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Off on tour to Leeds

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It had been well over a year and I had almost forgotten what it was like to stay in a hotel when we booked for Leeds, though the memories came flooding back as we stood across the road on the pavement watching as the fire engine checked the premises in response to a fire alarm.

Fortunately, this was six in the evening rather than six in the morning and the other alarms during our stay were aborted before we evacuated.

On the plus side, it was great to once again be able to have a good meal in a nice restaurant with a bottle of wine and have just to climb the stairs to our room rather than face the journey home.

Jeff Hoyle (52493545)
Jeff Hoyle (52493545)

We were there to attend the national conference of the Worker’s Educational Association on behalf of King’s Lynn branch, but it was as much about taking that first step to travelling again.

It had been almost two years since we had taken a bus or train journey. Both legs very pleasant, and by using Tony’s tip that on certain train journeys it is worth booking from Lynn Bus Station for a discount to Peterborough it was remarkably good value.

Leeds is a city that I didn’t know very well. A trip from Hull to visit the legendary Brahms and Liszt and to tour Tetley’s brewery, a couple of matches in the first cricket World Cup and a day of New Zealand’s first test win in England. Leeds 2 Fulham 0 with a Mark Viduka double and sitting behind Colin Welland when London Broncos beat Castleford at Headingly to reach the Challenge Cup Final was about the sum total. It turns out that the city has more to offer than beer and sport. The Library and Art Gallery is a fine building with some interesting exhibits and the photo exhibition in the square outside took our mind off the wintery weather for half an hour. The Royal Armoury is about as fine a museum as I have visited in England and kept us occupied for most of a day. The real pleasure though, was just wandering the city streets marvelling at the ornate Victorian architecture and peering in the windows of the high-end shops or browsing the fabulous market. And the pubs. Within about a 10-minute walk from our hotel there were dozens of them, several confusingly called The Head of Steam. We found a couple of home brew places, one with a pizza oven, traditional pubs, modern pubs and craft ale bars. The ones we chose to visit all had great beer, friendly staff and enough space to feel relaxed. It was good to find that Leeds oldest pub, The Whitelocks was pretty much unchanged since my last visit around 45 years ago, though with an expanded range of cask beer and delicious burgers.

So, horizons are expanding once again. From tentative steps to local pubs, and testing the waters watching Downham FC, to increasingly bold sorties and finding a gap on the terraces at the Walks. Time now to open up the new Good Beer Guide which should drop through the letter box in a couple of weeks and look further afield. Norwich is pencilled in and the CAMRA AGM at Eastbourne next April is booked.

True, abroad seems a bit of a stretch at the moment and it could all come tumbling down again with another lockdown, but so far, the vaccines seem to be holding the line and it will soon be six months since my second jab. Bring on the booster and start making plans.

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