Hear & There with Peter Haughton


Sun’s out!

Ey up. Saturday. Sun’s out.

Now shall I get up… or wait ’til Neenie comes back from walking Arnie? She allus does the ‘first un these days now she’s retired as well.

Brings me another cuppa, too. Bless.

Too nice though! Think I’ll nip over to Aldi – get some croissants – we’ll ‘ave a continental brekkie.

Yep! It is nice and warm outside for once! Can’t tell you ‘ow glad I am.

Loads o’ tab ends slap bang in the doorway. Nice and quiet though. An’ I just need bread as well. Busy at ‘checkouts though. Like Briggate. Both aisles chocker. And, just as I’m thinking I could call out in that monotonic voice that Lee Evans impersonates so perfectly, ‘Cashier Number Three, please!’, they sort it for me.

I’m quick. Like a ferret down a rabbit oil. Still have to wait though, so it gets me thinkin’ about that Queen song ‘I want To Break Free’. And be’time the young lad arrives, I’ve got me stall set out…

‘Do you know that Queen song ‘I Want To Break Free’. He nods. ‘Ere goes (didn’t sing too loud)-

Please open aisle three

I want to be free to go eat me croissants at least before tea-e-ee

I want to be….’

Worked. Got ‘im laughin’.

Because music soothes the savage breast. That’s Shakespeare, tha’ knos. Unless it’s rapping. Not reet soothin’. And that’s the point. ‘Ave to ‘ave a savage breast for that.

Not many people know this, but rapping started ‘ere, in Yorkshire. Yes you read it right, an’ it can be proved in a coupla paragraphs.

Y’see, me, I’m already gettin’ nearly as old as Methuselah, but me mam taught us boys a rap that her dad’d taught ‘er. But to mek sense of it I’ll ‘ave to explain a coupla things: it’s two kids meeting in a playground who ‘ave brothers called Bob. But ‘Bob’, as many-as-old-as-me from Yorkshire will be able to tell yer, was the nickname for a shilling, a coin used before decimalisation and, in today’s money, worth 5p. ‘Bob’ is also a Yorkshire word for a punch.

First kid’s angry because the other kid’s brother called Bob owes ‘is brother Bob a shilling so ‘e sez in an angry voice (see – rap!) –

‘Tha Bob owes ar Bob a bob an’ if tha Bob dun’t give ar Bob that bob that tha Bob owes ar Bob ar Bob’s gunna give tha Bob a bob on’ nose!’

Just needs a beat innit.


Daughter Katie checking out the Specialized Rockhopper, Dorset, 1988 (ish)

I am mad about … bicycles.

Back in the early nineties I took the ferry to Holland to cycle through Belgium, then France, on a Specialized Rockhopper, to spend some time in Paris.

I’m not a super-fit kind of person: one of the reasons I was doing this was to have a separate holiday from my then-wife who’d made other plans, as the marriage was just about over.

Cycling to Lille, Leeds’ twin city, wasn’t bad at all because it was mainly flat. The hostel I stayed at in Lille was different from ours because it was mostly occupied by workers, not hikers.

When, the following day, it took until lunchtime to get out of Lille, and facing so many hills with Paris still so far away, I took a train. The bike followed on a goods train, to arrive in Paris the day after. But I was lucky, because I had a French friend called Dominique who lent me the use of his flat, just outside Paris, whilst he was away on holiday.

And I still remember the immense satisfaction of being at Le Gare du Nord at 7:00 am the next day to pick up my beloved companion. Intact.

Things might have changed since but Paris in the 90’s was quiet in August because, traditionally, so many Parisians were en vacance.

I cycled only on the Right Bank side of the Seine, i.e. north-western Paris, because it’s mostly flat and gentle, other than la Butte de Montmartre. There was more than enough to explore. Still visited Sacre Couer though, locking my bike up somewhere beneath (tip – always buy the securest lock you can afford).

You ride safe, wide boulevards as you saunter your way away from the river, to the outskirts, the slight upwards incline and warm weather convincing you… to take it easy.

On the downhill return, you pick up speed, with minimum effort, in order to savour the cooling breeze. Holidays? Divorce? C’est la vie c’est la guerre.

Given the right weather, you can enjoy cycling anywhere – especially including Leeds. But wherever you bike a big city, it’s advisable to stay away from traffic wherever you can.