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Blog: A rolling series of articles from our correspondents, wherever they are...

Luce Smith

Birds Are Singing

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 25th Jul, 2014 | 12:01pm
Birds in the sky photo by Susanne Nilsson
Birds in the sky photo by Susanne Nilsson
I can hear birds singing. Not the tweet tweet song, it's more beautiful than that. Is it a twill? A trill? Who knows, not me, but it sounds heavenly. I can hear them, then I can see them. They're cheeky little chaps aren't they, making such beautiful sounds, yet playing hide and seek at the same time. I wonder if they can hear one another, and so try to sing in time? Or as a choir? Perhaps they are deaf and can't even hear themselves sing, which would be a real shame. I wonder if they wonder why the leaves don't sing? Or the trees? Perhaps they do if you're a bird.

I see them flying into the bushes, then high up into the clear blue sky. I see them flying solo, and also in teams. I say teams, but maybe they aren't aware of the other birds, so just see it as flying alone. Maybe they race one another, who can get to the telegraph pole first. The prize being?......being able to poo on the innocent bystander underneath. Which is nice. Going back to the relaxing sound of the birds though, it really does make you grateful for the sense of hearing.

The clouds look remarkable. Some are just there, in the sky, with no real shape to speak of. Some have magnificent edges, and seem to be formed by an artist. Carefully drawn to leave you staring up at it, losing yourself in the clouds. The fields have been cut, and you can almost smell the delicious aroma of freshly cut grass. I take a deep breath in and close my eyes. I recall doing forward rolls down the playing fields when the grass had just been cut, at primary school. Ending up looking like a scarecrow! That brings a smile to my face!

I see people walking their dogs along the back streets, some strolling, whilst others speed by like the world's about to end. I see the cars beginning to fill up the roads on their journey into the city. I see the mess coming out of exhausts, and feel grateful I can't smell it. I can feel the heat of the sun through the window, and close my eyes again. It's all very peaceful and calm. I can feel myself breathing. Inhale. Exhale.

I don't hear any conversations and open my eyes to look out of the window again. I can smell nicotine. A passenger has just sat down next to me, after getting on at the last station. My breathing quickens as I try to get rid of the horrible smell. I try to focus back on the clouds, and regain the sense of peace and tranquillity. The moment has gone. The train has now filled up as the final station stop is reached. There is a sense of unease, and I find myself fidgeting about in my seat. I should be grateful for my seat in fairness, as many are left standing. I'm not though, I want to get out, and run in the fields.

The commute has been quite pleasant this morning though. No music down my ears, no talking, and no listening. I haven't been focusing on people, but on the surroundings. I am like the mindful Queen now, and just hope that the rest of my day continues in a similar way. However, I am quite aware that it won't, and that I should enjoy the moments I have just had, and keep them safe.

The mind is a funny old thing isn't it? It can be trained. Even on a northern rail train. Perhaps a Metro too, who knows. I shall test it out again. I wonder if my mindful commute can be felt by other commuters? Am I oozing with mindfulness? Am I glowing with the mindful allure?

Yikes! Such pressure, and it's not even 8am! I need coffee. I think I am still half asleep. 'Til next time............
Fri 25th Jul, 2014 | 12:01pmmore...
Luce Smith

Cough

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 24th Jul, 2014 | 5:15pm
Magenta by (3)
Magenta by (3)
Have never seen anyone asleep en-route to the destination before! I couldn't stop staring! Then almost giggled out loud. Would someone wake him to alert him of the fact that the train was going no further, and that if he stayed on, it would take him to Bradford? Luckily, he stirred, and did the casual "I wasn't asleep, I was just shutting my eyes" look. It didn't work, he was clearly in a deep sleep. I feel I ought to ask him if he is burning the candle at both ends. He was in his mid 50's so may well be trying to do the youthful thing of watching films until the early hours, then jumping out of bed and running to the station without a coffee. Fatal mistake.

I will keep an eye out for him in future. He wasn't wearing a wedding ring so may need a gentle talking to. I feel I could play that part. Not the wife part obviously, as we haven't even met! But I feel a duty to help a fellow commuter with his life. He could be having a delayed MLC (mid life crisis) or even a second MLC. It happens.

In this heat, commuter conversations are somewhat lacking. I mean, the smiles are there, at a push, but the chance of talking? Impossible. It's like the heat creates an invisible zip to the mouth. Perhaps they are scared that due to being hot, sweaty, and cooped up in a small train, they don't trust they can say nice things to anyone, so feel it's safer to keep quiet. I don't think it's a bad thing really, as I have been observing body language, and facial expressions which has kept me amused for almost 9 minutes.

There's the classic 'I'm pretending to be engrossed in my book' look, but really, he is glancing at his watch and keeps looking out of the window. Maybe he isn't interested in the book, or perhaps he has read a word and doesn't understand it? Maybe he is quietly reaching out for some support with his reading skills but is too shy to put his hand up and ask for help.
Bless.

Then there's the girl who is just staring at the window. At first, I thought she was looking out at the beautiful views of Yorkshire, then I discovered that she was looking at her reflection, and checking her appearance. Silly me.

I wonder how many people are on this train, without a phone in their hand or lap. I would say about 30%. I would say the majority of people now have super duper smart phones, but I do still see the occasional brick. Good on them!

One lady in front of me has the most annoying cough. I mean really annoying. I like to think of myself as a reasonably tolerant person, but when it comes to the commuter cough, I struggle to keep my cool. Cough. I want to stare at her. Cough cough. I want to ask her if she wants a drink (I don't have one, but someone on this train must want a quiet ride home?!). Cough. Ok, it's now getting a bit much. Cough cough. Dear God, please cure this lady's cough, or make her want to get off at the next stop, regardless if it's her stop or not. She needs to get better. Amen.

Or is God testing my patience levels? Dear God, please make me more tolerant of this lady's poor health, but also, please make her leave immediately, Amen. Cough. I can't do this much longer. It's a tickle cough, and I am getting agitated. Cough cough. I can feel a spark of rage in me, and fear for what words might come out of my mouth. Cough. I need music therapy, so put my music on and hope to drown out the cough with loud dance tunes. It works, and I am now mad at myself for being so cruel, am sure she doesn't want to cough either......

