There was a letter in The Times from Paul Reece who, as you perhaps know, is Squire of the Morris Ring and Thaxted Morris Men. He wrote about the recent 75th morris dancing weekend meeting in Thaxted which you may have missed. He praised among other things the ‘stunning performances’ of Saddleworth representing the North West clog dance tradition. He drew our attention to the recent International Sword Spectacular in York which featured 44 sides from the UK, USA and Europe. He made a strong case for morris dancing to be part of the London Olympic Games. Clearly there is a world out there of which I know little. I must get out more.

The Falcon, Arncliffe


There has been an entertaining correspondence in The Daily Telegraph concerning road signs as one enters places. For example, the boast on a railway bridge, ‘Oldham, Home of the Tubular Bandage’. And ‘Welcome to Hawick – the home of Y Fronts’. Graham Hoyle wrote from Baildon to suggest that signs near him really ought to say warmly – ‘Bradford. You’re welcome to it’.


The football season ended with a trip to Wembley for Hull City who won the play-off and as a result will be in the Premiership next season. Angela, who works for us in Hull, said she cried all the way home up the motorway. What great news for Hull and its long-suffering supporters that next season they’ll be playing the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea and, ahem, Middlesbrough. And similarly Doncaster Rovers, who not long ago were playing on a potato field with jerseys as goalposts, will be in the Championship (Division 2 in old old money). With Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley and Donny in the Championship there’ll be plenty of south Yorkshire derbies.


It’s not often I do so but I collected a new car not long ago. I know that there is no need for new cars to be run in nowadays but I thought one had to take care at first. I asked the sunny salesman, who is in his late twenties, whether there were any restrictions on driving the car at first. He had a bit of difficulty understanding what I meant and looked at me as if I’d just been rescued from the Titanic. I decided not to ask where the choke was.


Sheriff Hutton Castle, or rather what remains of it, is for sale. It was once the home of Richard III when he was just plain Duke of Gloucester. The castle, ten miles from York, was built in 1408 and remained in royal hands until the reign of James I. This will be only the third time it has been sold. It comes with 11 acres, the footprint of an Elizabethan water garden, and a ghost. Just right for the guy you heard saying, ‘A house, a house, my kingdom for a house’.

Sheriff Hutton Castle


A letter in the paper made the point that nowadays in England you have to know someone really well to know what their surname is.


Barnsley has taken some stick over the years. Even Yorkshire people, I’m sorry to say, make jokes about the place. I suppose having Arthur Scargill, Michael Parkinson, Geoff Boycott and Dickie Bird to champion you doesn’t help. Recently in ‘Skins’, the determined-to-shock teen drama, one character told her friends that, ‘Mum sends our unwanted Christmas presents to the poor in Africa. And Barnsley. Except for Scrabble ‘cos Mum says they probably can’t read in Barnsley’.


Slaithwaite people are known as Moonrakers. The story goes that local smugglers had been caught by the excise men and then explained their nocturnal activities by saying they thought that the moon had fallen into the canal and they were trying to rake it out. In nearby Marsden 26th April is Cuckoo Day. Locals realised that the arrival of the cuckoo coincided with warmer days so they built a wall around it to stop it leaving and taking the good weather with it. You won’t be surprised to hear that the cuckoo flew away. Our forefathers believed many fanciful things as indeed we do. Some people, I’m told, believe what the government tells them.


Burnsall from the air by Scott Myers


They are removing our birthright. The paper reports that pubs in south Yorkshire have been ordered to ban the wearing of flat caps and other headgear so that trouble-makers can more easily be identified on CCTV. Not that the authorities are likely to do anything if they catch them.


Ten times recently lead has been stolen from the roof of Treeton Parish Church near Rotherham. £100,000 is needed for repairs. Church members recently saw three men wearing balaclavas and gloves on the roof and there were rolls of lead in the churchyard. The police came and the men told them they had climbed onto the roof to look at the view. Officers said that they hadn’t enough evidence to prosecute.

On a cold April day when the sky was so dark and heavy it was positively claustrophobic, we went to Rugby School to see the confirmation of one of my godsons. It was a quintessentially English occasion – a lovely school chapel of the Church of England in one of our great public schools and a group of parents, grandparents, godparents and friends witnessing a rite of passage. Unusually the first hymn was the Battle Hymn of the Republic and as the organ belted it out the congregation sang loudly and enthusiastically.

Cow & Calf Rocks, Ilkley


Nearly ten people a day die on our roads. Over a lifetime one has a 1 in 200 chance of being killed in a road accident. A letter from Andrew Dow in Newton-on-Ouse says that since 1926 there have been 450,000 road deaths and more than 5 million serious injuries. The human cost represented by that in terms of lives ruined is huge. But we still don’t take road safety seriously. Watch how people drive. Like so many things, if we took it seriously we could do something about it. But we don’t take it seriously and so we don’t.


The two cooling towers next to the M1 between Sheffield and Rotherham are to be demolished. They have been a feature of the landscape and a landmark on the motorway all my life. I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go though there was an eloquent letter in the Yorkshire Post making the case for their retention. The writer made the valid point that the towers represent a rather better tribute to, and marker of, the North’s industrial past than does the ghastly Meadowhall shopping centre opposite them. Their destruction, like that of so many mills and factories, reminds us that this is post-industrial England.

Cooling Towers



Bob Morris sent us the following story which I think deserves wider exposure:


An American, who was writing a book about famous churches throughout the world, needed to visit some. First he flew to Rome and in St Peter’s he noticed a golden telephone mounted on the wall. A sign said that calls cost 100,000 euros. The American asked a priest what the telephone was used for. The priest explained that it was a direct line to God.
Next the American went to Rio and in the cathedral there was a similar golden telephone with a sign saying that calls were 100,000 dollars. He asked a nun what the phone was for and she told him it was very special as it was a direct line to Heaven.
The American found the same type of phone at cathedrals in France, Spain, Moscow and London, calls being just as expensive.
Then the American went to York Minster. There again was the golden telephone and a sign saying ‘Direct line to Heaven, calls 20 pence’. ‘That’s amazing’, he said to the Archbishop of York who was passing by, ‘usually such calls cost a fortune. In Rome, Rio, France and everywhere else to phone God in Heaven costs thousands’.
‘Ah’, said the Archbishop of York smiling, ‘you’re in Yorkshire now, my son. It’s a local call’.