Oh for the simpler times when life tasted that bit sweeter - Christa Ackroyd

This week I am going retro. Well I am certainly vintage!

James Herriot's books hark back to a simpler, and more innocent, time. (JPIMedia).

It’s been a tough time in Calderdale, Kirklees and Bradford these past few weeks under the new regulations which have seen our freedoms once again curtailed, and a feeling for many that we’ve been going backwards and not forwards.

The ever-darker evenings, the torrential rain, coupled with the news, depending on who you listen to, that Covid could be here for another two to four years, meant it would have been so easy to slip back into feeling it’s all pretty miserable.

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But I refuse to be beaten. I remain a glass half full sort of a person. So this week I have been looking to simpler times when life tasted that bit sweeter for my not-quite lockdown, but still pretty challenging, salvation. I have revisited the Seventies. Indulge me in my nostalgia. It’s been keeping me going.

It all started with an advert on the telly for a programme that has been reinvented by Channel 5 and is on our screens this coming week, and which just about sums up my formative years. I can’t wait. I am sick of the news, sick of the reruns and don’t get me started on Rule Britannia!

All Creatures Great and Small is back and just in the nick of time. It is exactly what we need to supplement our favourite feel-good programmes of The Yorkshire Vet and Our Yorkshire Farm, particularly for those who have been in virtual isolation again in inner-city West Yorkshire.

Alf Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot, was my Uncle Hubert’s vet. My uncle was, for many years, a farmer near Thirsk and we spent countless happy childhood hours helping in the milking parlour or feeding the chickens or, in the autumn, potato picking in the fields with my cousins Tom, Judy and Chris.

The James Herriot books might have been set in the Forties but they were written about farmers like my Uncle Hubert. Salt of the earth, quiet and hard working but with a sense of humour as dry as the ploughed land in drought.

And we loved the warmth of the BBC television programme that followed on the back of those best-selling books.

But then do you remember the days when Sunday night telly was family telly? We might well have been out for a Sunday run in the car.

Various aunties and uncles may well have visited for a ham salad followed by sherry trifle. I might well have disappeared into my bedroom to try and record the records in between the talking on Fluff Freeman’s Pick of the Pops but we all got together for Sunday night TV.

There were such gems as The Onedin Line, The Brothers and – dare I go back even further? – The Forsyte Saga and Dr Finlay’s Casebook.

And, of course, the best of the bunch in my humble opinion, All Creatures Great and Small. I well remember my dad laughing out loud reading the Herriot books. We all did and I still have them.

Which got me thinking. I desperately needed a bookcase, not just for treasured books I want to save and savour, but for the dozens of piano books I have bought in lockdown.

And somewhere to put special little trinkets such as dad’s police badge, granny’s ancient egg hen and the obligatory piece of Hornsea Pottery.

What I needed was a bureau. And preferably one that lights up. My choice will have had my mother falling off her cloud with laughter. G Plan. I can hear her asking “How do they charge these prices for teak when we threw better away down the tip?”

Well, I love it. It wasn’t expensive. It’s the ultimate in recycling. And it takes me back to the kind of rooms we all had growing up and makes me warm and fuzzy. I have even gone for cacti and a rubber plant.

All I need now is a plastic pineapple ice bucket and I am back in the Sixties and Seventies. Though my husband has drawn the line at parquet flooring and I won’t be knitting a dolly toilet roll holder any time soon.

When I embrace something, I do so wholeheartedly. On the stove – that’s an old-fashioned word you don’t hear much any more – is a spag bol, as we so trendily called it in the Seventies.

We were much more a meat and two veg kind of a household, so how glamorous it seemed to spend an evening at my friend Paula’s house where her large family congregated over a bowl of spaghetti every Saturday night, drinking red wine from a raffia-covered bottle which we then turned into the obligatory candle holders.

It was the first time I had tasted garlic and Parmesan cheese. We always had a nice block of Wensleydale or a lump of cheddar in the fridge. Which reminds me that in my fridge right now is a huge sherry trifle.

Oh, how I wish I could serve it all up on best china out of the G Plan cabinet.

But it’s not for me. It’s for 15 guys looked after by homeless charities and Leeds City Council in a local bed and breakfast as my Leeds Homeless Street Angels tend to those now back sleeping rough in the streets.

Sadly, because of lockdown, I haven’t been able to join them but at least I can provide them with a retro supper while I am in the Seventies mood.

After all, love and caring has never gone out of fashion.

So let’s bring on the past and celebrate and embrace the best of it as we tackle the future. It’s certainly made me feel a lot better.

So much so I think I might even make myself a Snowball tonight.

Now where did I put the maraschino cherries and those plastic sword cocktail sticks?

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Thank you

James Mitchinson