Yorkshire had a dusting of snow both before and after Christmas. (‘Britain in Snow Hell’ headlined one of the tabloids). There were several degrees of frost at night (Big Freeze Shock Horror). The countryside looked lovely and it raised the spirits. (‘Four die and hundreds hurt as year goes out in icy blast’ – The Daily Telegraph). On New Year’s Eve we drove on quiet roads across the Pennines to Lancashire on a beautiful afternoon, the sky clear and the sunset spectacular. (‘Traffic chaos. Stay at home. Only venture out if your journey is really necessary’).
It is the small simple things which make Christmas so enjoyable - throwing cards into a top hat on Christmas Day as my father’s family has done since before anyone can remember, mince pies and cheese, yelling at the villain in the pantomime (we still do), a moon the size of a dinner plate over the Chevin on Christmas Eve, the smell of wood burning, …chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your toes… OK, that’s enough Christmas images.
It’s not often enough, I’m afraid, nowadays that the four of us go to church together but we did at Christmas. The Church of England, I’m afraid, now uses what Private Eye calls the Rocky Horror Alternative Service Book instead of the priceless Book of Common Prayer and this ruins the service for me. It is further compounded by the fact that recently the hymns have been changed to ensure that they are politically correct and offend absolutely no one – except, of course, traditional Anglicans who care about their heritage. Part way through the service is the Hug Thy Neighbour episode which I hate. I treasure the story of Jennifer Paterson, a devout and unreconstructed Roman Catholic, who when the priest, looking straight at her, asked the congregation to give a sign of peace, put her first and second fingers into the form of a defiant and emphatic V.
The Craven Herald and Pioneer is from the same stable as the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer (where would we be without it?). It serves the Skipton and Settle area and beneath its Gothic masthead is the line ‘The Voice of the Dales since 1853’. What makes it different from its siblings is that the front page is still made up of notices and advertisements and news is relegated to the inside pages.
That front page in the week before Christmas is in many ways timeless. The MP for Skipton and Ripon (what a privilege, lucky man) posts season’s greetings to his constituents, the Airedale Beagles announce that they will meet on Boxing Day at the Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey, and every Christian church denomination lists its services. There are auctions and markets, sporting fixtures and details of Craven Council’s refuse collections. Here you can find out about the Snow Queen at the Victoria Hall, Settle and the Ladies Section Dance at Gargrave Village Hall (‘tickets £4 inc supper’).
Ye Olde Naked Man Café, Settle
However, this is now the twenty first century (even in the Dales), and one can also find what is on at Skipton Plaza (‘now with Dolby Stereo Sound’), details of American pool at the Matrix (‘£5 per hour’) and an invitation to ‘Inflatable Love Sheep’ at the Craven, Skipton (‘opposite Tesco – special drink offers daily’) – no, I’ve no idea what they are.
Inside the paper, farmers celebrate re-stocking their farms after the Foot and Mouth Disaster, Roger Ingham draws attention to the subsidence of the Roman road on Rombald’s Moor (not high on the authorities’ lists of priorities) and there are three pages of text and photographs covering the visit of the Prince of Wales to Stainforth ('The Prince sups a pint of Thwaites', ‘A thrill for local children as the Prince goes on a walkabout in Settle’, and ‘the Prince shares a joke with a well-wisher at Skipton railway station’). Only in England.
According to the Yorkshire Post there is to be a £1.5 million advertising campaign designed to bring visitors back to Yorkshire following the damaging effects on the tourist trade caused by the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. The advertisements will feature Sean Bean, Darren Gough, a Spice Girl, Alan Titchmarsh, Brian Blessed and the Woolpack at Emmerdale. Isn’t that simply awful? I do apologise.
There have been a number of letters in the Times recently discussing, in a light-hearted way, the nature of God. One correspondent pointed out that it has long been established that God is an Englishman. Peter Rushworth of Cullingworth, near Bradford, then provided more definition in explaining that, as many of us know, ‘obviously He has to be a Yorkshireman’.
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