Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Rummage To Fight Off The Pangs Of Hunger

Having run out of shirts that fit me, I am trying to keep on a diet at the moment. The trouble is that food is not just an essential fuel, it is also a diversion. It provides many of the punctuation marks in life's daily story. In the past, this function would have been partly fulfilled by a pipe of baccy (oh!, tobacco how I miss you). When tobacco went, the full stops and commas of my day would be represented by fruit pastilles, or chocolate biscuits, or buns. I know I should adopt a new set of representative grammatical symbols made up of healthy fruits, but with such a prospect I am tempted towards the punctuation-free style of some of the more avant-guard writers. But I have retained the paragraph-break of my day : in previous ages this would be the pipe-scrape and refill with fresh pungent tobacco (Tobacco did I tell you how much I missed you?) or a fresh hot toasted tea-cake. Now it is a rummage.

I have always been a keen rummager. Searching old cupboards in the hope that I might discover some forgotten piece of the past. I find time travel relatively easy. I can be transported back 40 years or more by the chance discovery of an old photograph, a discarded letter, or a crumpled press cutting. Today, whilst trying to get through the mid-morning hunger-pangs, I discovered an old book.

"A Century Of Progress" was published by Joshua Tetley, the Leeds brewer, in 1923 and looks back at the first hundred years of the firm's history. It's a lovely book, finely printed, beautifully illustrated, and, it would appear from a quick internet search, quite rare. According to a pencilled note on the front page, I was given it by two good friends of mine 21 years ago. Towards the end of the slim volume there are a collection of black and white photographic plates. The following example is a view of the 17 4-ton wagons owned by the brewery.

The frontispiece of the book has the following dedication :


This Souvenir of a Century is dedicated to all friends whose goodwill has been won and kept through long years of business. The Past comes not back again save in the mirror of memory. The Present spreads its banner over us. The Future saith, like the old Rabbi, "The best is yet to be."

Tetley's remains in name but it is now part of the international Carlsberg group. On reflection, perhaps the old rabbi got it wrong.

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