SEPTEMBER 2000

 

Last month we went to an exhibition of Turnerís work at the Tate Gallery in the restored Albert Dock in Liverpool. It was his later paintings from the 1830s and Ď40s which were being shown. These are far more impressionistic than the earlier landscapes which are more well known. The paintings were exhibited in natural light on the top floor of the building, the light being reflected from the water.

JMW Turner visited Yorkshire several times and painted many Yorkshire landscapes. At the end of the eighteenth century he stayed at Harewood House and made a northern tour. In the years before and after the Battle of Waterloo, Turner, in many ways a solitary and eccentric man, spent happy times with his patron and friend Walter Ramsden Fawkes at Farnley Hall near Otley, opposite the Chevin in Wharfedale. By the time Fawkes died in 1825 he had two thousand of Turner's watercolours and six oils. Travelling around the area, Turner painted such places as Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey, Kirkstall Abbey, Ripon, Richmond, Aysgarth, Malham and Gordale Scar. Wharfedale was rather wilder then than now with deer roaming the hills and herons and kingfishers swooping over the river amidst a silence we donít know today. I particularly like a view of Leeds painted by Turner in 1816 which shows the early factories alongside the church spires and towers.

 

Malhamdale

Leeds Art Gallery has a number of Turners including the Valley of the Washburn and the Lonely Dell, Wharfedale. In 1984 a New York dealer sold some wildlife studies by Turner, now known as the Farnley Book of Birds, and Leeds bought them. Many of these were exhibited this summer.

Yorkshire people are, of course, very loyal to Yorkshire. In fact, allegiances are far more parochial and deeper than that. Such sensitivities must be treated with great care. For example, the people of Yeadon, Guiseley, Rawdon and Otley see themselves as detached from Leeds even though they are part of the Leeds Metropolitan Area. Last year some Leeds Council employee, with no taste or understanding of tradition, commissioned the production of Welcome to Leeds signs of a design and appearance more suitable for the entrance to a fairground. These signs are lurid blue and lime-green yellow and cost, according to the local paper, more than £50,000. These were then positioned by the side of the roads at every entrance to the Leeds Metropolitan Area. So now as the traveller approaches fine old market towns like Otley and Wetherby, and proud villages like Rawdon and Boston Spa, he is confronted with these crass monstrosities welcoming him to Leeds.

 

What has happened was entirely predictable to all other than Council employees. People who live in the towns and villages outside Leeds were outraged. They donít live in Leeds, they live in Otley or wherever. Our electrician, we discovered recently, has not been to Leeds for twenty years. Petitions were raised by the local press. Objections were made. The Council wonít budge. Now many of the signs have been disfigured by spray paint as some local residents have sought to eliminate the word Leeds. At great expense to the council taxpayers we have vandalised signs in the countryside around Leeds. One doesnít know whether to laugh or cry. Signs of the times.  

Welcome to Rawdon....

As I do each year, I went to the second (and as it turned out the last) day of the Headingley Test Match. England beat the West Indies in two days (and subsequently went on to win the Series). It was a great occasion; the Daily Telegraph ended its match report with the line: ĎThe little boys laughed to see such fun and the cow jumped over the mooní.  

The Headingley Test always has an almost village atmosphere. Itís about a lot more than cricket. Itís a festival, a celebration of Yorkshire. People meet who only see one another once a year for this. Itís about talking, catching up, good-natured arguing, joking, back-slapping and reminiscing. In recent years the carnival feel has been spoilt by heavy-handed tactics on the part of the hundreds of stewards appointed to stop trouble and enforce political correctness and protect Yorkshire County Cricket Club from the attentions of the negligence industry. OK, there have been some lapses of behaviour in the past but not such as to warrant this type of policing. A couple of years ago the guy dressed up as a carrot was thrown out and the pantomime cow was rugby tackled. Snow White and the seven dwarves were barred. Stay in your seats Ė youíre not here to enjoy yourselves, youíre here to watch cricket, for Godís sake. Headingley is to be re-developed soon Ė a ground fit for the twenty first century and all that promotional rubbish. It needs to be done but I fear they will spoil it. Doubtless though the corporate entertainment facilities will be world-class.

Over the first week-end in September the people of Denby Dale made a record-breaking meat and potato pie which fed 50,000. This was the tenth huge pie; the first was made in 1788 to celebrate the recovery of George III from mental illness. (Unfortunately it was only a temporary recovery and the King was soon talking to trees again in Windsor Great Park believing them to be his ministers). This yearís pie was Ė youíve guessed Ė the Millennium Pie.

This Denby Dale Pie beat a previous record set in New York in 1995. The Yorkshire Post reported that the pie was forty feet by nine feet and three feet deep and, in a switch from imperial to metric, weighed twelve tonnes. It was well-received; unlike the 1887 pie, the stench of which was so awful it was feared it would poison anyone who ate it and so it was unceremoniously buried in a local wood. The attentions of the food hygiene enforcers would never allow such a thing to happen today.

The children go back to school this week. They are ready for it; so are we. Eyes down till Christmas.

DB

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