Next stop. The cough gets off! Woohoo! I see some relieved faces, and pretend that it hasn't bothered me one bit. I am a Saint.

Thank you God, but please make sure she uses another form of transport tomorrow.
Thu 24th Jul, 2014 | 5:15pmmore...
Luce Smith

Friday night

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sat 19th Jul, 2014 | 11:35am
photo by Tejvan Pettinger
photo by Tejvan Pettinger
That was close. I am not a big fan of the fast walk/skipping jumpy run to catch a train, but it's Friday, so it's important. The idea of looking at all fetching at the end of the week ran out on Tuesday. I just had to get the 17:26. Which I did, along with half of Leeds so it seems! I'm not alone in being out of breath though, so that's always reassuring, I can smile at fellow 'I've just run 200 yards to catch this train' people and appreciate the area that I manage to bag. I even manage to get a handle to hold onto, which is definitely a bonus. I hate swaying around and having to trust my own balancing skills to stay upright, as one day, I will be the laughing stock! Actually in all honesty it wouldn't happen as you are so squashed in you have no choice but to stand upright. The only problem with that, being that if you have an itchy knee, it becomes rather difficult to do anything about it. Bending over, whilst being stood up with no room to move a centimetre, is not an option. Ever.

However, there area people who do try to do things whilst in this almost static position. Such as go to get a mobile phone out of their trouser pocket. Or try to have a conversation on a phone, which obviously isn't private. I have so far this evening, heard that Adam needs to put the oven on at half past, otherwise it won't be ready when the film's on. I also know that the girl next to me is meeting friends at the pub at 7:30pm so if he doesn't pick her up from the train station, then he might as well forget going with her, and he can go on his own. I think I rolled my eyes at this point. Hopefully, the smile I think that automatically appeared on my face, wasn't noticed. I didn't get slapped anyway, or spoken to in a rude way.

I get to sit down after 17 minutes, which is nice. I look around the carriage. One lady on her phone is actually trying to have a quiet conversation. Maybe she doesn't even want to talk to the person at the other end, I think she's secretly hoping that the train will go through a tunnel making her lose signal. Sorry, been through the tunnel now, but perhaps she could drop her phone? That would work wouldn't it?

The lady opposite me has already made me smile. She must work for herbalife, as she is wearing a massive badge saying 'lose weight now'. Rude. I wish I had a Kingsize Mars bar to eat in front of her, licking my lips and enjoying every naughty moment of the fat and calories that herbalifer's can only dream about. Or melt it down into a liquid, and slowly sip throughout the week. Must pack one next week just in case I see the badged lady again. That makes me smile, I think I get a bit more evil by the end of the week, and less forgiving. I can't bear to listen to small talk, so plug in my earphones.

It makes the commute more bearable, and your thoughts can drift away. Until a small child lands next to you with her young mother. The eye roll thing happens again. Is this journey set to test my patience or what?! I take a deep breathe, and exhale. I repeat it. I can do this. What harm can be done? So I spend the rest of my commute with my face in my book. Yes, an actual book, with paper pages that I have to turn once I have got to the bottom of the right hand page. Terribly traditional I know, but I like to stick with old fashioned things occasionally.

By the time I reach my destination, I feel ready to embrace the walking position, and stride off the train for my plod home. I wonder if the poor bugger managed to pick up his girlfriend from the station? I would not like to be on the wrong side of her if he hasn't!
Sat 19th Jul, 2014 | 11:35ammore...
Luce Smith

Commute Commeet?

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 17th Jul, 2014 | 5:38pm
Sardines by Andrew Malone
Sardines by Andrew Malone
It's a very warm evening, and the train is rammed. There are windows on the train of course, but these take a magician to open. Or a designated member of the train crew, who won't be seen for a few minutes until the carriages allow movement!

So we all sit like sardines in a tin. Silly phrase really as do sardines actually sit? I would have thought that they are lying in a tin? But in fact the tin is really a coffin, so then they are dying in a tin? Which makes the whole thing sound like a very sad affair, so I shall move on quickly......

There are lots of workers in this carriage, mostly looking like they have had a tough day in the office. No one looks around to suggest they would like a conversation, so the train appears to be quiet. However, there is a rather loud conversation in the seats behind me, about the contract of a staff member and the awful picture on their staff id badge. 'You look like Lindsey Lohan, but don't be offended. No one looks good on the pictures'. The conversation then moves to when their next hair appointment is and what the hairdresser did last time. Then to the friend who has just got engaged, after sleeping with the managing director on her first job after uni. He's really nice though, despite him flashing his cash around.

Whatever.

The guy opposite me is reading on his Kindle, not looking amused.

The train gradually lowers in passenger numbers, and people can now afford to breathe. I'm wondering if this is a good time to crack open my can of gin & tonic? Will people look and stare, and think bad of me? Or will they be thinking what a good idea it is and wish they were me? The latter of course.

The guy on the side seat is staring out of the window. Deep in thought about life and how he can create an app to result in world peace. The best inventions were created in normal life situations. I should congratulate him now before he becomes rich and famous and can afford a car. Or helicopter. He is probably not thinking in reality, but it's much more fun trying to work out what could be going on in his head!

The lady opposite me is in sleep mode, but keeps flicking her head up like she is trying to fight the sleep! Or trying not to snore. I am waiting for sleep talking to happen, as that would be most entertaining, and definitely one for YouTube!

The next station stop is......mine! Finally the end of the rails time. Which means I must pack up and prepare to move my legs again. Not sure what you turn into after being stuck in a tin, so I shall brush my hair, apply lip balm, and give it my best.
Thu 17th Jul, 2014 | 5:38pmmore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" - Le Grand De-party

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Tue 8th Jul, 2014 | 10:27am

The Tour de Yorkshire is over! Wowsers!

Of course, it was an eventful day in so many ways.

