Home | Backwords

July 16, 2007

How Green Is Our Valley

Mike Shaw takes a fresh look at the Colne Valley in Yorkshire, where he was born, grew up and still lives.

This, sadly, is the concluding article in Mike’s Backwords series which has been running in Open Writing for almost three years.

Continue reading "How Green Is Our Valley" »

July 09, 2007

Picture Palaces

Mike Shaw recalls his film-going debut in a Yorkshire mill village.

Continue reading "Picture Palaces" »

July 02, 2007

Kings Of Tailoring

…No decent man’s wardrobe used to be complete without a suit.

A best suit, that is. To wear on Sundays, and for christenings, weddings and funerals…

Mike Shaw recalls the days when a man was not a man until he owned suit made by a reputable tailor.

Continue reading "Kings Of Tailoring" »

June 25, 2007

This Story Rings A Bell

…As a schoolboy I was always oversleeping. Still am, come to think of it. But when I was a lad even a brand new alarm clock failed to rouse me properly. So, if both my parents were out at work, my mother used the phone to make sure I was out of bed on time…

Small wonder that since then Mike Shaw has had a love-hate relationship with the phone.

Continue reading "This Story Rings A Bell" »

June 11, 2007


Mike Shaw recalls the days of SPAM, Cremola and home-made sweets.

Continue reading "Inventiveness" »

May 28, 2007

Whips And Tops

…Long before we young lads reached an age where girls dominated our thoughts, spring sunshine heralded the rebirth of other outdoor fun and games…

Mike Shaw recalls the days of whips and tops, marbles and hoops.

Continue reading "Whips And Tops" »

May 14, 2007

Black Spots

Mike Shaw recalls the dark days when mill chimneys and home fires belched smoke into the air of his native Colne Valley in Yorkshire.

Continue reading "Black Spots" »

April 30, 2007

Salad Days

Mike Shaw recalls the days when he served as a delivery lad, taking out vegetables grown by his father.

Continue reading "Salad Days" »

April 16, 2007

Hall Of Memories

Mike Shaw recalls the the day a politician appeared as if by magic.

Continue reading "Hall Of Memories" »

April 02, 2007

Shining Examples

…In summer, every Friday evening included a half-hour session to put a new coat of whitening on cricket boots for the morrow.

You might as well look the part, even if you can’t play it, was my father’s motto, with which he continually bombarded me…

Mike Shaw is a shining example in care for his footwear.

Continue reading "Shining Examples" »

March 19, 2007


Mike Shaw recalls the thrills of hurry cart racing.

For lots more of Mike’s memories please click on Backwords in the menu on this page.

Continue reading "Springtime" »

March 05, 2007

Freedom Of The Great Outdoors

…I realise now how immensely grateful I should be that my early years were not hemmed in by terraced houses, cobbled streets and satanic mills…

Mike Shaw has the happiest of happy memories of spending his boyhood in a rural setting.

Continue reading "Freedom Of The Great Outdoors" »

February 19, 2007

When Life Was All Pipedreams

…In my National Service days, non-smoking types were few and far between. We boys in Air Force blue were not known as the Brylcreem boys for nothing. But alongside the jar of hair cream you could almost guarantee to find a packet of Woodbines…

Mike Shaw recalls the days when smoking was commonplace.

Continue reading "When Life Was All Pipedreams" »

February 09, 2007

Gooin' Soft On Drinkin'

The price of beer goes up, but a switch to lemonade or tonic water is not the appropriate response for canny Yorkshire fellahs. Mike Shaw tells another dialect tale.

Continue reading "Gooin' Soft On Drinkin'" »

February 05, 2007

Jungle Juice

Mike Shaw tells of his home-made “jungle juice’’ – the drink that kept him going (in more ways then one) when he was a boy.

Continue reading "Jungle Juice" »

January 22, 2007

Farewell To the Empress

…Way back in my childhood, one of my father’s basic philosophies was that virtually nothing should be thrown away…

In a wasteful age Mike Shaw follows his father’s thrifty precepts..

Continue reading "Farewell To the Empress" »

January 08, 2007

Clattering Clogs

…No single sound from the past conjures up such vivid memories of Colne Valley’s history as the clatter of clogs on cobbles…

Mike Shaw recalls the days when mill workers clattered their way to and from work.

