The Thinking Man's Yorkshireman?
My Brain Hurts!
Our Regional Development
Agency are searching for the perfect ambassador for Yorkshire.
To me there's one man standing. Michael Palin.
I'm beginning to realise
that I grew up in a golden age, as far as Yorkshire is
concerned. All my family were coal folk. Four generations
had worked down the same pit, Cortonwood, on the Barnsley/Rotherham
border. Then after a spell on the dole, my brother took
a walk down there himself and tried to be number five.
The reply was blunt. Sorry lad. We're not tekkin' on young
'uns no more. Within a few years Cortonwood was at the
heart of the pit strike, and the rest is history.
Now Cortonwood is just another ghost with
a Call Centre parked on it. The coal tips have been scrubbed
clean and covered in plant life. The generations who dug
coal down beneath Morrisons Supermarket have no monument
at all to past glories. It's like we were never there.
The pride, the community, the people, all gone. Gran,
who couldn't read or write, put her stock in us grandkids.
She was proud of the welfare state that her taxes were
paying for. Finally the kids of miners, ordinary working
folk were getting the education and the chance to really
better themselves. She was so proud.
Now all that's gone again.
Kids have student loans to pay off. That's if their parents
can afford to see 'em through sixth form. A guaranteed
student grant for the poorest is history already, and
Labour locals like John Prescott and David Blunkett show
no signs of reviving this hard won benefit. It all seems
a betrayal of the Labour government my grandparents voted
for after the War. The future looks like slim coal pickings
again for the pit village bright sparks.
So here we are in the 21st century and a
bunch of suits called Yorkshire Forward are busying themselves
with a re-branding exercise. A fait-accompi questionnaire
asks the bleedin' obvious of an audience they assume is
southern and affluent. But they do ask a more interesting
question too. Who would be the best ambassador for the
county in the brave new century. Like they need to ask.
Oh we all know that it'll be a Mike Parkinson/Richard
Whiteley stitch up. Like sitting the other side of the
goggle box for thirty years makes you Henry V.
One moment made me think
of Michael Palin. And no it wasn't the 'Lumberjack
Song' from Monty Python, or his eighties Jackanory appearance
reading 'Small Harry and the Toothache Pills'. It was
the final moments of his first globe trotting odyssey
"Around the World In Eighty Days" when he emerged
blinking in the Oxford Street sunlight, like a big kid,
full of the magic of fact meeting fiction.
To those of us who lived for library books,
the beating of Philias Fogg and Passepartout's legendary
round the world record was a very special moment. It clearly
was for Palin too, despite an ignominious entry into blighty
on a freighter into Harwich. He decided to mark the moment
by filming the purchase of a copy of the London Evening
Standard with the date a mark of irrefutable proof of
the deed. Very Jules Verne. Bad idea. The old bugger selling
the rag decided to hurl a volley of unprovoked abuse at
Palin and his film crew.
Now the man was clearly wounded by this
attack. He'd been around the world an had met ordinary
people of five continents - all of whom had been generous,
accommodating and hospitable people. and the first Englishman
he met in London proved to be the most unpleasant aggressive
creature of the whole trip. Or so he thought. The last
step was to the renowned Gentleman's Club from where Phillias
Fogg had made his famous wager. From what better place
to sign off the film than at the very spot Fogg set out.
Then he met the ultimate in British chivalry
and manners. The Jobsworth doorman. Can't come in here,
mate, you're not a member. Palin was clearly not prepared
for such a wanton display of Great British Bloody-minded
Gittery and finished the film in a mood as black as the
great big Georgian door that remained firmly shut behind
him. He paid tribute to the warmth, the humour, the love
of the world's ordinary people that he'd encountered on
his journey, then wondered what on earth was so great
To me Michael Palin is a hero of the highest
order. He's not one of those stubborn pig-ignorant Yorkshiremen
refusing to speak the lingo or eat the food. Just an ordinary
tyke who went to grammar school, then on to Oxford university.
And don't you scoff at that, either. In them days a Steelworker's
kid getting into posh colleges was unheard of. Then he
went of to give us al a bloody good laugh by just indulging
himself in raw farce and clever wordplay Sometimes both
at the same time. He put broad Yorkshire gormless on the
world's stage. And before he knew it he were famous and
snogging Hollywood actresses fer a livin'. Bugger. That's
what was supposed to happen to ME.