I woke up, and the rain was hammering on the window. Really? It will clear at 8am, so the radio presenter said. I got up, and packed my bag, including a spare set of clothes (my Mum trained me well!).

I decided to make an effort, and to shock most people, i did my hair and put on a splash of makeup. Not sure why, but just roll with me on this one. I walked down to the pool, and was signposted to Aireville school. I signed in, and waited with a small group of off-routers. It was good to talk to them, and of their reasons for volunteering. One said he went to all the formula 1 events, so thought he would give this a go, and join his sister in being a tour maker.

We met our supervisor, and our location was about to be revealed. I took a deep breath. I have an umbrella, and food & drink, it will be fine. 'We've got....Skipton High St!'

I was not expecting that! Looking at the map of the icons of where we were to stand, it appeared to be very close to the route, so not sure what the on-route volunteers are doing!

We walked into town, via the pool, to collect a bottle of water, and a cereal bar, courtesy of Asda. We looked at the spectator hub by the canal basin, which looked very bare at 7am. Then to the High Street, and I was amazed to see that people were at the bottom corner, already in their fold-up chairs. Almost 5.5hrs to go until the riders go past. Dedicated cyclists!

We walked up the High Street, and into the Town Hall car park, where the alternative spectator hub was. The screen was already up, and a few stalls. The rain had stopped, and apart from a cool breeze, it was an ok day.

All my team went to find their designated spots, and then decided a quick brew was in order. By 8am, town was filling up slowly. It was a good atmosphere. It was soon time for things to start happening, and police and other support vehicles began coming through. People were outside the pub just up from where I was standing, beers already in their hands. I had thoughts on this, but smiled anyway, and decided not to offer any help. Against the grain of a HOST, but they were pretty much ok!

I was introduced to a little boy by his mother, who was telling him that if he lost Mummy, to come and find me, and I'd help reunite them. I was asked where the toilet was a million times, and also asked when the barriers would be coming down. I smiled and said a cheery good morning to passers by, which was returned by a smile and hello. Wonderful.

The caravan came along, or the sponsor vehicles. I was then hurried off to another location, where there was some trouble, and we were needed for extra support. Yikes! Off we trot......

Turned out to be sorted out. By the Police!

Back to my spot, and then to the crossing, as they closed off the crossing points. I chatted to the policeman, who wanted to buy my green tour maker jacket off me, for £1. I looked at him, and said it was definitely worth £2? He agreed, and said we'd exchange at the end of my shift. Brilliant!

I saw Ian White, the tv presenter, checking out his hair and tie, up at the Town Hall balcony. He didn't ask me for an interview, which I thought was rude.

After the madness of the freebie throwing, we had the commentary of where the peloton were. People were now on the High Street, and not needing any help. I had a text from my cousin in New Zealand saying the race was coming through Addingham, and where was I standing! I did a big wave as the race came through, and hoped my cousin could see me. She texted later saying she couldn't see me as there were too many people! Yes, there were a few....

People got very cross when they couldn't cross the road. A worker from a popular supermarket in town got quite irate, which I thought was funny - how long has she known about this?!!

We were allowed to leave, and check out off duty by text. I went round the hubs with a few from my team, and we chatted about our experience.
The hubs were busy, especially by the canal basin.

It was amazing to see so many people turn out for a specialised event, Cycling isn't everyone's cup of tea, but that didn't matter.

Seeing it on the tv that night was mental. People lined the route from Leeds to Harrogate. In their hundreds/thousands. The sun came out, of course, and by 5 o'clock, was cracking the flags. I just needed to sit down!

Only two incidents on the day, a lady fell through a roof and a boy got minor injuries from a sponsor car.


I shall add this event to my cv, and be proud to have been a very very small part of it. So sad that Cavendish was injured, it kind of puts a dampner on the day. Bless him, he must be devastated, never mind in heaps of pain.

So, I shall sign out, and remove myself from being the eyes and ears of the event. It was a lot of fun, I met heaps of people, and thoroughly enjoyed having a laugh!

I guess now for the rest of the week, we shall hear about the cost of this event on the councils, and the accidents, bike thefts, and increasing numbers joining cycling clubs. I shall just get on my bike, and peddle off, into the sunset.........

No autograph, no memorabilia, not even a photo of Beckham in Greggs (did that actually happen?) Time to get back into a normal way of life for us Yorkshire people. Wonder what the topic of conversation will be tomorrow morning on the commute to Leeds? I might stand up and give a presentation. That will make the journey go faster!

Such fun!
Tue 8th Jul, 2014 | 10:27ammore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF 11 - The penultimate blog

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 4th Jul, 2014 | 7:45pm

It's arrived, it's here, and by the looks of the statuses on Facebook and Twitter, drivers are getting a little heating about sitting behind lycra clad bodies. The bikes on the trees and houses, and gardens are acceptable, but on the road, sorry, it's a no.

Update on my uniform? Trousers are not to be worn, and come with a high level of risk. Due to this, I have found an alternative pair of similar black trousers, which fit. If they attempt to kick me out, I shall, say Hello, offer them help, and smile. They will soften and allow it for sure.

I almost forgot to inform you of the full HOST acronym! Its all the buzz of activities that has made me all giddy! So, one must finally.....Thank them!

Hello, can I help?

I'm smiling

Thanks!


I have it down to a fine art now, and have been practising all week. Much to the annoyance no doubt, of my fellow commuters! Talking of which, I see that the trains are keeping their free bike travel policy, which is great. BUT, only allowing two bikes per train? That could be fun!

I am going to paint my nails blue and yellow, and totally have a fun day tomorrow.

I have had an update of info on my role etc, as have all TM's. We get all the info needed.......TOMORROW! I think that's because if they tell us now how awful our tasks are, we won't turn in, but the unknown will woo us!

It's going to be a fab opportunity to meet lots of new people. One guy is driving up from Birmingham at 3am, to check in at the same place as me - so I'd better not grumble at my 30 minute walk!

I hope you guys enjoy the buzz of the tour, regardless of your like, or dislike of cycling, enjoy the moment, enjoy the crowds, and remember, Sunday is a day of rest!

