Dent: ‘Up the Dub’

Dyce did get another job back in the West Riding, but not before he and Dave had become mates. Dave and his wife were also moving, back to Edinburgh where they’d met.

Dave had gone into the pit after school and his first brass band was Grimethorpe. He soon signed on as an army junior, ending up in one of the Guards regiments, the recording of ‘Amazing Grace’ included. In between he’d travelled the world, and done everything. Or so it seemed. Joan was a farmer’s daughter from Dent who broke the mould when she went nursing to Edinburgh. Sister on the kids ward in Northallerton.

Dyce came from the working class textile belt of West Yorkshire and a boys’ grammar school that produced good enough ‘levels’ to get into a provincial university. Then the rabbit warren of junior medical jobs, more exams, research papers and a thesis. Where had all that stamina come from? Anyway he got to be a consultant. Sheila, his wife, went nursing to Leeds at eighteen, getting jobs near to Dyce’s work as he moved round Liverpool, Cardiff and Manchester. Full time mum in Northallerton.

Dyce and Sheila had met Dave’s mum and dad in a hostelry just off the A1. Mum was a legend for overdoing meat and vegetables, but so was Dyce’s. Every 1950s working mum seemed to brown off their sprouts in a pressure-cooker. Dave’s dad couldn’t smell so it didn’t matter. ‘What am I supposed to be tasting now?’ he kept asking as they ate their pub meal. He was a retired miner with a passion for fishing. Sadly Dave’s mum died soon after that meal. Dave sat and cried, not a bit shy with his grief. You join the army and travel the world, and maybe leave behind significant gaps in your family story. When he was ready, Dave’s dad started tripping over to fish in Ireland so often you’d’ve thought he lived there.

If asked, Dyce would politely say that Dave and his wife, Joan, both thoroughly enjoyed the good things in life, food coming pretty high on their priority list.  She’d cook it and he’d eat it. When he was a Wensleydale lineman, it was easy to imagine him on a sunny day in Coverdale, around lunchtime, sat beside his van at a portable table and chair, a full place-setting with serviette before him, about to start a three course Joan special. It’s a thing of beauty.

So Dave and Dyce had got to know each other well enough plan trips into the Yorkshire Dales, a soap opera in once or twice yearly episodes, camping, staying in cottages, walking and going to the pub.

The first expedition was in 1987. They slept in Dave’s frame tent, pitched at the top of a sloping field up near the Denthead viaduct, half way between Dent village and Hawes. The facilities were basic and consisted of a toilet, a cold water tap and a stone sink surrounded by a plastic moulded rail from which hung a semi-transparent curtain. This, they deduced, was intended as a private intimate area, a haven for paying attention to those all-important personal details. As the temperature rarely rose above freezing, other than on the days it rained, they suspected that their fellow campers, much like them, concentrated on the broad brush approach and left the detail for another time.

Their stove was on a par with the rest of the comforts, so when they could, they ate out. Now Denthead is very rural. There’s a viaduct, a station, a few houses and lots of sheep, but it does have one important amenity  – The Sportman’s Arms. The locals refer to it as ‘The Dub’, as in ‘up the dub’ or ‘they’ll be in the dub’, following which everyone smiles knowingly. Except for woolly brained townies like Dyce that is. He kept wondering why people spent so much of their time in troughs of foul-smelling water.  ‘The Dub’s’ main attraction was Dave’s sister-in-law, a farmer’s wife by day and part-time barmaid and cook by night. Her ready smile and rosy complexion were appealing enough, but she had one outstanding additional attribute. She had a soft spot for Dave’s appetite. So they ate everything with double chips.

They were drying off in ‘The Dub’ on their second successive cold wet night, when a young couple arrived. About half past seven. Dripping, soggy, bent and burdened backpackers. They looked as though they’d had waterproof failure, thereby tripling the weight of their loads. We knew they were trying to say something when steam came out of their mouths, but it was not accompanied by sound. Then the girl started crying.

Her bloke’s eyes searched the floor as he tentatively inquired of the landlord, ‘Is there anywhere locally to pitch our tent?’

Dave and Dyce looked at each other, and then at the ceiling. Yes, they were sleeping out in it, but you wouldn’t recommend it.

‘There’s a field over the road. These two will show you.’ The landlord gestured broadly and dismissively in their direction. They’d patently been classified as idiots.

