I've been staying in Yorkshire - the home of Joe Cocker, The Arctic Monkeys and Thomas Crapper (of lavatorial fame). Here they also invented stainless steel, the kitchen tap and manufactured those yellow New York fire hydrants. Most importantly the Yorkshire folk at Burgon & Ball still make the hand shears that I'm sure you know - they've been used for dagging generations of New Zealand sheep.
And while in Yorkshire with a little help from my friends - I have been gongoozling. Gongoozling - from the land that invented the truck spotting app - was almost a lost art - the word and activity had almost disappeared. But now "idling the day away watching the activity on the canals" is popular again thanks to teams of volunteers who have dug the sediment and car bodies from the canals and restored the horse tow-paths for modern day walking and biking.
But gongoozlers don't just idle the day away - I can stand a little rain and walk the tow paths from end to end. As luck or physics will have it, canals have few hills and just a lock or two, so my joints are feelin’ alright for another day. The men that surveyed, engineered and dug the canals sent them by convoluted routes around valleys, over aqueducts, past titanic factories from the cotton milling, steel working, wool weaving past, and by luck past pubs. Pubs with names like The Lock-Keeper Inn, The Fisherman's Arms and The Boatyard. Avoiding the ones with hearts on walls, four candles on every table and posh food, we find the real pubs where you can leave your hat on - they serve Fish and Chips or Steak Pie, Yorkshire pudding and mushy peas plus the hand-pull ales with names that carry a story. Names like Saltaire - made near the town of the same name where the Victorian industrialist Titus Salt built his model woollen mill and village, and Black Sheep made by the black sheep of a brewing family. His strong ale is called "Riggwelter" (old Norse for upside down) the beer label showing an upside down "cast" sheep.
Last week we went up north. In England "The North" is anywhere north of your present position but south of the border. We left the industrial Brexit heartland of Doncaster (of Ronny Barker Open All Hours fame and the birthplace of our favourite Jeremy Clarkson) to the "remain in the EU" Northern banking capital of Leeds, where we visit the world famous "sixth wonder of the waterways", the Bingley Five Rise Locks. At night we brave Leeds city centre.
There is a difference between the many struggling Yorkshire towns and Leeds, here it is humming with people and crackling with a Lamborghini doing a 500 metre loop to pass largely unimpressed girls. The girls have eyelash extensions and pencilled eyebrows and are lining up to be let into nightclubs by serious bouncers where they pay to be allowed in then pay again for cocktails at 12 quid a pop. Males mostly have facial hair - not just beards but topiaried masterpieces and moustaches waxed and curly. They are bankers and accountants by day and inhabit the renovated factories turned hipster apartments we have seen along the canals.
The five of us went out to a restaurant called "The Alchemist". The decor – steam-punk meets chemistry lab. On the menu there's not an item that appeared to be food (do hipsters eat?). I recognized nothing except maybe popcorn as an entree. But then something I did recognize ......the salt and pepper were small Erlenmeyer flasks. Then the sauces were served from a boiling flask - with CO2 vapour (blame Blumenthal) delivered by a man with a big moustache. In fact the whole LabwareHouse catalogue passed over our table over the course of the meal (the New Zealand Police would have a fit). At the end we finished with coffee served in beakers.
So in memory of my trip to UK, our specials for Christmas are themed "Steam-punk meets chemistry lab". I've included some Brannon and Johnson specials too since the post Brexit exchange rate is still good for UK importing. And, when we send NZ dollars to exchange for pounds, we support the soon to be third world Leeds bankers - who are anguished that Brexit means their jobs might go to Poland and the Lamborghini returned to Italy.
And so on that bombshell -
"Its goodnight from me
and gongoozling from him.