Leeds


A Yorkshire tea tin, a beer mat from a Yorkshire brewery, Timothy Taylors in Keighly, and a Royal Doulton ‘Yorkshire Rose’ cup and saucer.

Some might say the Yorkshire Rose china, from Royal Doulton, is too fine for Yorkshire tea, but we can be posh tha knows

This is the first Yorkshire Day (today) for several years for which I’ve been in Yorkshire. I and Petronela have been in Romania, specifically in or on the way to the Romanian Bucovina.  My ‘heart’ is divided between the two, so much so that I have said that when the time comes I want half of my ashes scattered in each place.

It’s odd to me that although quite a few of my short stories and ‘poems’ are set in or inspired by Yorkshire, my first attempt at a longer tale is set in London, but a London of over a half a century ago. My most recent visit to London was several years ago and the experience resolved me never to go again.

I’m in no way a patriot. I’ve never felt a strong urge to say I’m English, nor British, though I do have some satisfaction in being able to say I’m a tyke. I drink Yorkshire tea or Yorkshire beer and although I’m not a ‘city person’ I enjoy an occasional visit to its largest city – Leeds. I think the Yorkshire moors are heaven on earth and appreciate the dry humour of Yorkshire folk.

So , today, here’s a toast – to me, in true tyke fashion:

Eres t’ me ‘n my wife’s ‘usban’,
Not forgettin’ missen

and a motto

Eat all, sup all, pay nowt
‘ear all, see all, say nowt.
Un if tha iver does owt fo nowt
allus do it fo thissen

My spelling of the dialect.

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I’ve said it before: Bradford, my home city, has become what to me is the biggest ‘slum’ in Europe. Because on Tuesday I went to Leeds, vibrant, fun, smiling people (bit about that on my post of 14 September) I decided as I needed to visit my bank yesterday I’d go to Bradford where there is a branch. I wish I had not.

In the Bronte village of Haworth in February

I’m not going to post any pictures of the city, they would be too depressing. It’s been turned into a city of ghettos, many of poverty. The much vaunted ‘new’ shopping centre, full of the usual chain shops has, appropriately I suppose, the most boring architecture imaginable. The major shops having moved to this centre, the previous shopping streets are filled with empty, deteriorating premises. It’s all reflected in the faces of the weary, hunched over figures on the streets.

All this in what was a magnificent Victorian city, built by the wool barons to demonstrate their wealth.  Vestiges of the old city remain, including the magnificent city hall, but most of it has been allowed to deteriorate. If you look above the tired shop fronts you can still imagine the superb local stone architecture that was.

It’s no coincidence that the ghettos have something like the highest incidence of uninsured drivers, the highest incidence of deliberately provoked ‘accidents’ to seek compensation and some of the worst driving you will experience anywhere (as I experienced only yesterday and but for extreme vigilance I would now have a buckled front wing).

Some jewels

There are a few jewels, for example the Alhambra where I was introduced, as a child, by my grandmother to ballet, opera and pantomime. I don’t go any more, crossing the city to reach it is too depressing. Another once magnificent building, St George’s Hall where I was introduced to live symphony concerts, is a sorry sight and another smaller concert venue, Eastbrook Hall,  where I think I heard Eileen Joyce play, has long gone, only a facade remaining. Another former jewel which I used to visit frequently, the national media museum, following a threat to close it because of falling attendances (not surprising as you had to go to the depressing city to visit it), has been ‘taken over’ by the London Science Museum. It would have been better, as I said at the time, to move it intact to Leeds, somewhere near the superb Royal Armouries museum. Attendance would have soared. Now, for ‘culture’, I’d go to Leeds.

There are many more jewels in the surrounding vast Bradford Metropolitan District, the World Heritage village of Saltaire where I spent my childhood, the Bronte village of Haworth, Ilkley Moor and others, but the disaster of the city is slowly but surely creeping out to consume them.

Antidotes

What a difference in a similar city in one of Europe’s substantially less wealthy countries, Iași in Romania. So one antidote to the Bradford visit was to look at some pictures taken in the city when we were there this summer.

The restoration of the buildings which declined in communist times is not finished yet but there’s enough to make it a happy place to visit, bustling with culture and, soon, the swarms of young people will be boosted as the new university year begins.

Back to the Chevin (pub!)

A final antidote to the Bradford visit, a climb up to the Chevin (see my post a few days ago) on a superb autumn day this afternoon. Only high enough today to have a drink in the Chevin Inn which boasts it has the finest views in Yorkshire from the garden. I think I’d argue with that but the views are certainly superb. Viewed with a pint of Timothy Taylor’s (local brewery) Landlord bitter in front of me and, for Petronela, a not so local cider, with a packet of crisps, it’ll do. Enough to obliterate memories of Bradford. Fortunately I wrote about that visit to the city before setting off on our 2.1/2 hour walk.

 

It’s a long time since I posted on this site, not since September last year. I apologise. Some major health problems have meant that many things had become far behind and catching up on them always took the time available. However, I feel I must write something about tomorrow’s UK referendum to vote to leave the European Union or to remain in it.

