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A Potter's Moll: Better Hair On Bacon

...A lady told me that our hairdresser, Gary, is the best for miles around, because she has tried them all. Then she said that she had very poor hair, adding, ‘I’ve seen better hair on bacon.’...

Potter’s Moll Liz Robison has had another busy and fascinating fortnight.

Do please visit the Web site of Liz’s husband, potter Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

I’ve seen it all now! I’ve got used to Christmas trees, lights and baubles appearing in October in the garden centres, but today I saw an upside down Christmas tree, and overheard a lady tell her companion, Oh yes, it’s the latest fashion.’ Since when is a tree a fashion? I suppose actually since Prince Albert introduced them from Germany in the nineteenth century.

Out to lunch with our son at a local pub this week, we heard a man ask for a glass of red wine at the bar. He added ‘Have you got Rioja? We live in Spain, like.’ Our son commented that it would be like someone asking for Newcastle Brown because they live on Tyneside.

It takes all sorts as they say, and I always enjoy conversations shared or overheard in the hairdressers. A lady told me that our hairdresser, Gary, is the best for miles around, because she has tried them all. Then she said that she had very poor hair, adding, ‘I’ve seen better hair on bacon.’

The Alumnus magazine came today from Leeds University, complete with a questionnaire to be filled in with questions like ‘Which income bracket do you fall into?’ The top boxes you could tick would make your eyes water. The university is a place I spent four not altogether happy years forty years ago from the ages of eighteen to twenty two. I worked very hard with little feedback – sometimes you never really knew if you were doing OK or not. The first History essay I wrote came back with what I now know to be a Greek letter gamma on it in pencil and that is all. I think things have improved, but I don’t feel I owe it to that institution to bequeath the vast (hopefully) sums of money they always to suggest you could endow them with. The magazine is really a glossy begging letter.

We had a trip to York Art Gallery last evening where a selected group of interested people were treated to an illustrated talk about the progress of and plans for the Ismay collection of twentieth century ceramics. My potter husband Jim was one of the trustees who oversaw the transfer of the collection of over three thousand pots to York when Wakefield librarian Bill Ismay died in 2003.

There has been a painstaking process to identify and catalogue the pots and a gallery is now being refurbished to house the collection along with that of William Staite-Murray, who was a Dean of York in the mid-twentieth century. Thus York will be an important centre for students, potters and enthusiasts.

After the talk we had a handling session of about twenty pots that they had not yet been able to identify. I was delighted to be able to recognise a jug in our own Booth House Gallery house style, and several other pots were identified. Then there was an electronic quiz, which was fun, asking questions about what we like to see and how we like information to be displayed and labelled. It was a bit like the ‘Ask the Audience’ bit of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ With wine and nibbles for refreshment and conversations with several friends and acquaintances from the potting world it was a very enjoyable occasion.

The highlight of the week, though, was An Evening with Ian McMillan at Huddersfield’s Laurence Batley Theatre. The Barnsley poet was performing in aid of a drama group for disabled people, Full Body and The Voice, and he was extremely generous with his talents – he could easily double up as a stand-up comedian and he is a wonderful ambassador for Yorkshire history, culture and language. He gave credit to one of my heroes for getting him started as a writer - Sir Alec Clegg, the charismatic Director of Education for the West Tiding of Yorkshire in the nineteen-sixties who believed every child could and should be creative. His motto was: If you have a pound, use half to buy bread and half to buy flowers.

Ian McMillan has written a book of autobiographical poems and he read several of these, interspersed with marvellous tales, anecdotes and jokes. He said his daughter lives in an ‘eco-house’ in the former pit village of Grimethorpe. When they asked the woman in the show house what the ‘eco’ bit entailed, she leafed through the brochure and then announced: ‘Tha gets a water butt.’ He also asserted that the Barnsley way of expressing existential angst is ‘Eee’. The book is called ‘Talking Myself Home’ and I highly recommend it.

More from me in a fortnight.

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