To Halifax

After not a lot of sleep (first night, new bed, beer, yadda, yadda, yadda) we headed down for breakfast. While I don’t normally have breakfast I figured there was going to be a lot of doubt over whether we’d be eating or not so thought something in my tummy before beer was a wise decision.

Apart from it being a wise decision with regards to my beer consumption, it provided it for my tastebuds as well. I was fortunate enough to have possibly the best scrambled eggs and smoked salmon I’ve had outside Chez Gaz. (The eggs merely lacked a little cream.)

Of course, Nicktor had his usual full English, leaving about a third of it on the plate. I’m so used to this I didn’t even bother commenting. I’m not sure why I’m doing it now, to be honest. Though I was surprised that he tried a bit of his black pudding. Just a bit, mind. I guess it lacked something with a hint of orange. Maybe. I do wonder what Steve From Number 11 would have had. I guess we’ll never know.

Anyway following this delightful repast, we went for a little wander in order for Nicktor to find some Fenwick’s sarsparilla. Or, rather, not find any. The main reason he wanted to buy some is because somewhere back in the dim dark days of the Victorian North, some long dead ancestor of his had a hand in creating it. I don’t think it was a literal hand though sarsarilla tastes so bad I could be wrong. Obviously this relative wasn’t the Fenwick. Also Nicktor likes sarsparilla. Go figure.

On our wander around the always lovely Holmfirth (which we only generally see at night) we came across a rather large gorilla, having a bit of a rest outside a shop called the Lion’s Den.

I think he was busking

Eventually there was a loud “Oi!” from across the road and there was Colin, knee deep in Saturday morning traffic, squeezed in behind the Summer Wine Country Tour Bus and waiving like a demented emperor. We managed to dodge around the traffic and hopped into his tank of a car.

There we met Ian. He is Colin’s brother-in-law, being the husband of his sister Jude. (All day I was wondering how he could be the brother of Francis (Colin’s wife) because she is not in the least bit Scottish and Ian is nothing but. Eventually Colin set me straight. It made much more sense really.)

Francis was also there (in the back for some reason) as she was taking the car back to the house while we all caught the train from Honley, a station I’d not yet visited. Not that there’s a lot of Honley station to visit. It’s only long enough for a two carriage train. Fortunately the train we caught only had two carriages so it was ample.

(I should mention here that Colin will be called Napoleon from here on in. This relates to Nicktor’s book and is essential from the viewpoint of his military prowess and organising skills. His rhetorical motto is “Pourquoi ne laisser personne derrière quand on peut laisser tout le monde?” and he practices this with great skill and delight.)

At the station slightly ahead of us we met Steve From the Squash Court and Northern Pete and there were plenty of ecstatic salutations and greetings of great exuberance. I hadn’t seen them for almost two years but we all just carried on like I’d seen them last week. Two lovely guys.

Something that featured quite a bit during the day was Nicktor’s book. This is mostly because quite a few of the people there are mentioned in it. Nicktor had brought up a copy of it for Napoleon, hoping that he could push a few sales from other people who might like to read about themselves in a less than complimentary way.

The first taste of possible repercussions came on the platform of Honley Station when Napoleon, with great delight, read out the section on Steve From the Squash Court’s breakfast cooking prowess. Nicktor’s complaint about his less than crispy bottomed eggs did not go unpunished. I suggested to Nicktor that he might not want to partake of the next breakfast. He said he’d make sure he was in the kitchen helping. And he’d bring his own parsley.

Regardless of any sort of technological problems trying to get bits of cardboard out of a big machine, we managed to get aboard the correct train and settled in for the not very long trip to Huddersfield. We managed to by pass the delights of the Head of Steam (at this early stage) and changed to platform 6 where Napoleon had placed himself in front of a locked train carriage, defiant and certain.

Nicktor figured our leader was wrong but it was Nicktor who was wrong because it was indeed our connecting train and, in good time, it deposited us at Halifax.

The walk from the station to the Three Pigeons and then the continuing trip to the football ground were both a bit like most areas beside railway lines so I’ll spare any details. Later on I was to taste the real delights that Halifax had to offer and I have to say I rather liked the place though it is a bit hilly.

