Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Sprigge Gambit (or Sylvia's Curse)

A change from bibliography now: as the standfirst in the title says, this blog is also for corrections, and I’m extremely grateful for the following which have come in. Thanks to all concerned, too, for putting me right me gently and kindly. I shall return to that, and the reason for this post’s heading, shortly.

So to the corrections, which I hope will be made in a reprint before long….sorry, first, that I spectacularly muddled James Herriot’s choice of hymn lines in the quotation which begins Chapter 8 (Page 261) by calling his most famous book All Things Bright and Beautiful. It is actually All Creatures Great and Small.

Thanks very much to my blog correspondent Lingard (see post Paved with - Huddersfield below) for pointing that out. Also see Richard Carter's comment on this post, putting right my geography of Port Sunlight and Phil Dawson's on the very first post, right at the bottom, correcting St James's Park to the proper St James' Park (on Page 11).

Thanks to all; and to to Steve Burkeman of the Rowntree Society for noticing that on Page 275, I rename York’s Quaker-founded psychiatric hospital, The Retreat, as The Mount, which is the city’s Quaker girls school (and alma mater of Margaret Drabble and Dame Judi Dench among others). I should know, because my sisters Hilary (editor of Red Pepper) and Tessa, wise teacher of English as a foreign language in Bradford, are alumni too.

Now, thanks to my wife Penny’s eminent cousin Prof Paul Cartledge (whose books, like Hilary’s, are all must-buys). He kindly puts me right on the following:

Page 54 The Latin version of Yellow Submarine sung to the House of Commons by Derek Enright MP should use ‘natali’ and not ‘natalis’. I am not going to argue with Cambridge University’s A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture about that.
Page 75 The Barnsley fashion business Pollyanna mysteriously loses it second ‘l’ in the two references to it on this page. Opposite, on Page 74, I get it right.
Page 137 The word ‘the’ has gone missing before ‘triumphs’
Page 156 ‘does’ should be ‘do’ in second para – not for the first time, I gave plural subjects a singular verb.
Page 163 The 's' of 'Guardian's' should be roman and not italic
Page 204 In a repeat of my Pollyanna eccentricities, I have mis-spelt the first name of Leeds’ great race relations pioneer Erroll James, using only one ‘l’, whereas I get it right on the page opposite. Something bout ‘l’s in my psyche…
Page 209 ‘premier’ should hve a concluding ‘e’
Page 234 I rechristened the writer Alan Sillitoe ‘David’. The wonderfully meticulous Paul asks: “Is this confusion with David Storey?” No. It’s confusion with Alan’s son David, one of the best photographers working for the Guardian and an ace companion on jobs.
Page 238 I should have given Richard Hoggart his first name, as this is the first mention of him (surprisingly; maybe I cut something earlier out). He also isn’t in the index.
Page 285 The word enthusiastic mysteriously appears as two: enthus and iastic. We will get that gap closed.
Page 289 ‘makes’ should be ‘make’ in the reference to tales of Northern pluck transferring to film.
And lastly, Page 291 I twice deprive Jean Giraudoux of his first ‘u’.

Phew! Paul, you are a reader in a million. To spot all those is beyond praise – specially that ‘s which got engulfed by the Guardian’s italic.

Finally (for now…), similar warm thanks to Salfordian Eddy Rhead who refers to himself in an email, entirely wrongly, as ‘a miserable northern pedant’ and makes these points:

On page 67 you refer to the architect of Atlas Bar in Manchester as Alan Simpson - it was in fact Ian Simpson.
At one point you rightly state that the Imperial War Museum North is in Trafford (p77) but then contradict this by later claiming it is in Salford (p230). As a Salfordian i would very much like to claim the IWMN as one of ours but must concede to our posh Trafford neighbours on this one.
Finally on page 294 you add 'restaurateur' to Thomas Heatherwick's long list of talents. A talented designer, sculptor and architect he may be (and a southerner - he studied in Manchester though) but as far as i know hasn't branched out into food yet. Are you thinking of Paul Heathcote maybe?

I am, and I grovel. (re. The Simpsons, my mind must have been full of the actual Alan, who is a wonderful academic tree wizard and pal based at Leeds Met university - although his surname has no 'p').

Sorry to list these blunders so comprehensively, but this post is partly a memo to myself to make sure that they get corrected.

BUT WHO WAS SYLVIA SPRIGGE? She was a very distinguished Guardian foreign correspondent who worked in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. And this extract from David Ayerst’s brilliant Guardian – the biography of a newspaper (Collins 1971) shows why she is also my patron saint:

Monday, 14 December 2009

Heaven on Earth

Three books on the Lake District which I have much enjoyed, as well as finding useful. Alan Hankinson's retracing of Coleridge's famous journey is great, including the all-but-suicidal descent of Broad Stand between Scafell and Scafell Pike which the poet managed (at least, by his own account) but Hankinson prudently detoured. John Wyatt's The Bliss of Solitude joins his other books, compiled when he had the lovely job of Chief Ranger of the Lake District national park, in describing the area thoughtfully and well. That and Coleridge Walks the Fells were published, very handsomely, by Ellenbank Press in Maryport in 1991. Finally, And Nobody Woke Up Dead (Ernest Press 2006) is a jolly romp through the life of Mabel Barker, a woman among the dotty, corduroy-breached rock climbers of the early 20th century. It is a landscape populated by the best sort of Northerners - Quakers, idealists, members of Kibbo Kift and the Morris Dance Revival Society. As they say in the US after serving you gigantic platters of food; Enjoy! (including a wealth of pictures which set the tone, such as this one below with its delightful caption, on the back cover of the book's jacket). There's also excellent material on Millican Dalton, the famed 'Professor of Adventure', a City dropout who lived in a cave which can still be explored at the foot of Castle Crag near the Jaws of Borrowdale.

