The Great Yorkshire Show will take place at the Showground in Harrogate between 9-11 July. Last year it was ruined by the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. The programme for 9 July includes the judging of Shires, Heavy Horses, Single Turnouts and Arabs. The following day there is the Pig of the Year Final, the Royal Air Force Band and the Housewives’ Choice Cattle Competition. On Thursday the One Man and His Pig Display Team sounds unmissable. There will be Hives and Honey, Forestry and Stickmaking, Beagles and Foxhounds, Rabbits and Pigeons. I do think judging the best Arabs will be something of a challenge.
Work took me across the Pennines to Liverpool. As the train travels west of Huddersfield past Linthwaite, Slaithwaite (pronounced Slawitt) and Marsden, I always think that the view from the window one hundred years ago would have been little different. OK, one looks more closely and there are cars and some of the mills are derelict, but essentially the view is of stone buildings and moorland. I imagine those mills lit by candlelight, heated by fires, supplied by horses and carts and manned by hundreds of men, women and children.
Marsden is where the poet and writer Simon Armitage lives. I enjoyed All Points North (Viking, 1998), a collection of poems, observations and anecdotes. He writes of ‘The North, where England tucks its shirt into its underpants’, The North where ‘Emily Bronte meets David Batty’, The North ‘where the M1 does its emergency stop’. He describes Marsden as being on ‘the border…a cultural fault line’ where the planners have attempted to move the county boundaries. Lancashire is over the hill. ‘All we know is that this side is Yorkshire, always was, and on the other side the buses are a different colour’.
Last month I rather sarcastically suggested that it would not surprise me if Bradford Council tried to make Ilkley Moor into a theme park. I shouldn’t say these things. The indispensable Wharfedale and Airedale Observer has now reported that, ‘New Plans have emerged to develop further the Cow and Calf area to make it more attractive to visitors’. In other words they want to ruin it.
Plans were well advanced to spend £20 million restoring and converting Listers Mill in Manningham, Bradford. It was expected that this would help to regenerate a depressed and depressing area. Anyway the European Union (damn it) has said that this would be an ‘illegal’ use of government money under EU rules and the whole scheme has been abandoned as have other similar schemes elsewhere.
As I drove up the A1 through Yorkshire recently I could hardly fail to see that most of the road signs and bridge supports are disfigured with ‘Save Hunting’ slogans sprayed on them. The government seems even to have caused normally law-abiding decent people to feel the need to resort to direct action and criminal activity.
In 1942, a TV programme explained, the Luftwaffe undertook a series of raids (which became known as the Baedeker raids) designed to destroy areas of England’s historical and cultural heritage. In April that year more than 250 tons of bombs were dropped on York aimed at its cathedral which was totally undefended. The real objective was, of course, by so doing to damage morale. 79 people were killed and 250 injured which is tragic but let’s hear that again – the object was to destroy York Minster. Repeat. In this war between supposedly civilised Christian nations, the Luftwaffe’s aim was to destroy one of Christendom’s thousand year old jewels.
When the term ‘global village’ first began to be used a decade or so ago, I thought it was an exaggeration, one of those terms which is coined but which then has a short currency. But that was before I had used the internet and before recent events which have made the world so much smaller. My 14 year son has just been on a school trip – a school trip – to Denver, Colorado from which, via five National Parks including the Grand Canyon, they made their way to Las Vegas. As my father said, ‘We used to have a day out in Knaresborough’. I’ve just e-mailed a friend in Melbourne. The whole world is watching the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. There is a line somewhere in Thomas Hardy to the effect ‘When England was still a continent…’, in other words when it took days to get from Yorkshire to London, when most people only ever travelled by walking, when many never left the area in which they were born. That changed a century ago. But the communications revolution of the last fifteen years has changed the world again. I was wrong. The world is so much smaller. The Americans are good at coining apt expressions. Global village is right.
As the country marks and celebrates fifty years since the accession of Elizabeth II, there have been some interesting articles in the papers comparing the country then and now. 1952 – early closing days, steam trains, measles, boring salads, black and white newsreels, filthy air in the cities, class divisions, narrow-mindedness, self-control and good manners. Today we have all manner of material things, better health, interesting salads and far far more crime, dishonesty and bad manners. Disappointing.
For the first few weeks of June the country was in carnival mood. There were flags everywhere, on public buildings and private houses, on fences and strung between trees, even on cars, Union Flags to mark the Golden Jubilee and England flags that encouraged our progress in the World Cup. It was fun whilst it lasted.
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