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!

What’s in a name?

13 08 2012

So while we were holidaying in Victoria, I suggested we visited the nearby lighthouse. Its name/location was a bit vague, but good ol’ Google came up with the answer “Fort Rodd Hill“. In hindsight a pretty big clue, but nevertheless it was with some surprise that when we turned into the car-park we saw not a lighthouse (though that was indeed there, tucked away out of sight) but a pretty extensive decommissioned military installation!

Even now, I am sometimes struck by the youth of Canada – especially here in the West. The source of place names are often still very much tangible. Fort Rodd Hill is still quite obviously a fort! I know, I know, it does sound obvious, but if you’re from “The Old World“, the connection between a place-name and its original reason for having that name isn’t always so blindingly obvious. I grew up in a place called Silsden in West Yorkshire, UK. I remember at the age of about 8 being told by a teacher that the name was a contraction of “Sigle’s Dene”, meaning steep sided valley run by Sigle, the local warlord… or something equally unlikely. Nearby Skipton was “Sheep Town” and to this day is a market town. Well, you get the drift of my point.

The armed standoff of U.S. and British forces during the San Juan Islands Pig War of 1859 led to a steady increase in the Esquimalt naval location used by the Royal Navy for its Pacific Squadron.  When Russia declared war on Turkey this sparked the Great Eastern Crisis in 1877-78, which focused attention on the lack of defences for Britain’s only naval station on the western seaboard of the entire Americas. By 1898 a pretty extensive set of battlements was in place including a rather nifty 6″ disappearing gun which used the gun’s recoil to power the gun beneath the protection of the defences for reloading.

With the approach of WWII, the defences were revamped and a more rapid firing gun was put in place to handle the faster modern torpedo boats.

Though much of the building is the original 1890’s concrete emplacements, the place has an eerily modern feel to it. I guess its age is given away more by the quality of the finishing rather than the basic architecture and functional design. Even though this was built only as a military location, the solid concrete walls have neatly rounded edges and attention to detailing around the few inward pointing window-frames.

There’s a lot to see, with three separate gun batteries, a gas-proof targeting command centre, searchlight emplacements, kitchen and barracks. Set in well kept grounds with nature trails too, it’s an interesting way to kill time on a sunny day.