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)
The new "Beverley Hills Shopping Mall", Hyde Park, Leeds