Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

So snow causes a few problems – stop whingeing about it.


Every so often there is some snow in the UK.

Not very often.

Actually it would be probably better to say – about once a year, but actually not even as often as that, about twice every two years – but sometimes we go three or four years in between – we get some snow in the UK

And it usually causes a few problems – we get traffic snarl ups, road closures, public transport problems, and sporting fixtures postponed, Oh and we get schools closed and people sent home from school.

And every time that happens we get something else – people who whinge about how the snow causes so much difficulty when we have so little of it.

Predictable lines are as follows :

How is it that [ Canada / Russia / Germany / Norway / insert country that gets more snow than us ] can have [ 12 feet /  18 feet / insert improbably large depth ] of snow EVERY DAY for three years, and the trains aren’t even 5 minutes late once  – but when we get [ a few centimetres / millimetres / a light dusting / insert improbably slight amount ] of snow everything GRINDS TO A HALT

Back in 1963, our school never closed  – we used to walk to school through 100 foot high snowdrifts and if we were 2 minutes late our teacher used to hit us with a big stick and we’d say thankyou; but nowadays they close every school at the drop of a hat.

When Stanley Matthews wor a lad, they used to play football even when the snow was up to their necks; and the balls were made of pigs bladders filled with concrete; and the crowds were 80,000 strong, and sometimes it was so cold that they couldn’t move from the terraces because their feet had frozen to the spot; but they clapped every goal and then walked home forty miles in a blizzard; nowadays they call off every game at the merest hint of a snow flake.

You get the picture ?

Well the fight back starts here.

You want to know why snow causes problems ? Want to know why we don’t all have snow chains for our cars ? Want to know why we don’t grit the roads three or four times every night between September and May ?

Easy – it’s because it hardly ever happens, and when it does it rarely lasts longer than a day or so.

Want to save a bit of your car maintenance budget ? – Easy ! –  don’t get winter tyres or snow chains – I’ve never had any in my whole life – because I’ve never really needed them

Want to keep council spending down ? Easy ! – don’t waste it all on salt and grit that usually gets washed away before the snow lands, and tends to make everyone’s cars rust a bit quicker.

Want to keep your costs down in your football stadium ? Well postpone  a game or two every couple of years – and don’t switch that expensive under soil heating on.

Snow tends to give us all a bit of excitement once every blue moon, something we can tell our kids about in years to come. It really doesn’t inconvenience us much though in the long run.

So to answer the points above –

How come those countries can carry on when they have loads of snow ?  Easy – it’s because they invest a lot of time and effort in doing so – because it makes economic sense because they get loads of snow. We don’t – because it doesn’t and we don’t.

How come the schools stayed open in 1963 and they all close now ? Well lots of schools did close in 1963 – but many of them didn’t because most of their pupils lived within walking distance – which they had to because most people did not have cars. Today pupils can travel several miles to a school – and staff often travel far further due to the mobility – both geographical and social  – that the car has given us. The big problem in a school is ending up in a situation where you have children who can not be supervised properly because staff have been unable to get to work.. There is also a great deal of pressure on schools to let parents know a school is closed as soon as possible  – and schools do sometimes have to close on a probable threat of further snow rather than waiting for it to happen. My kids are now in the 6th form – I think this has happened maybe four times since they started school when they were 5. Hardly  a massive inconvenience – they loved every one of those “snow days”.

“Snow days” by the way is one of those expressions we’ve borrowed from the big snow countries – where extra days are built into the school year because they know that they’ll probably  have to close several times.

Snow Football

And what about the sport ? How did they they manage to keep going back then ? Well – they didn’t !

In the much talked about winter of 62/63 there was barely any Football, Rugby League, or Rugby Union played in England or Scotland between late December and February – some FA Cup ties were re-arranged more than 10 times.