Hello! Can I help? *smile* Thanks.......

Here we go!
Fri 4th Jul, 2014 | 7:45pmmore...
Ali Richards

Omid Djalili LIVE!

GRASSINGTON FESTIVAL 2014
Posted by: Ali Richards, Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 10:36am
I know its shouty to use capitals and when you read this I hope that the Live really jumps out at you because it was the man himself, live!


Omid Djalili is such a star that as an audience you really do feel as though you have seen him somewhere before on tv or film and suddenly there he is in front of you Live and live is the name of his show.

Before we even got to Omid though we had his friend and multi talented warm up act Boothby Graffoe who is also known for his surreal song titles such as, "Giraffes Don't Play Harmonicas, So It Can't Be a Giraffe".

His song "Lullaby" was anything but, although I can't spoil the joke here, you really have to hear it. He made good-natured jokes about the Dales setting and how many sheep there were and talked entertainingly about psychics, which he played out to great effect by showing how easy it was to guess things about his audience.

After an interval it was on to the main event and Omid took to the stage in the Marquee with a confident swagger and his larger than life persona owning us as an audience from the first.

He was witty, genuinely thoughtful and clever and of course humorous with it which is an exceptional talent to have. Making his audience think by laughing with and at him he navigated through racism, disability, Saville and God without pause, tackling all the subjects which we daren't normally raise in polite conversation with gusto.

It was a masterclass in comedy and all credit to the Festival organisers for putting on a show which came close to the bone on occasion in such a beautiful rural setting. Unexpected, thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining.
Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 10:36ammore...
Ali Richards

Only Men Aloud. With Special Guest Laura Wright

GRASSINGTON FESTIVAL 2014
Posted by: Ali Richards, Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 10:33am

I booked my tickets to this event before anything else at Grassington Festival 2014 as I love Welsh Choral music. Did Only Men Aloud deliver? Yes and no.

This is not your traditional Welsh Male Voice choir or even the one seen winning Last Choir Standing on the BBC. The new 8 piece vocal ensemble brought together in September 2013, bring both a new sound and a more varied and eclectic repertoire to the mix, from Welsh folksongs and hymns to musical theatre and opera, barbershop and swing to pop.

Only Men Aloud came on to Rhyfelgyrch gwyr Harlech (Men of Harlech) sung in a harmony which was deep and powerful and followed that with a beautiful soft Welsh lullaby. Their Welsh singing was superb and filled everyone in the Marquee with a real sense of their heritage and pride in their country. It was a triumphant opening and set us up for a night of entertainment.

Only Men Aloud are a very talented bunch, directed and conducted by Tim Rhys-Evans and play on their good looking, suited and booted image to great effect. There was a little too much cheese at times and too much winking and nodding at each other. Occasionally their songs were so staged that they lacked something earthy and raw and became if anything over polished and bland.

Yet, at times the staging worked well particularly with songs like, What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor which was funny and engaging with beautiful a cappella harmonies. Their final Mash Up of Rule the World, combining Coldplay and Take That really worked even with the ubiquitous canes.

Laura Wright, their special guest, is and will continue to be, a huge star and her soprano voice soared over the audience. She took us on a journey from World War Two and The White Cliffs of Dover through to some of her new music and a creative and inspiring interpretation of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. She radiated presence and calm, even when her first microphone didn't work, trading jokes with the audience. We were really lucky to be able to see her in this idyllic setting without having to drive hours to a big city.

It was an unexpected night full of wonderful touches and surprises and Only Men Aloud and Laura Wright managed to convey a feeling of intimacy in a large space. It is a tribute to the Grassington Festival Organisers that they can go from this to The Boomtown Rats in the space of a day.
Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 10:33ammore...
Jan Robinson

Magna Carter

GRASSINGTON FESTIVAL 2014
Posted by: Jan Robinson, Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 10:27am

In the relaxed, informal setting of North Yorkshire's Burnsall village hall, Magna Carta was introduced by MC Robert Fort as "one of the Dales greatest exports!"

Since 1969, the group has toured 60 countries, rubbed shoulders with many famous musicians and sold eight million records worldwide, so the chance to see them in the Yorkshire Dales was indeed a real treat!

After being given a very warm welcome, the six piece band comprising Chris Simpson (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Doug Morter (guitar and jokes!), Wendy Ross (violinist), Laurens Joensen (slide/acoustic/classical guitar, mandolin), John Sheppard (drums) and Will Stockbridge (bass guitar), launched into their concert, masterfully executing an entertaining collection of songs, both old and new.

A heartfelt, glowing tribute from Chris Simpson was made to the late base player Lee Abbot but then a more lively tone was introduced through songs interspersed with jokes, employing Doug Morter's dry sense of humour!

An unspoken sense of appreciation abounded - a warm blanket wrapped around the hall being the appropriate analogy! This warmth was reflected within the group - observed by one visitor from Hull who commented "they were fantastic and showed great generosity of spirit by allowing each talented musician to take centre stage". This was demonstrated to the max with Laurens Joensen's fantastic slide guitar solo and by Wendy Ross on violin.

An "advanced state of refreshment" (Doug Morter's term) facilitated some audience participation and it became clear that after Chris Simpson opened the second half with the World in the Palm of My Hands, that the attentive audience were completely in his! He spoke of being rejuvenated by the recently discovered tapes from the group's Seasons album (1971) live at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, now released on CD.

Whether this discovery gave Chris the impetus to finish writing the long-awaited album, the Fields of Eden, remains unclear, as the band's website states it has been "a concept that has gestated for nine years". However, its release is now imminent, the album based on the central theme of what is happening to Chris Simpson's beloved Yorkshire Dales, an issue close to his heart.

The inspiration became clear as the talented song-writer and band gave a taster of some of his compositions - a rendition of Greenhow Hill, based on his family's mining heritage, Long Time Running, the Same Rain and European Union Blues with its provocative content!

