JANUARY 2007

We were told that the night of 8 January was the warmest January night ever recorded in Yorkshire. The following day I saw a group having lunch on tables outside Tarpins at Rawdon traffic lights. There was a time when eating al fresco at Rawdon traffic lights at any time of the year was unknown; now it happens all the year round.

Whilst travelling half a mile through South Milford, near Selby, motorists are faced with forty-five road signs. A council spokesman explained that Ďthey play an important road safety roleí. Presumably, that is, if you are able to keep your eyes on the road.

Among the Christmas presents that I received was a book called Unmitigated England by Peter Ashley. In the introduction it says: ĎAsk any post-war boy or girl what a 1950sí childhood was like and the chances are they will stare into the distance and tell you it was about as good as it getsí. Anyone who can remember the Eagle, Hovis signs, Senior Service, Ladybird books, Shell guides, I-Spy, seaside postcards and Englandís coloured counties will enjoy it.

Unmitigated England

Garry with Bill Bryson

Iíve also been reading Bill Brysonís account of growing up in Des Moines in the 1950s and Ď60s Ė The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I grew up in Halifax at that time and attended All Saints Church of England Junior School on Skircoat Green and then Heath Grammar School, of both of which I have many fond memories. Just a few observations prompted by Bill Brysonís book. At that time, to me, a child, the War was history, a long time ago. People spoke little of it; I think they were keen to forget it and instead embrace the new Elizabethan age of security, prosperity and increased leisure time, which they were led to believe lay ahead. Second, how safe we were. We made our own way to and from school, we Ďplayed outí all day in the holidays and returned in the evening dirty and tired. Crime was something that barely touched our lives.

Thirdly, what fun we had. I am convinced that we had more fun at school than children do now despite the fact that we worked harder and were more strictly disciplined. What good times we had at youth clubs, church dances, rugby clubs and ultimately those smoke-filled pubs. Indeed, when I started work in the 1970s it was far more relaxed, less demanding and less stressful than work is now. Weíve lost a lot and Iím not sure that we have gained much.

For years my parents were members of West End Golf Club in Halifax. As a teenager I would caddie for my father. I remember the course as wind-swept and rather bleak on the hill north-west of town. In the latest Yorkshire Ridings Magazine is an article by Malcolm Huntingdon about the club, and very interesting it is too. I didnít know that the course, at one time the smallest eighteen hole course in the country at 70 acres, was a racecourse until the 1880s. The Beacon Handicap, the major race, was last run there in 1884. It never really rivalled the likes of Doncaster and Pontefract. Today the greenkeepers still use what were once stables to store their equipment and the old racecourse is virtually forgotten.

Writing in the Oldie on the subject of unusual names, Gervase Phinn tells of an occasion when Sebastian Coe, the one-time athlete, was speaking at a dinner and told his audience that: ĎWhen you grow up in Sheffield with a name like Sebastian, you have to learn to runí.

I have written before about my first visit to Lordís, the home of cricket (see Test Match in Trivia). The ground is, of course, named after Thomas Lord (see Thirsk in Places). In January my employer held our annual corporate meeting in the conference facilities there. Before the meeting a small group of us was taken on a tour of the ground. Readers, I went into the Long Room. I was almost speechless with excitement; I didnít even know that members of the public could go there. Every great cricketer has been there. The room itself, after the usual tasteless modernisation of the twentieth century, has now been restored to its original glory.

Having walked through the Long Room we went upstairs to the England teamís changing room. I went out onto the balcony. To my horror my mobile phone went off. Mobile phones are not allowed into the pavilion normally. My mobile phone ringing doesnít happen to me; only half a dozen people have the number. I donít know it myself. I silenced the call, apologised and I think I was forgiven.

We saw the real tennis court Lordís has, and went through the Ďmuseumí of cricket memorabilia Ė treasure house more like. I was fulfilling a dream. When I left Leeds that morning I had no idea that this was in store. I thought the only spin that day would be corporate.

W G Grace (photo MCC)

Speaking of Lordís reminds me that in summer 2005 a local team from Sheriff Hutton won the npower National Village Cup there. Sheriff Hutton is about ten miles north of York, upwards of a thousand people live there and the village is built around a ruined castle which dates from 1379. Sheriff Hutton Bridge Cricket Club, one of two clubs in the village, beat Eynsford, Kent in the final of the competition. Three coachloads went from Yorkshire to watch them win by four wickets with just eight balls to spare. Itís not every day that amateurs from a village in Yorkshire play at Lordís.

Sheriff Hutton Castle

Our local post office has closed. Our newsagent wonít deliver our papers because itís too much trouble. The wine shop didnít last long. The petrol station on New Road Side has closed. Still, a tattoo studio has opened next to the butcher in Yeadon.

Alan Bennett is fond of reporting overheard conversations and comments often of a surreal nature. In my experience supermarkets are good places for overhearing minor disagreements between couples. I was in Morrisonís in Horsforth when I passed a man and woman engaged in a fairly heated exchange. Quite what had preceded this comment I really donít know but as I passed I heard: ĎLook, luv, theyíre vegetarians, theyíre not gayí.

The Steep, Yeadon

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