The girl was now a desperate mournful sight. Hesitantly she asked,‘Did I see rooms to stay out the back?’

‘Yes,’ said the landlord.

‘Have you any vacancies?’

‘Yes,’ said the landlord.

‘Can we have one of them?’

‘Yes,’ said the landlord.

Just then, she transformed. Her droopy raggy taggy hair was the same but the corners of her mouth had curled upward. Seconds later and it was a smile. And then it ignited into a great silly salty wet beam, and she was laughing tears that would drown a small mouse. Then Dave and I were laughing and crying and pretty soon all the pub was falling down.

Unsurprisingly, it turned a session and the lads were a bit late getting back to the tent. The wind whistled around the guy ropes and loose canvas as they sat up chatting, as you do, hoping this pee will be your last for the night. It’s hard work vacating sleeping bags in bad weather.

‘Ooo, I think I’ll have a black pudding sandwich,’ said Dave.

‘You can’t possibly be hungry. Anyway its raw.’

‘No, its already cooked; its just cold that’s all . . .  Mmm, mmm.’ He rubbed his hands and licked his lips and the sandwich disappeared. They retired and that’s the last Dyce heard until the following morning. He stirred and knocked about. It was still raining. Dave stirred, groaned, found it hard to gain his feet, decided not to bother, and returned to his sleeping bag. Dyce didn’t see him again until one o’clock.

‘Must have been the black pudding,’ he suggested later.

About four o’clock it fined up enough for them to walk up to Dent station, the highest railway station in England and miles away from Dent village itself. Despite being in regular service, the station buildings have been ignored, looking run down and sad. A flyer on the railway notice board invited passers-by not to, but to please call in. So they did. An arrow pointed to a house which seemed to be cared-for, up near the road bridge. They learned it was the old station master’s residence. The lady who answered the door was an artist when not being a mum and keeping home. Pen and ink drawings of the viaducts on ‘The Settle and Carlisle Railway’ were her speciality and they were good, but she charged by the hour. As each stone and arch and pillar were faithfully recorded they cost a fortune. They walked back to the station, and made do with half an hour’s train-spotting.

They’d chosen Dent because Joan came from here. She was part of a local farming dynasty known as ‘The Middletons of Gawthrop’. Cissie was Joan’s mum and family matriarch, famous, sop Dave said, for her photograph making butter in Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby’s book on dales life. When she walked down Dent High Street with her neighbour, Mike Harding, you could hear people whisper, ‘Whose that with Cissie?’

They had to go for tea of course, home made soup and buns. Mr. and Mrs. Middleton were sprightly seventy year olds. He’d been retired for years but still kept his hand in with the sheep and he gave me a stick.

‘Nobbut a training stick’, he said, ‘for the young dogs’.

Well, it may have been a rough bit of a branch cut from a local hedge to him, but to Dyce it was a rare thing of beauty.

‘You’ll need a ferrule,’  he said. Dave nodded in agreement.

What was a ferrule? Dyce was stumped but didn’t dare show his ignorance, ‘Er . . . Yes of course.’

That day, taking afternoon tea in Gawthrop, Cissie entertained them with tales of Dales’ characters, like clockie the local watch-maker and repairer who was also a dwarf. The details have gone, but Dyce retained a lasting vision of a kid’s deformed fairy tale character, working away in an attic somewhere up in the hills, weaving his magic into cogs and springs and dials.

They retired to The Sun Inn for supper, and who should there be, sitting in the bar? None other than wet smiler and her boyfriend, drier, and certainly much happier.

Before splitting up and going their separate ways, they visited Hawes Market, an open-air affair along the length of the main street. The hardware man had everything from a dustbin to a coathook displayed carefully in hundreds of cardboard boxes. Dyce spotted the ferrules, rubber cups at the bottom of sticks that stop scuffing. They cost a shilling each. He crossed the road for a browse in Carson’s second-hand book shop and eventually picked out Ingleby and Hartley’s account of dales’ life. There she was, Cissie, pictured in her kitchen making butter.

When Dyce got back home in the West Riding, he rubbed down Mr. Middleton’s stick and varnished it, and then affectionately fitted the ferrule that he’d bought from Hawes market. It became a treasured part of his four stick collection. The other three are inherited from my dad, one of which is a ruler, exactly one yard long.

 Dent set the tone. It was permitted to go off for a week, meandering and mumbling, without Joan or Sheila.

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