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Monday 13 May 2024

The Village

Village Dance Class, 1930s.
My mother (top, 3rd from right) is one of four cousins in the picture.
She would have been 100 years old today.

“It was a lovely place to grow up”, said Aunty Olga the last time we spoke. “The best anyone could want”. She talked of a High Street with no motor vehicles to stop you playing in the road, all the relations living nearby, and how everyone knew each other and were friends. There were shops with all you could want, and clubs and groups and things to do. The buses ran late so you could get back from the pictures in town. “Not like now”. 

“Aunty” Olga. We called them all “Aunty” or “Uncle", or if they were the same age as us “cousins”, no matter whether they were really great aunts, great uncles, second cousins, half-cousins, cousins once removed, or some other combination. It was simpler. There were loads of them. “Your mother was more of a sister than a cousin to me”, Aunty Olga said. 

I caught it right at the end, and don’t doubt her. I fetched milk from the farm dairy and talked to the pig in the butcher’s sty. I bought pop from the sweet shop, chips from the fish shop, rolls of gun caps for my cowboy pistol and foreign stamps for my collection near The Green. I marvelled at the old village water pump near the church and walked on my own the three-quarters of a mile along the river bank to my aunt’s smallholding at the ferry houses. I knew the local names that appeared on few maps: Gander’ill; Cock’orner; Cuckoo Park. 

A walk down the High Street with my grandma meant talking to everyone we passed. 

“Who was that?”  
“My cousin.”  
“And who was that?” 
“He’s my cousin too.” 

“How many cousins have you got?” 

I’d wish I’d not asked. 

“Well, there was Aunty Bina who had Blanche, Tom, Gladys, Lena, Olga, Fred, Ena, Dolly, Albert and Jack. She brought up our Jean as well, although her mother was really Ena. They had fish and chip shops all over.”

“Then there was Aunty Annie who married Uncle George, and had Mary, Fred, and Bessie.” She pointed to ‘M, F, and B’, scratched long ago into the bricks of number 88 (still visible today). 

“Do you mean Aunty Mary?” I asked. Aunty Mary had the prettiest face I’d ever seen. 

If Grandma was in the mood, she would go on to list the millions of children of uncles Fred, Bill and Horner, who had moved away to run a paper mill in Lancashire.  

All were prefixed “our”: our Fred, our Bessie, and our Mary. Aunty Olga’s children were our Linda, our Sandra, and our Gillian. It distinguished them from Aunts and Uncles who were not relatives at all, such as Aunty Annie ’agyard (3 syllables). What funny names some had. 

And that was only one of Grandma’s sides. The other was worse. 

Even more confusing, my mother’s Great Aunty Bina was married to my dad’s grandpa’s cousin, which meant I was doubly related to Blanche, Tom, Gladys, and the rest. 

I heard it so often I could recite it to my wife decades later: “Blanche, Gladys, Ena, Lena, Gina, Dolly, Molly, Mary, Bessie, Ella, Olga, Linda...”

“They sound like a herd of Uncle Bill’s cows,” she said. 

Uncle Bill (don’t ask), was from across the river and had married into the family. He said that if the Blue Line bus had not started running through the village, they would have all been imbeciles because of inbreeding. 

I went less and less as I grew into my teens, not realising it was coming to an end. It would never be the same again.  

Monday 6 May 2024

Marie Tidball

I find it astonishing how some overcome illnesses, difficulties, and barriers that to me would seem overwhelming. 

I think of a student on the university course I took. He had brittle bone disease, and at one time or another had broken just about every bone in his body. Despite the small stature and deformities that often go with the condition, he lived independently in the university halls of residence. He travelled in each day in his three-wheeled Invacar, and moved from class to class in a wheelchair, with books and notes hanging in a plastic carrier bag from the rear handles. We took turns to push. He always had a cheery smile. 

Later, there was Mahir who had muscular dystrophy. He had arrived in England in his early teens as a Bosnian refugee, speaking no English. By then, he had lost the ability to walk, which in Bosnia had excluded him from school. Once here, he did well enough to go to university, and enrolled on the course I ran. He struggled to control his limbs, used an electric wheelchair, and was accompanied everywhere, even to the toilet, by Brian, a full-time paid assistant. What incredible dedication that must have required. 

When you had a bit of a cold or headache, and looked out at the weather in the morning and it seemed tempting to crawl back to bed, the thought that Julian or Mahir would be there shamed you into getting up and going in. 

I came across Brian a few years later, looking after another special needs student. He said he’d heard that Mahir had died, still in his twenties. Julian did not have a long life, either, but lived into his forties. 

Recently, we came across another inspirational figure, Marie Tidball. She was born with multiple physical difficulties, including no hands. It was unclear whether she would live. She did, but missed years of school through medical treatments, such as surgery to enable her to walk. She has just one finger. From school in Penistone, Yorkshire, she won a place at the University of Oxford where she got a degree in Law and a Doctorate in Criminology, and has since worked as a legal researcher, disability rights campaigner, and local councillor. She has now been selected as a Parliamentary candidate for her home constituency of Penistone and Stocksbridge at the next General Election. Our ceilidh band played at the launch of her fundraising campaign.  