Continue reading "Clattering Clogs" »

December 11, 2006

The Toast Is - Christmas Past!

Mike Shaw remembers the Christmas Days of his boyhood.

Continue reading "The Toast Is - Christmas Past!" »

November 27, 2006

Electioneering 1955-Style

The little man in the homburg hat and black overcoat did not seem to inspire an audience who stood in the drizzle on a dark Saturday afternoon in a Yorkshire mill town.

The little man was Clem Atlee, formerly Prime Minister, now leader of the Labour Party.

Retired journalist Mike Shaw recalls electioneering 1955-style.

Continue reading "Electioneering 1955-Style" »

November 13, 2006

Minus All Trace Of Party Spirit

“He had me taped by the end of my first term with him. “Apt to rely on others,” he wrote in my report book. Which was a rather kind and absolutely true way of saying that I frequently copied homework from one of my mates…’’

Mike Shaw, with varying degrees of affection, recalls those who taught him at grammar school.

Continue reading "Minus All Trace Of Party Spirit" »

October 30, 2006

Fifty Years On - And Still Bored

Mike Shaw remembers the small purgatory that was his annual school speech day.

Continue reading "Fifty Years On - And Still Bored" »

October 16, 2006

God's Mansion In Marsden

...Ours was a traditional wedding. In one of those Colne Valley chapels whose nonconformism was as strong as the tea brewed in their huge copper urns…

Mike Shaw, who is as much a part of Yorkshire’s Colne Valley as the hills and streams which form it, tells of the day he was wed.

Continue reading "God's Mansion In Marsden" »

October 02, 2006

A Village Bobby

…He remembered Marsden more for bad weather than bad behaviour… Mike Shaw chats to an old-fashioned village bobby.

Continue reading "A Village Bobby" »

September 18, 2006

Four-Legged Friends

…Even when my cocker spaniel put his teeth through my ear it was entirely my own fault for sitting beside him on the hearthrug and provoking him with a childish and what I foolishly considered to be a totally unrealistic canine impersonation…

Despite a series of unfortunate events Mike Shaw still likes dogs and horses.

Continue reading "Four-Legged Friends" »

September 04, 2006

An Old-Fashioned Pint

…Those were the days when the barmaid could actually hear you ask for a pint. Now you have to stand there like a tic-tac man and hope she can understand your frantic hand signals…

Mike Shaw recalls Yorkshire pubs as they were in his younger days.

Continue reading "An Old-Fashioned Pint" »

August 21, 2006

Holidays In The Rain

…Clammy moor grime crept down the valley slopes to create a depressing cloud of gloom. And even the weather-beaten faces of families from the hills grimaced like gargoyles in the drizzle…

Mike Shaw recalls the holidays of Yorkshire mill village folk half a century ago.

Continue reading "Holidays In The Rain" »

August 07, 2006

The Standedge Experience

…The trains came out into the Tunnel End sunshine for all the world like wild animals breathing fast and furiously as they were freed from captivity…

Mike Shaw tells of the miles-long tunnels which allowed trains and barges to pass between Yorkshire and Lancashire beneath the Pennine hills.

Continue reading "The Standedge Experience" »

July 24, 2006

A Bullet In The Pocket

…We schoolboys of 1939, for instance, were positively incensed when hostilities cut off vital supplies.
What sparked off genuine anger against Adolf was that he stopped us getting hold of footballs, cricket balls and train sets…

Mike Shaw tells some surprising wartime tales.

Continue reading "A Bullet In The Pocket" »

July 10, 2006

Well, Would You Credit It?

Mike Shaw deplores the modern habit of being in debt.

Continue reading "Well, Would You Credit It?" »

June 26, 2006

Tanks For All The Memories

Mike Shaw recalls his boyhood tank-building days during World War Two.

Continue reading "Tanks For All The Memories" »

June 12, 2006

In Sickness And In Health

Mike Shaw recalls provident days when folk were terrified of dying without leaving enough “brass” to pay for their funeral.

Continue reading "In Sickness And In Health" »

May 29, 2006

The Quiet Corners

“… Everything seemed so warm, cosy and permanent. Even my aunt and uncle, who lived there at the time, reflected the warmth and permanence of the place….’’ But the house in which Mike Shaw’s relatives lived is now cold, empty and unwanted.

