Why I Am Not A “Philistine Yorkshireman”

My girlfriend has just uploaded a blog post she wrote about our recent trip to Barcelona.


In it, she accuses me of being “a philistine Yorkshireman”. Here’s why I don’t think I am.

I am justifiably proud of my Yorkshire heritage; it is after all the best county in England, but “philistine”?



Considering the fact that Melvyn Bragg quoted me this month, in a speech he gave about culture, I would argue that this is debatable. I do concede that I have an uneducated palette, but the thing is, I know what I like; it’s as simple as that.

More to the point, I know what I don’t like.

It’s not that I refuse to try out new food. I mean, I’ve eaten oysters! And as we all know (or rightly suspect) eating oysters is akin to swallowing a salty, chewy, slimy glob of lumpy snot; but in a nice way.

And so, in response to my darling girlfriend’s “art and food lover’s” review of our trip to Spain (and her false accusation that I am a “philistine”) here is a cultured Yorkshireman’s take on our foody time together in Barcelona.

The trip was a tick off of Denise’s bucket list. I’ve been to Spain a couple of times before, but that was way, way back in my early twenties; when my only priorities had been sea, sun, sand, sangria, San Miguel, and the rest.

Denise was in charge of where we would visit while we were in Barcelona; it was one of her landmark birthdays we were celebrating after all, and I wanted us to do what she wanted us to do. I knew this meant a lot of art, a lot of architecture, and more than likely a fair few tiny portions of fancy food would be on the agenda.

She did insist on me having an opinion once or twice, and refused outright to let me get away with “I’m happy with whatever you want, darling, it’s your birthday”, but I was able to keep my input to a minimum.

We relied almost entirely on Denise’s little notebook while we were in Barcelona; in which she’d usefully pencilled in places for us to visit, places where we could eat, and how we should get to them.

Getting to places in Barcelona involves navigating the wonderfully reliable and relatively simple Metro system there, plus a lot of walking. Barcelona is big!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good stroll as much as the next lazy sod, but I’m more of a moocher myself; whereas Denise is most definitely a marcher. We walked 30k in three days! And a lot of that was getting from one platform to another on the aforementioned Metro. If you want to explore Barcelona, then my advice would be to wear comfortable shoes; and train well beforehand.

We didn’t get to do everything Denise put on her To-Do-List, but I suspect this was more of a deliberate ploy on her part; in order to have an excuse to return at some point in the future.

I’m from Leeds; home to Leeds Kirkgate Market. Kirkgate was once a glorious landmark of the city; filled with colours, scents, sights, and sounds that captivated the senses. La Boqueria reminded me of how Leeds Kirkgate Market used to be.

There was plenty of food on display in La Boqueria that I didn’t recognise. Some of the food was labelled; but with words I didn’t recognise either…even the ones written in English. Like I said, I’ll admit to having an uneducated palette.

Denise mockingly chided me for choosing Empanadas to eat as a snack later.

“Typical Yorkshireman, choosing a pasty” she said, as I browsed the variety of fillings available, in the selection of small, delicious looking, exotically sounding…pasties. But these weren’t just Cornish Pasties, or Cheese & Onion pasties, or even your common or garden vegetable pasties. These were fancy pasties! There was even a wild mushroom and spinach empanada!

You got 3 small empanadas for one euro fifty; a pick ‘n’ mix, and a bargain! I picked three weird combinations. I enjoyed two of them; the third was spoiled, when Denise’s slice of melon leaked onto the crust of my Wild Mushroom and Spinach.

In her Blog post, Denise says this about La boqueria. “There is definitely something for everyone despite my partners [sic] singularity in his choices.”

I object!

Here’s how a typical conversation with my girlfriend sounds, regarding my diet.

HER: You’re impossible to cook healthy food for! You don’t like vegetables! You don’t like salad!

ME: I like some salad! I just don’t like tomatoes. I like onions, and cucumber, and carrot…

HER: You said you didn’t like carrot!

ME: I said I didn’t like boiled carrot, or steamed. But I like it roasted with marmalade, or raw.

HER: You don’t like pasta!

ME: I know I don’t, but I like potatoes. And I like seafood, and I LOVE mushrooms! And don’t tell me again that you don’t count potatoes as part of my five a day! And what about mushy peas?!!! They’re vegetables too! You can’t pick on me, just because I don’t like courgettes!

…and so on.

