Looking across the room past the ‘pumpkin’ shape applied to the window towards the former site of my former school and the technical college behind

Did that horrible pumpkin gobble up my old high school? In a much more interesting building, it used to be in front of the grey and blue thing, the technical college

Half-term holiday is over so it’s back on the school run this morning, frosty (-4degC) but  a delightful run over the moor under a clear blue sky. Also, as the clocks went back an hour at midnight Saturday the sun was up. Still no sign of the ‘Arctic conditions’.

It was quite a bit colder when I took the header photo (on film) in one of the wilder parts of Yorkshire – so a favourite for me – several years ago.

That means I’m beginning to write this post back in ‘my corner’ in Wetherspoon in Keighley, with the log fire burning close by. An ugly pumpkin face, a ‘ghost’ and two skulls are glaring at me. I’ll be glad when it’s Wednesday and the horrible ‘halloween’ will be over for another year. I really dislike what has been done to it by big commercial interests.

Even cheaper coffee

One of many ghosts, made of a mask and a thin white textile, hanging around the place The coffee system has been changed. It’s now extremely dangerous. The price has gone down – yes down! – by 10p to £1.20 and for that you can have as many refills as you like. So I could sit here all day and kill myself with 100 double espressos for £1.20. I’m not suicidal so I’ll limit myself to two.

Yorkshire dialect

I’ve stayed here a bit later than before and it’s clear that this pub becomes a sort of social club after 9.30-10am. More than half of the clients are men over retirement age, the majority drinking beer which is also cheaper than other places; alcoholic drinks are not served before 9am but few arrive before ten. Listening to them talking I would guess many live in the countryside around the town and take advantage of their free bus passes, which can be used after 9.30am (after rush hour). It’s fascinating listening to the broad Yorkshire accents and even a sprinkling of local dialect.

Gambling

A favourite activity seems to be picking potential winners of today’s horse races. There’s a couple sitting next to me, I’m sure well over 80 years of age. With a coffee and a large brandy in front of him, and a more modest small beer in front of her, he is going through a racing paper and telling her the horses and betting odds for each race. I’m pretty sure her eyesight is not good enough to read the paper. They then discuss the race and he makes copious notes on one of a small pile of notelets then transfers something to a bigger plan on a large sheet of paper. I guess that this is the betting plan for today. That seemingly finished he’s got himself another coffee and her a glass of white wine. He was despatched, presumably to a nearby bookie, with £40 from her, so I guess she is the gambler.

On another table three men had a lively discussion about one race after which one, clearly the most mobile of the three, was despatched to the bookie with an instruction “Put £10 on ?? to win”. I didn’t catch the name of the horse. One of them just got his third pint of Guiness from the bar; how they can drink that in the morning is beyond me.

… and Ayala champagne

Gambling is not one of my vices. I’ve placed a bet on a horse only once in my life, with quite spectacular results. I posted the story on this blog some time ago; if you are interested search for ‘Ayala’. The first post to come up is password protected but the second, ‘Gambling and champagne’, tells the story.

Now, 11.30am, approaching lunch time, the pub is beginning to fill up with, generally, a much younger clientelle. Breakfast menus are being taken off the tables, to be replaced with the lunch menu. Having had my second espresso it’s time to retire to the library next door, where I can recharge the iPad and battle with the HTML to change the text font. The default is not good for anyone with a sight problem.

‘My corner’ this week. The library beckons through the window

It’s ironic that my morning ‘coffee shop’ this week, the Wetherspoon public house (‘pub’) named The Livery Rooms, was built in the late 19th century for the Keighley Temperance Society.  When opened in 1896 it was the Keighley Temperance Institute and Hall. One of the entrances has an eroded but fanciful stone carving announcing entrance to the institute. The stone carving of the hall name is perfectly preserved over a grand entrance round the side though this entrance is not used as an entry to the pub.

Prior to temperance halls about the only places to hold meetings and other social activities were inns and pubs, which of course encouraged drinking of alcohol, so the halls were often built by the temperance movement to provide rooms for a range of a activities; many included a coffee shop.

Temperance movement

The temperance movement was very strong in England from the early to mid 19th century to as late as the start of the second World War. It grew from a pledge to abstain from ‘intoxicating beverages’ signed in 1832 by seven men from Preston, one of them my namesake a Mr Livesey (Joseph). In the early days the movement opposed the drinking of spirits, particularly the drink of the working classes and the poor – gin – but accepted drinking beer. Later it promoted total abstinence.

Another irony: the current fashion for drinking very expensive gins at ridiculous prices, hardly a drink for the poor (one of our village social clubs now promotes that it has 40 on offer) is replacing another ‘fashion’ of recent years – Prosecco. Half the population seemed to forget there were other (much better) wines. Now it is being abandoned for ‘fancy’ gins.

Band of Hope

My grandmother was a member of the ‘Band of Hope’, a temperance movement begun in Leeds in 1847 which was particularly concerned about drinking by children and the effect on children of drinking by adults. It began as a group for under 16s and at the first meeting around 200 children signed the pledge: ‘I, the undersigned, do agree that I will not use intoxicating liquors as a beverage’. They joined another 100 children at the meeting who had already signed. I suspect my grandmother signed the pledge as a child. Her brother, my great uncle Albert, was allowed just one drink a year, whisky, at Christmas. I have a feeling he had a sneaky dram at other times but it was never mentioned and I never saw it.

