Whenever I sit down to count my blessings – something I occasionally feel the need to do in order to show a bit of gratitude for the good things in life – high on the list of those blessings are my Yorkshire birthright and heritage.
Life’s a bit of a lottery at the best of times, let’s face it – and the cold reality is that I was only about thirty miles east of being born into a whole different situation: red rose instead of white, black pudding instead of that glorious Yorkshire pud that gives real meaning to roast beef, pisspoor Boddingtons instead of John Smiths or Tetleys – good Lord, perhaps even Bolton or Blackburn or Manch….. no, I just can’t write that – instead of Leeds United? It’s a horrific thought, and whenever I’m feeling a bit less than chuffed with the way life is treating me, I’ll think on that for a while and reflect: things could have been a hell of a sight worse.
I’m not normally the type to wear my heart on my sleeve, but I do take a lot of pride in wearing a Leeds United badge pretty well anywhere on my person. It’s a big part of my identity, and anyone who knows me even slightly will be well aware that I love Leeds United, hate Man U – and have a deep and abiding mistrust and suspicion of those troglodytes who live, move and have their being ovver on t’wrong side o’ t’hills – amid the dark satanic mills and Coronation Street hovels of Lancashire.
That’s not to say I don’t have friends who are unfortunate enough to owe their allegiance to the Red Rose – and a nice bunch of lads and lasses they are, too, by some fluke of genetics no doubt. Maybe they all had Yorkshire forebears, that must be it. And, let’s face it, Lancashire is one gene pool that could use a fair bit of purification. But, even given the odd nice guy here and there, there’s just something inherently wrong about Lancashire. It has silly place names that seem to cater to some of the local accent’s tortured vowel sounds – Urmston, Cheadle Hulme, Blackburrrrrn, Burrrrrnleh and the like. And a lot of the less civilised natives make our own cavemen seem like Oxford dons by comparison.
Let’s face it, the best thing about this god-awful place on the wrong side of the hill is the M62 heading East. And if you do venture far enough into its benighted interior to get past the most severely blighted parts, emerging into some sea air in the far West – you get to what passes for their coast and find it’s the wrong bloody way up. Seriously. Take a walk on Blackpool beach (if you must) and, for anyone who spent their childhood summers sensibly, at Brid, Filey or Scarborough, there’s this confusing feeling of heading South when you know you’re facing North, or vice versa. It’s not nice, it’s not normal. It’s just wrong.
It’s strange then, isn’t it, how whoever was responsible for creation so ordered things that God’s Own County should have been placed in such close proximity to the County that Time and Good Taste Forgot – with only a decent amount of high country to separate the two and keep those of us on the right side feeling clean and healthy.
As it is, and thanks to those blessed Pennines, them ovver theer get most of the rain that otherwise might have landed on us, and what wild weather we do get has had most of the impurities removed by its passage over those rugged mountains and through those narrow passes west of Huddersfield.
Lancashire is then, in effect, a sort of oil filter that keeps Yorkshire nice and shiny, while that less fortunate county lives with all of the grime and crud we can do without. As arrangements go, it’s pretty neat.
So, we have a lot to be proud of in the Broad Acres, what with our craggy and varied coastline, our bleak yet thrilling and panoramic moors, our beautiful national parks and our market towns – and of course our Leeds United. And even, I suppose, some of those lesser football clubs that are dotted around the three old Ridings. They’re all Yorkshire so, by definition, they’re all part of the best collection of football clubs anywhere. And because we have this pride, this sense of identity that goes with being a tyke and having the White Rose for our emblem, we’re not to be blamed for wanting to show off a bit.
We want to say “I’m from Yorkshire”, with a note of defiant pride in our voices. It’s up to the listener to deduce that this is indeed something to be proud of – for a Tyke, all that’s needed is that simple, assertive declaration – I’m From Yorkshire – and our status as superior beings, lavishly endowed with the highest possible rank of birthright, is beyond doubt, requiring no further clarification.
I’m well aware as I write this that there are many Leeds United fans out there (and this is after all a Leeds United blog) who hail from parts of the country less fortunate and less beautiful than Yorkshire. Some of them even suffer under the iniquity of being Lancastrians themselves, with their love of Leeds United separating them from their less enlightened brethren. There’s little I can do for such unfortunates but sympathise – and remind those people that, as Leeds fans, they can at least claim some association with the Best County of Them All.
The partner of a late and much-missed friend and colleague of mine hails from California – but she fell for my mate’s West Yorkshire accent and voice, and now she wears his old Leeds United shirt, giving full rein to that Yorkshire part of her that’s survived the passing of her man. All of which says a lot about her, and about the late John, who was a terrific and mega-talented bloke. But it says a lot about Yorkshire too, and what the place can mean even to someone with roots thousands of miles away, once they’ve been here, breathed the Yorkshire air and been bewitched by the unique atmosphere and beauty of the place. That’s why it’s such a popular tourist destination – and that’s why we lucky Tykes are so incredibly proud of the White Rose.
If you’re Yorkshire, as I am proud to be – just embrace your Yorkshireness, wear your pride like the badge of honour it most assuredly is. And if you’re not – well, what the hell. Join in anyway. Have a look at the I’m From Yorkshire Facebook Group and see if you don’t wish you belonged to God’s Own County, the Broad Acres. Not everyone, sadly, can be that blessed – but for those who wish it, well – by gum, there’s always a warm welcome into the ranks of Honorary Tykes.
Think on now – after being a Leeds United fan, being even an honorary Yorkshire person is the second best blessing life can bestow!