Published on May 9, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Awash with flair
Writers are used to promoting their books in unusual places, so why not a launderette? The Old Cinema Launderette that Harry Pearson chose as one of the venues to launch The Beast, The Emperor And The Milkman (a bone-shaking tour through cycling’s Flemish heartlands) is no ordinary washeteria, however, it’s a place to take your washing, tumble-drying, ironing and dry-cleaning by day and a pub by night, serving several top-notch craft keg beers, a fine selection of Belgian ales, and an array of gins that would please the fussiest of ginsters.
It’s run by Richard and Kathy Turner on Marshall Terrace, Gilesgate, Durham – and featured in Cheers in September 2017. “The original idea is much the same, but we’re now only open as a bar at weekends,” says Richard. “The funeral parlour and fish-and-chip shop next door seem to do more business than us during the week, but we always operate as a pub when we have gigs on – and that could be several times a month.”
He then meanders off into a riff about a launderette and coffee shop, an undertaker and a fish shop all sharing a theme to theme among the impressive run of independent businesses on Marshall Terrace itself and Gilesgate in general. The burgeoning Hop Knocker bottle shop and tap is also only a few doors away.
Harry Pearson’s latest book traces the story of cycle racing in Flanders and its virtually superhuman characters – and with competitions held on cobbled roads with knee-deep potholes and rutted tracks more often in the most dire of weather and nithering temperatures, it’s the toughest, roughest sport that could be undertaken on two wheels. Having written previously about Northern grassroots football and country fairs, it’s fair to say Harry’s is the nitty-gritty approach (often experiencing those pothole moments for himself).
An enthusiastic audience was treated not only to tales of complex characters like Roger de Vlaeminck (The Beast), Frans Verbeek (The Flying Milkman) and Rik Van Looy (The Emperor), but an insight into the culture, politics and the national psyche of Belgium, “a country invented by the English to annoy the French”.
The Beast, The Emperor And The Milkman (published by Bloomsbury) is fascinating; the retro-style Old Cinema Launderette is a real soap star. Take a look into both.