Saturday, 14 November 2009

Please pass the salt...

One of the advantages of an internet bibliography is that you can include books which you didn't use, but wish you had. Here is one such: The Hedon Silver (Hedon Town Council, 2000, Highgate Publications, 4 Newbegin, Beverley HU17 8EG). Hedon Town Council only has parish status, since the re-organisation (and further-distancing) of 'local' government in 1973/4, but it is an admirably gutsy body with great civic pride. This stems in part from the days when Hedon was the equal of Hull - indeed even more prosperous initially. Just look what today's little council has inherited in the way of civic plate! I mean, when can they possibly throw a dinner where you would need ten silver salt cellars? (But wait: see below...)
I didn't include Hedon in the book, through ignorance of these details which I only discovered when Penny went to do a feature on the place for next month's Yorkshire Life. But I have got a big section on exactly the same sturdy, Northern localism in Morley near Leeds and Richmond (North Yorks). I'm going to be meeting one of the book's characters, Judith Elliott, the Mayor of Morley, next week when I have to preside over Leeds Civic Trust's agm, cos this year she's Lord Mayor of Leeds, on whose council she sits as one of five Morley Independents. I will suggest a grand Dinner of Independent Places at Hedon where they can get out all the fantastic cruets and maces shown in this book, and have a feast of local activism and (soundly-based) pride.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Golden Ages, then and now

This book means a lot to me. I was given it by Grigor McLelland, a stalwart of the North East, who served in the Friends Ambulance Unit with my father and, many years later, chaired the National Lottery Charities Board in the North region while I had the same job in Yorkshire and the Humber. It is a marvellous, scholarly compendium of articles about the era which we know and love from Bede: Oswy and Eanfled celebrating their different Easters at Bamburgh, the great Celtic saints, the astonishing jewellery and carved stones found across the region (and, most recently, in the 'Staffordshire Hoard'). This is such a big and expensive book (£35) that I imagine most people will borrow it from the library. It would be well worth doing so. I'm particularly grateful to Christopher Grocock's chapter on Bede and the Golden Age of Latin Prose in Northumbria, which compares the range of languages spoken in Bede's Jarrow with the author's contemporary experience of Geordie and Urdu spoken in turn by women working in his local newsagent's in the town.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Small but perfectly done

Sorry, I've been hopeless about continuing the bibliography lately, but I'm going to have a bit of a sesh this week, all other things remaining equal. I came across this outstanding booklet, Bradford Peace Trail, in our loo where it had got hidden under the usual pile of National Geographics and Private Eyes. It's a succinct and well-written guide to the city - one of the most interesting in the North - which uses the 'peace' theme very loosely to bring in all manner of famous sons and daughters of the place and modern events, such as street violence over extreme right-wing demos etc - as well. It illuminates some of my own feelings which I've tried to express in True North - eg the Quaker millowner Liberal W E Forster as pioneer of state education, and the importance of 'urban countryside' to the big cities such as Bradford. It's online at or you can get a copy from Bradford City for Peace c/o 37 Heights Lane, Heaton, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD9 6JA 01274 542672
On the book front, True North is getting more reviews than I expected, which is great. I'm not usually very keen on the Daily Mail, but it can surprise - for example with its sturdy support of Stephen Lawrence's family - and Harry Pearson did a piece on the book which makes some really good points. In particular, he writes about the value of praising one area without denigrating others, using the parallel of loving your partner without having to be rude about other women/men. Mike MckNay's invaluable editing of True North made this point to me eloquently, and once again, I'm very grateful for that. There is a problem, though, in that it is impossible not to mourn and criticise the effect on all the regions of London's excessive power. But this is not the same thing as disliking London as a city, or the 'South' in general. I like them both.