Going by last week’s local election results, she is almost certain to be elected, and will quickly make an impression as a Member of Parliament, not because of her difficulties but because she is every bit the fiery, determined woman her story suggests. You heard of her here first. 

“I learned there was no such word as ‘can’t’ and that you have to go out in the world and develop your own skills to use them for others.”   

So, let’s have no more whingeing and procrastinating. Just get on with it.  

https://www.marietidball.com/

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Paul McCartney’s RAM

New Month Old Post: first posted 7th November 2018

We can be very dismissive when young, especially about music. 

When Paul McCartney’s long playing record Ram came out in 1971, a lot of people hated it. They were irritated by the embarrassing sight and sound of Linda McCartney and her wooden, astringent vocals. Why was she on the record anyway: as if it were a primary school class where everyone has to join in banging tambourines and triangles, even the talentless? Why was she accredited fully as co-creator, which no one really believed?

I simply dismissed it. It was not The Beatles. I was fed up with it emanating from Brendan’s room in the shared house. After all, didn’t I have more sophisticated tastes? Didn’t I think of myself as a knowledgeable connoisseur of serious music like progressive rock, particularly Jethro Tull who had just released Aqualung? How could the McCartneys’ frivolous, inconsequential warbling possibly compare?

The only legacy, for me, was that to this day, whenever we drive past a certain cut-price supermarket I sing the following mondegreen:
Lidl Lidl be a gypsy get around
Get your feet up off the ground
Lidl Lidl get around.
I recently looked up the lyrics to discover that the actual words are “Live a little” from the track Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey who “had to have a bath or he couldn’t get to sea” – another misheard lyric, it’s “berth”.

One thing led to another and I ended up getting the CD as a birthday present (I don’t do streaming). What a revelation! Judging it inferior to Jethro Tull was being Thick as a Brick.

I now think Ram is amongst Paul McCartney’s best and most innovative output: so rich in ideas – melodies, harmonies, arrangements, decorations, quirky bits – almost every part of every track is different. It‘s an amusing, joyful record, a bit late-Beatles, like the brightest parts of Abbey Road and The White Album.

It has been described as a “domestic-bliss album”. Despite personal and contractual pains in disentangling himself from the Beatles, Paul was now living a contented and enviable life, very happy with Linda and children in their rural retreat. You hear it throughout. And Linda’s voice is just about OK too, or at least you get used to it. 

Maybe I liked Ram all along but did not want to admit it.

Sunday 28 April 2024

Sunday Silliness

Silly Songs With Simple Chords
C and G7 

         Cows in the kitchen, moo moo moo,
         Pigs in the pantry, grunt oink ooh,
         Lambs on the landing, baa baa boo,
         Skip to my Lou my darling.

         There’s a horse in the hallway, neigh neigh neigh,
         A donkey in the doorway, bray bray bray, 
         Ducks and chicks in the chairs all day, 
         Skip to my Lou my darling. 

         Get all these animals out of this place,
         They make a lot of noise, they take a lot of space,
         There’s no room left for me or you,
         Can’t skip to the loo, you can’t get through.  

Friday 26 April 2024

The Cats With A Bank Account

Anyone seeking evidence that the BBC is not what it once was, look no further than this report from Nationwide in 1973. 

https://youtu.be/zEp-bigGqYI

As someone who was working in accountancy at the time, several things in this report trouble me greatly.  

Aside from tax and inheritance questions such as whether the correct tax was paid on interest received (cats do not have a tax allowance), and what happened to the money after the cats died: how did the beneficiaries or next-of-kin proved their right of inheritance, I have questions about the operation of the bank account. 

Presumably, Quicksilver and Quince had someone write the cheques for them, possibly the lady in the film, but how did they sign them? If it was with a paw print, then how did the bank verify the signatures as genuine, rather than the paw prints of criminal cats who steal cheque books? One paw print looks much like another as far as I can tell. 

And if the account required joint signatures, rather than either one, then how did the bank verify that both have actually signed, rather than just one that has put its paw mark on the cheque twice? That Quince looks a bit shifty to me.  

We need assurances that the bank account was operated legally and not in false names. 

Thursday 25 April 2024

Blog Address

I have removed the custom address for A Yorkshire Memoir and reverted to the original taskerdunham.blogspot.com (instead of taskerdunham.com). If reading this, you are in the right place. 

This is to prevent the blog from becoming inaccessible when the subscription to the custom domain expires. It still has over a year to run, but I have made the change early because custom domains are often bought by others for illicit use. 

Thanks. 


Technical and Other Considerations (for anyone considering doing it themselves) 

Removing the custom address turned out to be easier than anticipated. I thought I would be wrestling with the technicalities of canonical names (cnames) and the like, but that was not the case. 

All I had to do was:

1) Delete the custom domain name in the blog settings. The blogspot.com version of the address worked straight away. The taskerdunham.com address began to be shown as unknown. 

2) I created a completely new blog called "A Yorkshire Memoir - holding page" saying what I was doing, and also a note in the title that the address had changed. 