You see, Denise is a chef who loves to eat healthily, whereas I like big portions of food that tastes nice. And she can’t lecture me about how chips are bad for me, then gobble down bowl after bowl of the things herself; but say that it’s OK, “because these are patatas bravas, not chips”.

The French for potato is pomme-de-terre; which translates literally as “apple from the earth”. It’s a poetic name for a potato, but if you slice up an “apple from the earth”, and then fry it, you’re left with chips. And that unpronounceable dip you’ve been dipping your chips in; the one made of mayonnaise and garlic, that wouldn’t be garlic mayo by any chance, would it?

Besides, how I can I be accused of making singular choices, when one night I didn’t order chocolate for my pudding; opting instead for an almond tart with ice cream. The fact that they drizzled chocolate sauce on it, not mentioned on the menu, is irrelevant.

Denise on the other hand ordered crème brulee…again, and again, and again. But this wasn’t just any old crème brulee of course; this was “Catalan Crème Brulee”. And Catalan Crème Brulee is obviously so amazingly awesome, that experimentation with desserts goes out of the window…actually, that’s a touch unfair.

Denise suffers from a number of food intolerances and allergies, so her options are often limited. But I think the fact that I chose Ice Cream and tart, over chocolate one night, proves that I’m not as predictable as Denise makes me out, in her blog.

And this is why I refute the charge that I am a “philistine Yorkshireman” with singular tastes. Now, about this Gaudi bloke!…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An art and food lovers guide to Barcelona

This gallery contains 34 photos.

Originally posted on Moel Faban Suppers:
Barcelona has been up at the top of my wish list of places to visit as long as I can remember. As an art lover with a particular attraction to Art Nouveau, Modernism, Picasso,…

Gallery | Leave a comment

Independent Music Venue Week: Neuadd Ogwen

Music lovers in North-West Wales were treated to a trio of bands performing live last night, as part of Independent Music Venue Week; and all for the price of a couple of High Street coffees. The independent music venue in question was Neuadd Ogwen; situated in Bethesda, on the edge of Snowdonia. It’s a tiny town, surrounded on all sides by mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes.

A handful of stragglers missed the start of a captivating opening set from Belfast based septet, Documenta; including four guitarists who blended together gracefully; the instruments caressing each other, creating a shoegazing soundscape awash with atmosphere and melodious noise. Documenta cherry pick from (and experiment with) everything from Can to The Beatles, and it works perfectly.

They opened strongly with “Idle Hands” from the album “Drone Pop #1” and from that moment on, the audience were theirs for the taking. Five tracks from the album were included in the set; as well as an as yet untitled song. A 12” EP is in the pipeline, which vocalist Joe Greene promises will be even more experimental. They closed their set with the grooving beat of “Gentle’s Yard”, from the album, and left an appreciative crowd hungry for more.

Up next were Manchester’s Horsebeach. Manchester isn’t renowned for it’s sunny climate; neither is North West-Wales for that matter, but from the moment Horsebeach kicked off proceedings with “A Place Like This”, you could easily imagine you were sitting on a warm summer beach, sipping a cold drink, and contemplating a siesta before going out to party; no mean feat considering this was a cold, wet, and dark Saturday night in January.

The set was a mix of tracks from the band’s prolific back catalogue, plus three new songs from their next album, due out in March.

Ryan Kennedy’s dreamy, hazy croon dripped like melting ice cream, and you could see the enraptured audience swaying along to songs like the sublime “It’s Alright”, as though they didn’t have a care in the world. Reminiscent of Aztec Camera at times, Horsebeach took us elsewhere, and Neuadd Ogwen basked in the warm melodies the band created.

Last on stage were local band Yucatan. Being on home turf (vocalist Dilwyn Llwyd runs the venue) they were received with rapturous applause from an anticipatory crowd; and rightly so. The band seduced the audience with songs that felt almost hymn like at times. Minimal, soothing, ethereal, almost childlike, Yucatan’s set seemed to reflect the stark beauty of the area that surrounds Neuadd Ogwen; one suspects this is what heaven might sound like if it was a band, and Yucatan’s ability to enthral an audience looked almost effortless at times.

The fact that the lyrics were sung in Welsh didn’t distract at all, and a number of non Welsh speakers hearing the band for the first time were overheard raving with surprise about how amazing they were; quite right too, because Yucatan are startlingly good.

From the moment the drums pounded the intro to “Ffin”, you knew you were in safe hands, and hearing “Cwm Llwm” felt like The Velvet Underground singing you to sleep.