In the UK only one Horse racing meeting took place in Scotland, with none at all in the other nations, between 23rd December and 7th March – with 97 race meetings cancelled.Today in 2013 on the day after the most significant snow falls of the year throughout the country, not a single Premier League or Championship match has been postponed – and fans have been able to travel throughout the country to watch those games, on motorways that have been open throughout the day.

So we do pretty well actually – we could do a lot better – but it’s really not worth it – it doesn’t happen often and it’s rarely around for long.

Now excuse me I’m off to build a snowman before it all melts

Stop Whingeing and enjoy the snow !

Stop Whingeing and enjoy the snow !

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Football, idle banter, news | , , , | Leave a comment

Truth takes a pounding after Leaders Debate

This headline from the Telegraph was quite widely trailed on Twitter today : Pound falls after Nick Clegg’s election debate success

Now admit it – looking at that, I’ll bet you thought that the currency markets had gone into free-fall, worried at the prospect of a Lib-Dem dominated hung parliament.

There might be the odd one of you that thought, hey Nick’s a nice guy, but if it’s going to send the City into turmoil, then I’ll stick with the Tories.

Well that’s just what the Telegraph wanted you to think.

Have a scout around and you’ll find that Nick Clegg’s apparent triumph (and actually I did think he came off best), and any fall in the value of the pound are in fact totally unrelated incidents.

How can I be so sure ?

Well mainly because the pound hasn’t nose-dived through the floor. Hasn’t lost all that much ground. In fact it’s been on an upward trend against the dollar since approximately the 25th March. Today’s fall of around 0.6% (representing less than 1 cent against the dollar, doesn’t really affect that trend. BBC NEWS | Business | Market Data | Currencies | Sterling GBP v US Dollar USD and in fact, at the time the Telegraph report was being read on-line by millions this afternoon, the pound was actually increasing in value against the Euro – although it finished the day slightly lower.

So all in all it’s been a relatively uneventful day for the pound – and whether it had gone up or down, it would have been nothing to do with Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron.

Remember that the world doesn’t really revolve around financial traders, and never forget that democracy will always be far more important than a good day’s profit in the City.

So to the general public I say – Ignore the Telegraph’s silly scare stories – and vote for the candidate you think will do the best job.

And to the Telegraph, could I suggest you change your headline to “Millwall Crash against Huddersfield, after Cameron fails in Leaders debate” – it has after all got exactly the same cause and effect relationship as your original article, and a little bit more truth about it.

Town goalscorer Peter Clarke (Picture is the Telegraph's)

Town goalscorer Peter Clarke (Picture is the Telegraph's)

April 16, 2010 Posted by | economy, Election 2010, Football, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Win one for Mannion !

Many years ago there were a couple of brilliant footballers. There names were Wilf Mannion, and Albert Stubbins. That’s really about all I know of them. There names are very familiar to me though, because they were the nick-names that were used to identify my Dad (Stubbins) and his brother (Mannion) in their early teens, and in the way these things pan out, for most of the rest of their lives.

Why ? well because they were good footballers. Not quite so good as the real Mannion & Stubbins mind – but they both cut a dash in the Spen Valley League for a while.

Last weekend though my uncle, Mannion, died of cancer, after a relatively short illness. Diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus only in August, he only became really really ill a couple of weeks back – and it was quite a surprise when he died. So this blog is my tribute to him.

My Dad & my Uncle were two of five brothers born in Manchester, but brought up in the Heavy Woollen District in a working class family. They lived (and my Dad still does) a typical West Yorkshire (or perhaps I should say West Riding) working class life.

I suppose I could do a blog, talking about how they triumphed over adversity, through community spirit and support for the Labour party.

I could – but it would be a lie. I’m reasonably sure that all the members of my extended family on both my Dad’s side & my Mum’s, could have been loosely described as floating voters. Neither did any of them particularly triumph over adversity. They worked hard, and got by, none spectacularly successful and none of them failures. None of them wealthy but equally none of them ever poverty stricken (although it’s all relative).