Continue reading "The Quiet Corners" »

May 08, 2006

Wall Of Death

Mike Shaw recalls the thrills of the fairground Wall Of Death shows.

Continue reading "Wall Of Death" »

April 24, 2006

A Reporter's Lot

“A packet of strong mints was as essential as a notebook and pencil for a cub reporter like me who liked a swift pint on the way to a church bazaar…’’ Mike Shaw remembers his early days as a newspaper reporter.

Continue reading "A Reporter's Lot" »

March 20, 2006

Brotherly Ghost

…Apparently the middle-aged bachelors exchanged foul words over some poultry when their mother died. After the row they lapsed into a silent sulk which I’m told they carried on until one of them died…

Some rare characters have lived in Yorkshire’s Colne Valley, as Mike Shaw reveals.

Continue reading "Brotherly Ghost" »

March 06, 2006

The Name Game

The Colne Valley Labour Party in Yorkshire chose a candidate to fight a General Election – but as Mike Shaw reveals there was confusion as to what to call the would-be MP.

Continue reading "The Name Game" »

February 20, 2006

Close Soccer Encounters

…Football took up most of every Saturday, with two matches in the day and only an hour or so in between to swallow dinner… Mike Shaw recalls the sporting times when his Saturdays were filled with football, and more football.

Continue reading "Close Soccer Encounters" »

February 06, 2006

The Prime Minister's Lucky Day

…Colne Valley people are rightly proud of their political heritage. But we don’t shout about the day we nearly killed the Prime Minister.We came very close to blotting our copybook on a September afternoon in 1951. And because I was there I suppose some of the blame would have fallen on me….
Mike Shaw tells a tale that is sure to please.

Continue reading "The Prime Minister's Lucky Day" »

January 23, 2006

Games Hitler Couldn't Stop

Mike Shaw recalls some childhood games.

Continue reading "Games Hitler Couldn't Stop" »

January 09, 2006

DIY Health Care

Fiery Jack, Friar’s Balsam, Fenning’s Fever Mixture – Mike Shaw recalls home remedies of yesteryear.

Continue reading "DIY Health Care" »

December 26, 2005

Oh What A Pantomime!

“Why does a brown cow give white milk when it only eats green grass?’’ Mike Shaw writes of the traditional pantomimes which were as much a part of his boyhood Christmases as presents from Santa.

Continue reading "Oh What A Pantomime!" »

December 12, 2005

Life's Pluses

“I do recall writing a long essay about what I would do if I became lost in a dense forest…’’ Mike Shaw has mixed memories of school exams.

Continue reading "Life's Pluses" »

November 28, 2005

Hunter Misses His Prey

Mike Shaw was almost a total failure as an autograph hunter – but his old autograph book conjures up memories.

Continue reading "Hunter Misses His Prey" »

November 14, 2005

The Saturday Dance

“Dancing was for girls. Snooker, darts, cards and dominoes were for boys….’’ Mike Shaw recalls those Saturday night hops of long ago.

Continue reading "The Saturday Dance" »

October 31, 2005

Milky Ways

“Nowadays, the so-called health experts frown disapprovingly on drinking milk straight from the cow…’’ Mike Shaw recalls the days when milk was delivered in churns, directly from local farm to house doorstep.

Continue reading "Milky Ways" »

October 17, 2005

Cordon-Bleu Style

“…the nearest we came to dining out was scoffing a fish and three penn’orth on the way home from the pictures…’’ Mike Shaw says a helping in the open air is still the best way of eating out.

Continue reading "Cordon-Bleu Style" »

October 03, 2005

Sunday School

“With faces scrubbed, curls combed and shoes gleaming, we formed a veritable angelic host of little cherubs treading the path to goodness…’’ Mike Shaw recalls his Sunday-school-going days.

Continue reading "Sunday School" »

September 19, 2005

Autumnal Adventures

"You only get out what you put in,'' was the motto of Mike Shaw's father. And autumn was the time to put something into the garden to feed those prize-winning flowers and vegetables.

Continue reading "Autumnal Adventures" »

September 05, 2005

Bowled Over By Memories Of Chaplin

Mike Shaw recalls a Charlie Chaplin look-alike, a splendid chap who raised lots of cash for charities.