They finished the set with the crowd pleasing “Un Cyfle”, which is the only point where the laid back Llwyd finally becomes animated. The song starts slowly but surely, and finishes with a squall of noise as the band exits.

At the end of the gig, one audience member was seen taking a photograph of the empty stage. As this night was a part of Independent Music Venue Week, it seemed appropriate to do so. After all, this week has been an opportunity to celebrate the smaller, intimate, independent music venue, and when all is said and done, it is Neuadd Ogwen that the audience was there to celebrate.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Naked Freelance Writer Earns Money

When I was offered the chance to be a Life Model for an Art Group, my first concern was that I might be compared unfavourably to previous models…in the trouser department I mean. Reassurances from my girlfriend that I was “a grower, not a shower” didn’t help; the last thing I wanted was to grow, mid pose.

As it turns out, the size of my equipment was the least of my worries.

For a start, coming up with eight different poses was hard enough.

“We require five 5 minute poses from you, two to last 15 minute each, and one you can hold for an hour…with a 5 minute break half way through, should you require it” said the lady in charge.

Another worry was the itch on my nose, which started halfway through the first of my 15 minute poses.

Then there was the wind…not the gale force one blowing outside (they’d provided a wall of heaters for that), but the one threatening to explode from my backside; as I knelt on the floor, with my bum in the air, and my back to the artists.

There was a spot of bother “down below” at one point, but it was due entirely to the coffee I’d accepted, halfway through the session; and not because of any dimensional deficiencies, or unwanted expansions on my part. In short, I was desperate to pee. I managed to hold it off until the end of the session, and it was a blessed relief when I finally let go.

And so I stood, and I knelt, and I lounged, and I hugged myself for two hours; striking poses like a pro (because I’m also an actor, there were a couple of dramatic stances on display too that morning).

At the start of each pose, I would find something new to stare at; anything to help me stay perfectly still; and distract from the fact I was stark bollock naked, in front of a dozen women and three men, halfway up a mountain in North Wales, in a bleak midwinter.

And so my advice to any man considering Life Modelling is:

pre-prepare some poses,

practise staying still for prolonged periods,

politely refuse any drinks offered to you during any breaks,

avoid beans, eggs, curries etc. the night before.

Most of all though, don’t worry about your tackle. Because if you’re lucky like me, you’ll come away with a bit of spare cash, a new profile picture, and a nice piece of material for a new blog post.


Posted in Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

If You Haven’t Grown Up By The Time You’re Fifty…

If you haven’t grown up by the time you’re fifty, you don’t have to. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know (I doubt it somehow, but it does sounds good; doesn’t it?).

So what makes a grown up?


I acted alongside an eight year old girl recently, for a short film. Despite the long hours of waiting around doing nothing (whilst the camera man watched the clouds and cursed the sky), this young actress remained ready to start shooting at all times. She took direction well, and asked pertinent questions. She was the epitome of professionalism.

I’ve also worked with a fifty year old bloke who took off to the pub for a swift pint, during his lunch break; not the most mature man I’ve ever met.

So it seems age doesn’t necessarily make you act like a grown up.

Responsibility, maybe?

Let’s return to this short film, shall we.

I’m not getting paid to be in this film; in fact I’m out of pocket. It’s a favour for a friend. He’s not getting paid to make this film either; it’s a personal project he just wants to do. Basically, he’s made up a story, and he’s getting his friends to act it out for him.

We’re playing a game.

We’re playing pretend.

Not the most grown up thing to do.

Does this mean I didn’t take the film seriously? Of course not. I made sure I was on set on time. I made sure I had revised for the part and the scene. I listened to instructions and followed them.

I had responsibilities, despite this essentially being a game (albeit with some expensive toys).

Some would say owning your own home is the most grown up thing you can do, whilst others would say it is becoming a parent. I’ve done both, and they’re hard work; rewarding, but draining on your time, your bank balance, and your energy.

Both of these things made me act more like a grown up at the time; but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I was more grown up (and let’s be honest, there are plenty of parents out there who don’t even bother trying to grow up).

I passed the fifty mark a couple of years back. The milestone came and went almost entirely unnoticed; it really was no big deal. I didn’t feel any different. But I have started to notice I’m treated differently these days.

People ask for my advice for a start. I suppose that makes sense. I’ve been around for over fifty years, so I’m sure to have something to say on a few matters (otherwise why be a writer?).

