York Life (and life in general)

by Rachel Ragg

Think of ‘heritage’ – and what comes to mind? The Bar Convent’s Living Heritage Project? The Dig? Any one of York’s splendid museums? The Shambles? Boyes? Real pubs filled with real people drinking real ale? That big church in the centre of town, whose name escapes me?

Well, you’re mistaken. Whatever those might be, they’re not heritage. Or, rather, they’re not Heritage. Heritage comes in flat-packs from B&Q; in lorries from Aberdeen distribution centres; in online holiday brochures. Fancy you not realising.

So we evidently don’t live right in the middle of Heritage. However, there’s no need to worry, as we can buy it instead. Home improvements are a good place to start. Who needs a house with a blue plaque marking the birthplace of Joseph Rowntree, when they can buy a Richard Burbidge Heritage white oak handrail? Even better for those on a budget might be the Modern Heritage white bookcase, a snip at £9.99 on Amazon.

You could then have a bathroom overhaul, courtesy of Heritage Bathrooms. Their catalogue is every Heritage-lover’s dream. What about a Heritage lavatory brush, and matching loo roll holder? Would you feel more in touch with your Roman (or Viking) ancestors if you were in possession of a Heritage Oyster loo seat with gold hinges? If so, you’d better follow the catalogue’s advice and ‘contact your local heritage stockist’. This kind of heritage, for the record, is supplied by warehouses in well-known heritage-spots such as Stirling, Stoke, Bristol and Reading (well, they do call it ‘contemporary heritage’). There is also, excitingly, a heritage plastic bath plant in Yorkshire, which could be worth a day trip.

Once you’ve sorted out your bathroom heritage, you’ll need all the trimmings to go with it. Fired Earth Tuscan tiles, perhaps (‘historic and fertile’, apparently)? Or Heritage Brass door handles? And don’t forget the Dulux heritage paint range (not only ‘hand picked’, but ‘expertly curated’). The Heritage-pink Oak-limed Mirror Doors that I saw recently in a shop that had better remain nameless would go with it a treat: they’re a lovely pink plastic with painted-on wood effect. And who needs Scrabble, when you could have great games sliding the doors along Heritage track sets?

If this sounds a bit too Changing Rooms, you might feel in need of a break. A spot of shopping is never a bad idea – and the place to go if you want high-street Heritage is Crew Clothing, a relatively new addition to Low Petergate. Here, you can buy a Women’s Heritage Cable V Neck Jumper in Sunset Pink, to go with their Heritage Scarf. And don’t worry, chaps: there’s a Heritage Patch Rugby Shirt for you. Barbour, not surprisingly, are in on the Heritage act too. But if Barbour and Crew are a bit pricey and the gypsy-cum-peasant look is your thing, there’s always the Falmer Heritage range at Matalan.

You may feel that your own wardrobe is already so full of old clothes that it could already qualify for inclusion on the National Heritage List. In that case, you could instead treat yourself to a holiday. Visit any interesting place, and the old shops and tea-rooms will have metamorphosed into Heritage Centres where you can buy Heritage Guides, Heritage Haggis, Heritage Cornish Clotted Cream, and Heritage Fudge, and Heritage Sporrans (£195 for Tooled Celtic Pigskin. I need one now). On the way back to your Heritage Hotel, you could stop off at Old Ma Riley’s Irish Heritage pub, founded by a London chain way back in 1993. There you could have a nice pint of two of Heritage Ale (brewed last week in Warrington) in the Family Room, watching assorted children fighting over fish fingers and smearing tomato ketchup over the plastic tablecloths.

Is real heritage dead? Has it just been re-branded, had the dirt scrubbed out from under its nails in order to appeal to Harry Potter obesessed tourists who don’t want to get dirt on their Barbour jackets? Is there still a genuine heritage underworld? Or does the obsession with the Heritage Industry mean that the real thing died years ago? I shall ponder on this next time I’m scoffing a Heritage Cheddar sandwich…

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