Friday, 4 December 2009

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.

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