From the station, where we picked up Mike, we ended up in the loveliest pub. The Three Pigeons is a delight with little nook like rooms with long benches and uncomfortable stools, a wonderful bar full of very promising ales (I can recommend the Brunette) and just the perfect atmosphere to tempt us all into staying there for the rest of our lives. It’s a bit of a pity we didn’t stay.

The pub gradually filled up and, sadly before Yorkshire Pete joined us, it was time for a group photo. Nicktor tried his non-existent selfie skills (his arms are too short) so Ian went over to a group of chaps sitting in the corner and asked “Would you take a photo for us please?

The closest chap said of course and took a selfie of him and his mates.

Halifax chaps

This had us all in stitches. And not because we were by any stretch of the imagination drunk. No, it was actually really, really funny. Anyway, the fellow turned the lens thing around and took this for us.

Napoleon, Northern Pete, Ian, me, Steve from the Squash Court, Nicktor and Mike. The guy in the opening behind us is photo-bombing perfectly

You can see how funny we thought the previous joke was because we’re all still laughing.

Then Yorkshire Pete turned up and we had a few more beers before heading off for the ground with enough time to allow for my usual reduced mobility.

We took our seats which had Nicktor complaining about not standing up (as usual) though I was more than a little bit grateful for the chance to get off my legs. Though, to be fair to Nicktor, I do agree in principle. What I can’t agree with him on is the quality of football on display today.

Behind us our 200+ travelling fans sang bravely throughout the entire match but it made very little difference. Our play was lacklustre (except for rare bursts), shots on target were few and far between and…I’m not going to go on. It was not a good advertisement for the Mighty Shots by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.

Steve From the Squash Court was particularly unimpressed with the football. Or maybe he was still seething about Nicktor’s TripAdvisor type critique of his breakfast skills.

And so the final whistle went and we could all go somewhere more exciting.

Napoleon strode off, determined for us all to see the Piece Hall. Ignoring some navigational advice from a local who didn’t actually know his left from his right, we managed to find the hall. By the time we arrived, Napoleon had gone somewhere else and a frantic attempt at discovering his whereabouts ensued. He was in a pub. He didn’t know where.

The Piece Hall, so named because a cloth in the 18th century in Halifax was measured in ‘pieces’ measuring 30 yards in length and made on a handloom, is magnificent. I remember seeing something about it on the BBC ages ago because it had recently been beautifully restored.

Back in 1972 the council wanted to demolish the whole thing but a speech given by Councillor Keith Ambler saved it. And so its restoration began until we have the wonderful arts type building we have today.

It is truly magnificent. No photo could really do it justice. But I’ll try with a panno.

Piece Hall

That’s Nicktor in the Aldershot shirt with Mike and Yorkshire Pete. They are discussing whether to join Napoleon in the unknown pub or (Mike’s suggestion) go to the Victorian pub up the hill.

The Victorian pub isn’t Victorian. It opened in 2014 and is named after the theatre opposite. The theatre just about qualifies as being Victorian given it opened in 1901 after the queen died. Mind you, the foundation stone was laid in 1899 and the original plans were formed in 1897 so I guess we can let that slide.

The pub is not big but it was full. It also had a menu board with about 30 different ales of varying taste and alcohol content. Mike decided, against all advice, that he wanted to try something that bubbled away with 8.2%. The barman suggested he should have a half pint but Mike insisted. He needed a pint, he could handle a pint, he wanted a pint! He was given a pint even though it cost £10.

Mike really should have listened to the advice. I have never seen someone get so drunk so fast. It was like he’d gone into some sort of time slip where he’d had time to drink 20 pints to our one then suddenly returned still grasping his glass.

Speaking of grasping his glass…possibly the funniest thing to happen all weekend was when he, casually, put his hand out to lean against a conveniently placed door next to him. What he didn’t know was that the door wasn’t closed. Standing between Nicktor and me, he just slid out of sight as the door swung open to reveal the, fortunately empty, ladies’ toilet. It was exactly like the Del Boy scene in Only Fools and Horses only delightfully real.

