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My Yorkshire: Simon Rouse

Simon Rouse has been one of the police officers – the now Superintendent Jack Meadows – in TV's The Bill for nearly 20 years. He is married to Annie, a painter and former actress, and has two children, Toby and Lean, a writer and poet.

What's your first Yorkshire memory?

I was born in Bradford and grew up there, and when I was a kid I was in the Cubs, and I can clearly remember, at the age of about eight or nine, walking back home on a cold winter's evening, and calling in at the local fish and chip shop, and buying a penny-worth of scraps, that delicious fried batter that they used to sell when you couldn't afford 4d's worth of chips.

What's your favourite part of the county – and why?

Bolton Abbey and Wharfedale, and that hill nearby called Simon's Seat. We used to go for a lot of camping and caravanning holidays when I was a youngster, and we'd always find somewhere spectacular. I remember swimming in the river at the Abbey, which was a lot of fun.

What's your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

Waking up in a nice little hotel somewhere near Appletreewick with my wife, Annie, and then walking along and up to Simon's Seat, taking in the grand view, finding a nice nearby pub for a glass of wine at lunchtime, and then driving across to Bradford to catch a show at the Alhambra. With a good curry afterwards to round it all off.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

I used to walk around that reservoir near Bradford as a child, with my dad, and when the bluebells were out in May, it was so beautiful. Other than that, see above – anywhere in Wharfedale is fine, there's always another great view around the corner, to the point that you are forever stopping and staring, to take it all in.

Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

It has to be Freddie Trueman. A really wild character who wasn't afraid to call himself "The best bloody fast bowler who ever drew breath". I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when he was in the dressing room with all the "posh" lads. My father used to umpire for Yorkshire Boys' and he was forever telling me what he'd heard about Freddie.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

Michael Palin. A good Sheffield lad, and a complete all-rounder. He's a comic, a writer, a documentary-maker, and to my mind a wonderful bloke who I could sit and listen to for hours and hours. I never miss him when he's on the box, and to my deep regret, I've never ever met him.

If you had to name your Yorkshire "hidden gem", what would it be?

Salts Mill. When I was in my teens I'd hear stories about the plans for the place, you know, "One day this will all be a great arts and performance centre", and then – bosh! – it all happened. What an achievement it I, and what a joy the Hockney Gallery gives me.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

A good balance of true wit and cynicism in the people, and a dryness. A blend between old industries and new ones, like tourism, and a contrast between stunning views and our industrial heritage.

Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?

I have a very soft spot for Sheffield United, it has to be admitted. And I used to follow Rugby League avidly – not quite so much now. In fact, at one point I even wrote a television drama treatment of how Rugby League began, and the men involved in the great break-away from Rugby Union. Sadly, it was never picked up, but doing all the research was fascinating and hugely enjoyable.

What about Yorkshire's cultural life?

There's so much of it, isn't there – good indie bands coming through, great theatres, and a festival for just about every subject under the sun. One thing is for sure, you're never wanting for something to do or see in Yorkshire.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

This is confession time. It's the King's Arms in Heaton, Bradford, which I remember from when I was about 16 years old. My first taste of Tetley's Ales in the snug at the back, away from other customers who might have asked questions about my age. They had a ladies' only bar, I seem to recall, and a fearsomely accomplished darts team. I used to be able to drink pint after pint of beer – today a couple of glasses of wine is quite enough.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

Betty's, the one in Ilkley. Whenever I come back North, I always pop in there and ask them to make me up a picnic packet that I can eat somewhere along a countryside walk. A good meat pie, or a Cornish pasty, and a vanilla slice. Wonderful food. And they serve a mean cup of Earl Grey tea,

as well.

How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you've known it?

I left Yorkshire when I was 18, to go into the theatre, so it would be wrong of me to make any imperious comments about changes… all I can tell you is that there are a lot more tourists. That's great because it brings in business and revenue. But not so good because there are a lot more people all trying their best to find solitude.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

JB Priestley. He was a wonderful writer, and an outspoken man who fought for a lot of good causes. I remember that there was an old market in Bradford that was going to be demolished, and Priestley moved heaven and earth to get the planners to change their minds. Even his clout couldn't save it. Today, I bet they wished he had done.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

Not really, because I left in my late teens. Let's say I am who I am, and that owes little to Yorkshire. But the place left me with great memories, and I delight in returning to savour the scenery.

Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.

Shane Meadows is a great film-maker, and I loved his This Is England – I watch the DVD of that a lot. Other than that, it has to be Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bront – a cracking good yarn, and a breakthrough in story-telling for its day.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

As above, Simon's Seat in Wharfedale. The only trouble is, if everyone who reads this goes up there to find out about it, I'll be fighting my way through a crowd the next time I climb the hill.

 
 
 

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