No – the common thread which bound my family together was not politics. Nor was it religion. Nor was it the working class community spirit. It was actually … Football !

That’s not strictly accurate – it wasn’t just football – it was Huddersfield Town Football Club.

I was taken to my first Huddersfield match in what I think was 1965 – by my Dad, and three of his brothers. Including the aforementioned Mannion. We played Blackburn Rovers at home, and I recall the Town supporters chanting the name of Alan Gilliver – who later played for Blackburn (and more recently was involved behind the scenes at Bradford City). in truth I remember little about the game. I do remember though my uncle lifting me above his head to get a better view of the match, and promptly banging my head on the low roof of what was the “paddock” in front of the main stand at Leeds Road stadium – which had disappeared for ever by my next visit to the ground.

From that day onward I unwittingly became the subject of a plot to indoctrinate & initiate me into something that was part religion, part family, and partly a downright curse – I was about to become a Huddersfield Town supporter.

My Dad, Stubbins, played his part by dragging me and my brother to every home game. Kicking & Screaming ? You bet we were – we begged and pleaded not to go, but were told we had to – for my Mum’s sake (never been quite sure about how that figured).

Meanwhile Mannion would see us fairly frequently, and would test us on our football knowledge. This was achieved by studying the Littlewoods year book, which was delivered by the football pools collector at the start of each season. Along with details of how to complete an 8 from 14 Full Perm, or a “Lit-Plan”, it contained details about every club in the league (Question 1 – How many clubs are in the league ? Quick ! Quick !  Answer : 92 ! Yes – that’s right !)

Information – Important stuff. Like what colours each team played in. Like what colours they played in away from home, like which stadium (or more properly – which “ground”) they played at, and what was their record attendance, and ground capacity (all the good teams had a record attendance far bigger than their ground capacity)

So every few weeks my brother and I would find ourselves being grilled by Mannion. “What colours do Blackburn Rovers play in ?” “Blue and White ?” “Stripes ?” ” er … Quarters” – “No -it’s halves – you’ve got to know your strips”

“Who plays at St James’s Park”   “Newcastle !”   “That’s easy – but who else ?”  “Exeter City !” – “Well done – You’ve got to know your grounds”

We of course enjoyed every second of this and I gradually realised that most of it was tongue in cheek, but nevertheless it worked its magic. We gradually started to enjoy our forcible abduction to Leeds Road on alternate Saturday afternoons, and really did become quite knowledgeable about football in general, and Huddersfield Town in particular – the first team by the way to win the League title in 3 consecutive years (but can you name the others ?); and so it was on a Saturday afternoon in August 1970, I made my way out of the first match of the season – a 3-0 home win against Blackpool – our first game in the “top flight” for some 14 years – and back to the car with my Dad and my uncle – who pointed out after listening to the results coming in on the radio (which was held up to his ear – no flashy in-car entertainment systems back then), that as we’d got a better goal average (not difference) than anyone else who’d won that day, we were top of the league. I accepted this news as a confirmed Town supporter. As if it had ever been in doubt.

The years have not been so good to our team since then – certainly we’ve never been in that exalted position since then – and the next few years were a real trial for Huddersfield supporters, seeing us slide down to Division 4 whilst near neighbours Leeds (excuse me while I wash my mouth out with soap) enjoyed their best ever seasons under Don Revie. At school it seemed like every one was a Leeds supporter, save a few hardy souls like me. It wasn’t pleasant. We were teased and bullied and generally made to feel like a race apart – but we began to notice something interesting.

If you looked at a class full of about 30 kids and asked who supported which football team, you’d find maybe 26 for Leeds, 4 for Huddersfield. If you then asked who had ever attended a live game, you’d find around 8 for Leeds and around 4 for Huddersfield. If you then asked who attended every home game, You’d find around 3 for Leeds and around 4 for Huddersfield.

