May. 2nd, 2016

millionreasons: (marnie)
Back up north again, through the countryside all pink and green in the end of the evening. I read Jenny Diski, another person to die this year, although there will be no Saturday supplements or semi-official fortnight of mourning because she's just not famous enough. But the fact that she will write no more words means more to me than the fact that Prince will write no more songs.

We are here to see the Tour de Yorkshire (part 2) and we are lucky that the second stage not only goes through the village where my parents live, but this is the only day that the women are racing too. Since Wiggo dropped out (too nesh for South Yorks), the men's race has lost a bit of sheen, but I'm very keen to see Lizzie Armitstead, who is in the lead as they race through, coming within two inches of me, much to my fangirling. Spectating is a different proposition with no barriers, you feel their slipstream on your face.

Tickhill has certainly geared up for the event with yellow bicycles galore, bunting, flags and so forth. It's also the weekend of the scarecrow festival, with some crossover appeal:

Before the race starts, we have a coffee in Lottie's, which apparently used to be the storeroom of the card shop, which is now a fishmonger. Whereas Doncaster resists change, Tickhill seems to have aspirations to become a grand market town like Ilkley or even Beverley. When I lived here, there were community events, but they were organised by the church, the Scouts and Guides or the Lions (Rotary): Christmas carols, Remembrance Day parade, and so on, but now it feels a bit more....joyful. Where once there were faded boutiques for middle aged ladies, a knitting shop, a pie shop and a bakers where i worked for £1.75 an hour in 1990, there is now a deli, three cafes, an ice cream and sweet shop, a tattoo parlour (!) and an Apothecary Grooming Parlour (!!). Instead of a church choir, there's a ukulele group, kids called Rosco replace Lee and Melanie. The very idea that you can walk into the village and buy a flat white (!!!) is astonishing to me, who spent 1985 to, well, now, deriding the place.

We move up the village for a different view of the men's race, so that we can see them coming down the long flat Maltby road, and when they do, apart from a breakaway group of four, the rest of the riders are the entire peloton who mass together like animals fleeing a hurricane. On the pavement, you step back, feeling the force of the wheels. The coverage was a mess, the TV cutting out before they hit south Yorkshire, but "citizen journalists" were there.

When we do finally watch it on the TV, I find it funny how the French phrases have been retained ("La tete de la course", "Etape Trois") like olden day restaurant menus would list consommé and poisson.

Later on, we go out to Sheffield to see an Alan Bennett play, beforehand eating at Sheffield's oldest Italian restaurant. I'm glad a few more have opened since then - it was the opposite of Italian food. Instead of fresh vegetables, they were tinned or from frozen, the supermarket style base was thick and the whole thing was covered in cheddar cheese. I don't mind cheap 'n cheerful food (I regret the passing of Panton Street's Stockpot) but this was the same price as a woodfired sourdough goats' cheese and rocket in Lower Clapton. The puddings included that clasic Italian dessert, apple crumble, and you could order baked beans as a side. I had to console myself with prosecco.

Single Spies was two connected playlets (originally made for the BBC), the first, An Englishman Abroad, about Guy Burgess in Moscow, longing for England, and the second about Antony Blunt, high up in the Establishment, being quizzed about what and who he knew. Art surveyor Blunt is obsessed with a fake Titian, from which Bennett explores the notion of falsehood, but also uses the painting as a metaphor for revelation. There are two people in the original painting:

but when it has been cleaned, another figure appears on the right, the third man. However (and this is poetic license by AB), when the painting is X-rayed, a fourth - and fifth man can be seen. Some are visible, some have yet to be unmasked and some are hiding in plain sight.

I enjoyed the first piece more as the one liners were funnier, and also I do love fiction - or faction - about faded people whose time has passed. Burgess keeps asking about the scene back in London: "And how is Cyril Connelly? And Auden, do you see Auden?" - his references are hopelessly out of date.

The plays feature the usual Bennett pre-occupations: class, getting on (the secret service agent interrogating Blunt wants to better himself through art appreciation), the queen. Some of it seemed a little old fashioned - no-one really talks about Englishness anymore unless it's to take the piss. The notion of patriotism seems so odd nowadays: the problem the establishment had with the Cambridge ring was that they were traitors, they'd betrayed their country, rather than that they were Communists. The idea of my country right or wrong was strong. When I think of a patriot, I see St George's flags, a Help the Heroes car sticker, a Brexit poster; I don't think of civil servants. Then, it was all about the upper echelons of society sticking together. now it's the rich, of any class, who band together against the 99%. Money more important than country: these are the globalised super-class.

I enjoyed it more than the pizza anyway.

We take the train back darn sarf and go even sarfer, down to Jeremy and Tiia's place in Norwood. The weather goes from windy and rainy in the north, to too hot in their back garden as we eat Finnish food (we are celebrating Walpurgis, the spring version of Hallowe'en).

Today, we cycled over to Wanstead Park, the Hampstead Heath of the east, to look at the bluebells in Chalet Wood:

All photos by me, except bluebells by David, and Titian and Andrea dei Franceschi by Titian (or is it).

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