However, it was the final number, an extended version of the Fields of Eden with its Middlesmoor overture, that was the folk legend's piece de resistance! Magical! It cleverly combined acoustics/vocals and haunting violin accompaniment with the spoken word, a beautifully delivered soliloquy by Andrew Jackson.

It was an emotionally charged performance which confirmed Chris Simpson not only as a true Dalesman, but as the dynamic song-writer that he is.

The topical lyrics resonated with some of his audience, having an emotional effect on Dales folk as Chris explained with a lump in his throat that he was "bringing the song back home!" An appreciation of this was echoed by a local visitor who "loved the fact that the concert was set in the area that the album was based upon", a sentiment endorsed by a Middlesmoor Daleswoman, whose deep appreciation of the lyrics led her to enthuse "it was brilliant - can't wait for the album to be released."

Magna Carta may have been on the road for 45 years, but they have taken on a new lease of life by returning to their roots. As Andrew Jackson concluded "to move forward you have to go back!" Chris Simpson oozed experience and combined with the accomplished band's special musical qualities, the taster of the previously slow-burning album, left the audience wanting more! It was a special evening, the friendliness reflected in the fans - the warmth even extended outside!

Magna Carta in Burnsall! They came, they sang, they conquered!
Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 10:27ammore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF 10

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 9:39am

On. your. bike.

The TdF have been extremely clever here. They have purposefully allowed racers to wear tight fitting and comfortable clothes, but for the Tour Makers? I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Honestly.

I am clearly going to have to become a chain smoker, as that's the only way I will get through the day without breaking any uniform wearing rules.

The jacket, is an xs. The jacket will be a great umbrella.

The trousers, are an xs, with zip off legs at the knee, in case the weather is warm, and we need to strip. The trousers make me look like Charlie Chaplin. They do fit at the waist, and the length of leg, but the rest of the material has its own mind!

The t shirt is also an xs fit. The t shirt will look great, as a dress, with a belt round the middle.

Maybe Tour makers are here for pure entertainment? Just to pass time, we also double up as a comedy act? Or maybe some have clown outfits to keep the children entertained. If Gok Wan could see me in the uniform, he'd tell me to remove every piece of fabric! Trinny & Susanna would also have a field day!

I was not expecting to look quite so hideous.

It may be a chance of role reversal on the day, people will come up to me, say hello, offer me help, and smile.

I think I will need it at this rate!

Right, washing machine, 60 degree wash - twice.

I also thought that I had better copyright these blogs, as in years to come, people will look at this event as a piece of history to Yorkshire. It might be leather bound, and placed in a box with a glass lid. It will be a sought after page of scribble that will be auctioned off on....eBay?

OK - I'll do the right thing, and get onto the Rendezvous website and pray someone will also be in my dilemma too.

Only 3 more days to go! And, I notice they failed to provide footwear, so we are to..........go barefoot? heels? sandals? cycling shoes?

Quick - say hi, offer me help and smile at me - I need all the help and support I can get!!
Wed 2nd Jul, 2014 | 9:39ammore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF9

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 30th Jun, 2014 | 3:03pm

I have so much to share with you! But first, I need to explain something. The TdF, is a big bike race. The biggest of its kind. It originally started by the owner of a sports newspaper in France, who needed more sales to beat off his competitor. So, he devised a race, and it has carried on from then! 1903. The newspaper was printed on yellow paper, hence the TdF colours. However, you may or may not have noticed (and if I'm completely honest, this next bit came as a shock to me), it's a big bike race, for boys only. Its the Homme Tour. Did you all know that? I mean really? I knew that I hadn't heard of many women winning it, but had absolutely no idea it was because they aren't allowed to compete! Am guessing then, that there's an equally big Femme Tour? For us ladies to peddle hard, and take care not to take the corners like they're on rails (thanks Pretty Woman), and end up legs akimbo on the side of the road? Surely we look as good as men in lycra? If not better?

I'll move on swiftly, but I'm not amused. Possibly a little embarrassed too, that I've only just become aware of this gender issue!

Anyway, stage 3. To be honest, looks a little boring. I imagine it's a long gallop down from Cambridge, no manly hills to climb, just a chance to go into top gear, and peddle like you've never peddled before. Then, the last bit is a bit like sitting on the top deck of the red double decker tourist bus in London. Passing the monumental buildings, and then ending up at Buckingham Palace, to receive half a cucumber sandwich with the crusts removed, and a cup of tea, served in bone china cups, with a matching saucer.

I said I'd research.....

More interesting, is the Rendezvous website, the network for my fellow Tour Makerians.

I'm amazed at just how far people are travelling to do their shift. I am so very lucky to just have a short walk! There's heaps of car sharing going on, and tips about which roads will be more accessible, whilst the main ones are closed.

Its also funny, how there is a place where people have suggested going for a beer once the TM duties are complete, 3.30pm. There will be quite a gathering by the looks of things! It could get messy! Lovely that people are meeting socially though, how British is that?!

I am now getting a little nervous, as there are many people with issues of size matters with their uniform. I daren't even take mine out of the polythene packaging, but perhaps should when I get home tonight. It says on the TM website, that uniforms need to be worn properly and there is a link showing how to wear the uniform appropriately! Brilliant! Better still, is that it says you are not allowed to smoke, whilst wearing your TM uniform. This could mean there are a lot of naked TM's dotted around the route!

I have discovered, that despite my check-in location being the swimming pool up at Aireville, I may be transported off to sector 6, which is around the Draughton area. I'm transported back too, so that's a relief. Not sure if it's a good location, or even what will be expected of me, but fear not, I'll say hello, and I'll offer help, and I'll smile.

I will then join the other TM's at 3.30pm, and exchange stories of the day's activities, and who got the worst questions asked!

I still don't think Skipton is quite ready for the pressure and capacity of the crowds, and this week should be quite exciting to see and feel the atmosphere build up. There have been several Tour Services held in churches today, praying for the event. Did that happen for the Olympics too?

I have seen numerous signs saying 'the best place to see the race', outside various cafes, pubs, and other shops, which has tickled me. It's going to be a lot of fun by the end of the week.

