Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Tingley

I had a breakfast of beans on toast in the cafe opposite Leeds Market this morning. A law enforcement officer from Leeds Council was chatting to the cafe owner. He came across as a fairly unpleasant creature. His testosterone-fuelled conversation centred on the terrible things he'd done to people who'd given him lip. He broke off his tall story midway, his mean eyes darted to the window and he jumped to his feet. "Do you wanna see me in action?" He shouted to the room and rushed over to the door like a demented superman.

A customer was making his way into the cafe and the law enforcer pushed him back out again, suggesting, in that threateningly calm voice that only a psychopath can pull off, that they should "have a little chat outside."

The customer's crime? He'd dropped a cigarette butt on the pavement before entering the cafe and was given a £60 fine for his troubles. Needless to say, the customer didn't return to the cafe, and the cafe owner, who was fuming, lost potential revenue.

I personally think, if you're gonna ban smoking in public places, thereby creating the need for people to extinguish cigarettes on the street, you either have to fit ashtrays to the outside of all buildings, or you have to go a bit easy on those who drop their butts on the pavement. The way the enforcement officer jumped up, you'd think the poor customer had been caught doing drugs. As one of the girls in the cafe later pointed out, "he probably has daily targets." I tell you, in times of recession, councils will do everything in their power to make money...

I arrived at BBC Leeds at ten o'clock. The lovely lady on reception knew my name and told me they're still getting phone calls requesting copies of "A Symphony for Yorkshire". She tells me they've now officially run out, but that they'd managed to find a copy "from upstairs" which they were able to give to the last person who'd asked, (who'd wanted to send the film to her relatives in Canada.)

I felt proud as punch. It's so nice to know that my work has created a legacy. About 10,000 DVDs have apparently now been sold. That's an awful lot of money raised for children in need. Shame I declined a royalty!

I was interviewed by Wes on the mid morning show. I plugged Brass and said we were looking for young people to audition for roles in the show. Wes asked about the little museum we'd visited in Bus-les-Artois and as I started to talk about the little doll's tea set I'd found there I felt my eyes starting to prickle and then got entirely choked up. It's the first time this has ever happened to me on live radio. I'm sure it was brilliantly moving for the listeners, but I felt like a complete pranny!

I got on a bus to go to a place called Tingley in the late morning. It was something of an adventure because there are no train stations anywhere near the place. It later transpired that the nearest bus stop was more than a mile away from where I was going, but it's all good fun.

The central bus station at Leeds smelt of sick and was full of all sorts of sad types, yellow-faced, hacking at their smoke-addled lungs and staggering along in mobility vehicles. One old chap was sitting on a bench. I looked down at him and realised he'd wet himself. A train of wee was going all the way down the leg of his trousers. Poor bloke.

Tingley itself is a funny old place which seems to be neither Leeds nor Wakefield nor its own entity. It felt like nothing but a sprawling housing estate surrounded by trees. It very much reminded me of Milton Keynes. Who knows what goes on behind the walls of these inaccessible houses. I passed a group of men who were carrying something into someone's back garden. A low wall obscured any view of what they might have been holding, but it was the length and obvious weight of a coffin. I shudder!

Autumn had definitely come to Tingley, however. The leaves were all on the change and there was a thin layer of mist in the way, which ominously threatened torrential rain. It was cold as well.

I was in Tingley to meet a wonderful woman called Jacqueline, whose uncle Clifford was one of the Leeds Pals. Strangely, it turns out that he was one of the Pals that I'd already read a fair amount about. He features prominently in Laurie Taylor's excellent book about the battalion. I guess there were relatively few Pals who made it back home unscathed and those that did were encouraged to reminisce as much as possible.

That said, Jacqueline, who was as good as brought up by Clifford and his wife, Blanche, said that he never talked about his experiences.

The only thing he'd kept from the war was a bugle, which he gave to his niece just before he died (he had no children of his own.) The bugle was played by the Pals in Egypt and France, and was apparently played at the funeral of the first of the Pals to fall in action.

It is an instrument with a overwhelmingly significant heritage and I will do everything in my power to see that it is played by one of the cast in the show, which I can officially announce will play at the Leeds City Varieties theatre from August 20th to August 23rd.

I got horribly caught out in heavy rain whilst attempting to make my way back from Tingley to Leeds. I didn't have an umbrella or a coat, and there was no cover anywhere. I arrived back in the city looking and smelling like a wet dog, and sat in a cafe working for three hours, feeling utterly wretched. My feet, hat and jacket are still soaking wet, despite my having spent at least twenty minutes running them under a hand dryer.

I return to London on a train with no buffet service... That's not entirely correct. At every stop we're informed that First Class passengers are being  served an "at seat" buffet service, but that, until further notice there will be nothing for standard class passengers. I dunno. You pay £100 quid to travel from Leeds to London, and you certainly shouldn't expect a buffet service to be an optional extra. I'm getting very bored with service culture in this county. It seems like anything can be passed off as a "luxury" and therefore not a requirement, from baths in hotel rooms through to decent service on East Coast trains.

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