That was our weekend that was – from hospitals to west yorkshire hills
It was one of those weekends that you could say was the best of weekends and the worst of weekends rolled into one.
We covered a lot of ground and saw lots of family – but it was prompted by a sadness, that my father-in-law, Chiswick Boy’s grandfather, was admitted into hospital last week. So this weekend we went back up to our old stomping ground of West Yorkshire to visit Grandad.
Sadly, today we learnt that Grandad has been diagnosed with (inoperable) cancer in the brain and stomach. It seems that cancer is the looming villain in the shadow of all our lives. It’s ten years since I lost my dad to cancer, at his unfairly young age of just 59. I lost my grandmother to cancer, although I suppose you could say that I really lost her to Alzheimer’s two years before that. I’ve seen friends lose their lives to cancer too – healthy, yoga practicing, pilates teaching, vegan friends who trod lightly on this earth but were still taken from it too soon. In fact you could say that ironically cancer is the ultimate democrat. He picks his victims indiscriminately, regardless of creed, lifestyle or age.
Like Chiswick Daddy, Grandad is a Yorkshire man through and through. And Chiswick Boy was born in Yorkshire – in Halifax (it was meant to be Huddersfield, but Huddersfield maternity ward was full when I went into labour!)
We were up there because when I fell pregnant with Chiswick Boy I moved up to West Yorkshire to live with his Chiswick Daddy (who was of course Yorkshire Daddy then – Chiswick not being a place either of us were familiar with).
Thanks to a blessed flexible public sector employer I spent three years in Yorkshire – one full year’s maternity leave and then a two year career break.
Like most London families we do a fair bit of musing on ‘moving out of London’ one day and one of the places on the radar is a return to the place of Chiswick Boy and Chiswick Daddy’s (and Grandad’s) blood – West Yorkshire with its the rolling hills and vast moorland.
Three cheers plus infinity for the NHS
I’m one of those people who loves the NHS, who believes that we have a health system envied the world over, that attracts great talent from men and women dedicated to providing great healthcare to all, regardless of outlook or income.
I had excellent care in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary when I was ill while pregnant with Chiswick Boy. And the nurses I saw there this weekend tending Chiswick Grandad were clearly compassionate, and listened to what Grandad wanted.
But I’m struck by how depressing and gloomy hospitals are. Grandad is very ill – and has little energy or appetite for stimulus. He said he had no patience for a television, or radio, or even his favoured conspiracy theory youtube videos.
But he visibly perked up when he had lots of visitors. So I say bring back hospital radio, bring back visiting rabbis, priests and clerics. Bring back local scout groups doing talent shows in the rounds. Bring local art into the wards and corridors…to brighten up the sad corridors with something other than antibacterial dispensers and warnings about the Noro Virus.
And I’m aware that over stretched, underpaid nurses no longer have time to sit holding patients’ hands in companionable silence. So I’m off to see what volunteering opportunities exist. I’m sure West Middlesex hospital still has a patient radio…
It can be unnerving to take children into hospitals and Chiswick Boy was visibly quieter than his usual chatterbox self. But I could see it meant the world for Grandad to get a hug from Chiswick Boy and we’ll be up again soon.
A thousand family
While we were up north we did a whistle stop tour of other family. It seemed strange to be using a sad occasion of illness to be visiting folks and having catch ups – but perhaps illness is a reminder to us all to celebrate relationships while we are in good health.
On the list of people we saw were: Chiswick Daddy’s sister, our two nephews – who have become strapping teenagers of 17 and 15 (how did this happen?), plus her partner – all in a lovely village near Wakefield. Then there was Chiswick Daddy’s other sister, plus my father’s first cousin and her daughter (so my second cousin and first cousin once removed), all in a little village near Huddersfield.
My first cousin once removed (above, with Chiswick Boy) is an artist who screen prints works based on Huddersfield’s industrial past and also its countryside – both often juxtaposed together. She’s also just released a children’s book straight to Kindle, with some line illustrations – it’s under three quid (£2.38 at the time of writing, to be exact!) so please do *drop by Amazon and buy it :-).
‘A Nasty Stink’ is the first in a series of children’s books dealing with the relationship between a very Yorkshire Yorkshireman and a more retired major type, who are mismatched but have neighbouring allotments and so are thrown together and, I suspect, become unlikely friends over time.
Isn’t it amazing that authors can just upload their own books and take control of the publishing process now? Just imagine if the Brontes had been able to self publish to Kindle without having to use male pseudonyms. Imagine how many more women there would be in the canon of English Literature!
I should say that I have spotted a couple of typos in my cousin’s book – and she has promised to enlist me as chief proofreader for the next one. Please do buy the book if you can – it would mean the world. When you’re self-publishing you really do notice your book sales go up by one copy!
A West Yorkshire foodie experience
While dashing between various relations’ houses and visiting dear old Grandad in hospital, we had to make some pitstops. This was a foodie trip down memory lane for us.
One of the things we used to love doing when we lived ooop North, was to drive across the moors stopping at countryside pubs for lunch. It’s sad to see that some of our old haunts have become ghost pubs – with ‘to let’ or ‘ to sale signs outside (if the pub is lucky, or signs of demolition.
But we were pleased that the Rose & Crown, one of the highest pubs in Yorkshire, was still going strong. Its website proudly describes its situation as:
“…elevated above the village of Slaithwaite at 988 feet from sea level along with stunning views of the beautiful Colne Valley and over 50 miles beyond on a clear day. You have to travel as far as Northern Poland in search of the next elevation from the Eastern viewpoints in the main bar, restaurant and function room. They may share the same rural setting but are unlikely to offer real ales and homemade Yorkshire pudding.”
The staff were as friendly as we’d remembered them – the portions generous and the food tasty. Our grilled goats cheese starter had not one cheese but two:
Our steak pie (Chiswick Daddy and I both ordered the same), was a thick slice of gorgeous pie – packed tight with flavoursome meat, and with an unmistakably homemade shortcrust pastry. The chips were homemade too, and cut thickly while the accompanying bowl of veg was packed with leafy broccoli and cauliflower, cooked just to the right al dente texture. There were a generous heap of flavoursome carrots too.
Chiswick Boy’s homemade chicken nuggets (the only time we’d ever let him choose chicken nuggets from a kids menu) were generous chunks of chicken in batter, with a bowl of ketchup for dipping and some normal (not posh like ours) chips.
Heartily recommend this fantastic Yorkshire pub for a family lunch or dinner, or even a pint with some of the best views in West Yorkshire.
The only good coffee in Huddersfield?
It was with bated breath that we went to see if our favourite coffee shop was still in business – Coffee Evolution in Huddersfield town centre. And indeed it was. Not only that, but hipster beards have made their way up North and all the baristas in Coffee Evolution now have them. But most importantly of all they still do our favourite egg mayo and bacon breakfast bagels.
When I was living in Huddersfield, with a new baby, and struggling with the whole ‘not living in London’ thing – many a day was saved by the great coffee in Coffee Evolution:
In fact this was the spot that we’d meet Grandad in, for coffee and chats. Never take for granted just how wonderful it is to have family living nearby – something that we miss in London (although my aunt and uncle do live in West London which is great for us).
Another thing you should never take for granted, to be more prosaic, is good coffee shops. I almost take these for granted in London – but perhaps don’t take for granted as much as if I’d never lived oop North where great coffee shops are few and far between.
So there you have it – our weekend up in West Yorkshire. Going for a sad reason, but finding some happy times and revisiting happy people and happy memories while we were there. And sending love and prayers to Grandad.
Do you ever go back to visit friends and family? For happy times, or sad times, or both?
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