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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Standing among Romanians queuing to vote in the EU election in Leeds on Sunday I could only feel ashamed at the turnout in the UK election for the EU parliament on the previous Thursday.

Photo of Romanians queuing to vote in EU election in Leeds

Romanians queuing in Leeds to vote in EU election and re corruption

Only a little over one third of British voters turned out to vote.

I have not been able to find out what percentage of Romanians living in the UK turned out but it doesn’t really matter; it was almost certainly well over a third but more important were the problems put in their way: long queues to vote with polling stations closing at 9pm leaving thousands unable to vote despite queuing for hours.

I believe that was a deliberate strategy on the part of the Romanian authorities, dictated by the leader of the ruling party, the PSD; it is not for the first time that it has happened.

It reminded me of my early days in Romania, shortly after the ‘revolution’, queuing for sugar, perhaps butter, only to find that after a few hours in the queue there was no more; sometimes it had never existed!

Photo of Petronela just after joining the queue at about 2pm

Petronela joins the end of the queue at about 2pm

Personally, I joined the Romanians in Leeds in the first place to support my Romanian wife Petronela but also to show support for the wonderful Romanians who endured the insult from the Romanian authorities with their usual good humour. They have an amazing ability to turn disaster or tragedy into stand-up comedy.

They were not slow to show their appreciation of this crazy Englishman joining them either (nor that I could speak their language).

Six and three quarter hours in the queue

Photo of inside voting area at about 8.40pm as Petronela is about to vote

Once inside the voting area the reason for the long wait became clear – one table of officials writing everything by hand for three separate votes. Photo as Petronela waits to vote at about 8.40pm

We joined the queue at 2pm. My wife was able to vote at 8.45pm – six and three quarter hours in the queue. For certain there would have been a hundred or two waiting to vote when the polling station closed 15 minutes later. There were many thousands left in the same situation in other UK cities and many thousands more in cities throughout Europe.

At least one good result

Nevertheless, there was at least one good result. Romanians were not only voting for members of the EU parliament but also (putting it simply) whether corrupt members of their government should escape prosecution. Shortly after the vote Dragnea, the leader of the ruling party, the PSD, who had become as close to a dictator as makes no difference, was in jail.

Leaving the queue behind, still largely good humoured though just beginning to chant “We want to vote” (in Romanian obviously), I had even more reason to feel ashamed to be British. On our way through the city centre to catch a bus we had to negotiate a group of well-heeled hooligans embroiled in a street fight. Fortunately the police quickly intervened and we were able to pass safely.

Many of us British do not appreciate how lucky we still are to live in this country despite the nonsense which our politics have become. Let’s show appreciation by using our right to vote, hard-won by so many, next time we have the opportunity.

PS. I do not intend to return to posting regularly about political issues but just had to record last Sunday’s event.

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.

 

There is nothing wrong with the Media Museum except that it is in Bradford. It’s a wonderful museum which I used to visit frequently. As a very keen photographer but also someone fascinated by photographic history I would visit it several times a month – it’s a pleasant 20 minute train ride from where I live – if I didn’t have to cross Bradford’s depressing city centre to get to it.

Of course it should not be closed; it should be moved. As one of the three museums of which it is said one must be closed, its low attendance figures compared to those of the other two, the Railway Museum in York and the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester, have nothing to do with the museum itself; they result from where it is.

Solution (more…)

This post isn’t about photography, and it’s rather late for a weekly challenge, but having been out of posting for a while I couldn’t resist using this recent weekly photo challenge to show why where I live makes me happy, and to learn how to make and insert a gallery (which is what the WordPress posting was about). I live in a village called Menston, on the upper southern slopes of the lower Wharfe valley in Yorkshire, just on the edge of the enormous Leeds/Bradford connurbation.

The first picture is the view I wake up to every morning, that from my bedroom window. There isn’t always a rainbow of course but we do get more than our fair share, I guess because we are looking approximately north so the sun is traversing right to left through the day. The colours and shadow patterns change not only with the seasons but with every minute – it’s a constant delight. More about each picture under the gallery.

I wanted to respond quickly and take photos specifically for this challenge so all the pictures are taken on my little pocketable, early digital Contax SL300R T*, one of the (too) many cameras I have which make me happy too (I’ve recently created another blog specifically for my photographic interests – grumpytykepix – and hope to start posting regularly on that soon). All the pictures in this post were taken over a period of two days. I really like how clicking on one of the gallery pix brings up a slide show of them all.

The hills over the top of the houses in the first picture are the northern slopes up from the river Wharfe. The river down in the valley is about 5 minutes in the car, with the lovely little towns of Otley, to the right, and Ilkley, to the left, about 10 and 15 minutes away respectively. A few minutes into real country as you will see in later pictures, but the magnificent city of Leeds is only 15 minutes away on the regular train from Menston station, a five minute walk from home – the best of all worlds.