Possibly the most amazing thing apart from the fact that he didn’t fall down, was that he didn’t spill any of his evil brew.

Eventually we recovered and were joined by the missing great leader and two of his troops (Steve From the Squash Court had gone off to a party or, possibly, was so disgusted with the verdict of his cooking skills had gone off in a huff) and settled in for another pint. We even managed to get seats at one stage.

It was soon time to move on however, rather than the train station, we headed down to the Three Pigeons because we loved it so much. It was very, very crowded. It was also full of Halifax fans who decided I’d like to discuss the ins and outs of the game with them. One chap in a suit (his company sponsored the match) seems to now be my new best friend in Halifax.

We only stayed for the one beer before heading off for the station and an exceedingly slow train to Huddersfield. It was so slow that the guard had to tell us, over the tannoy, that it was part of the schedule and there was nothing wrong. I’ve never heard that one before.

Not that we minded the length of the trip. Ian was in a reflective mood and decided to tell me all about his uncle (I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the name so I’ll call him) Frank. Uncle Frank taught Ian everything fun about life. He started by teaching him about going to live football.

At the age of nine, Uncle Frank came round to Ian’s house one Saturday and asked him if he’d like to come to the game. Ian was overjoyed and piled into the car. Because there was no bridge back then, the trip to the ground where Ross County played their home games was about three hours drive (it’s now about half an hour).

They arrived at the ground and Uncle Frank showed Ian a small enclosed section where he was told to stand and watch the game. Uncle Frank then disappeared. Ian watched and loved the game and has ever since. He became that day a lifelong County fan. So much so that the mere hint of Inverness Caledonian Thistle can send him into a fit of rage and bad language. To be honest it doesn’t take that much to send him into a fit of bad language.

Anyway, the game ended (he didn’t remember the score or the opposition) and Uncle Frank was nowhere to be found. Ian figured he’d be in the pub and Ian was right. In the back room there was Uncle Frank, pissed and snoozing while his best mates sat and stood around him talking the sort of nonsense only drunk Scots can talk.

Ian smiled as he fondly remembered his Uncle Frank though, he told me, he was rather pleased when he reached 15 and was allowed to drive the car back home rather than wait for Frank to sober up enough to do it himself.

As the train crawled between points, Ian regaled me with some very endearing and funny stories about his uncle. Far too many to include here. It was a lovely slow train ride we had.

All good things must come to an end though and we were eventually at Huddersfield which, of course, means a visit to the Head of Steam pub. Though, I have to say, it was very disappointing to find we couldn’t enter the pub from the platform. It meant a long walk around the front of the station which was very annoying. According to Northern Pete it was because of some fare evaders, ducking through the pub rather than pay a fare. Typical that we should suffer because of some minor misdemeanour.

Ian at the Head of Steam

Still, we had a lovely pint while sitting chatting and generally waiting for the train back to Honely and dinner at Balooshai where Nicktor and Ian made friends with Tatiana and Donna who were just about to go. I was at the other end of the table so I have no idea what was going on but there were quite a few delighted squeals and jolly chuckles. And that was just from Nicktor.

Dinner was delicious though, as usual, having consumed far too much beer, Nicktor proceeded to order far too much food. Still, what we ate was great. (I need to shout out about the peshwari naan which was easily the best I’ve ever had.)

Nicktor and I had dinner at Balooshai with Yorkshire Pete many moons ago when it was in Huddersfield and remember it being exceptional. Apparently it’s the same restaurant that’s just moved rather than another branch.

Napoleon, Nicktor, Ian and Northern Pete

There’s so much more I could write about today but I have to stop somewhere so I’ll just finish with the fact that we caught a taxi back to the Old Bridge Inn and went straight to our rooms and sleep. There was no need for a nightcap given we’d already had a few of those.

As for the football, here’s Nicktor’s opinion followed by a query from Mike.

I just feel I should add a little something about black pudding and Cointreau…actually, tomorrow will do.

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