The emasculation of Otley

Otley's maypole

Otley’s maypole

Along with the impending bicycle race, all the talk amongst the good people of Otley is about the loss of their maypole. This was, at some 75 feet, the tallest maypole in the country. It was unceremoniously felled by the Council a few days ago after an inspection revealed it to be rotten. The decision to do this straight away, despite the eyes of the world being focused on the Wharfedale town when the Tour de France peleton rushes past the maypole site this Saturday, was doubtless influenced by an event that took place two years ago: a tall flagpole in Otley’s memorial garden toppled without warning and fractured a two-year-old’s skull and foot. It turned out that earlier inspections had found that the pole was rotten, but no action was taken and the Council was prosecuted and fined as a result.

All that's left of Otley's maginificent maypole

All that’s left of Otley’s maginificent maypole

All that is left of the maypole is an ugly stump. It has to be said that this does not appear to be rotten, which has caused much muttering along the lines of, “Couldn’t they have waited a couple of weeks.” Now, those queuing at the Maypole Fisheries – considered by many to produce the best fish and chips in town – gaze out at the stump that used to be Otley’s pride and joy, remembering the years when children used to dance around it on Mayday. The Council has promised to replace the maypole, but no one is expecting it to happen any time soon. Even the national press has picked up this story.

Bunted Tom

Bunted Tom

The statue of one of Otley’s famous sons, the 18th Century cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale, has been intensively yarn-bombed, so at least the maypole has escaped that indignity.

The Tour de France madness in Yorkshire is reaching fever pitch ahead of Le Grand Depart on 6th July. Bunting and yellow bicycles are everywhere along the route, those living on residential streets with no off-road parking have been given their tickets for temporary car parks (the route must be kept clear from very early on Saturday morning), shop windows have been painted with bicycle-themed designs and many businesses are trying to exploit the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all it’s worth. I heard from a friend in Addingham, where the Tour will pass on both Saturday and Sunday, that a pub is charging £25 for access to its terrace overlooking the route, a sum which doesn’t even include a pint or a bite to eat. Those with more sense than money have instead booked into Cardamoms, a fairly new Indian restaurant with an equally good view that is not charging extra for it.

My TdF-themed bunting is at last finished and hung up on the house.

Tour de France bunting

Tour de France bunting

I actually knitted rather more “bunts” than this, but most have them have gone into the communal supply for municipal decoration. Now I have no excuse not to be knitting my gansey, which still has only half a sleeve. I met another local gansey knitter recently who had got stuck and heard that I might be able to help. When I saw the pattern she was following, I wasn’t a bit surprised that she was at a loss. It airily said to knit the two sides separately above the armhole on the circular needle, without explaining how or even including the word “turn” at the end of the first row. For anyone who hasn’t used a circular needle before, or not for to-and-fro knitting, it is not at all obvious that it can be used to produce flat pieces too. The pattern is a modern one by a well known American designer and produces a much drapier, baggier sweater than my traditionally-styled gansey. We are both using the same Frangipani yarn, but she is knitting on much larger needles. I prefer my own version, fortunately, because five months into the process, I’m certainly not about to change course.

I was introduced to jelly roll patchwork by a quilter friend at the weekend. I had heard the term before but assumed it was the name of a design, like Log Cabin or Drunkard’s Path. Now I realise that a jelly roll is a collection of fabric strips, all the same size but a variety of different colours and patterns. The fabrics are chosen to work together, which sounds ideal for someone like me who is artistically challenged and has no colour sense (you only need to look at what I wear when I’m not working to know that). Books of jelly roll designs show you how to cut and combine the strips to create different effects, and there are other similar collections of fabric strips in different widths with different names. I started making my first (and last, to date) quilt in 1995, got bored when I reached the quilting stage and put it away somewhere. One of these days I will make a determined effort to find it and finish it. It is in black and turquoise – I don’t know what possessed me, it won’t go with anything in the house, but I suppose I can keep it in the car or use it to make the seat of our outside bench a bit more comfortable.

About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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