Continue reading "Bowled Over By Memories Of Chaplin" »

August 22, 2005

Beating Crime

Mike Shaw reveals that his mother had a sure-fire method of getting rid of unwanted salesmen who came knocking at the door.

Continue reading "Beating Crime" »

August 08, 2005

Bar Room Canvasser

Mike Shaw recalls some of the politicians who sought his vote.

Continue reading "Bar Room Canvasser" »

July 25, 2005

An Appointment With Fear

Mike Shaw recalls the nights when he listened to spooky stories on the radio, introduced by the man in black.

Continue reading "An Appointment With Fear" »

July 11, 2005

A Special Place Called Marsden

Mike Shaw writes with deep affection of the small mill town in which he grew up.

Continue reading "A Special Place Called Marsden" »

June 13, 2005

A Welcome In The Hillsides

Mike Shaw stoutly defends the hospitable nature of folk born in Yorkshire's Colne Valley.

Continue reading "A Welcome In The Hillsides" »

May 30, 2005

A Risky Bladder Operation

Mike Shaw recalls the trials of repairing punctures in bike inner tubes and football bladders. So you take a minimum of three tablespoons...

Continue reading "A Risky Bladder Operation" »

May 16, 2005

A Crusty Coroner

Mike Shaw recalls a couple of crusty coroners that he encountered during his career as a journalist.

Continue reading "A Crusty Coroner" »

May 02, 2005

A Roar For The Goalie

Mike Shaw remembers the golden days when sporting home football supporters applauded good play by the visiting team.

Continue reading "A Roar For The Goalie" »

April 18, 2005

Sweet Pickings

Mike Shaw recalls the time in his Yorkshire village when housewives earned "pin money'' by starting a shop in the front parlour to sell sweets and cigarettes.

Continue reading "Sweet Pickings" »

April 04, 2005

In Love With Cricket

As a lad, passionately in love with cricket, Mike Shaw used to practice by hitting a tennis ball with a cricket stump againt the garden wall. (And Mike went on to become a very handy batsman, let me tell you. - Editor, Open Writing).

Continue reading "In Love With Cricket" »

March 21, 2005

Journey Of Discovery!

"Television brings real pictures into our homes. Radio encouraged children to use their imaginations...'' Mike Shaw recalls his younger days when he went roaming with radio guides Romany and Nomad.

Continue reading "Journey Of Discovery!" »

March 07, 2005

Vested Interests

Liberty bodices, balaclavas, vests, long johns - Mike Shaw remembers the warmth-bringing garments of his younger days.

Continue reading "Vested Interests" »

February 21, 2005

The Latest Fashion

Whether they are called armbands or sleeve holders, Mike Shaw still goes on wearing them.

Continue reading "The Latest Fashion" »

February 07, 2005

Dr Dan's

Mike Shaw recalls drinking Dr Dan's magical health-giving mixture.

Continue reading "Dr Dan's" »

January 24, 2005

Donkey Stones

These days a lot of donkey work has gone out of household chores, says Mike Shaw. Young housewives of today don't know what a donkey stone is.

Continue reading "Donkey Stones" »

January 10, 2005

End Of An Era

Mike Shaw remembers the ripping up of tramlines and the arrival of trolley buses.

Continue reading "End Of An Era" »

December 20, 2004

Boughs Of Holly

When Mike Shaw was a little lad, off he would trot across the fields, in search of holly.

Continue reading "Boughs Of Holly" »

December 06, 2004

Dressing For The Weather

Rain often falls in West Yorkshire's Colne Valley and there was a time when no-one would leave home wihout a raincoat, as Mike Shaw recalls.

Continue reading "Dressing For The Weather" »

November 22, 2004

Pride In Cleaning

Mike Shaw recalls the days when working class families took a pride in keeping house and home spotlessly clean.

Continue reading "Pride In Cleaning" »

November 08, 2004

Co-op Shopping

Mike Shaw recalls the days when all northern working class families did their grocery shopping at the local Co-op.

Continue reading "Co-op Shopping" »

November 02, 2004

Mills And Hills

Mike Shaw recalls the boom years in his native Colne Valley when mills were humming round the clock, turning out miles and miles of woollen cloth.