I wonder how the riders are feeling now? The big count down begins! I shall try on my TM uniform and hope that either a very very hot wash will fix it, or that not doing the top button won't cause an embarrassing problem.

Will there be any more surprises coming by email this week I wonder? More do's and don'ts?

Yikes!!
Mon 30th Jun, 2014 | 3:03pmmore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF8

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sun 29th Jun, 2014 | 11:35am

Hello! Can I help? The answer is no. I cant help. Why? Because I'm laughing too much!

I cant stop laughing! I honestly thought it was a joke, but obviously not! There's a Tour de France/Yorkshire song! With real people recording it! If you don't believe me, check out the Yorkshire Post, or I'm quite sure it will be on You Tube by now. Alistair Griffin has recorded it, and I read that some chick from Girls Aloud is also part of the opening ceremony on the 2nd, and performing it. Yikes! I was about to blog about a song I had thought about writing, just in case a bit of music was required. I've been beaten!

I've also just been on the Tour Makers website, for fellow tour makers to connect and post related cycling content. Someone has put a post on there suggesting we all make the effort, like in the Olympic Games, and dress accordingly, wearing the TM uniform. They are therefore suggesting I do things like wear yellow nail varnish, with a bit of cycling nail art. Paint a bike on my cheeks? Wear a bike chain as a belt? Totally embrace the yellow and bike, and force myself to attempt body art. Has anyone gone for it and already got a TdF tattoo do you think? I'm going to ask Mr Google nicely tomorrow. Should I be spraying myself in yellow body paint? Is that a fetching look for a person that is quite clearly, the eyes and ears of the event?

Won't I just look like a highlighted version of the you've been tango'd man?!

Maybe I should have a bit of fun with this though, I mean, one must stand out from the crowd.

I shall have a word with Miss Vivienne Westwood, and see if she can throw something together for me.

I'm going to be be-spoke...... Sorry, awful attempt of humour, but its all too exciting!

I still have no idea exactly what I'm doing, but I guess that starting at 6.30am allows plenty of time to be informed and trained appropriately? Or am I just going to stand there, in the same spot, for 9 hours, saying, Hello, can I help you?

Oh, go on, I'll spoil you as it's the weekend. The 3rd letter of HOST is..........bike rolls please.......SMILE!! I have to smile! So, I can greet the delegate with a frown, and say hello. Then I must offer help, with no emotion at all, then I get to smile! Is there a proper cycling smile? Will add that to my Mr Google list and let you know.

So, go on, listen to the song, and rehearse it ready for next week - you're going to look pretty stupid if you don't know the words...... I of course, have been delegated the duty of the eyes and ears of the event only, no voice has been requested. Shame really, as I often scare passing cyclists as I sing along to my iPod whilst walking home.

Hello, can I help you? smile.

I don't know how long we have to hold that smile for, I guess it will depend on the situation. If it's a snotty child, who wants to know when they can play on the swings, then a smile may just stay there, to annoy. Which it will, I've tried it. I actually do a lot of smiling. During my daily commute into the city, I find myself stupidly smiling at strangers, as they always look so miserable! I normally get a smile in return, and it makes me feel I've done my bit for society. However, there is one commuter who still hasn't returned my smile, and I'm very determined! It will happen! Perhaps if I wear my TM green cap, it will produce a smile from him. Anyway, on the day, I will smile, in fact, it will be hard not to smile! Town is buzzing and its still a week away.

I've decided to venture out to another route town tomorrow, where I can practise my HOST, and also check out their displays. I may be tempted to buy some bright yellow nail varnish, and get a chain belt....

I also thought it was rude of me, for not mentioning the TdF stage 3. Which in Yorkshire, clearly isn't important, but for values sake, I shall research and report back shortly.......

Hello
Can I help?
I'm smiling.
Sun 29th Jun, 2014 | 11:35ammore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF 7

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 27th Jun, 2014 | 4:06pm

Wooohooooo!!

Now, please don't laugh. Instead, just appreciate how exciting it is that the great big bike ride is only 8 days away, and I am the eyes and the ears of the event. I don't know how I'm managing to sleep. I mean, there are going to be a few people waltzing through the town, watching a bike or two speed past, and drinking cups of tea. It's immense.

However, I need to share the latest with you. I received my email today, at last. I think they were just teasing us before, and keeping us on edge until they felt it was the right time to send it.

I got it this evening. A lovely email announcing that the new social media website, designed for tour makers only, is now live! What, it's not just me?

I have signed in, and browsed the website. There are chat rooms, swapping of uniform forums, and so much more! Dedicated for all us cap wearing off- or on-routers. Therefore, I think I can safely now call myself an official on-line, off-route tour maker. We are the Tour Makerians. We shall go down in history.

I have set aside some TourMaker time tomorrow, to let all the information sink in. Its been a long time coming! Towns are getting very excited, and there are now pleas for volunteers to the open ceremony. Is it feasible to go to both? Won't that be burning the candle at both ends? I need to be on tip top condition for Stage 1, Craven Swimming pool, 6.30am at your service. Hello!

Can I help you?

My email that I eagerly waited for, simply stated, or confirmed, that my check in location, was Craven Swimming Pool. They have given me the full address, and directions. No more information. No names of supervisors or safety stewards. No job description, no idea of how many tour makers will be there, nothing! Perhaps I can search the forums and do a bit of on-line tourmaking? I know I will be given a clipboard on the day, but should I take my own, just in case?

I feel like Wiggins' tyres must feel after the big race, slightly deflated!

I don't feel any better informed, and have no idea who to tell when I wake up on the 5th July, it's chucking it down, and I decide to pull a sickie. Well, who'd find out?!

What if I turn up on the day, and there are heaps of us, and it is over staffed? I don't want to be a spare part, I am, after all, the eyes and ears of the event. Perhaps if that does happen, I could get a backy off one of the racers (yes, I still have no idea who's taking part. True!) and maybe do an interview as we're just peddling through the countryside?

Perhaps Plan B could incorporate that as part of the Bike Fairy duties mentioned previously? That would be such fun!