So we actually found that we had a more cohesive network – we all knew each other, knew people from other schools,other Towns, and we actually found that the Leeds supporters envied us. If we needed a lift to a game, someone’s Dad took us, or their Uncle, or Grandad or whatever, because in all of our families, supporting Huddersfield was not an option. It was seen as our birthright.

It may seem weird now, but I grew up in a family in which my parents, all my grandparents, all my 4 Uncles, and 5 Aunties, and all my various cousins – all of them, but all of them, were Huddersfield Town supporters.

In later life it wasn’t quite as easy to get to all the games, and I didn’t see as much of my uncle as I did as a boy, but when “Abide with me” was sung at his funeral, in typical cup final fashion with half the crowd not really knowing the words, I have to admit that I was tempted to break into a loud cheer at the end, and could picture in my minds eye, the team breaking towards their following supporters at Wembley.

I’m not a believer in God myself, but if my uncle is looking down on us from on high, – he may not be at God’s right hand, but if there’s a God, I’m sure Bill Shankly will be close to him – so Mannion : Have a word with Shanks – point out that he owes us after winning the cup for Preston & also taking us down a league, point out that Denis Law did some good stuff for Scotland, and get him to have a word with the big guy to see if he can sort something out :  Huddersfield to gain promotion to the First Division – or England to win the World Cup   – either will do (although both would be nice !);   Oh and if any Huddersfield Town players are reading this  – Win one for Mannion ! He was a good man, and it’s what he would have wanted !

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Family, Football, politics, Religion | | 1 Comment

A political football ( club ) ?

[ I had a good idea with this one but got a bit bogged down – remember I’m an ordinary bloke not a journalist – I tidied off the worst of the rough edges and decided to publish anyway, maybe I’ll come back to this theme later ]

Listening to the debate at Progress’s event last Monday Would primaries save or kill the Labour party? I naturally did a lot of thinking about the pro’s & cons of primary elections. As I’ve blogged previously  Thoughts on primaries and electoral reform – and Monday’s debate did nothing to change my mind – I can’t help but feel that although I tend to be in support of primaries, I think that they would be best employed as part of a wider range of electoral and political reform.

I’m not especially well versed in this subject area though and I feel that those issues are likely to be covered elsewhere with a little more subject specific knowledge than I can muster The Progress campaign for Labour primaries page is as good a place as any to find more information – so instead I’d like to turn my attention to something slightly different – but very much related I feel.

A strong theme that arose in the debate on Monday was that on the one hand it was slightly unfair that people who had taken the trouble to join the party, and indeed pay their subscriptions would in effect have very little more say in the selection of candidates, than an ordinary member of the public who may not eventually go on to vote for the candidate (or party) at the election. Against this it was pointed out that in many cases Parliamentary candidates are effectively selected by as few as 50 people, which raises some interesting questions about the true nature of democracy.

The answer which seemed to arise to these questions was essentially this : that political parties as they are now, and have been for many years will not continue to exist if they cling to the models of membership that they had in the past. Labour has dwindled to a fraction of its former size, and the Tories similarly have seen a haemorrhaging of members even in what is seen to be a time of renewed enthusiasm for them among the general public. New approaches to membership must develop if parties as we now recognise them are to continue.

As a football supporter, I was (and am) struck by the similarities between “the beautiful game” and the state of politics in this country

(and yes I know I turn every conversation round to football – that’s just me OK !)

In the 60’s & 70’s and before, supporting a football team meant turning up at the matches and standing in the cold to watch. That was really the only way of doing it.The particularly keen became season ticket holders which made them part of the core customer base – if we’re looking for an analogy with a political party, a season ticket holder was like a “member” of the party.

I held a season ticket until the mid eighties, at which time I moved away from home. I haven’t been to many games since – so have I stopped being a supporter ?

Well in the old sense I have – someone who manged 3 games over to 2 seasons would have been thought a pretty poor supporter in the old days, but times have most definitely changed.