Old people now talk to me at bus stops. There was a time I would probably have unnerved the occasional pensioner, whilst wearing my Cramps T-shirt, studded belt, Doc Martins, and leather jacket (despite being a thoroughly nice lad I might add). But now people strike up conversations with me all the time (and I hate it, by the way).

Am I a grown up? I have the years on my side, but I’m not sure I’m the man you think I am. My life is a string of bad decisions made with good intentions; and other decisions made for all the wrong reasons. I’ve probably lived longer than I have left to go, and have only just recently started to come to grips with the simplest aspects of life.

I have responsibilities, and I try to take them seriously. But I also try to make sure that those responsibilities aren’t too “heavy” these days. I used to have more than my fair share of responsibilities (the kind of responsibility where you decide whether a kid gets put into the residential care system or not; that level of responsibility).

And I still have the responsibility of picking up the phone at two in the morning, because one of the kids (now “grown up” themselves) needs to talk.

Am I a grown up though?

I don’t feel like one; and I suspect there’s a few of you out there feel the same way as me.

They say you don’t stop playing because you get old, but that you get old because you stop playing. I would tend to agree with that, and think that’s where our answer lies.

Growing up is a choice we make (and can unmake if we choose to). All you have to do is reintroduce “play” into your life (“play” just for the hell of it) and you can stop being a grown up, if that’s what you want to do.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Love (Dot Dot Dot)

I love the way your wild red hair,
Clogs up my bathroom sink.
I love the way you take precisely,
“One and a bit sugars” in your drink.
I love the way you blush when you fart.
I love how you need to buy gluten free tarts.
I love the way your furrowed brow,
Lets me know that I’m in trouble now.
I love the way you lick my sweat,
Have I gone too far with this poem yet?
I love when you shout up the stairs, and you bellow,
“If it’s brown flush it down,
If it’s yellow let it mellow”.
I love how you look in your “period pants”.
I love how you love to get pissed up and dance.
I love how you bite your bottom lip,
When my fumbling tongue,
Finally finds your clit.
I love your neck,
I love your nose.
And yes, I admit, I’ve a thing for your toes.
I love how you mix the egg yolk with the white.
I love the smell of the bathroom,
When you’ve had a shite.

I love how you don’t make me eat my tomatoes,

I love how you manage to make herbs in the garden grow.

I love how your green eyes spark up when you see me,

I love how our talks end up with you on my knee.

I love how you match up your bras and your knickers.

I love how I now get and know what the trick is.

I love how you taught me there’s such things as soul mates,


I love that I found you,

Before it was too late.

Posted in Poetry, Writing | Leave a comment

To Be Continued…Hopefully

I’ve polished a turd,

And I’ve crocheted mist.

I’ve found my way home after dark,

When I’m pissed.

I’ve loosened my belt,

Post a big maccie meal.

And I’ve watched a girl strip,

Without copping a feel.

I’ve eaten Marmite,

And said that it’s not shite.

I’ve mixed colours with whites,

And the whites still came out white.

I’ve put on socks,

And discovered they match.

I’ve entered a contest,

And there was no catch.

I’ve judged a book by its cover,

And loved it.

I’ve read reviews,

And considered them bullshit.

I’ve slept with a model

She farts, and she snores.

I’ve been warm in the garden,

And shivered indoors.

I’ve smiled at a funeral,

And wept at a wedding.

I’ve been full up on dinner,

With room left for pudding.

I’ve met nice guys from the right side,

And shit heads from the left.

In this rich life I am living,

I know warp thread from the weft.

I’ve been bored and yawned for hours,

In the bustle of the city,

Spent an hour smelling flowers,

Thinking “aren’t these colours pretty”.

I’ve scoured the shops,

For the cheapest brands.

I’ve let seventy quid,

Slip straight through my hands.

My sides have ached,

Watching Charlie Chaplin.

But could hear Chubby Brown,

Without any fear of laughing.

I find Kathy Burke,

In some strange way, attractive,

But think Jordan, Kim, J-Lo,

Are terribly plastic.

I chill to Van Morrison,

And scream with The Cramps.

I’ve collected the following:

Books, scars, and stamps.

I’ve got five decades behind me,

And don’t know what time’s left.

So I try to cram more in,

As I weave my threads.

We’re all made of stardust,

Carl Sagan once said,

So when I stop shining forward,

Best assume that I’m dead.

Posted in Poetry, Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment