In December Darren Gough, the Yorkshire and England fast bowler and one of Barnsley’s most famous sons, won the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing competition. Mike Shoesmith says it is his own fault for having moved down south and gone soft. I’m no authority on these things but I understand that Darren wasn’t as good a dancer as Zoe Ball or Colin Jackson but I think the public voted for him partly because he is a popular guy and partly because people admired the way in which he improbably transformed himself into a good ballroom dancer in a short time. Competitive people are, remember, competitive whatever they are doing. How times change. Not long ago, John Rigg tells me, any man in Barnsley capable on the dance floor of more than a passable waltz was considered light on the carpet.
Willis Hall, who wrote, among many other things, The Long and the Short and the Tall, and, with Keith Waterhouse, Billy Liar, died in 2005. Ned Sherrin wrote of his memorial service that the canon asked the congregation to regard the service as ‘an extended Grace before a long lunch’. It began with ‘While Shepherds Watched’ to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor Baht’at’. I’m sorry to read that Keith Waterhouse had to be slowly assisted to the lectern but, at the same time, I’m delighted that he is still with us. ‘Pick me up about four’, he said. May he have many, many more long lunches.
Richard Whiteley’s memorial service was held in York Minster. In The Times’s obituaries of the year was this: ‘Renowned for his garish ties and jackets, for fluffing his lines, dropping atrocious puns and for trading high innuendo with his co-presenter Carol Vorderman, he became loved by millions as the anti-presenter; seemingly incompetent but brimming with avuncular enthusiasm, astonishingly slow on the uptake and wonderfully guileless’. Yes, that’s about it.
A new book, White Truffle Yorkshire Pudding by Giorgio Alessio, is said to combine the best of Yorkshire cuisine with the greatest Italian cooking. It is, we read, selling well in Italy. Mr Alessio has a restaurant in Scarborough and includes among his gastronomic creations, pasta with winkles, Yorkshire pudding stuffed with Italian cured meat, black pudding with onions on polenta, and tripe with rosemary and tomato. I don’t know about you, but tripe is on that list of foods I’ve never tried and never will try – whether in Scarborough or the Eternal City and whether with rosemary and tomato or not.
Two other new books. A History of Yorkshire by David Hey has been published by Carnegie and is five hundred richly illustrated pages of scholarship. I haven’t read it yet but it looks good. And the Yorkshire Post has published a lovely book of photographs called Yorkshire’s Picture Post.
It is hugely depressing to drive past High Royds at Menston now, between Leeds and Ilkley on the A65. This was a hospital but is now being developed as six hundred new, doubtless ‘executive’, houses. 'The Creation of a New Yorkshire Village; say the builders’ hoardings rather than ‘Putting Yorkshire’s Green Acres to the Sword’. Similarly near Leeds-Bradford airport green fields are being smothered in concrete and nasty buildings being put up to extend the wretched industrial estate. The people who authorise these things should be punished.
Objectors claim that developers are about to build seven hundred houses on the site of the Battle of Fulford, near York, which was fought in 1066. The builders themselves claim that the exact site of the battle beside the Ouse is unknown but the Fulford Battlefield Society believes it to be next to Germany Beck, a ditch which runs into the Ouse next to the present A19.
The battle took place on 20 September after Harald Hardrada claimed the throne and sailed up the Ouse to take on the English. Hardrada, with 10,000 men, won the bloody encounter; chroniclers write of the victors walking over the bodies of the English dead. Five days later Harold arrived, met Hardrada at Stamford Bridge and was successful. However, his army was weakened by the fight and the march north and then south. Weeks later, of course, he fought William the Bastard at the Battle of Hastings. It was not a home win.
Anyway, back to the controversy in Fulford. The builders, bless them, have offered to erect a monument and lay out a – aaaaaaargh – heritage trail. And they could have Slaughter Lane, Dead Man’s Drive and Viking Rise.
The proposed development is subject to an inquiry. But as you know, if the authorities don’t like the recommendations of an inquiry or review, they simply ignore them. Perhaps we should start to man the barricades at Towton and Marston Moor.
A friend brings to my attention the fact that a re-make of Lassie has recently been completed, having been filmed in the Yorkshire Dales. It is based on a book by Eric Mowbray Knight who was born in Menston in 1897 before emigrating to Boston, Massachusetts. The nine year old boy who stars in the film is called Jonathan Mason and lives in Wibsey, near Bradford. The other star is an American collie who has a double to perform the stunts. I understand that when you go to the film you’ll need a hanky as well as a map of the Limestone Dales.
A letter from Robert Hawley in The Daily Telegraph begged for the boundaries of our traditional historic counties to be marked on our roads and our maps. Given the subject matter of the letter, it was particularly crass of the sub-editors to put Mr Hawley’s address as Skipton, West Yorkshire when in fact, as any fule kno, it is Skipton, West Riding.
It was the playwright, Neil Simon, who said, ‘if it’s old and you like it, it won’t be there in the morning’. You have probably read that London’s Routemaster buses have been decommissioned. Why? Because people like them? Partly, but also because they fail to comply with health and safety legislation and don’t give adequate access to the disabled. Travis Elborough in The Bus we Loved writes: ‘There was the look of them for a start. Roll-top baths in Guardsmen’s red, they exuded an air of implacable, if polite, majesty. At night they glowed like lanterns; harbour lights beckoning us home’.
Between Christmas and New Year, Market Weighton was in the national news when snowstorms blocked a major road. Of course, in London they can’t pronounce Weighton properly. Just as they never correctly pronounce Mytholmroyd or Sowerby Bridge. Still, it helps us distinguish them what know from them what don’t.
St Mary's, Market Weighton
Country Life’s search for England’s best market town was won by Hexham. It was somewhat ironic that just before the winner was announced, Tesco was given permission to open a supermarket there. That should kill the local shops and therefore much of Hexham’s charm.
I went to Speech Day at my younger son’s school. Sir Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher’s press secretary, presented the prizes and gave a speech afterwards which, as one would expect, mixed humour, his experience and a lot of commonsense. He told the boys and girls that they were indeed fortunate to have been born with that unique Yorkshire gene which scientists call ‘awkwardness’. It would, he said, serve them well as it had served him well.
Happy New Year.
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