Category Archives: Yorkshire

Yurrup in York

I’m just returned from a public meeting, held by the Labour MP for York Central.

Rachael Maskell is a decent lass — a physio by trade,  a trade union official by experience. She is doing her best.

Because of the upsets in the parliamentary party, she chose to side with the leadership (pro tem.). As a consequence of being one of the “stickies”, she ended up, over-promoted, with barely a twelve-month Commons experience, as the fully-fledged  Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary. Again: she is clearly doing her best.

Both locally, and in the national press, she has let it be known — or any least not denied — she has difficulties with the Three-line Whip on Wednesday’s #Brexit vote. Equally, in her response to this evening’s meeting, she indicated she felt she needed to huddle close to the centre of what goes for “power” in the parliamentary party.

So to the meeting itself.

Rachael began with a (over-)long account of where she felt we were. I have to admit, try as I could, I had heard it all before. It was largely read from a script — which itself raises certain questions.

The followed a long string of speakers from the floor.

What was evident was:

  • without exception, the tone went beyond regret and remain, into the pain and the angst of the thinking middle-classes;
  • very few “new” points or issues arose;
  • nobody was prepared to come out and defend the “leave” option;
  • there was considerable distaste that the whole #Brexit charade had over-written, and was continuing to expunge the real problems of British life, welfare and economy.

More to the crunch:

  • even the odd speaker who declared “support” for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership did so with regret and reluctance;
  • more usually, there was complete scorn  for the present leadership: this was met with more enthusiasm than much else on offer.

If Rachael was assuming there were Brownie-points for loyalty to the current leadership, this alone should have disabused her.

At some personal pain, I remained silent: not my usual posture at such gatherings.

Had I been disposed, my extended thoughts would go on these lines (though, for public consumption, a lot more abbreviated):

A Burkean bit

First I bear the tradition of Dublin University’s College Historical Society. When I was elected as Librarian (a pure honorific), I discovered I had responsibility for a series of well-locked glass cabinets. In there were the minutes and records of the “Hist”, back to its foundation. Which was back to “Burke’s Club” of the 1740s. The “Burke” in this context being none other than Edmund.

I find Burke a rank Tory, and eminently readable. At this juncture, nothing of his is as relevant as his Speech to the Electors of Bristol (3rd November 1774). His opponent had just promised to accept mandates from the electors.

Burke responded:

... government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination …

… authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience, — these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.

In the core of that great speech is the well-known maxim:

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Which is why I feel enormous sympathy — even some pity — for each and every MP who now has to choose a way through this mire.

Which leads into a second thought.

A horror from recent history

On the substantive motion of 18th March 2003, the House of Commons gave authority to use all means necessary to ensure the disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair’s government majority there was 263 (412 to 149). 84 Labour MPs voted against, a further 69 abstained.

Had there been a referendum at that moment — and for months after — the British public would have largely backed Blair: YouGov polling, over 21 samplings, suggested 54-38 in favour of war. After all, the Tory media had told them to do so.

Yet we are now asked unquestioningly to “respect” a 51.9/48.1 Brexit split.

Two conclusions

  1. There are arguments against a “Nay” vote on Wednesday’s #Brexit vote; but they more to do with parliamentary procedures than rights-and-wrongs. To vote “Nay” may apparently inhibit such voters from amending the Bill at a later stage. I’ll accept, too, that such a vote can be construed as a two-finger sign to the “Leavers” — and they have yet to learn the full consequences of their expressed wish.

2. However, to vote “Aye” is more perverse. None of us was clear last June what “Leave” might entail — except the dizzy promises of “£350 million a week for the NHS” and “Take back control”. We are still very much in the dark.

However, Theresa May has helped us to recognise what she expects. It amounts to:

  • either the 26 members of the European Union bow to her will;
  • or she kicks over the table, and walks out;
  • and we are left to pay for the tantrum.

Bottom line:

Abstain. Find an urgent family crisis in Aberystwyth. Be on a reciprocal to central Africa. Whatever.

But abstain. Even at the price of a Shadow Cabinet seat.

