May 2002

T S Eliot wrote in The Waste Land that ‘April is the cruellest month’. Not so this year. April was warm, sunny and dry. The primroses, bluebells and blossoms were earlier than usual. We had lovely mornings and clear skies at night. This year it was Browning’s April.

Oh to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bore are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings in the orchard bough
In England – now!

(Home Thoughts from Abroad)

The English celebrated St George’s Day in the usual way. In other words it was virtually ignored. No parades, no drinking, few flags, certainly no nationalist sentiment – this is England. Instead the English characteristics of understatement, reserve and slight embarrassment that we have a day at all. Having said that, there is in fact a slight revival of pride in being English (in a reserved sort of way). More English first, British second than there used to be. Even English football fans have at last learned to wave the flag of St George rather than the flag of the Union.

At Scarborough the (once) Grand Hotel, that Victorian pile which dominates the South Bay, had to close its doors. Unfortunately most of the guests went down with acute gastro-enteritis. So next time you are staying at the Grand and they offer you a full English breakfast to keep you going all day…well, you have been warned.


The Grand Hotel


To mark the start of the Golden Jubilee events, the Queen had dinner at Downing Street with her five surviving Prime Ministers. It was good to see the old girl again. The Queen looked to be in good form too.

An article in the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer by Alex Wright drew attention to the wealth of prehistoric stones and sites on Ilkley Moor. There are the Hanging Stones, Green Crag Slack, which is a Neolithic settlement, and the Black Stone Circle. Perhaps best known is the Swastika Stone, variously dated between 1000 and 4000 BC, and which must have had religious and cultural significance. The article explains that the Twelve Apostles – another stone circle – are aligned to the winter solstice and form an isosceles triangle with other stone circles. The Romans, camped at Olicana, used White Wells. Bradford Council is threatening to start tours of Ilkley Moor’s prehistory. Poor Ilkley Moor. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that the Council is planning to turn it into a theme park – The Ilkley Moor Experience. No hat needed.

The Swastika Stone high above Wharfedale

(Click on Swastika for another image showing both carvings)

On Home Truths on Radio Four, John Peel interviewed a woman who grew up in Huddersfield and had contacted the programme to say how much she ‘detested’ the place. She described the people as ‘joyless’ and ‘negative’. She said she’d rather die than have to live there again. Oh dear. She spoke in that carefully controlled way that some Southerners do with the affected laughter of someone who has forgotten how to laugh properly. (They know how to laugh in Huddersfield; it’s what keeps them going. You have to laugh). Anyway I’m sorry she had such a miserable childhood in Huddersfield. I treasure my memories of growing up in Halifax even if it was provincial and small-minded. God knows, one has enough time to be miserable when one grows up. Childhood should be a happy carefree time. Poor old soul.

No one should accuse the English of a lack of proportion. On a message board set up to honour Her Royal Highness The Queen Mother, some other poor soul placed the following:

‘I think the Queen Mum and Princess Diana are our very own Twin Trade Towers. At last we can look the people of New York in the face’.

You couldn’t make it up.