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Posts Tagged ‘2011’

To celebrate my birthday this week, Sharon booked us into one of the venerable old ladies of British Transport Hotels1 (BTH) – The Queens2 in Leeds.

Built in 1937 for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company3 (LMS), it stands proudly outside Leeds railway station as a testament to art deco4 architecture. I’ve been aware of this hotel for more than half of its life – and not all of that awareness has had the respect I can now give it.

As a child, my parents took me to Leeds by train once or twice each year, to visit the big shops in Leeds (C&A, Lewis’s etc.) for new clothes. Passing the Queens, I could see it was quite posh and that it knocked Huddersfield’s own Queen’s Hotel into a cocked hat. (The Huddersfield Queens is long gone). As I grew older and entered the catering industry I begun to realise how tired it really was. I worked in several old West Yorkshire BTH hotels in the late 60’s/early 70’s and they had all begun to fade badly by then.

As a catering teacher years later, I used to take students along to the Queens Hotel as well as other city centre establishments and when asked to compare, they invariably said that the old lady was quite tired, old fashioned and not certainly not a patch on the more modern hotels.

What a difference £10m+ has made since QHotels5 took over in 2003.

Without losing any of the grandeur, a tasteful revamp has made it a warm and welcoming place to visit. The staff are superb and unlike many other city centre hotels, they are not surly, forgetful or in any way superior. During our visit they were helpful and informative, they couldn’t do enough to help us. And it’s no longer draughty, because despite still having the original steel frame windows, the secondary glazing means that is retained. The décor and furnishings complement the hotel’s age and architecture.

Well done QHotels.

1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Transport_Hotels

2http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queens_Hotel_%28Leeds%29

3http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London,_Midland_and_Scottish_Railway#Hotels

4http://www.decodevotion.co.uk/art-deco-information.htm

5http://www.qhotels.co.uk/hotels/the-queens-leeds-yorkshire.aspx

http://www.queenshotel.org.uk/

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Each year, in early October, we troll up to Marsden for the Jazz Festival. Most years, the weather lets us down and this year was no different. It’s not a ‘big’ issue, as many of the bands are playing indoors, but there are many more outdoor activities that are spoiled by the weather.

However, one regular outdoor activity amused me this weekend.

We’d been joined this year by Martin and Lin (MJF virgins) along with Karen and Dave, old festival hands. On Jazz Weekend Saturday, at 12.00 noon, there is always a Jazz Parade with the Red Rose Brass Band. This begins at the top of Peel Street, where it joins the A62. We all sheltered from the rain inside the New Inn on Manchester Road, and waited for the parade to start. One benefit of this move was that they sell Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, my favourite draught beer.

Anyway, the parade got started just after 12.00 noon and folk started to move around Marsden with the band. They play a New Orleans type Jazz as they mozzie on down, followed by school children all dancing in some kind of synchronised rhythm. Onlookers also follow the parade all the way around the village, including me. The amusing bit came when the band took a wrong turning and instead of heading for the underpass, they headed for the A62.

Now, the A62 (Manchester Road) isn’t what it was before being replaced by the M62 about forty years ago but it is still a busy arterial road between Yorkshire and Lancashire – even on a weekend. After much debate, the young copper charged with traffic control had to step in and stop the traffic from moving along this busy road while the parade passed. It wasn’t planned and was all the more amusing therefore when some of those car drivers stopped (for about five minutes!) chunttered about it.

It took me back to France, where they close down whole towns to allow this type of thing to happen. Just this year, in Montbron, they had decided to have a night market and closed down all of the through roads to allow it to happen. Tough if you didn’t know your way around. As I say – tough.

The rest of the festival has proceeded in its musical, damp way. I’ve just dropped Martin and Lin off in Marsden. I’ll pop back in an hour with John and Carol and watch/listen to Backwater Blues at The Shakespeare Inn on Peel Street! We’re all back here for dinner tonight. 🙂

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This week’s Saturday walk didn’t go as planned, which is beginning to be the norm. What’s more, it nearly didn’t go ahead at all. John had told me that he’d seen snow on the forecast, but I’d not expected 3″ on top of my car when I woke.

We’d planned to forego the walk and spend the morning cutting trees in John’s garden – which over time IS part of the norm. We’d also planned (still plan?) to ‘do’ my trees during the week. But the snow, especially its doggedness, put paid to that. we therefore decided to meet in Huddersfield and to just walk wherever our feet took us. John wanted to look at the price (and delivery) of some breeze blocks so B & Q was our first target. As far as possible, we stayed off the main roads, passing through the Galpharm Stadium grounds en route. We then walked over Red Doles Lane to the canal and followed that through to Hillhouse Lane, where we turned up to Birkby. We passed St. John’s Church and walked along the edge of St. Patrick’s cemetery and onto Greenhead Park.

The snow never let up. some of the flakes were the size of saucers (small saucers, but big for snowflakes) but despite this by the time we’d finished the day most of it had gone. This was a good thing because that evening I’d planned a special dinner party to which John and Sandy were invited, along with another John, and Carol.

DinnerThe original plan for the evening had been to organise a games evening, but for that I needed a minimum of eight guests and with this being the beginning of half term, rounding up that many guests had been impossible. So, we’d planned a Theatre Night. The idea was to pretend that we would all be visiting a newly opened theatre where Les Miserables was been performed.

Pre-dinner drinks would be served, along with canapés. (We had smoked salmon and cream cheese roulades, bresaola curls, garlic mushroom, samosa, filo prawns and pate on toast). Then a simple entrée of Hungarian Goulasch would be served immediately before the curtain went up. We then sat and watched the first act before serving cheese and drinks during the intermission. Home made petit fours and more drinks completed the evening’s entertainment.

We’d moved our front room around so that it would accommodate my projection screen, projector and speakers. This took a bit of doing because although we only have a two seater settee (and two matching chairs) the room is fairly long by narrow – but in the end it worked. I’d set up the computer behind the settee, with a dining chair for me to sit on (ouch) and was therefore able to control sound, image and lighting.

We had a cracking evening, very relaxed and very enjoyable. You should try it.

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