the other hand, I think SLC must have the world’s greatest dentists judging by the amount of root beer that gets consumed there. By the bucket.

Anyway, the experience at one local bar & grill taught our little cluster of new friends that (i) you can drink as much beer (I use the word loosely – it was all 4%) as you like at the bar, but (ii) if one of your number might prefer wine instead, you need to decamp to the restaurant area. Once there, you learn that (iii) though you can now purchase anything from the wider drinks menu, (iv) you can only have ONE drink unless (v) you purchase food you don’t actually want, whereupon (vi) they will bring you enough of it to feed several families of starving Biafrans. Each.

Also – we discovered that they’ve never heard of port (or “polt” as the young lady translated my guttural English accent), and Angostura bitters (despite being an ingredient of things on their drinks list) were up there with fairy dust.

So – not what you’d call a holiday destination (at least outside of the skiing season), but definitely not a place to actively avoid… unless you’re hooked on soda water with bitters.