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Filed under EU referendum, Europe, History, Labour Party, York

Aemstelredamme revisited, and a personal trauma

This weekend involves a quick flight from Leeds-Bradford “International” (yeah: better believe it) Airport to Amsterdam. Since the other end is Luchthaven Schiphol, that’s a trip from the pretentious to the ginormous.

amsterdam“Aemstelredamme” came about when the river Amstel was … err … dammed, and a passage created over it. Makes sense, huh? Once you have a bridge, some bright spark will start charging to cross over. Whereupon the Count of Holland, Flores V (whose name alone would seem more redolent for an air-freshener) issued a decree that the local bods were exempt from such an impost. This document, dated 1275, proves the existence of a settlement at that time.

By the way, the last time the Lady-in-my-Life and I dropped in, Amsterdam was hosting some mega-LGBT freak-out. There wasn’t a room to be had, this side of Nebraska (another bitter, cryptic, personal joke, as in looking for a bed in the neighbourhood of Sturgis at the wrong moment). We ended up in a palatial, marble-bathroomed, penthouse suite: doubly-nice, since we beat them down to “superior” costings.

Broads, in any definition

When I was a bright young thing at Fakenham Grammar, I was not taught the Norfolk Broads were artificial. Only later did the business of peat-extraction get raised (or excavated). I see a similar suggestion being floated how Amsterdam got those concentric canals.

In all truth, I like Amsterdam — though I seem to get to the “Low Countries” only in winter. Now — and, I beg you, don’t take this amiss — in my recollection that means the visit can have its whiffy moments. Deploy the Flores V.

Born on the North Sea littoral, and not-quite-flooded in January 1953,  I have this fellow-feeling that drains across vaguely-sea-level zones always have problems of not-quite-managing. And so can be a trifle aromatic. The same problem occurs in Venice, of course — but there nasal and optical experiences are hardly improved by characters who never feature in the tourist guides, but who can emerge, at random, blackened, in full diving kit, from the city’s necessary cess-pits. At least the Venetians are explicit (and it must be a select but secure choice of career) about it. Perhaps, as well, it is to make sure the affronted tourist doesn’t return too soon. I’m sure the excellent Donna Leon must incorporate this in one of her Commissario Brunetti teccies.

The Belgians and the Dutch, though — as in other matters  — let it all hang out, and seem to let the miasma creep up on one. Memo to self: avoid De Walletjes, though I know for certain my outspoken daughter (who arrives two hours previous to her aged parents) will make a point of inspecting, and commenting. Myself: I just don’t wanna know.

Reading
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OK: I finished Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle (for the second time): it took over a full month, and two continents. Then, in a day (actually, an extended evening), the latest Rankin. That required an hour reorganising three shelves to get this new arrival to fit. As a result, I found Fleshmarket Close has gone missing from the assembled oeuvre.

Which brings me to the crunch here.

What’s for the weekend reading?

The Economist, in the post-Trump moment, has to be a must. I feel I ought to pick up the London Review of Books if only for the Neal Ascherson essay: though the problem is an early flight, and a very limited news-outlet at LBA.

I’m suddenly very aggrieved about the missing Fleshmarket Close.

So: what next? What next? Problems! Problems!

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Filed under air travel., Economist, History, leisure travel, Norfolk, travel, Yorkshire

Northern snobbery

From Redfellow Cott to the magnificent Beningborough Hall is half-a-dozen miles, three hundred years of history, and an infinite number of social classes.

BeningboroughAbout 1716, and a fine place to be on a Bank Holiday.

So having wandered the grounds (my Fitbit scored 2.53 miles), observed the munching Aberdeen Anguses (Mac spell-check tried to edit the “g”, thus nearly managing a wrong’un there), and educated the grandsons in the nature of a ha-ha, we were into the accommodation.

What it isn’t, strictly, is a “stately home”. In one of those we might expect the family’s second-best crockery laid out on banqueting tables to impress the yobs. Beningborough has been cleaned out repeatedly, and the furnishings — though adequate — are more about filling space than flaunting hereditary opulence.

The last of the Great Personages to inhabit this glorious monster was Enid Edith Scudamore-Stanhope:

Whose full-length portrait hangs properly over one of those grand fireplaces, which require half-a-tree or the labour of a small pit-village. Lo! Enid Wilson, just into her twenties, and about to be married to a nob/knob twice her age and become Countess of Chesterfield.

