Today, bus drivers at Go North West in Manchester go on strike in protest at the ‘fire and re-hire’ policy that has seen them forced to accept new contracts with worse conditions. How did we get from transport workers being heroes to villains, in ten short months?
Peter Norcliffe writes of the exploits of his local walking group, the ‘WARTS’, and their Yorkshire rambling. “Lockdown has deprived us of opportunities to exercise these in each other’s company and so I have had to turn to writing to keep my skills ticking over.”
Peter Norcliffe recalls the day when he helped his neighbour with a water leak, but came face to face with a fire; he reminisces about his years as a part-time firefighter and the activities his brigade got up to.
Isabel Ralphs unpacks the gendered impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and talks to one new mother who is helping to fight for much-needed change.
Steve and Tim discuss the difficulty of maintaining cleanliness while living in a car, and how hard it is to still access all the facilities and services, once you’ve exited a long-standing relationship.
John Cornwell recalls three Polish war memorials from the city of Bolesławiec in Poland, the site of a former concentration camp. “It was sad reminder of how history, once so furious and meaningful in a place, moves on and what was once so vitally significant is now just a footnote in a peaceful neighbourhood.”
The American videogame retailer ‘GameStop’ was trending in the news and on social media recently. This was the result of millions of, mostly young, members of online forum ‘Reddit’ uniting to talk up the value of GameStop after realising that hedge funds such as Melvin Capital Management had bet against the US retailer.
Emily Horner digs into the analysis from Google indicating that the people of Yorkshire have adapted their way of life in the pandemic. “Overall, these Google reports show that Yorkshire’s tendency to ‘just get on with it’ has remained strong, with most of us sticking to the rules and making the best of things.”
Peter Norcliffe recalls the ‘proper’ snow of 1947, which started falling in January and didn’t clear until mid-March, leaving many homes stranded for weeks.
University of Leeds student Annabelle Levins looks at how students have been let down by both the government and their universities during the pandemic.
Beanna Olding reports on the efforts by the organisers of the 2016 anti-Trump Women’s March to survey global feminists. “the team has constructed a survey to collect data about the cultural and socio-economic obstacles women all over the world are facing today.”
Former MEP Michael Hindley discusses how we can stay close to Europe: “the way back to the EU will be facilitated by maintaining and even furthering such initiatives. Labour needs to explore which EU projects are still open to the UK’s participation.”
Jimmy Andrex reviews our pie of the week – a mushroom and leek pie from Denby Dale, West Yorkshire. “It’s warm, it’s got a crust and it tastes comforting and fabulous.”
John Cole questions why we have foodbanks in such a prosperous society, and how austerity led to divisions in this country. “Austerity has a lot to answer for and we may note that the two leading protagonists were David Cameron and George Osborne (both dismissed by a third Conservative MP Nadine Dorries as ‘two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’).”
So, if I cannot roller skate around the park then I will navigate this new lockdown with my tiny army by my side. I shall continue to gaze longingly at my skates whilst I paint away my lockdown blues … with a fabulous shade of Warhammer Blue!
Jimmy Andrex reviews the pie of the week – this time from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. “At the end of our walk, seeking refuge from a grim sense of foreboding, I greeted the news that my favourite pie – steak, ale and Henderson’s Relish – was on the specials board with the same relief as when I heard about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.”
The BBC faces a rocky road ahead, with the Dowden enquiry and the appointment of the new chairperson – former Goldman Sachs banker, and Conservative Party donor. Richard Sharp. And Cummings’ departure will not make a difference to its survival, the damage has been done. The lies spoken and the criticism will continue.
Dr Pam Jarvis looks at how Jodie Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor has been treated differently to her male on-screen predecessors. While an advancement for gender equality in science-fiction, Whittaker’s character has been plagued with maternal stereotypes, gendering the treatment of the character in a role which had the opportunity to escape such shoehorning.
John Cole reviews Ian Dunt’s book, How To Be a Liberal. The book stretches back as far as Aristotle to draw a history of liberalism over millennia, examines the personal lives of many of the early liberals, and offers advice for all readers to help create a better world.
Peter Norcliffe reminisces about biplanes, old money, and ‘Doctor Dan’s Health Drink’ in his latest column. ” Not for me a train driver or firefighter – both very noble causes, of course, but I’m sure you will agree, not in the same league as a milk man with a black and white horse.”
Jimmy Andrex reviews the pie of the week – this time from William Noble Family Butchers in Wakefield. “A Noble’s steak pie is an everyday celebration of wholesome certainty; like a grittier version of The Waltons. They’re freshly made every day, the oven’s in the shop and the smell when they open the door should be regulated by some sort of statute”.
There are no recommendations for plague books, or books on Brexit, yet all of the books we recommend are very topical and touch on current anxieties about the environment, right-wing populism, religious and racial identity, mental health, and current politics and economics. There is also hope, warmth, optimism and practical suggestions. This is, by no means, a gloomy reading list!
Norky goes back to the early fifties to recall a time when some things were scarcer, but the magic of his childhood Christmas lives on in his memories.
Dr Pam Jarvis reflects on the meaning of the Winter Solstice, as we move from the shortest day and into the light. So, what of our duplicitous government, fractured nation and spoiled Christmas? As the New Year dawns, the time to silence, to uproot and to tear down will be coming to an end, and the time to speak, to plant and to mend will be coming around.
Peter Norcliffe’s latest piece goes into local history, older agricultural practises and his memories of his uncle’s tractor.
In troubled times, with rampant division, there remains one part of our culture about which there must surely be widespread unity, especially in the forgotten land of the North of England: Pies.
Pen Hemingway looks at the history of The Retreat, an 18th century Quaker-run asylum in York which pioneered treatment for the mentally ill. Hemingway writes about some of the patients admitted to the hospital, and how they were treated. “The Retreat may well have been a pioneer in terms of its treatment of its patients, but many of us will be grateful of being born in somewhat more enlightened days that allowed us to avoid ending up there.”
Marcus Cain visits the Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds, one of many venues impacted by the pandemic. He speaks to HPBC’s owner Jack about his work keeping the venue alive in such extraordinary times, along with a local performer.
The decriminalisation of rape: why the justice system is failing rape survivors and what needs to change
Dr Stella Perrott discusses a new report that shows that the overwhelming majority of sexual assault perpetrators have escaped consequences. “The criminal justice system, from police and prosecution service to the courts, is riddled with ‘rape myths’, is disempowering of and even harmful to victims”
Pen Hemingway looks at the 19th century practice of ‘wife sales’. Looked down on by middle-class journalists of the time, the act may in fact have been a way for women, still the legal property of their husbands, to escape abusive or unhappy marriages.