The Frozen Northerner is not, as has previously been noted, a huge fan of large department stores such as Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and the like, he prefers the much smaller fast disappearing independent retailers that are dotted around the country. Having said that there is one department store that I absolutely adore and that is Rutherford’s of Morpeth or to give the shop its proper title G Rutherford and Co Ltd. Why do I love this shop, I have absolutely no idea, maybe it’s just its quirkiness or maybe it reminds me of the long gone and much lamented Wooster’s which used to situated in Pudding Chare, Newcastle, I really don’t know, but any visit to this popular Northumberland market town will see me drop in just to see what they have on offer. This family run business started out as a small draper’s shop back in 1846 and is still run by the Rutherford Family, in the shape of managing director Richard Rutherford which sees a fifth generation Rutherford in charge of the store. How a shop such as this can survive with the advent of internet shopping and out of town retailers such as the Metro Centre I am not sure, but it would be a tragedy if this shop was to ever to disappear. This shop has everything from home furnishing to cookware to men’s and women’s fashion as well as all sorts of other items too numerous to mention, is it all top end stuff no but that’s not the point, Rutherford’s really is a great store, simply because it is Rutherford’s, is it ever going to overtake the likes of Fenwick’s then the answer is a firm no, but please go because you will find that Rutherford’s is a lot more fun.
In the summer of 1971 The Frozen Northerner would recline in his mother’s front room with his three best mates and let Terry Swinhoe read to us the juicier bits of Richard Allen’s cult bestseller Skinhead. Featuring the legendary Joe Hawkins, Richard Allen’s books were a must for working class lads in the north east of England or anywhere else in the country for that matter. We didn’t listen to Terry because we couldn’t read, Terry just made it that little bit more spicy, especially when talking about Joe sexual escapades. So when I stumbled upon Old Dog Books and came across “Who the Hell is Frank Wilson” by Pete McKenna, I thought the book warranted further investigation. Set to the backdrop of Wigan Casino the story revolves around aspiring young DJ “Epic” trying to become a face on the then thriving northern soul scene. Add to this, Blackpool gangsters, council corruption, bent coppers, the IRA and lots and lots of cocaine and you have recipe for a half decent book. Unless you are a fan of northern soul, you have probably never heard of Frank Wilson who worked as a record producer for the renowned Tamla-Motown label during the 60’s and early 70’s. What makes him so special is that he recorded the classic northern soul anthem Do I Love You (Indeed I Do), now while this may mean nothing to the uninitiated, owning an original copy of this revered single was and still is worth a lot of money. One the main characters Ronnie Hardman wants a copy badly, more for personal reasons than anything else, although the monetary value of the record is certainly not lost on him. Obtaining an original copy is not going to be easy for Ronnie who is more than happy to use an excessive amount of violence to achieve his objectives. The ambitious Epic has to deal with all challenges thrown down by Ronnie as well as some other nefarious charmers and it does not always have a happy outcome for Epic, but that is part of the attraction of the book. Did The Frozen Northerner enjoy the book, the answer would have to be a resounding yes, nothing is going transport us any of us back to that magical time of my life so reading about is just about the next best thing. The only downside was that it would appear that somebody at Old Dog Books have appeared not have proof read the book, as is quite often a considerable amount of text missing in parts of the book which was hugely disappointing, that aside the only question left to answer is where am I going to find Terry Swinhoe to read out the juicer bits.
The frozen northerner has just returned from his third holiday of the year, which took me and my wife the Contessa di la Proctero to the island of Ischia. Situated in the Bay of Naples, Ischia is the largest island in the bay alongside the more famous isle of Capri and the enchanting island of Procida. It is well documented that I have a long standing love affair with all things Italian so it was going to interesting to see what I made of my first trip to this volcanic isle. We stayed at the Hotel Durrelli which was located about 10 minutes from Ischia Town in one direction and about 10 minutes from Ischia Ponte in the other. The view from our balcony offered us a panoramic view of the islands as well as the north of Naples and Sorrento as well the island’s own Castello Aragonese which was quite spectacular. Although the hotel had a more than adequate pool area, the frozen northerner and his wife tended to wile away their hours at Maronti beach which, was about 20 minutes away from the hotel by bus. Prior to my holiday I had been informed that transport on the island was poor but I found this not to be the case with local bus service both regular and frequent. If like me sunbathing and reading is your bag then Maroni Beach is a must, with its beautiful unspoilt beach and that gentle breeze wafting in off the sea I could have stayed there forever. In the evening I tended to alternate between going to the Town and Porte. If you head to the town wander up and down via Colonna and savour some of best Italian fashion on offer or just sit in some café with a nice glass of red wine and people watch like I tend to do. Both areas as you would expect are bustling with a huge amount of restaurants and bars, personally my two favourites were the Caffe Morelli where I tended to enjoy a Campari Spritz and the bar/delicatessen Ischia Sulumi, as well as serving up some of the best hams and cheeses I have ever tasted this little gem offered great alternatives to beers like Peroni and Moretti by offering a great range of beers made by the Neapolitan micro-brewery Birra Maneba which were absolutely outstanding. Sundays in the shadow of the Castello Aragonese were spent watching the locals play water polo surrounding by yachts of all shapes and sizes, with sun beating down on that flawless blue sea, your mind is entitled to stray to thoughts of retiring and give up the rat race, god I am so tempted when I am in places like this. I could probably talk endlessly about Ischia because it a place I really loved, but no good talking about it, you must go and discover it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.