Brill - I have a new sense of direction with this tour making malarkey now. I could use the HOST acronym the same, just for the racers, instead of the spectators. Hello (insert racer's name, check the number on the race list to ensure correct name is given, or else it could be embarrasing) - how can I help you?

I have a feeling a four letter word might escape from the racer's mouth at this point; with some sort of gesture to perhaps suggest I need to reverse. Quick...

Maybe I could do video conferencing instead.....

Gosh, the number of opportunities given to us Tour Makerians is immense!

More at the weekend.

By 'eck!
Fri 27th Jun, 2014 | 4:06pmmore...
Karl Blackwell

Bill Wyman: Live At Grassington

GRASSINGTON FESTIVAL 2014
Posted by: Karl Blackwell, Fri 27th Jun, 2014 | 9:43am
Bill Wyman with his signature bass guitar
Bill Wyman with his signature bass guitar
There's plenty of grey hair and bald heads in the 450-strong audience.

For support, the talented 23-year old Emily Cimber from Seattle plays an impressive set-list on guitar and keyboard before Bill and the band come on stage.

Bill tells us Grassington is "a nice little town" which he's "never been to before"

The superbly talented 8-piece band featuring hilarious Welsh keyboardist Geraint Watkins, who has played with the likes of Van Morrison, Paul McCartney and Mark Knopfler, the Average White Band's Hamish Stuart and soul vocalist Beverly Skeete, who has been with the band since 1997 all appear to be genuinely enjoying themselves all night.

Wyman's fingers run up and down the fretboard all night but, as with so many great bassists, the man himself barely moves. He certainly doesn't break into a sweat irrespective of the tempo of the track.

Classics included "sweet Soul Music", a couple of Little Walter tracks, and also two Chuck Berry' classics "you never can tell" and "Johnny B Goode", in spite of Bill describing Berry as a "nasty pice of work", Etta James' Good rockin' daddy" and Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, Elmore James' Dust my broom", James Brown's "this is a man's world"

This is a hugely enjoyable evening of soul, blues, rock n roll, pop and even a hint of folk with the classic "He was a friend of mine"
Fri 27th Jun, 2014 | 9:43ammore...
Ali Richards

Review of Bugalu Foundation and DJ Lubi

GRASSINGTON FESTIVAL 2014
Posted by: Ali Richards, Thu 26th Jun, 2014 | 9:46am
Bugalu Foundation
Bugalu Foundation
Saturday the 21st was the longest day of the year, it was also sunny and at Grassington a transformation took place in the Town Hall as Bugalu Foundation took to the stage.

From the opening beat of the giant bongo drums we were transported through lush Latin music to a South American nightclub.

DJ Lubi had prepared us with a range of intoxicating Salsa numbers to warm us up but this was a heady mix of rich Spanish lyrics from lead vocalist Vanessa Rani accompanied by a great brass section of trumpets, trumbones and sax and underpinned by some outstanding guitar, keyboards and percussion.

Across the generations Grassington took to the floor of the Town Hall and showed that in this corner of Yorkshire there are more than a few would be Salsa Kings and Queens. Dancers were given a lot of inspiration from a Reggae/jazz fusion to more traditional Cha Cha Cha and everything in between.

It turned out to be La Noche Mas Lindo and it went by in a flash as their two sets competed Bugalu Foundation left the stage to rapturous applause and shouts of more. We weren't left cold though as DJ Lubi took us back to more sounds of Spanish Harlem.
Thu 26th Jun, 2014 | 9:46ammore...
Pete Loss

Review: Linda Simpson & Lifeline

GRASSINGTON FESTIVAL 2012
Posted by: Pete Loss, Thu 26th Jun, 2014 | 9:34am
Linda Simpson
Linda Simpson
Grassington's Annual Festival had a glittering evening on the 20th June with the presence of Linda Simpson & Lifeline playing at the Octagon Theatre for the Fringe.

It was a sheer delight to see musical professionalism presented by 4 class artists who so entertained a very well attended venue.

With a warm and wonderful ambience to the evening, the songs of new and old engaged with the audience's complete attention touching a few hearts along the way.

With elements of surprise of Linda's distinctive singing voice, choice of songs and humour, not forgetting her beautiful acoustic guitar playing, this really did have people talking during the interval at how so much they were enjoying the bands musical magic and how much she had been missed.

It's a credit to all involved in providing such an art for all to see and hear.
Pete Loss.
Thu 26th Jun, 2014 | 9:34ammore...
Mark Bamforth

Review: John Anderson At Grassington Festival

GRASSINGTON FESTIVAL 2014
Posted by: Mark Bamforth, Thu 26th Jun, 2014 | 9:26am
John Anderson
John Anderson
Anyone, given enough alcohol and encouragement, can be persuaded to get up and 'do a turn' but it takes real talent to put together and perform a ninety minute programme of songs and readings in front of 70 paying guests.

John Anderson did just this with consummate skill and aplomb at Grassington Festival last week.

John is a well-known local performer both as actor and singer and for this first one-man show he based his programme round memories of childhood as well as favourite items from later years.

So we had readings from A A Milne, Edward Lear and Roald Dahl amongst many others with songs ranging from Schubert lieder and Mozart opera to Flanders and Swann and Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

The breadth of items selected was a testament, not only to John's talent as a performer but also to his knowledge of the genres and the audience were riveted from beginning to end.

He was more than ably assisted by Helen Kerr on piano; another underused local talent, with Cath Currier undertaking page turning duties.

A wonderful afternoon's entertainment, hopefully the first of many from yet another talented local performer.
Thu 26th Jun, 2014 | 9:26ammore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF6

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Tue 24th Jun, 2014 | 5:15pm

The more I have seen the more impressed I am. Yorkshire is totally embracing this two day bike ride! More and more windows are painted in the theme, model bikes popping up here there and everywhere. There's even a dedicated Tour de France shop now in Leeds by the Trinity Centre! Incredible.

However, there are also other changes being made. In Skipton alone, they're busy smoothing roads, traffic control being altered and, to my jaw dropping surprise, even roundabouts being dug out!

