By Ben Thorpe on 10 Aug 2017
Every year on 1st August two things of note happen. I wake up to the new reality of being another year older, but not having the benefit of a birthday to soften the blow, while the rest of Yorkshire gets stuck into celebrating Yorkshire day. As I'm originally of Southern extraction it's arguable which of these has more personal significance for me, but that didn't stop me accepting an invitation from Marks & Spencer to head up to their Vangarde shopping park store and give them the chance to show off the best products they source from the region.
The Vangarde store has been open for a couple of years now and, with its striking frontage dominated by its "living wall" it's one of two big draws at Vangarde along with John Lewis. It's easily reached by bus, even more so if you don't get distracted and do manage to turn up for the bus you intended to get. Oops.
When we did manage to get ourselves to the right place, we found a large table set up outside the first floor cafe that had been festooned with treats for us to work through. There were various types of sausage roll, cheeses, Pontefract cakes, liquorice and some local beers to form the basis what would turn out to be a not entirely nutritionally balanced meal for me (note to self, plan meals around evening events better).
As we compared and contrasted the sausage rolls and competed for the last bits of blue cheese, the store and cafe managers talked passionately about how M&S is an engaged employer that takes a genuine interest in its employees opinions and ability to contribute outside of the strict definition of their job role. For example, those Pontefract cakes I mentioned were on sale as a direct result of an employee suggestion and had proved more popular than the consensus in the group would indicate, while active efforts are made to give staff the opportunity to visit suppliers.
Roosters and Wold Top brewery also made their presence felt on the table to fly the flag for good Yorkshire beer, while Ilkley Brewery also had an offering to take away. Previous experience tells me that these are all reliable, but I did grab a few mouthfuls to prove the point.
Having eaten more than our fill (and filled bags of leftovers) we made our way back to wait for the bus and navigate our way back into town, this time managing to hit the right bus at the right time. No doubt Yorkshire day will creep up on me again next year, as will another birthday, and I can think of worse ways to mark it than by eating slightly too many sausage rolls.