In all this he demonstrates in abundance
the humour and the humility that we all strive to cultivate.
If we are to counter the flat-capped, cloth-eared stranger-hating
two-fingered sloths that have forged the public image
Yorkshire-Forward say we have, then there's only one man
to stand up to the world. No, not Harvey Smith. Michael
Palin. One of the first kids from Yorkshire to take advantage
of the post-war classless society.
Isn't that right, Obediah! Eye, an' you
try telling the young people of today that, and they won't
"Oh Michael, I thought
that you were so rugged!"
The Famous Monty Python 'Lumberjack
Who is this Michael Palin bloke,
I din't vote for him!
This is all a one big bloody joke right? Palin's just
some old bugger who acted the fool for thirty years before
traipsing round the globe for another ten. Peter Pan meets
Daffy Duck on a Workingmen's Club trip to Caracas.
Well that's about right. Though quite how he went from
being a steelworker's son in Sheffield to being clown
prince of England is beyond me. He went all the way to
Brasenose College, Oxford to read History. First kid from
our parish to get further south than Lodge Moor. He could
have been the corduroy king of Birkbeck History Dept,
boring everyone to bits with tales of Doric and Corinthian
Columns. And we'd have all been proud as punch.
But no. He starts hanging out with inbred southern lunatics
like John Cleese, Terry Jones, and Eric Idle. And a right
bunch of idle 'aporths they turned out to be, too. Messing
about with their fringes! And before you know it he's
writing scripts for music hall failures like Ken Dodd,
Roy Hudd and Billy Cotton, whoever they were. Do not adjust
your set? I threw mine out the bloody window. Pardon my
Then it were from bad to worse. He ran away and joined
a Circus. I stopped up and watched it once. I can tell
you now that Billy Smart's job was very safe indeed. It
all got very very silly. He got dressed up as a lumberjack
on BBC2 and then sang about dressing up in women's clothing.
In German. I tell you he was a very sick parrot! Came
home to visit his mam, mumbling about the Holy Grail and
some messiah called Brian, he was. A very naughty boy.
When the Circus disbanded it all got a bit nostalgic,
with Ripping Yarns, East of Ipswich, Tompkinson's Schooldays,
The Missionary and A Private Function, which we don't
talk about. Well, you don't, do you. I mean it's embarrassing.
Fishes called Wanda. American Friends (that was nice,
all swiss cheeses and yodelling.), Consuming Passions
and Fierce Creatures. That was when American Tourists
started showing up and taking pictures of his mum's old
Finally it all went to his head a bit and he took off
round the world. Din't tek him long. But hadn't had so
much as a garibaldi biscuit then he were off again, Pole
to Pole. Thinks he's a character form one of his comedy
dramas he does. Won't sit still. Such a fidget.
Now it's Earnest Hemingway this and Earnest Hemingway
that. And some future project about this mad Scottish
Steelworks firm who made half the manhole covers of Europe.
Just between you and me he's a bit of a nut-case. That's
what comes of giving your eldest airs and graces. He runs
off round the world getting much too big for his boots.
And does it on't telly. Shameless.
Whatever happenaed to that nice Harry Worth. Now he
Northerner's Auntie Beryl
Palindrome? Yup, We've Got Some of Them Things
Straw? No, too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts.
Go deliver a rat for a tar (oft a rare, vile dog).
"Ma," Jerome raps pot top, "spare more jam!"
God! A red nugget! A fat egg under a dog!
Marge lets Norah see Sharon's telegram.
No, Mel Gibson is a casino's big lemon.
Sums are not set as a test on Erasmus.
Yawn. Madonna Fan? No damn way!
Cigar? Toss it in a can, it is so tragic.
Dog as a devil deified lived as a god.
Go hang a salami. I'm a lasagna hog.
Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas.
Damn! I, Agassi, miss again! Mad!
Draw, O Caesar! Erase a coward!
A man, a plan, a canal -- Panama!
Golf? No sir. Prefer prison flog.
A tin mug for a jar of gum, Nita.