For one thing, the geographical limits have changed. When I grew up in West Yorkshire, there was very little choice about football teams. It had to be Leeds or Huddersfield really. Few people travelled much further afield – or really expected to in their life time.

Now it’s more or less expected that people will move around as they progress through life – to different parts of the country and to different parts of the world. You’re as likely to be able to buy a Manchester United shirt in Oxford Street as in Manchester, and it’s become recognised that the people who sit in the stands aren’t necessarily the only “lifeblood” a team has.

Millions watch football on TV – and money from the television deals essentially provides the biggest part of the finance within the game.

I can’t imagine Sky TV ever paying millions of pounds for the right to televise CLP meetings live though – so perhaps that’s not the right part of the analogy to use.

Where I think politics can learn, is from the myriad of different ways in which it’s not possible to support a football team :

You can join “Patron’s” societies – to have access to the hierarchy within the club – and pay for the privilege.

You can join Travel clubs – and just go to the away games – Did you know that Huddersfield coaches sometimes pick up passengers in Milton Keynes ?

You can be part of online communities – email lists, and web forums – which are often joined by players and staff as well

You can buy a shirt and never go to a game or do anything else – but some of the money still goes to the club

You can open a bank account or get a credit card which provides funds to your team

You can vote for “player of the year” on the club’s website.

Which sort of brings us back to primaries. But back in the Labour Party – it’s still in the main a “put your card in your wallet and turn up at the meetings” kind of deal (and please, I am aware of the irony of a member of less than 6 months standing waxing lyrical on membership – I’ve no wish to knock those hardy stalwarts who’ve done just that for so many years)

What I’m saying is that just as changes in technology, and society changed how we support our football teams then it will also change the way in which we support our political parties – and I’d hazard a guess that the parties that get their heads around this the quickest, will be the ones best placed to survive the the coming decades.

October 18, 2009 Posted by | Football, politics | , , | Leave a comment

The Beautiful Game


A lot of talk about football on Twitter tonight – and surfing around I found this wonderful snatch of prose from JB Priestley, in his 1929 novel The Good Companions, via Steve J’s blog Educated Left Foot in 2008.

For those who don’t know Bruddersford United represent the archetypal heavy woollen district football team – so are probably Bradford City, Park Avenue, Huddersfield, Leeds and Halifax all rolled into one.

Here it is

“To say that these men paid their shillings to watch twenty-two hirelings kick a ball is merely to say that a violin is wood and catgut, that Hamlet is so much paper and ink. For a shilling the Bruddersford United AFC offered you Conflict and Art; it turned you into a critic, happy in your judgement of fine points, ready in a second to estimate the worth of a well-judged pass, a run down the touch line, a lightning shot, a clearance kick by back or goalkeeper; it turned you into a partisan, holding your breath when the ball came sailing into your own goalmouth, ecstatic when your forwards raced away towards the opposite goal, elated, downcast, bitter, triumphant by turn at the fortunes of your side, watching a ball shape Iliads and Odysseys for you; and what is more, it turned you into a member of a new community, all brothers together for an hour and a half, for not only had you escaped from the clanking machinery of this lesser life, from work, wages, rent, doles, sick pay, insurance cards, nagging wives, ailing children, bad bosses, idle workmen, but you had escaped with most of your neighbours, with half the town, and there you were cheering together, thumping one another on the shoulders, swopping judgements like lords of the earth, having pushed your way through a turnstile into another and altogether more splendid kind of life, hurtling with Conflict and yet passionate and beautiful in its Art. Moreover it offered you more than a shilling’s worth of material for talk during the rest of the week. A man who had missed the last home match of “t’United” had to enter social life on a tiptoe in Bruddersford.”

Not much you can say after that !

Oh, Huddersfield beat Brighton 7-1 tonight by the way. (in case you missed it !)

August 18, 2009 Posted by | Football, idle banter | , , , | 2 Comments


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