By then a widow, she moved into a farm cottage in 1941. The Hall became an Air Force billet for the bomber crews at nearby Linton-on-Ouse, from which it was redeemed by the National Trust. Since Countess Enid, the RAF’s and RCAF’s land-lady, a grand-niece of the Iron Duke, was still in the vicinity, keeping a shrewd eye on the doings, life must have been less-than-easy for the CO of 76 Squadron, deputed as liaison officer and peace-keeper, one Squadron Leader Leonard Cheshire.

Beningborough is now a regular out-house for the National Portrait Gallery. At one level, this means the walls are well-hung with decent oils of various worthies of the eighteenth, and into the nineteenth century. I even hit on a John Singer Sargent. Two items gave me particular pleasure:

At the top of the stairs, on the second floor, as introduction to the peripatetic NPG bit is Henry IX, the Cardinal King of Britain, the last of the Stuarts (and probably as near total sanity as that lot came):

No eight-year-old should be dressed that way; and he’s pointing to the White Cliffs of Dover, where he’ll never get (though George III paid him a pension when the Stuart monies ran out). The importance of the strange dog eludes me.

Then, in the galleries, a breath of modern fresh-air: Tom Wood’s beguiling portrait of a Yorkshire and National hero, Alan Bennett:

Now the viewer needs to explain the impedimenta: the mug, the paper bag, the plug-and-cable, even the glow in the background. Awareness of Bennett’s work solves the mysteries.

Definitely  a day not wasted.

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‘Tis mighty fine, But where d’you live? Where d’you dine?

This is getting more and more ridiculous:

Press

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Faces in a window

stainedglass16

That quite took my breath away.

It’s one of the stars of the show at All Saints, North Street, York, behind the (very) high altar, in the east window, the Blackburn Window. It dates from around 1420.

The uninitiated may not recognise Saint Anne, teaching her daughter, Mary, to read.  If anyone knows of a more human, and humane depiction from the fifteenth century, I’d happily be advised.

Oh, wait on …

On the south side of the church there’s this:

stainedglass21

We’re still in the first half of the fifteenth century, but a trifle later. This is St John the Evangelist. Gorgeous and very, very much one of us. Somewhere in York, about 575 years back, there must have been a real-life model for that face — if not the hair.

Today and tomorrow are the York Residents’ Festival, and we have open, free access to the whole gamut of our local historical (and other) sites. The Lady-in-my-Life cajoled me to All Saints — not for the visit, but for an educated and informed guided tour of the windows. I wasn’t prepared for a sensational experience.

I’m very much a defaulter in things religious: I’m militantly one of those who:

… to church repair, 
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.

And the architecture. And the various furbelows. As I recall, the definition of furbelows is one the lines of “showy ornaments or trimmings: frills”. All Saints has those in number. Its rituals definitely lean towards the “spiky”: High Anglican to a fault (if that is a fault — though the resistance to women priests, at least in my book, is):

Whilst firmly rooted in the Catholic tradition, the worshipping community at All Saints acknowledges and respects the diverse, yet deeply held, convictions of the congregation. Bearing that in mind, and following prayer and reflection, the PCC has passed Resolutions A and B pursuant to the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1992, and has petitioned for Alternative Episcopal Oversight which is currently provided by the Bishop of Beverley.

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This grim and unpleasant land

Anyone who wis or has been a local councillor knows the problem. Mine, may years ago, involved allotment gardens which had been “enhanced” with slurry from the local stage works. The result was vegetables high in toxic heavy metals. Adjacent was a scrap-yard which, some how, in days of yore, had gained planning permission — moreover, planning permission with very little in the way of conditions.

Righting these wrongs involves one commodity: money, and shedloads of it. That is precisely the commodity of which local government is chronically lacking.

So I am acutely aware of the griefs felt by all, residents and officialdom, at Moor Street, Brierly Hill:

rubbish

Six years of to-and-fro-ing, and one of the sites’s owners, Robert McNaughton, ordered six months in the chokey: only by awarding planning permission for 90-odd flats has the thing come closer to reconciliation.

McNaughton, by the way, didn’t offend Mr Justice MacDuff by causing a gross public nuisance. His succession of wilful delays and obstructions finally were deemed contempt of court. Not quite on the level of doing Al Capone for tax evasion, but still a nice try. As McNaughton and his moll remain beneficial owners of the site, they may yet clean up.

Anything the West Midlands can do, South Yorkshire can do bigger and more noxious. It’s at Great Heck, near Selby:

Great_Heck

This one burns, stinks, pollutes and probably can be viewed from low orbit.

