October 2005

The estimable Wharfedale and Airedale Observer reported at the end of August that torrential rain had fallen in the recent storms in Wharfedale. The basement of Yazz hairdressers in Rawdon had flooded, a tree had fallen in Arthington Lane and homes in Otley had lost electricity. We should count blessings. At the same time poor New Orleans and its neighbours had been virtually destroyed. The papers here sought to reassure us by pointing out that in the event of a hurricane in England, John Prescott would be in charge of the situation. Good grief.

The Ashes series was compelling and exhilarating. There are Test matches and Test matches against Australia. The latter are the only ones that really matter. The Australian cricketers are so consistently good. And so competitive. And, of course, so cocky. But the Australians are family. That is why it really matters and that is why the rivalry is so good-natured. I went to the first day of the first Test at Lord’s. It was a spectacular day’s cricket. But I little knew what a series lay ahead. Eventually England, led by Yorkshire’s Michael Vaughan, won the Ashes back. I thought the reception in Trafalgar Square was a bit vulgar and triumphalist – not quite cricket, you might say. Our team though certainly deserve our thanks and appreciation. I hope Andrew Flintoff wins the BBC Sportsperson of the Year in December. We shall not see the like of this series again.

Andrew Flintoff

Meanwhile Yorkshire County Cricket Club won promotion to Division One. They should never have been relegated so the dancing in the streets was subdued.

On the subject of dancing in the streets, the paper tells us that The Buttercross Belles, an all-women group of Morris dancers, entertained visitors to the Otley Farmers Market. I bet they did.

The locals in Bewerley, near Pateley Bridge, have always called the bridge in the village False Tooth Bridge because a builder embedded a denture in its structure. During recent widening of the bridge, the Oldie tells us, the teeth were lost. Distressed villagers sought to restore their heritage and a local dentist generously donated a new set of false teeth which have now been set into the fabric of the bridge. Good news. Dentists usually charge a fortune for bridge work.

Pateley Bridge

The BBC’s in many ways excellent, though at times extremely irritating, series, Coast, followed the coastline of the United Kingdom. In Yorkshire it referred to Vikings and whaling at Whitby and smuggling at remote Robin Hood’s Bay. The aerial photography was stunning. We were told about the production of alum for the textile industry at Ravenscar and were given an affectionate portrait of the Queen of the Yorkshire coast, Scarborough, described as the first real seaside resort. It developed when Victorians visited for the restorative waters and grew with the construction of the Spa and what at the time was the largest hotel in Europe. Today it is still regarded as rather more genteel than the likes of Bridlington. Filey, of course, sleeps through the argument.

Finally, we saw dramatic film of Flamborough Head and at Spurn Head met a family who can be cut off from the rest of the county for two months a year. I’m sure the schoolchildren like that.

I have previously referred to Country Life’s search for the country’s finest market town, that which best presents history and tradition whilst adapting to the modern world. (It says here). I would myself choose that which looks best. Anyway, there are now 15 ‘finalists’ chosen by the ‘judges’. One is in Yorkshire. Beverley. It has formidable competition from the likes of Marlborough, Stamford and Barnard Castle.

Talking of market towns, I went to Skipton one sunny day in late August. That is not really the best time to visit Skipton – there were queues at the parking machines as a result of changed procedures ‘to improve our service’. Yes, it’s laughable except when you are in the queue. One had to enter one’s number plate number into the machine when paying. It’ll be mother’s maiden name next. Skipton was busy and the smell of fish and chips was oppressive in the car park but I still like Skipton. The sweetshop and tobacconist opposite the church is still there, has been since I was a child, and it still sells briar pipes. It’s not yet illegal to do so. It is though now four shillings to spend a penny in Skipton – an increase of 4700%.

Skipton Parish Church

Some years ago on April Fools Day, Andrew Jackson and Ian Patrick of Threshfield issued a spoof notice to the effect that the European Union now allows inland places to have a lifeboat and so they were raising money for a lifeboat station for the village. Marvellous. Since then fundraising has gone from strength to strength and meetings in full nautical dress are held in the village pub. Threshfield is next door to Rylstone, home of the famous calendar. Perhaps it’s something in the water.


Meanwhile the Pork Pie Appreciation Society continues to meet at the Bridge Inn in Ripponden near Halifax as it has done since 1982. One member had a fifty pound three tier pork pie as his wedding cake. His wife must have been pleased. I wonder if she kept a tier for the first christening.

Pork Pie

David Hockney, who, like Alan Bennett, is one of Yorkshire’s and England’s treasures, has spent this summer painting here. He told the Sunday Times that, ‘Yorkshire is so peaceful. East Yorkshire is like California – you get big skies with amazing light’. Recently, he recounts, he bumped into the Prime Minister who appeared not to have the slightest idea who he was.

David Hockney

In the Times the same weekend Gordon Ramsay picked his eleven (sic) favourite restaurants. One is accustomed to these lists being almost wholly London orientated but, surprise, two of these are in God’s Own County. McCoy’s, The Cleveland Tontine – I went, years ago, yes, excellent – and The Star Inn at Harome which is near Helmsley.

November sees the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes’ and his fellow-conspirators’ attempt to blow up James I, Parliament and the Establishment in a massive act of terrorism. At St Peter’s, York, a large bonfire is planned but as usual there will be no guy on it. The school believes it would be bad form to burn an Old Boy.

Bernard Ingham has recently produced a book celebrating 50 Great Yorkshiremen and women. The usual suspects are there – William Wilberforce, Captain Cook, Henry Moore. As I’ve said before, great Yorkshiremen are a bit thin on the ground. It wasn’t quite desperation that caused Christa Ackroyd on BBC Look North to suggest Sooty.

Bernard Ingham

A propos the piece in Yorksview about Margaret Porter of Askrigg, Private Eye drew attention to a headline in the Yorkshire Post which said:

‘Rhubarb woman in custody’.

The success against the Australians reminded me of an old Flanders and Swan song called The English. Here is a verse of it:

‘And all the world over each nation’s the same
They’ve simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they’ve won
And they practise beforehand which spoils all the fun.

The English, the English, the English are best
I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest’.