January 2001


For me the Christmas season begins with the BBC’s Sports Review of the Year in mid-December. Then there is the first sighting of the Coca-Cola advert on TV where the long convoy of illuminated trucks snakes its way through the winter landscape. Soon Ainsley’s in Leeds are selling their tremendously good mince pies, it’s time for the concerts and carol services at the boys’ schools followed by the office party and decorating the house. I always like to visit Kirkgate market in the centre of Leeds in the week before Christmas and again this year we went to the pantomime in Harrogate. Part of what we all like so much about Christmas is the familiar routine which gives continuity to our lives. For all of us it’s different but part of a common experience. The Christmas we all know was invented by the Victorians after the Industrial Revolution had all but destroyed the older community-based twelve day holiday.

Calverley Woods

It is only several times a lifetime that we experience a White Christmas in Yorkshire. This year was one such time. We awoke on Christmas Day to find there had been a small fall of snow during the night. The day was bright and sunny but cold and so it remained. There was a further snowfall on 28 December and again on New Year’s Eve before it all melted on New Year’s Day. After a decade of very little snow one had almost forgotten how beautiful a frosted snowy landscape is. Every twig of every branch of every tree was covered in snow. For the first time since I’ve lived in Rawdon children were sledging and snowmen were built. (The papers reported that a recent academic study at the taxpayers’ expense has concluded that snowmen are sexist and offensive to women. They’ll be complaining that they’re white next). For a week we had clear starlit nights and sunny days. We went to Newcastle on Boxing Day to see Leeds United play (don’t ask) and we visited relatives at Danby in the North Yorkshire Moors and friends at Bedale. Yorkshire looked magnificent. The market towns looked like an illustration from a Christmas card and the countryside looked timeless. The Yorkshire landscape in the snow, I have decided, is one of the wonders of the world.


Before Christmas we went to a couple of concerts. We saw Jools Holland’s rhythm and blues band at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax and we enjoyed enormously a concert at Leeds Grammar School by the school choir, the school’s swing band and the Rothwell Temperance Band, an award-winning brass band in the Yorkshire tradition. You can’t beat live music. We are very lucky now to have recorded music but it’s great live.


Haworth Parsonage

72/74 Market Street, Thornton, Bradford is for sale. It is an unpretentious two storey stone terrace house which was provided by the Church as a home for the Rev Patrick Bronte in May 1815. Charlotte was born there in 1816, Branwell in 1817, Emily in 1818 and Anne in 1820. Then the family moved to the Parsonage at Haworth and the rest is literary history. The National Trust and English Heritage weren’t interested in buying the house in Thornton so it was offered to Bradford Council who turned it down. No surprise there; it would have been an imaginative investment of interest and benefit to the people of Bradford.  


Since 1963 on the cliffs above Whitby has stood an arch made from the jawbone of a 150 ton fin whale. It serves as a very visible reminder of Whitby’s whaling history. Unfortunately the weather has taken its toll, the bone is crumbling and the arch will have to be dismantled. Because of the international ban on whaling it was thought unlikely that it could be replaced. However civic leaders in Anchorage, Alaska have offered to give Whitby a pair of Bowhead whale jawbones which are each 15 feet in length. The Daily Telegraph reports Eileen Bosomworth (she sounds a formidable lady), leader of Scarborough Council, saying this is ‘splendid news’. The whale itself was killed lawfully by Eskimos for their own subsistence so you’ll be pleased to know, as Hollywood might say,  that no whales were killed in order to provide Whitby with its replacement arch. So, as soon as the export and import authorities have approved this and arrangements have been made to transport it, the famous landmark on Whitby’s West Cliff will remain in a renewed form. Thank you, Anchorage.  

Whale Jawbones


Americans are so good at inventing new words for things. Consider all the computing and internet terms that they have coined. They are also master of the advertising slogan. In the New Yorker before Christmas there was an advert promoting Simon Schama’s superb new book, A History of Britain. Only an American could have come up with the line which headed the advert – just before Christmas, remember – ‘A great past. A magnificent present’. Brilliant.