When the referendum was first mooted I knew immediately that I would vote to leave and nothing from the campaigns for either side has influenced that decision since – and I have followed the campaigns closely. I am not influenced by how good or bad a presentation is made by this or that campaigner; by far the best presenter of her case on yesterday’s Big Debate on tv, was the Scottish Conservative leader, on the ‘Remain’ side, but her arguments were largely based on falsehoods or presented speculation as fact.

Immigration

I resent the implication, and often outright accusation, from the ‘Remain’ campaigners that we who believe immigration should be controlled are racist and xenophobic. I have spent a good proportion of my time since a teenager contesting all types of discrimination, as I became aware of them. The first – before I was a teenager – was religious discrimination; the second, when I was 16 years old, was gender discrimination; the third, racial discrimination, shortly after that.  Others followed. I have travelled widely and far from being fearful or feeling hatred to foreigners I have always tried to ‘integrate’ in their culture and have enjoyed it when there. I’m married to an immigrant. One of the primary reasons for Leeds being one of my favourite cities is the large Afro-Caribbean population, immigrants and their descendants.

Controlling immigration is common sense – without control, sensible forward plans for health and social care, education, housing, and other things cannot be made. It should not discriminate between immigrants from the EU and other parts of the world, as it does now. It should take into account Britain’s needs in terms of skills and education. It should of course take into account Britain’s obligation to true refugees. Personally, I also think that some purely economic migrants should be accommodated as a small contribution to correcting the gross imbalance in wealth distribution. So while I think a ‘points system’ is generally the way to go, there should be some kind of bypass system to take account of the last two criteria. If outside of the EU, it is the UK electorate which will be decide what the control system should be.

Influence

The UK may have had some influence on EU decisions when the EU was far smaller but it is nonsensical to say that we have much influence now or will have in the future if we stay in it. In recent years almost every UK proposition or objection has been voted down. This will get worse as the EU grows. The Prime Minister got almost nothing from his ‘renegotiations’, and if he could not get substantial reform then there is surely no hope whatsoever of getting any reform in the future if we’ve voted to stay in.

Economics

When we had the possibility to join the Euro dire warnings similar to those we are being bombarded with now were given by the ‘experts’, of a crashing economy if we did not. Thank goodness we took no notice of them then. The ‘experts’ did not warn us of the impending bank crisis and the resulting disasters to the world economy. When Norway was deciding whether to join the club the ‘experts’ similarly warned them; it subsequently proved to be nonsense. I can’t avoid noticing that it is the ‘fat cats’ and organisations representing them who issue most of the dire warnings. Or it’s those already on the gravy train or who hope to be: the scientists who live on UK money returned by the EU, not those like Dyson who finance his own research from developing products which sell; the Kinnock family whose joint income from the EU sinecures, or something close to that, beggars belief; organisations representing big business. Finally, personal experience: when I was teaching in Romania (not then a member of the EU) I warned my students that joining would have disastrous consequences for everyday life in the country; within a very short time of the country joining the EU food shopping bills rose sharply and are now generally close to those in Britain. Salaries have remained a small fraction of those in this country.

Sovereignty

To me it is ironic that senior members of the present Government, who have argued so strongly for devolution of power from the centre in London (whether we believe they have delivered that is another argument), are now telling us we are best governed from somewhere on the European continent, on the basis that we have one seat among 28 in some decision making body of the EU, and no say at all in other EU unelected decision making bodies.

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Two interesting ‘new’ shops for foodies in Leeds, one selling Romanian food and ingredients, the other ‘hot’ chilli products.

Kaiser, Toba, Bors, Buillon and 'real' cornmeal (malai) from the Romanian shop in Leeds Kirkgate market

Kaiser, Toba, Bors, Buillon and ‘real’ cornmeal (malai) from the Romanian shop in Leeds Kirkgate market

In my post of 5 November I mentioned the difficulty of getting cornmeal as good as that I was used to in Romania and that I would visit a ‘newly opened’ Romanian shop in Leeds Kirkgate market to see if some could be brought from my wife’s grandmother’s village. It turned out that the shop stocked some rustic cornmeal (malai) and this is much better than those which I’ve been able to get so far. It’s not quite as good as grandma’s but I think it’s a matter of texture as it seems to have a bit less bran (tarate).

Wheat bran is the basis of bors (odd that a Romanian product doesn’t use the correct Romanian character on the label – see picture; the final ‘s’ should have a cedilla to give it the ‘sh’ sound. I don’t have it on my computer. However, ‘sh’ or no it’s great to have real bors as it gives a much better taste to the sour soup made throughout Moldova, also known as bors (borsh), than the dry packeted stuff produced under the Maggi (Nestle Slovakia) and Delik’at (Unilever Romania) labels. By the way, Romanian bors does not necessarily have beetroot; two of my favourite versions are potato bors (vegetarian) and bors made with chicken wings. (more…)