“Meately Large” does not describe what I deposited on a Sunday morning in my Holiday Inn Express bathroom after a night out in Wakefield, although it wasn’t far off the mark. The phrase actually comes from a description of Wakefield written in the 16th century which reads, ‘a very quick market town and meately large; well served of fish and flesh both from sea and by rivers, so that all vitaile is very good and chepe there’. God bless Wikipedia.

In case you were wondering what ‘vitaile’ might be, it means ‘food’. It’s from the old French language that we were still bandying around in England back then, as a result of William the Conqueror hitting the back of the net in a memorable away victory for France.

Our 16th century TripAdvisor goes on to say. ‘A right honest man shall fare well for tuppence a meal’. These days it isn’t quite so cheap, and I can hardly be described as ‘right honest’, but I can vouch for the Syhiba Restaurant in providing excellent vitaile at a reasonable price. They have nan-breads the size of nappies and they let you take your own booze in. Hence my meately large evacuation the next day.

On a more cerebral level, Wakefield is an up and coming place for the art-tourist. It has Yorkshire Sculpture Park just a hop and a skip away and they’ve recently opened the spectacular Hepworth Gallery next to the River Calder. This is named after the local artist Babs (to her friends) Hepworth who achieved a modicum of fame wielding a chisel and mallet.

201301MJ wakefield hepworth gallery window sculptureThe building is one of David Chipperfield’s and, although some of my older readers may remember him for his circus, it looks nothing like a big top. He is now one of my favourite architects (Turner Contemporary Margate, Neues Museum Berlin) and although you may think ‘concrete blocks’ of the exteriors, his interiors make wonderful use of natural light and GBFO (technical term*) windows.

However, they do need to do more with the area around the new gallery. If you look on google maps you can see that there is a pleasing looking path that runs from the Hepworth and eastwards alongside the Calder. Indeed, so tempting does it look that you might take all your running kit with you, half way up the country, just to enjoy a gentle Sunday morning anti-hangover jog accompanied by the babbling water of a river. Don’t bother, google maps is lying to you. The path is a muddy swamp and even though you do decide to ‘give it a go’ you will return to your luxurious, but now slightly malodorous, double room in the Holiday Inn Express covered from your head to your anus in mud.

My previous experience of Wakefield was spending many student hours waiting for connections to Leeds on Wakefield Westgate station, hence I’d never really seen what the town had to offer until this trip to remember a special friend. However, I can report that it is a jolly little place, indeed ‘a quick market town, well served of fish and flesh’. Although, if you want the flesh these days, I’d suggest Holbeck in Leeds instead as Wakefield has indeed quickly gone up-market.

*GBFO – Great Big F*** Off

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