Again we find an uncooperative owner, who conveniently went bust last summer.

What is different here is the lack of a substantial local authority, properly resourced. Briefly Hill is in Dudley Metropolitan Borough: Great Heck is in Selby District. The population and revenue base vary by a factor of eight or ten. The Great Heack site is sandwiched between concrete plants, a motorway, and a railway line — industrial land less desirable for profitable development.

This time the financial burden has to fall on the Environment Agency, which means the general taxpayer (or more specifically by a virement from other essential schemes).

Capitalism is a dirty business. 

Oh, and by the way, that anecdotage which started this post has another sting in the tail.

Government and hope-builders cast eyes on the Thames-side marshes. The 1974 Tower Bridge to Tilbury survey for the GLC might merit being dug out of the archives. It mentions how the marshes have been used for all sorts of tipping. Not excluding low-level radio-active waste.

 

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Filed under economy, health, Law, London, politics, Yorkshire

Lunch at the Bull

Sunday for a family lunch to the Bull at Broughton.

This was not the best day for admiring the glories of North Yorkshire, past Wharfedale, up over the one-time “Long Causeway”, round Skipton, all the way along the A59 to Broughton. Wet mistiness clouded the higher hills, as the ewes munched, and the lambs lay around and wondered.

the-bull-carouselThe pub itself was a delight: that promotional image on a far better day. The general effect is stone: walls and floors. Then there’s an extended version of the usual Sunday pub lunch, and — in my case — roast beef to die for (that cow must have been a singularly contented beast). All washed down with a decent house red.

050814TB-016-555x357

And four beers on draught — none had travelled too far. I went, in order, for the Dark Horse (before) and the 1709 (after: the significance is the date claimed for the original pub). One way or another, both these beers can claim to be very local, and not just in flavour — Hetton is as isolated as well-trimmed gets, over 500 feet up the dale, half-way to Grassington, with the Angel Inn its star attraction.  The “W.R.” is a memorial that once the historic West Riding of Yorkshire extended this far. Perhaps we should pause for a moment’s meditation about how the perquisites of bourgeois civilisation have penetrated what were, until the fairly recent past, benighted and bucolic wildernesses. [Irony alert!]

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Back of the Bull’s car-park the land drops down to the small stream, here known as Broughton Beck, which joins the River Aire a couple of miles to the east.

Tespestuousness

Across the beck is the grander pile of Broughton Hall, the seat of the Tempest family since the fifteenth century.

HALL-LARGE

Quite how the Tempests rose to prominence (and then kept it for so long) is one of those wrinkles of English history that deserve probing.

In the beginning there were a couple of useful and profitable marriages. Sir Richard Tempest (his dates are usually given as about 1480 to 1537) nailed an heiress, Rosamund Bowling, and thus came into possession of estates across Craven. It helped that Richard Tempest was on nodding terms with both Tudor Henrys, fulfilling various ceremonial duties and attendance at events such as the Cloth of Gold, and all the time hoovering up any lands going begging. He acquired the reputation of being something of a thug, putting the muscle on various officials (the Tempests were accused of at least nine murders). So he came (with help from his dedicated enemies in the Savile family) to the attention of Henry VIII’s heavy, Thomas Cromwell. When Tempest went to London, presumably to defend himself against the Savile calumnies, he was clapped in the Fleet prison, where he died. Tempest’s younger brother, Nicholas, was implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and was beheaded in 1537.

That left Sir Richard’s son, Thomas Tempest, to pick up the threads. Thomas Tempest had kept the Lincolnshire estates in the family by marrying a cousin. He did his bit for the Tudors in the Scottish wars, but carried on the family strong-arm traditions: he was responsible for the odd murder (the land-agent of the Prioress of Esholt) and occasional assassination (notably, of John Jepson at Wakefield had complained to the Council about Tempest’s brutal ways). Thomas tempest then died childless, and the properties fell to a younger brother, Sir Kohn tempest, who seems to have been as incompetent as his siblings were thuggish, and ended in considerable debt.

After which, subsequent Tempests tended to keep out of the public eye. The dynasty ended with a Richard tempest, who served as a royalist colonel of horse in the Civil War, and was serially captured by the Parliamentarians.

What is of interest in all that is how the Tempests held to their Catholic faith, despite the suspicions thereof, all the way down to the 31st generation who still own the Hall.

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