The follow on from the Band of Hope still exists today as Hope UK which tackles both alcohol and drug abuse by young people.

I don’t remember what the building was used for when I was at high school just across the road; I probably never noticed it despite frequent visits to the library next door. I do know it was at some time a cinema (The Regent) and used as a bingo hall. It was abandoned for a number of years before being bought by the Wetherspoon pub chain. It opened as ‘The Livery Rooms’ in 2004.

The name, The Livery Rooms, comes from the fact that at one time stables, I believe for the Town Hall, occupied the site, or part of it.

Typical Wetherspoon pub layout inside

Wetherspoon have done a pretty good job in renovating it as a pub. It is a typical Wetherspoon pub with a large open plan seating area and a long bar with a wide selection of beers, both good cask ales as well as that gassy Continental style stuff. They also serve food – not cordon bleu for sure but not bad and not highly priced. I’ve mentioned the decent coffee at a reasonable price in a previous post, but if you like filter coffee (I do not) it costs 99p for a cup and refills are free. Then of course there’s the free WiFi.

The history of the building and some high points of the surrounding area is told in old photographs and various other artworks adorning the walls.

Real log fires

A finishing touch is real log fires. Pity they have a fire guard around them but, as  children are welcome, a necessity. I’ve made a comfy corner near the fire ‘mine’ this week. If Petronela’s teaching stint at the Keighley school continues after the week half term break next week, I may have a little brass plaque made engraved with ‘Grumpytyke’s corner’ and fix in that spot.

This post was prompted by a request for more pictures of the Keighley Wetherspoon from my Latvian blogger friend Ilze. Who am I to refuse a lovely lady? I’m wondering whether to finish this series of posts on aspects of Keighley with a visit upstairs in the library, the reference and study section, or the railway station – one terminus of the Worth Valley Railway, or a visit to the Brontë village of Haworth. Maybe all three?

I was so surprised to find myself sitting under a picture showing my high school and a brief history

With that title it may seem odd if I tell you I’m sitting in Wetherspoon, one of a large chain of pubs where they open early in the morning, have free WiFi and serve good (Lavazza) coffee which is cheap: £1.30 for a double espresso (which is what is in front of me as I write this). They also serve a ‘large’ English breakfast for £4.99 if you want it. I do not, I ate my usual raw oats with milk at home.

It is, in fact, the first day of school for Petronela after the summer break. She resigned from the school she had been at for 11 years before we went to Romania as, among other reasons, there seemed little opportunity to teach history, the subject she loves and her speciality,  though she taught Humanities, Religious Studies and Citizenship as well as beginners’ French, even a little Geography, there.

Supply teaching

Time to move on so she has gone ‘supply teaching’, in the UK that means filling in for teachers who are absent for some reason, and this week was the first time a requirement for a fully qualified history teacher had come up. At the moment it is just for this week. As the school is difficult to reach by public transport from our home, I’m the taxi driver.

Right opposite the pub in which I am sitting is recently grassed over space which until a few months ago was what was left of my high school

It is, people might think, a coincidence as Wetherspoon is just across the road from a green space which was, until recently the building in which I went to school – Keighley  Boys’ Grammar School. The school has not existed for many years but the building was demolished only in the past few months.

There are a few more ‘coincidences’. The grammar school was housed in what was the ‘Mechanics Institute’, a magnificent building with a Big Ben type clock tower, built in 1870. A large part of that was destroyed by fire and the wonderful clock tower fell down but, I assure you, I didn’t do that despite my notoriety for building a smoke ring generating machine to disrupt lessons. Anyway, the fire was long after I left.

The magnificent town library. You can just see a corner of what is now a Wetherspoon pub, on the far right

For this week I’ll probably not go home but stay in the town until Petronela finishes, either in Wetherspoon or the magnificent library next door, which also has WiFi. I used to escape to this library when I played truant from school –  a frequent occurence in later years when I disliked school intensely – particularly history (!) and French. I loved maths, physics, English (language, not literature, two separate subjects) and art so attended those lessons diligently and did extremely well in final exams in those subjects. French I had ‘dropped’ earlier when I refused to go to school unless I was allowed to do so.  But the history exam was my glory day. I wrote my name and details as required at the top of the paper, waited the regulation one hour without writing a single word then left.

Apoplectic headmaster

The headmaster was my history teacher; he went apoplectic, even berserk, and I had to go into school on a Saturday morning and sit the history paper; quite pointless of course. There must have been something wrong with the teaching as later in life I set up and ran a history society and, of course, married a history teacher.

Another ‘ coincidence’: my high school was created when a forerunner of the school where Petronela has just gone to teach, a little out of the town, was moved into the Mechanics Institute.

Finally, I sat down with my coffee not taking note of my surroundings, looking at the space which was my school through the large windows in front. Then I noticed the ‘picture’ on the wall to my right, featuring photos of the Mechanics Institute and forerunners with a little information about it and the ‘grammar school’.

As I’ve probably said before I do not believe in coincidence, so await what comes next.