And here's Millican, having a picnic tea with Mabel (right) and a buddy. Click on any pic to enlarge.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Goodbye world...

That - the title of this post - is what these naval signal flags said on the roof of Leeds' famous (or notorious to some) Quarry Hill flats in 1978 when the huge complex was doomed. Disgruntled tenants, who wanted to stay, nearly chose a different message, also only two words, the first beginning with F and the second with O. But in the end, polite melancholy won more votes than outraged defiance. The story of the flats is told marvellously in Memento Mori by Peter Mitchell, published by Smith Settle in 1990 with a foreword by Bernard Crick. It has a particularly good selection of photographs and although the story doesn't really run in an organised way from A to Z, the anecdotes and facts are real treasures.
I met Peter at the launch of a book I did earlier this year for the RIBA (Leeds - Shaping the City, RIBA Publications 2009) and he said that he was considering something similar to the Quarry Hill book on Spencer Place, where he lives. I really, really hope he does, as both my paternal grandparents were born in Spencer Place, and its history, along with that of the surrounding Chapeltown area, is rich indeed - all the way through from the bourgeois 'New Leeds' of mid-Victorian times to today's cosmopolitan community. Here are a couple of pictures of my granny with her parents and brother outside their house (now part of Leeds Islamic Centre and well looked-after) and at her wedding reception in the front garden, where the mosque now stands. Wasn't Leeds dark in those days? Or is it my scanner...?

Benny and Boots

Two books without a link, now, except that they both begin with B, they're both about the North and more particularly the Pennines, and they're both good. Sorry, two books with at least three links. And there's another...but, no, I am not going to turn this post into Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch.
Owt and Nowt by Tony Bell, published by Burnley Miners' Publishing 2002, is a homemade history of Burnley's famous working men's club, which sells more Benedictine than anywhere else in the world. The WORLD? Yes, and you can find out why in True North, or indeed in Tony Bell's excellent book. Why not get both? Owt and Nowt is not just about Benny & Hot, the town's famous drink, but tells you a lot else about the club, mining and Burnley in general. Note the maroon cover; since Burnley FC started doing so well in the Premier League, everything in the town has been painted maroon.
Secondly, Boots and Books by Trevor Croucher, published by Smith Settle in 1995, is both a delightful sketch of the life and work of this Albert Einstein-like character in the photo (left), the immortal Arthur Raistrick, and an invaluable bibliography of AR's work. It has another very nice picture in it of Raistrick with G M Trevelyan and the Dower family at Malham - John Dower played the key role in getting us all our National Parks. The Countryside Commission's fine HQ in Cheltenham is named after him.

Three sides of the coin

Here's a little collection of grass roots experiences of Yorkshire grittiness. Can you have grass roots and grittiness? Yes, say I. Indeed I say so at some length in the chapter of True North called The Green and the Grey. These books are perhaps better described, though, as 'from the streets', and they all come from authors whose work I much enjoy. Bill Mitchell, emeritus editor of the Dalesman, ranges all over the landscape, not of his beloved Dales, but of the towns which lie among them, in By gum, life were sparse! Warner Books 1991, introduction by another excellent Northerner, Mike Harding. OK, it's cliche-shudder time with that title, but it isn't appropriate to the era in which Mitchell immerses himself. Jim Greenhalf brings things up to date with his sardonic It's a Mean Old Scene, Redbeck Press 2003, whose title is based on a famous piece of graffiti in Bradford which I remember passing frequently when I worked for the local Telegraph & Argus in 1975. As I say in True North, Bradford is a great glass-half-empty place (Leeds always considering the glass to be half full), and this book is a good (and enjoyable) example.
Phyllis Bentley, finally, turns the subject into her usual fine fiction in More Tales of the West Riding, Garden City Press 1974. She will be rediscovered shortly (again), I bet you. Virago Press, where are you? There must be a preceding volume Tales of the West Riding, I guess, but I haven't read it yet.

Aduunyadu way qiiro badan tahay

I think the title to this post means 'The world is a wondrous place' in Somali. So far as I can tell that's the case, anyway, from the only Somali-language book I own: Shells on a woven cord, published by MAMA East African Women's Group and Yorkshire Arts Circus, 1995. It is an insight into the often inaccessible world of Somali immigrants, especially the women. Inaccessible, I should say, for a white male in particular. One of my sisters, who teaches English as a foreign language in Bradford, has made many good friends from an extraordinarily wide range of communities. The book describes life in both Somalia and Sheffield in a clear-eyed but ultimately optimistic way. Meanwhile, the latest edition of the Thoresby Society's Miscellany has arrived, with an interesting article on Italian immigration in Leeds. The society is an invaluable source of detailed information about the history of Leeds and always welcomes new members or purchasers of its books - 23 Clarendon Road, Leeds LS2 9NZ. 0113 247 0704.
An excellent new feature they've introduced this year is the first of a proposed series called Notes from the Library, highlighting items in the society's impressive archive. They kick off with a piece about the exceptionally generous gift of Kirkstall Abbey to Leeds by Colonel North, the 'Chile Nitrate King', who bought it from the seedy descendants of the Cardigan family and just handed it over to the city. Business entrepreneurs get a lot of flack - witness the current banking furore - but in my experience they are much more generous benefactors than, for example, the arts or sports world. When will Alan Bennett premier a play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, which would be a huge fillip for his native city? When will Damien Hirst curate an exhibition at the fabulous little museum in Horsforth where he grew up?

On that score, here's another good book: How it all began in Yorkshire by Maurice Baren, pubished by the Dalesman in 1997 - one of a host of similar books covering various parts of the country and an object lesson in the trials of starting great business, as well as the rewards which can follow.