18 August 2011


An odd and perennial chant at many northern football grounds is this:-

We all hate Leeds
We all hate Leeds
We all hate Leeds

Hardly Percy Bysshe Shelley is it? It refers to Leeds United - once a renown Premier League football club, now languishing in England's lower divisions. They had a reputation for hard tackling and winning at all costs and their fans often behaved barbarically - like an invading white army. I guess that fans of other clubs were essentially jealous of them.

I remember the sixties when I started supporting Hull City, my third division home town club. On Saturday mornings, at the city's Paragon Station you'd see little furtive huddles of Leeds United supporters - heading westwards into the dark heart of West Yorkshire, transferring their loyalties from the place of their birth for the fancypants "Match of the Day" TV team at Elland Road. Traitors!

From birth, I went to Leeds once a year with my parents. I remember rows and rows of redbrick terraced streets with cast iron Victorian street signs and ugly factories looming from the city's sprawl. The annual visit was always to The Delhi Reunion where RAF and WAAF personnel who had been stationed in India during World War II would meet and remember their war in a smoke-blackened methodist church in Beeston while their postwar children raced around and fell out with each other. Hardly the Taj Mahal. That was Leeds to me - big, Victorian and rather ugly - so different from our blissful East Yorkshire village.

Yesterday I had to visit Leeds with our lovely daughter, Frances. After graduation, she was kicking her heels, trying desperately to find a job with a living wage attached in a rather inhospitable economic climate. It was becoming a concern. Then a friend connected her with an international recruitment consultancy. Swiftly, she went through three separate interviews and rapidly landed a pretty well-paid job but with one nasty catch. It would be in Leeds!

So there we were in Yorkshire's Gomorrah - Leeds. There were Leodensians and Loiners everywhere. I was wishing I'd put on a ski mask. The city's Highway's Department had specially devised a roadsign scheme designed to baffle visitors. You know what I mean? First roundabout there's a sign to Headingley, second roundabout - there's the Headingley sign again. Third roundabout - oh what a great joke - no sign for Headingley!

However, with good fortune we made the Headingley/Hyde Park area and investigated some of the warrens, dens and setts where the Loiners reside. Some of these places even looked like proper homes! It was incredible! On one street I saw a house with a blue plaque indicating that the Victorian artist Atkinson Grimshaw had once lived there. Great name that isn't it - Atkinson Grimshaw - so Leeds! Not Salvador Dali or Henri Matisse but Atkinson Grimshaw - like a Dickensian moneylender.

Later we went to the twenty first century Clarence Dock zone by the River Aire. Blocks of new designer flats here - as in every English city. The glossy magazine lifestyle with paper-thin stud walls and nowhere for visitors to park.

We left Leeds in the early evening - surprisingly unscathed. At least Frances now has more rental ideas but she starts work on Monday morning... "Hello, Atkinson Grimshaw Recruitment Agency, how can I help you?" She will need somewhere to live but for a while she could commute from Sheffield. Physically it is only thirty five miles away but culturally, morally and aesthetically it's at the other side of the planet!
Atkinson Grimshaw's house (1866-1870)
Clarence Dock
The new "Beverley Hills Shopping Mall", Hyde Park, Leeds


  1. 35 miles is but a hop, skip and a jump if the road is OK though I guess coming in to your Winter there could be problems with all that travel. I am presuming she has a car but I guess that is not necessarily the case in England where you have good public transport and short distances to travel. Most young people here have their own car as soon as they have a licence to drive.
    Is there not some lovely little village somewhere in between where she can be outside the dreaded Leeds but spend less time traveling? These things have a way of sorting themselves out.

  2. I lived in York for a few years, so leeds was a bit of a cultural (cinema, theatre , Opera North) centre for me...
    Loved the centre but found the rest all a bit bland

  3. HELEN Perhaps you can send Frances a large red kangaroo with a saddle? No she doesn't have a car. Instead she has a £26,000 student loan to pay off... but you are right of course - these things do tend to sort themselves out.
    JOHN GRAY So you swear on the ghosts of Trelawnyd church that you are NOT a Leeds United supporter?

  4. Absolute joke of a place, with pretensions to be a capital of Yorkshire and capital of the north with their attempt at creating a stock exchange.

    Nothing of cultural value has ever been produced in Leeds. And their accents dull and irritating.

    I don't like the place as a Sheffielder. Can you tell?..

    We'll also skip LUFC allowing the NF to sign up members in the 80s also.

  5. You mean there are parts of Yorkshire that aren't quite so green and pleasant and not as upmarket as Cleckhuddersfax?

  6. Uh oh. One of Cosumne's founding fathers was Rhodes Grimshaw. I have neighbors who are Grimshaws. Does that mean I'm bad? I've been bad for lots of reasons, but this is the most peculiar.

  7. MR BOOTH Isn't it nice to be able to scorn Leeds with impunity?
    SHOOTING PATRIOTS Even in Eden there was a serpent!
    JAN BLAWAT Yes you have been bad and it is time for your spanking young lady! Naughty! Naughty!

  8. "Nothing of cultural value has ever been produced in Leeds."
    Oh dear, where do I start? Alan Bennett, Willis Hall, Arthur Ransome, Keith Waterhouse ... and head and shoulders above them all, Ernie Wise. I do have a bit of a soft spot for the place, it being my hometown and all that. I could think of worse places to have to live. Like Manchester. My only advice would be to stay well away from any student areas like Headingley. Pudsey is the nicest bit for me.

    PS That last picture shows the shop that was once our school outfitter and where I went to have my first barathea blazer fitted. Alas both shop and school are now long gone.

  9. I realize this post is about how yucky Leeds is and not about football chants, but I can't resist telling you my two favorite chants:

    1. U - G - L - Y, you ain't got no alibi, you're ugly...you're ugly.

    and this one from down in Florida:

    2. Muck, muck...muck Fiami.

    Either one repeated incessantly will drive you to drink.

  10. Leeds United ... Languishing in the same lower division as Hull I think Mr Pudding...

  11. MICHAEL "Alan Bennett, Willis Hall, Arthur Ransome, Keith Waterhouse" - You prove my point sir! How weird that those unspectacular shops were already known to you.
    RHYMES WITH I like the UGLY chant. It seems somehow un-American.
    DAVID Hull City EXPECT to languish in the lower divisions. Our two years in the Premiership were pure fantasy.

  12. I'll give you Bennett, Waterhouse and Hall, Michael. But I always preferred Freeman, Hardy and Willis their sales assistants were friendlier and shoe measurer was ultimately more accurate.

  13. MR JONATHAN (BOOTH) Pity the F H & W assistant who had to measure your feet! The odour would have hung about the shop for days!


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