I am told that the Cenotaph at the top is safe. And am guessing due to old market laws, that the cobbles on the high street are staying. Not a good surface to land on should a competitor happen to lose control and end up sprawled across them. Ouch! Am sure they will just saddle up and keep cycling though.

I hate to think of the cost of all these changes, which will only have to be put back in place. But that's the miserable person in me!

I still haven't had my check-in location emailed, but only two days later than advertised. Maybe they don't want us to be too excited when the race is now only 12 days away. Perhaps it will appear today, to cheer up a wonderfully sunny day! I had a dummy run walking to my check-in location this morning, at Craven swimming pool. I have got it down to 32 min and 17 secs, so will be on time on the actual day.

I have also practised the acronym, HOST. I said Hello quite a lot over the weekend, and offered help yesterday. Practice makes perfect!
Tue 24th Jun, 2014 | 5:15pmmore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF5

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Tue 24th Jun, 2014 | 5:03pm

Booooo!

The 20th June has been and gone, and no email has been received as expected. My check-in information is now missing. Should I report it as such? What if I've been booted out of being a Wayfinder? Maybe they have checked my records again and realised that I don't do enough cycling to take part? What if they have found someone else to be their eyes and ears?

Checked my emails again and still nothing. Checked my junk box too, send and receive......

Are my Wayfinder days over before they've begun? That would be embarrassing to say the least. Which is why I've decided to come up with a plan B, just in case. Everyone needs a plan B for the day, contingency planning and all that. I'll bet even the racers have a plan B. 'If x rider overtakes me on the bend, I'll give them a little nudge, to remind them that I am the fastest, and that I will win'. Well I'm not going to worry, or take it personally that they haven't emailed me as stated they would on Sunday.

Instead, I will go ahead and share the 2nd part of the acronym, of HOST. The TdF's answer to customer service. I have already shared the H with you, as being 'Hello'. The O is quite bizarre, as it stands for 'Offer Help'. I think they cheated really, as it should be just one word. If I'd have played a part in designing it, knowing that the Tour was coming to Yorkshire, I would have said the O stands for 'Oy'. Much more suitable for Yorkshire territory, and widely recognised. It would work well wouldn't it, someone would approach me as a fellow Wayfinder, and I would say, "Hello, Oy!" Sounds good doesn't it? most welcoming! Anyway, they chose to offer help instead, so that's what I shall do. Rather, that's what I would have done, before I got booted out, if I have. I have been practising too, saying, 'Hello, can I help you, I am your friendly Wayfinder of Stage 1 in Yorkshire, and offering help'. Rolls off quite nicely now. But as I haven't received the next email which was set to be delivered yesterday, then I won't need to be saying those words.

Plan B will be ok, and I don't have a HOST acronym to use, but I could design one if need be. My plan, is to put myself out into the spectators, and offer myself as a 'Bike fairy'. I know I don't exactly have the look of a fairy, but bear with. Many people will be arriving to the route by bike. These people will be putting their bikes down. These people may forget where they put their bikes, and begin to panic. It will be my role to help them locate their bikes, for a small fee. For a larger fee, I would look after their bikes whilst they went off to do what they want to do - maybe go closer to the route, or get some refreshments, nip to the loo, anything!

I wouldn't wear my TdF uniform which was given last week (and still not taken out of the bag). I will have already sold this on eBay. No, instead, to blend in with the other cyclists, I shall wear my lycra fairy outfit. I will be much more approachable in this, and may even add a hoodie, so that I blend with all age groups. I will work alone, and I won't have to check in with anyone. I will be very useful on the day, to those joining in the fun, and I can opt out should the heavens open! I can watch the race on the screen, whilst enjoying a lovely gin & tonic (although other drinks are widely available). I can observe the Wayfinders, and be glad I am the Tour de Fairy. It sounds much nicer doesn't it?

I'll just check my emails once again, to make sure I haven't missed out on my check in location details......

Hello? Hello?
Tue 24th Jun, 2014 | 5:03pmmore...
Luce Smith

From a "Tour Maker" TdF 4

FROM A TOUR MAKER
Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 20th Jun, 2014 | 10:05am

It's a very exciting day for us Wayfinders today. It's the day I will receive my email with further instruction to my role on the 5th July 2014.

I've been giving it a lot of thought, and have a terrible suspicion I will be the one standing there with a clipboard, and a silly cap, handing out freebies and merchandise to those who pass by! I reckon I will be mostly saying 'yes, it's a black ball point pen, not blue'....

Actually, I've just had an idea. What if I was to get hold of some TdF with compliments slips, and google Wiggins' signature, and start scribbling? I could offer them to people at a small administration cost. I think the supervisors will be ok with it, if not a little green that they didn't think of it first. If they ask about the income I make, I will simply say that the £5 Asda voucher was all very good, but if they look in Skipton, they will find a lack of Asda stores! So I therefore have to fund my own food for the day, as they'll want me to be energetic, fresh, and well nourished. Of course, I will also look at signing other cyclists' names too, such as Froome, and other famous names in the trade...... The cyclists will be really grateful as they will be so busy focussing on the climbs, that they won't have time for autographs. Start queuing now please!

I also thought, that as I am to be 'the eyes and ears' of the TdF, then I am probably going to get a coupon in my email, to use at Specsavers, to check out my eyes and ears. I may even have to get them insured. Gosh, such a lot to think about!

As it's such an exciting day, I think I owe it to you to share the HOST effect. I shall let you know the meaning of the first letter only, as you can't have too much excitement on a Friday! (Although you possibly need it following the poor result of the match last night. Just saying.....!)

H - stands for..........Hello! Or, if need be, it can be adjusted to suit the Spanish tourists, and be Hola! So, when approached by a member of the public, we are simply to say as an opening word, 'Hello!' I think I can manage that. I may even throw in a sneaky 'Hi' just to be rebellious!

So, I shall await the email today, with further details of my check-in location, (which if you have forgotten, is Craven Swimming Pool, Skipton) and let you know the rest when I do.

Hello!
Fri 20th Jun, 2014 | 10:05ammore...
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