We must record our admiration for the residents of Birks Road, Longwood, Huddersfield. They have set an example to us all. They took on the local council and won. Following a two day strike by the bin men – refuse disposal executives, in today’s terms – those same bin men refused to take away rubbish which had built up and would not fit in the bins. For two weeks the rubbish was left and its rotting contents spilled into the road. The residents, like all of us long-suffering in matters relating to the council, blocked the road and refused to allow the bin men to leave without their rubbish. For more than an hour there was a stand-off. The police were called. A council official in typically helpful style told residents that no rubbish would be removed in order to punish them and teach them a lesson. Eventually, when it became clear that the fine people of Birks Road would not budge, the council gave in. We salute you, Birks Road.
I don’t know where they get these figures from, nor do I know quite what is included, but according to Yorkshire Tourism – one of the first things to go when sanity returns to this country – tourism now employs 10,000 people in York, one in ten of the population. Good grief, to think they used to make things like railway stock, confectionery, minsters and emperors.
A new film of Brideshead Revisited has been released. As with the television version in the early 1980s, the real star of the film is Castle Howard.
In the late summer a sewage treatment plant in Whitby failed and for a few days raw sewage was pumped into the sea. Swimmers said that conditions were very difficult and they were just going through the motions.
It was a number of prudent, public-spirited Yorkshire businessmen who met at the Old Cock public house in 1853 to set up the Halifax Permanent Building and Investment Society. By the 20th century it was the biggest building society in the world. In 1995 it merged with the Leeds Permanent and in 2001 was absorbed in a reverse take-over by the venerable Bank of Scotland to become part of HBOS. Similarly, the Bradford and Bingley Building Society, formed in 1964, dates back to 1851. All gone. Gone in the financial storm of 2008 which has swept away these and other financial institutions on both sides of the Atlantic.
When I was younger you had to ask nicely for a mortgage. You could borrow three times your income so long as you had a savings account and the house you were buying was worth more than the amount you were borrowing. How very sensible but old-fashioned that now sounds. It belongs to a world of drapers’ shops and early closing days and quiet Sundays and schools where children learnt long division. But the Victorians, like our parents, knew better than today’s clever financiers.
I feel sorry for the shareholders. And far more so for employees who will now lose their jobs. I feel sorry too for the poor old taxpayer like me who will pick up the pieces rather than the bankers, the regulators and the governments who are responsible for the whole mess. Doesn’t every generation have to learn the lessons learned by earlier generations? And isn’t it better to stick to what you are good at? The Skipton and Yorkshire building societies are sound. And the Leeds (and Holbeck) Building Society might in my experience be the most incompetent organisation outside the public sector but it has stuck to lending money to homeowners so it is solvent.
In the same way that reports in the business pages of the papers are often just the press releases of companies and so are spin and not worth reading, so similarly an article about Leeds in Yorkshire Ridings Magazine might as well have been written by the council’s PR department. Bridgewater Place is referred to as “affectionately” known as the Dalek. There is no “affectionately” about it. Bridgewater place looks like the bastard child of a dalek and a tin can and ruins the skyline of Leeds. Fortunately the downturn has saved us from further planned atrocities – the Lumiere skyscraper on Wellington Street and the Kissing Towers nearby. The architects of these new horrors should be imprisoned to protect society from them.
It’s only in the last 25 years that we have really begun to appreciate the unique charm and character of Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley. Once an industrial small town, its stone houses climb the steep hills in spectacular terraces unspoilt by the architectural abominations of the modern world. Until now.
In the art shops, pubs and cafes of this place now described as “funky”, there are concerned conversations, protests and even death threats. The reason is a £10 million scheme to ruin the town. A number of “wonky” high rise buildings is proposed close to the town centre and in such a way as to spoil every view of the town. You won’t be surprised to hear it described as “cutting edge architecture”. It does not use straight lines like all the vernacular buildings. Fortunately opposition is massive, not that that stops planners, builders and councils. The plans have been praised by design experts and a lecturer from Leeds Metropolitan University. That tells you how bad the proposals are. We wish the objectors well.
Four years ago I referred to our taking our elder son to Durham to start his university degree in modern languages. This summer he graduated in a lovely ceremony in Durham Cathedral. The Chancellor, Bill Bryson, sent this year’s graduates into the world with an address that reminded them how fortunate they are and what a wonderful world this is. He told them to have the courage to achieve all they can. Carpe diem. Hoc age.
There was an article in the Sunday Times magazine by A A Gill about the Battle of Towton in 1461. I have written about this before, the bloodiest battle on English soil in which 28,000 men died on Palm Sunday in hand-to-hand fighting. But I learned some interesting facts of which I was unaware from the article. The death toll represented one per cent of England’s population at the time. Another lost generation of young men. Apparently the colours of the House of York were burgundy and blue, and their badge was not a rose – Sir Walter Scott invented the term Wars of the Roses – but a sun in splendour. Gill’s article referred to Towton as “the most perfectly preserved great battlefield in the country”. He added that, “if Towton were a grand house, it would be nannied by dozens of quangos and charities, patronised by posh interior decorators, fey historians, titled ladies, Anglophile Americans and the Prince of Wales. But it isn’t”. Fortunately.
Michael Jackson is 50. So are Paul Weller and Madonna. Lulu is 60. Bruce Springsteen soon will be. Sir Michael Jagger is an old age pensioner. What is going on? This is my generation. I’ve only just begun.
Television and film makers can do such fantastic special effects nowadays. Realism is so real. But have you noticed that they can’t do political demos? They always look contrived. Nor can they do parties. (OK, perhaps Animal House is an exception). They are no good at chavs either. They always look and act like middle class people with good teeth playing chavs. Which, of course, is what they are.
The Flag Institute has recognised the Yorkshire flag. You will be pleased to know that it can now be flown without charge. I noticed the flag of Northumberland being proudly waved at the Last Night of the Proms this year. I’d be delighted to see county flags used more. We went to Ireland in the summer and it was striking how loyal to their counties they are in the republic. County boundaries are marked, county flags are flown and county events take place to a much greater extent than here.
There was a letter in the Irish Times from a man who said his wife had asked him to take her somewhere really expensive to celebrate their wedding anniversary. So he took her to the petrol station.
Members of the British Naturist Society camped at the Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale, the highest pub in Britain, in August. A photo in the Times showed them striding out, not surprisingly wearing shoes (though nothing else). Unfortunately it rained heavily, as it did throughout August. And it was cold. Members could be seen braving the elements.
Walkers on Tan Hill
(Photo: The Times)
HOME PLACES DIARY TRIVIA