Continue reading "Mills And Hills" »

October 19, 2004

Keep Fit Fanatics

It's amazing what some folk will do to fight the flab, says Mike Shaw, then goes on to recall a fitness fanatic of long ago.

Continue reading "Keep Fit Fanatics" »

September 27, 2004

Temperance In The Valley

Mike Shaw's father was teetotal. "You can't beat God's wine,'' he used to say as he held aloft a glass of sparkling spring water.

Continue reading "Temperance In The Valley" »

September 20, 2004

Short Of Everything InThe Gym

Mike Shaw, who failed to inherit his father's gymnastic ability, compares his rope-climbing attempts to a comedian's version of the Indian rope trick.

Continue reading "Short Of Everything InThe Gym" »

September 06, 2004

Roll Up! Roll Up!

Mike Shaw recalls the excitement of a boyhood holiday in Blackpool - and the boredom of an ice show.

Continue reading "Roll Up! Roll Up!" »

August 16, 2004

Out In Our Sunday Best

Mike Shaw recalls the days when folk dressed up in their best togs for a Sunday afternoon walk.

Continue reading "Out In Our Sunday Best" »

August 02, 2004

A Trick Worth Knowing

In this moving autobiographical episode Mike Shaw recalls the days when he played cards with an old soldier.

Continue reading "A Trick Worth Knowing" »

June 28, 2004

Step In The Right Direction?

Mike Shaw, after dipping into his memory bank, goes on a trolley bus ride.

Continue reading "Step In The Right Direction?" »

June 15, 2004

Elixir For Life

Mike Shaw recalls an elixir which, when he was a boy, his mother fed to him by the spoonful.

Continue reading "Elixir For Life" »

May 31, 2004

Hunting For Boyhood Memories

One day we were up to monkey tricks in the tree-tops, the next we were hiding away underground like troglodytes. Mike Shaw recalls boyhood days.

Continue reading "Hunting For Boyhood Memories" »

May 17, 2004

A Feast In The Ground

Mike Shaw recalls his first camping expedition - and a heart-breaking disaster involving a tent.

Continue reading "A Feast In The Ground" »

April 20, 2004

When Town Were On The Right Lines

Mike Shaw says that the best way to get a seat on a bus after watching a well-attended football match is to run like the very devil in the opposite direction to that which you want to go.

Continue reading "When Town Were On The Right Lines" »

April 05, 2004

Haircuts In The Garden

Mike Shaw recalls his very first haircut - and a father who was a man of many parts.

Continue reading "Haircuts In The Garden" »

March 22, 2004

Tradition Is The Watchword

Mike Shaw reveals that those West Riding mill masters of former days were as miserly with their words as they were with their cash.

Continue reading "Tradition Is The Watchword" »

March 08, 2004

Weekly War Games

Mike Shaw writes about his childhood involvment in war games of the serious kind.

Continue reading "Weekly War Games" »

February 28, 2004

Washday Rituals

Mike Shaw recalls the implements and routines of an old-fashioned washday.

Continue reading "Washday Rituals" »

February 21, 2004

Gloomy Start To Happy Days

Mike Shaw goes plodding through the early morning mist on his first day at grammar school.

Continue reading "Gloomy Start To Happy Days" »

February 14, 2004

A League Of Our Own

Mike Shaw writes of the boyhood thrill of being in the League of Ovaltinies, using secret passwords.

Continue reading "A League Of Our Own" »

January 26, 2004

The Big Freeze

As cold weather clamps down on Britain today, and the weather forecasters predict snow, Mike Shaw recalls the big freeze of 1947.

Continue reading "The Big Freeze" »

January 17, 2004

Happiest Days of My Life

The old cliiché that schooldays are the happiest days of your life turned out to be all too true for me at West Slaithwaite, says Mike Shaw.

Continue reading "Happiest Days of My Life" »

January 13, 2004

Music Hall

Mike Shaw recalls happy times at the theatre when great artists appeared in the heydays of music hall.

Continue reading "Music Hall" »

January 11, 2004

Wooded Wonderland

A stroll along a footpath close to where he was born brings back happy memories for Mike Shaw.

Continue reading "Wooded Wonderland" »


Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.