You don’t expect saying “Hello” to cause so much trouble on Yorkshire Day but this year it did.
Picture a burbling river and a set of stepping stones arcing from one bank to another before a weir. Myself and my four-year-old, Little D, are on one stone halfway across and a mother and daughter are coming from the opposite direction, oblivious to me and my son because she is busy posing for a film that her husband is taking from the safety of bushes on the canal path.
I shout “excuse me”. My wife Carol yells “excuse me”. And Little D sings “oi, excuse me” but to no avail. So a friendly “hello” was the next step. It was the universal “Hello” which in Yorkshire means “stop posing for the camera and be aware that you are stood on stepping stones oblivious to the queue behind and in front of you, you mardy cow”. By this time Carol was in the river, Little D had soaked one sneaker and she was still posing for her husband and his Kubrickesque film.
Eventually she withdrew, mouse-like, meek and preening, over to the bank as we climbed the other side. We all said “thanks” but then the husband burst from the canal bank bushes like a silverback gorilla, abandoning a child in a pushchair and two pre-schoolers just to tell me that I should show more respect to his wife. It seems saying hello can lead to violence or, in this case, stupidity.
Meanwhile, people were drinking tea on the canal tow-path, served by a lovely woman in a canal boat. The lovely woman froze in mid-pour, the Yorkshire tea just inches from someone’s Yorkshire cup. There was a collective intake of Yorkshire breath as the man lost his temper in front of my pre-schooler, his pre-schoolers, toddler and wife. I asked how saying “hello” can be disrespectful. This confused him so I threw a stone behind him and he ran back into the bushes with his phone and four letter words. A man sitting nearby, drinking Yorkshire Tea, wearing a Yorkshire flat cap and adorned in white roses nodded at me, Carol and Little D and said: “That’s bloody Lancastrians for you”.
The problem with living in Saddleworth is that we are in disputed territory; everyone in Oldham thinks we’re part of Oldham as they administrate us. For unknown reasons, some Roughyeds persist with the belief that Greater Manchester exists as an administrative body and think that they’re Mancunians. Another bunch of Roughyeds think that we are all in Lancashire and will slit your throat with cotton if you say otherwise. The only ones who know where they are and where they live are people in Saddleworth.
We Saddleworth folk know that we’re still in Yorkshire, we’re still dyed-in-the-wool Yorkshire people and our Yorkshire Day is a little hardcore because we’re on the border. Even the Government tried to appease us this year and acknowledged that no historical boundaries have ever been changed in Britain, only administrative ones. So that means that Greater Manchester never existed beyond pieces of paper buried deep in Manchester Town Hall.
All this does leave me in awkward position. I was born a Lancastrian but even growing up I experienced the often tongue-in-cheek, knife at your throat, boundary problems with the creation of Greater Manchester. My Mum, born in Bolton, doesn’t recognise that Bolton has any right to administer my home town of Horwich. Bolton was a mining and cotton town; Horwich was a trains and cotton town. Can’t you see the difference…?
Horwich was in Lancashire, further in Lancashire than Bolton in fact and we had better Lancastrian credentials and sayings. We didn’t want any fancy talk from Bolton Council telling us what to do with our pies, yarn shops, temperance bars and Italian diners. We had it all, we were living the life of Lovelady (the Lancastrian version of Riley) and even when our administrative boundaries changed we clung to being Lancastrian.
Then many years ago I moved to Yorkshire and took the declaration. My Mum fainted, my Dad said some Lancastrian swear words that we’re sure he made up and my sister hasn’t spoken to me since. You see, I may not be Yorkshire in birth but I have lived in Yorkshire for a long time and I am loyal to Yorkshire because it’s been good to me (and if I say otherwise I will wake up with my head stuffed in sheep’s arse). Yorkshire is 1,139 years old, older than the Union, and you can’t take that away from us by badgering us for saying “Hello” and sticking to our guns. We should all stick to our guns and just maybe stupid pillocks from down South will stop trying to tell we’re uncivilised louts. I mean, I could have taken him if he hadn’t run off back to the bushes and my tea weren’t getting cold.
Life on Pig Row is the story of Andrew and Carol Oldham’s lives as they raise Little D. It all takes place 1,330 feet above sea level in a small hamlet on top of the Pennines surrounded by the Yorkshire Moors. Pig Row is the tale of their move from a semi-urban life at Drovers to a more self-sufficientish lifestyle in their cottage set within a quarter of an acre. It’s not quite The Good Life but it’s getting there. Come take the road less travelled with Pig Row, you’ll find it makes all the difference.