3) Then, on the new Holding Page blog, I simply added www.taskerdunham.com as the custom domain. Surprisingly, that URL immediately began to redirect to the Holding Page. It did not require any change to the cnames on the domain provider's site. It did, however, take a few minutes before the https version of the address became active after I switched it on.

The outcome is that access to taskerdunham.blogspot.com now links straight to the blog, and access to taskerdunham.com links to the holding site. I will leave it like that for now as a reminder to those who use that route to change their links.

Please let me know of any problems. 


Internal links within the blog - The blog archive, list of popular posts, etc. changed automatically. Links in blog posts that reference other posts still work correctly so long as they point to a taskerdunham.blogspot.com address, but if they point to taskerdunham.com a message appears saying either that the post does not exist or that the site cannot be accessed at all. It depends on how http/https and www are specified in the link. Fortunately, I have always used the blogspot version within the blog, so don't have to change them. 

External links -  Where others' blog posts or websites have included a link to one of my blog posts, these links now point to the holding site, i.e. taskerdunham.com, with a page not found message. The same happens with sidebar links on other Blogger blogs until they are updated. 

Google, Bing, and other search indexes - Initially, the results from searches remained unchanged, i.e. they referenced the custom address. Clicking these links led to the holding site, i.e. taskerdunham.com, with a page not found message. I assume the search indexes will automatically update in due course. (there may be more to add)


Monday 22 April 2024

Warp Land

The flatland where the River Humber branches into tributaries was once an expanse of permanent marsh. It dried out gradually over the centuries with the construction of river banks and drainage ditches, making agriculture possible. Some areas were improved by a process known as warping.

In warping, river waters are diverted into the fields to deposit layers of fine, fertile silt. It is carried out by building low embankments around the fields and filling them through a breach or sluice in the river bank. The water flows into the fields at high tide, and after being allowed to settle, is drained back as the tide goes out, leaving silt behind. When carried out regularly over two or three years, three feet of silt might be laid down. 

I remember my uncle, the farmer (see Aunty Bina’s Farm), explaining why he preferred certain fields for crops, and others for his “be-asts”. Potatoes, sugar beet, and wheat grew best on warp land, whereas the cattle grazed on pasture. 

I may be mistaken, but looking now on Streetview, I fancy that the line of the low bank around the field followed the line of the lane. The fields were for crops, while the cows grazed behind the house. 

But thinking about it now, it puzzled me. The buildings in the far distance are on the other side of a railway line, and there is a canal beyond that, with the river at the other side of the canal. How could the river water have been diverted into the fields? 

Perhaps the water came from a different river. The River Aire is around two miles to the North behind the camera, and the River Ouse about three miles to the East, but I think these would have been too far, and several main roads, the villages of Rawcliffe and Airmyn, and the town of Goole were in the way. My guess is that the warp water must have come from the river beyond the railway, canal, and buildings - the Dutch River (or River Don). 

Wikipedia provides an answer: “The first reliable report of warping seems to come in the 1730s from Rawcliffe, which is near the confluences of the Ouse with the Aire and the Don, where a small farmer called Barker used the technique.” Neither the railway nor the canal would have been there then. The Knottingley and Goole Canal was opened in 1826, and the Wakefield, Pontefract and Goole section of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1846. The warping must have been done before these dates. Some of the brick outhouses at the farm could easily have dated from that time, and knowledge of the warping would have been passed down by word of mouth. 

The railway, canal, and Dutch River can be seen running parallel in the lower left quarter of this 1962 map (pre-motorway). The oddly straight Dutch River is clearly another man-made feature. It was constructed in the 1630s by Dutch engineers, who diverted the River Don to drain the moors of Hatfield Chase, hence the name “The Dutch River”. The River Don originally flowed further East into the River Trent. Warping of my uncle’s land must have used water from the diverted river Don. 

More extensive warping schemes were carried out in the Nineteenth Century along the original course of the Don, as far East as Adlingfleet on the Trent, and as far South as Crowle. One large area is served by the enormous Swinefleet Warping Drain (centre bottom of map) which runs for 5.6 miles (9 km) and has a permanent sluice into the River Ouse. The drain and much of the network of drainage ditches are deep and wide. Some are stocked with fish for anglers, and all provide habitats for frogs, sticklebacks, water voles, and other wildlife. It is astonishing to think it was all dug out by hand. But, we do not only alter our landscape. Families with Dutch names still live in the area, and the local name for drainage ditches is dykes. 

Swinefleet Warping Drain

Swinefleet Sluice where the warping drain enters the Ouse

Two areas of unreclaimed land remain just to the South: Thorne and Hatfield Moors, which together form the largest expanse of lowland peat bog in the country. Even the intrepid Yorkshire Pudding’s Geograph project has not much ventured there.  

One last piece of trivia. In the film “The Dam Busters” (1955), the aeroplanes are shown flying along a Dutch canal. It was actually filmed flying East along the Dutch River. The Goole shipyard cranes can be seen as the planes approach the River Ouse and then bank left over the town. Please don’t tell the East Riding Council. It will give them ideas about what to do with the place. 

Dave Northsider is now trying to work out how he can divert river water into his polytunnel.