The second picture is the view from our living room windows, over the village park, which look south so have sun all day; another constantly changing scene usually teeming with children and many dogs with their owners. If you look carefully in the centre background you’ll see why we don’t need a clock – if I had zoomed into it you would see clearly the time on the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian High Royds psychiatric ‘hospital’ (“Menston” to most locals – we live with it!) – now luxury flats.

Underneath the clock picture, top right in the gallery, is the scene I wait for on my journey home from my two day a week job in York. Driving back along the A658 I crest the hill leading down to the A65 Harrogate/Leeds road and there it is – the Wharfe Valley – dominated here by the torr Almscliffe Crag (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almscliffe_Crag). I’m about 15 minutes from home.

Continuing home, I cross the river at Pool, climb Pool bank then turn along the high ridge – known as Otley Chevin – running along the south side of the valley, (http://www.chevinforest.co.uk/)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otley_Chevin). The magnificent view in the fourth picture, with again the Crag dominating in the distance, is a 20 minute climb on foot from home, 5 minutes in the car. A short distance behind me as I take this picture is Leeds-Bradford airport, the UK’s highest, and another great convenience as it’s about 3 hours door to door for me to visit grandchildren near to Dusseldorf (and there’s a bus direct to the airport from home, so no car-parking fees!). No, aircraft noise is not a problem – though my wife wouldn’t agree about the 7am flight on a Sunday morning (I don’t hear it!).

Fifth picture: Even closer here, the first sight of our flat, across the park, windows on the right, first floor. A minute and I’ll be home.

Half an hour walk or so in the opposite direction from the Chevin are the rocks shown in the sixth picture, the famous Cow and Calf which overlook the town of Ilkley. Like Almscliffe Crag, this is a favourite spot for would-be rock climbers to develop their skills, though most visitors just go for the great views and a pint in the nearby Cow and Calf pub (or an ice cream or coffee from the car park (free!) cafe seen on the right).

If you return to Menston by car you can take the road into the village seen in the seventh photo. In the middle distance is the Chevin and if you look carefully you might see the long hill climbing to the top which I take to go to work – 2nd gear for Lofty the camper.

At the bottom of that hill, so half the climb from home, is one of the many great pubs around the village – called appropriately enough the Chevin. Here it is, eighth picture, on our Sunday 14th October walk. The road you see twists down the side of the Chevin through woods to reach Otley and there’s a great small camp site on the right for visitors.

But, ninth picture, we don’t make the climb to look at the front but to sit in the garden at the rear with, for me, a pint of an excellent Yorkshire beer (Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, another happy, brewed in nearby Keighley where I went to school) and an excellent cider for my wife Petronela – both of us wondering at the view.

Hopefully, if I manage to crack getting back into medium format rangefinder photography, I’ll be posting some better pictures from 6 x 9 of the wondrous scenery of where I live on my ‘photography blog’ – grumpytykepix. But maybe the few ‘snaps’ here will show you why where I live is ‘happy’ for me.  

I spent yesterday evening watching the Olympics opening ceremony and, at the same time, sorting out my blog-related emails. Today, I have to settle down to getting everything ready and packed to leave for Romania tomorrow.

I’m not a great sports fan, neither as participant nor spectator, but the Olympics has done something – something good – to Britain. I originally set up this blog to moan about how I found my country on returning after more than ten years absence. Yesterday I went into my nearest city, Bradford, 8 miles away; so depressing – the people in the street look depressed, the main shopping street full of empty shops – and I thought of writing a post about it, the sort of post I envisaged when first I created this blog more than four years ago.

Of course it’s not the fault of the people of Bradford, but that of the politicians – both local and national – who have allowed it to happen. The vast metropolitan authority needs breaking up to allow the local communities to have the local decision-making democracy which David Cameron seemed to promise but now clearly has no intention of delivering.

Part of Bradford’s main shopping street; there are least four dismal, empty, abandoned shops in this picture and many, many more within a few paces

But I also went to Leeds, only 3 miles further; vibrant, colourful, the people in the street look contented, elegant, happy – and I wondered if my initial depression on return to the UK eight years ago was just that I returned to my home city – Bradford. 

Seeing the enthusiasm of the crowds, including the blind and multiple disabled tenants of the charity for which I work, turning out to cheer on the Olympic torch carriers over the past couple of weeks,  it is difficult to remember that Britain has serious problems. Britons need a jolt to jerk them out of the stoic acceptance of bad times, and it seems to me that the Olympics could well provide that from what I have seen so far.

The dedication, perseverance yet wonderful modesty of Olympians like Jessica Ennis and Bradley Wiggins give us all something to aspire to. So, despite my aversion to sporting activity (though I do love to walk), I have high hopes that the 2012 Olympics will provide the jolt to spark a renewal in Britain.

Sorting gmail

As for sorting my emails, Google’s claim that you never need to delete anything and don’t need folders with gmail was beginning to look shaky as, despite labelling, I was increasingly unable to find anything among 563 blog-related emails since I began posting a little over a month ago. An internet search quickly showed how to create folders, so now everything related to likes, follows and comments on my own blog – 216 emails – is in one folder; everything related to other blogs – 347 emails – is now in another folder.