Monday, 28 January 2013
Adventures in a Yorkshire Landscape*
Well, keen readers may have noticed my absence over the last few days. The even keener may have discerned that a move was afoot and ee by ‘eck, I’m at t’ foot of our stairs now, because I find myself back in God’s own country. Well, the god-forsaken bit of it at any rate. Leeds has had such bad press lately, what with the late, jolly Sir Jim’s shenanigans and all but, never fear, I’m in the good bit; posh, like. Armley, where Alan Bennett grew up. In fact I’m just the other side of the Tong Road from little Alan’s mam and dad’s old house and I can see their church from my back window.
Now, having heard a lot of frankly disparaging comments about the inhabitants of this Eden I decided to venture out and see for myself and my, what an eye opener. Austerity, my arse - far from the besieged pit of poverty I expected I was struck by just how easy it is to place a bet, or help a charity, or buy ready-made hot food along Town Street. It’s a minor miracle; you can buy Chinese pizza, Asian pizza, Turkish pizza and as many varieties of kebab, fried chicken or burgers as you could possibly wish.
The locals must be pretty prosperous, because half the aforementioned charity shops are boarded up. I can only imagine this is because the charities are no longer in need. Oh my, what you can’t buy in Armley is surely not worth having! Many shops make great trade and thrive whilst selling everything for less than a pound! And every single house has a satellite dish; truly a wonder of the modern age.
Of course, they are friendly folk too. One night-time street vendor regaled me with a cheery refrain in what I imagine to be the local dialect. I reproduce it here from memory: " ’Eroin, get yer ‘eroin ‘ere! Get smacked out yer ‘ead for a fiver! ‘Appy pills! Get y’r’ecs-tee-see fr’m me. Ee appen thou’s reet, chips, mushy peas an' all, tha knows…" and something, I think, about ferrets… there was an ‘F’ in it,anyway.
I pressed a shiny pound coin into his hand, thanked him politely and went on my way, chuckling. He carried on hailing me in his guttural vernacular as I progressed along the street. I have no idea what he said but he seemed a sound enough fellow.
What a wonderful life they have here. Unlike post code LS13, which has one of the country's highest burglary rate, I am safely here in LS12. It is so safe in fact, that it’s not unusual to see children as young as eight happily playing in the streets at midnight. The taxi drivers provide a useful after-hours vending service, dispensing small packets at the roadside in darkened cul-de-sacs. And if you want further evidence of the affluence of the area, you can regularly hear helicopters overhead in the early hours of the morning, no doubt dropping off the wealthier residents after a night on the town.
Of course, now it’s morning it is quiet and tranquil. I am sure that is because everybody around here has risen at the crack of dawn to go to work, although there is a curious phenomenon at play. At around nine-thirty every morning I hear televisions being switched on either side of me. I can’t quite hear what programme they are watching but it does involve a lot of shouting.
Cheery locals throw an impromptu street party to
welcome me and my car to the neighbourhood!
Anyway, it is full light and I must be away to continue my exploration. I intend to peruse the famous Tong road – see if I can’t track down a nice cup of tea and one of Alan Bennett’s famed fondant fancies.
(*The title is from a long-ago song penned by one of Yorkshire's finest, Bill Nelson.)