APRIL 2002

I’ve just been reading some promotional material produced by one of the hotel chains. ‘Yorkshire…once a kingdom in its own right…’ You don’t normally find reference to the likes of Eric Bloodaxe in hotel advertising. ‘Take a trip to a stately home such as Castle Howard in Calderdale…’ Castle Howard in Calderdale? I think I’ll stick to the non-factual stuff. ‘Yorkshire is big - big-talking and big-hearted. Re-discover the giant in yourself’. Who writes this rubbish?

Marcus Fox has died. (Yes, I know he was a knight but I’m afraid I don’t have much time for that sort of nonsense and I’m surprised he had). He was MP for Shipley from 1970 until 1997 and Chairman of the 1922 Committee in the 1990s. He is quoted in the Daily Telegraph on the subject of living in Yorkshire. ‘A pint of Tetley’s, the Yorkshire stone and no Southerners telling us to speak proper. I love the life here. Yorkshire is home’. He was one of us.


Shipley Market Place


Bradford Grammar School

We went to a concert given by the Black Dyke Band at Bradford Grammar School. As the conductor said, the best brass bands in the world are from Europe, the best brass bands in Europe are British, the best brass bands in Britain are from the West Riding and the best brass bands in the West Riding are from Queensbury. Well, they are world champions so we’ll excuse their lack of reserve. The band played music that ranged from opera (the Grand March from Aida) and the classics (Rodrigo and Bach) to film and TV music (Star Wars and Groundforce) and standards like ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’. (‘There were angels dining at the Ritz…’).
I read the programme notes as I always do. The Black Dyke Mills Band was founded in 1855 by John Foster. Black Dyke Mills was and is in Queenshead, later to become Queensbury, a village 1100 feet above sea level between Halifax and Bradford. Originally the band’s musicians worked at the mill and to this day the band’s members have day jobs. In 1904 they made their first recording. In 1906 they visited the USA and Canada playing at 200 concerts and travelling over 13,000 miles. Imagine the logistics of that in 1906. The band obtained charitable status in 1997 so I think they are now here to stay. Their logo is a stag’s head and their motto is ‘justum perficito nihil timeto’ (act justly and fear nothing). (www.blackdykeband.co.uk)

Black Dyke Band

The Yorkshire Post has new owners. The newspaper was founded in 1754 as the Leeds Intelligencer and, as Brian MacArthur points out in the Times, is the third oldest newspaper in the world. It sells 67,000 copies daily and is England’s second best-selling regional morning newspaper. It is directed towards the intelligent middle classes and is part of the furniture in Yorkshire. One can only hope and pray that the new owners leave it alone.

A new tourist attraction called The Deep has opened in Hull, or Kingston upon Hull as was emphasised in the guestbook a while ago. It has cost the thick end of £50 million and is a ‘striking modern building’ (you are right to fear the worst) jutting over the sea where the River Hull meets the Humber.

The Deep houses the story of the world’s oceans. Visitors will see coral lagoons, the deepest oceans and the Arctic seas. There are seven species of sharks including the grey reef shark (it says here) and hundreds of exotic fish from all parts of the world. The promotional material contains all the usual suspects - ‘exciting’, ‘fun’, ‘all the family’, ‘hands-on’, ‘inter-active’, ‘corporate hospitality facilities’ etc etc.

So what to call it? Well, clearly museum would be a bit too cerebral for the dumbed-down British public - it implies learning and knowledge and, God forbid, self-improvement so we can’t have that. Neither aquarium nor zoo would be quite right and anyway they have connotations of mistreatment and confinement. (I love the way that at the end of films like A River Runs Through It and A Perfect Storm we are assured that no fish were killed, traumatised or even mildly inconvenienced in the making of the film). So, anyway, they’ve called it a submarium. A contraction of submarine and, um, um.

My elder son and I took advantage of a beautiful spring day and went to find Middleham Castle. I’d written about it for Yorksview but never been. It is a lovely village and a fine castle. We arrived after lunch (about 14.15) to be delighted by the town sign announcing ‘Middleham. Twinned with Agincourt’.


Spring flowers in Yorkshire

David Puttnam, one of the Prime Minister’s luvvie friends, said on television recently in the context of its multi-racial nature that ‘Bradford is the undiscovered jewel of modern Britain’. Hmm. Discuss.

At last, again, the four of us gather round the television for an hour together. The boys are as riveted by it as we are. No one says a word - you have to listen carefully or you’ll miss the clever dialogue and sharp humour. There is no programme as good. The West Wing is back.