As I mentioned in my last blog post, me and Mum got a real surprise when we got back to The Black Lion after going to see the pantomime Aladdin at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond. We had to go into the bar to reach the staircase up to our rooms and there in front of us was a man dressed in a bright red hunting-jacket with a hunting-horn sticking out of his top pocket. He was also holding a black felt hat, trimmed with winter greenery.
That seemed strange enough for a Friday night indoors, but there was also a horse’s head, draped in black cloth, laid out on a shelf next to him…
At first I thought it was a pretend horse and that maybe he’d borrowed it from the theatre next door, as it had a comical face with enormous eyes and lots of teeth. Then I found out that it was made from the skull of a real horse and those teeth were real, too.
I also found that it was part of a local tradition, known as the Old Horse (or T’owd ’oss, if you come from Yorkshire!) This usually takes place on Christmas Eve, when a man gets inside the Old Horse’s drapery and is paraded round the market place by his companions who are dressed like the man we saw in the bar.
They go from pub to pub and put on a performance in which the Old Horse falls over and dies, but is then brought back to life when his companions blow their hunting-horns and sing traditional songs to him.
They were giving a special performance that night, however, for someone they knew who was having a birthday party in The Black Lion and so me and Mum were very lucky to see them. I did worry a little bit that their singing might keep us awake later on, but The Black Lion is a very old building with thick walls and we were fast asleep within minutes of climbing into our lovely four-poster bed…
We woke next morning to a perfect winter’s day with a cloudless blue sky and bright sunshine – and it was made even better with a perfect breakfast of bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms, with lots of toast and marmalade and a large pot of tea.
After that we were ready to explore a bit more of Richmond. As we’d plenty of time before we had to catch the bus back to Darlington, we thought we’d visit the Green Howards museum in the old church in the middle of the market place and then go on to the Richmondshire museum nearby. We were out of luck with that, however, as both of them were closed for the winter.
That was a bit of a disappointment, but we soon made up for it by looking at some of the interesting shops, visiting the Market Hall and looking round the open air market.
We also went to The Noted Pie Shop in the market place which we’d noticed the night before when we were looking round. There Mum bought a chicken, leek and mushroom pie for our tea that night and also two pork pies to go in the freezer for later. Her only regret was that she wasn’t able to carry more, as everything looked so delicious.
Then we looked for somewhere to get a bite to eat before setting off on our travels again. I spied a deli on Finkle Street called Wilfred’s and thought we should go in there, so I could introduce myself. But, although we did get through the door, all the tables were full and so we had to look for somewhere else.
Luckily we then spied Granny’s Kitchen a little bit further down the same street and, although that was also busy, we managed to arrive just as some people were leaving and so there was a table for us. After her big breakfast, Mum just wanted a snack and so she had some toasted home-made fruit loaf, smothered in butter, with another large pot of tea, and enjoyed every mouthful.
After that we were on our way back home and planned to round the weekend off with a trip to the New Year’s Gala Concert at the Square Chapel in Halifax on the Sunday with our lovely friends from Red Bus Days Out. This is Halifax’s version of the New Year’s Day Concert in Vienna and, although we went there last year and the year before, we were looking forward to it.
Then disaster struck as Mum remembered not only how much she used to enjoy watching the concert from Vienna on television with Grandpa Graham, but also that it was exactly twenty years since he’d died. At that she burst into tears and couldn’t stop and so she had to cancel the trip and we stayed at home.
In all the years I’ve known Mum, I’ve never seen her cry – except when she’s been chopping onions – and so I knew she must be very sad.
I wanted to make her smile again, but I couldn’t think how to do it. Then the next day the lovely marketing people at the Georgian Theatre Royal sent us these publicity photos for Aladdin and suddenly I got an idea.
I remembered the scenes in Aladdin when he and his girlfriend Jazz were on a magic carpet that could fly through the air and I thought that it would make Mum smile again if I could do something like that and then tell her all about it when I got back.
But, though I sat on the best carpet from my house, nothing seemed to happen, no matter how hard I wished for it to fly.
Then I remembered that Aladdin had rubbed a magic lamp before his carpet took off into the sky and I decided that was just what I needed.
I looked all over and finally remembered a box full of brass candlesticks and other ornaments that had been made by one of Mum’s great-grandfathers and I found an old brass lamp in there.
Though I tried rubbing it, it still didn’t work with my carpet and I was a bit disappointed.
Then my friend Ali came along and brought me a different carpet and, after a few magic words, I was up and away, flying through the air to far-off lands…
When I got back, I was able to show Mum the video and tell her all about it. I even told her about me being cheeky and stopping off for a look round the Sultan’s palace on my travels. That made her smile and – I’m pleased to say – she’s now back to being her usual self. She also asked me to tell you that, if you click on the following link, you’ll be able to see what we had to say about the last year’s Gala Concert. 18. VIENNA COMES TO HALIFAX
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