Ian McMillan: Warming to our summer’s chattering classes

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To some readers of a certain vintage, the letters NJO will stand for Northern Jazz Orchestra, but for lots of us at this time of year they of course stand for the slogan of the Yorkshireman on holiday in this country: No Jumper On. Oh, we’ll pack a jumper, of course, we’ll put one in the bottom of the bag just in case it turns chilly in the evenings, but we’ll never put it on. Never. That would just spoil the holiday, wouldn’t it? Jumpers are for walking to work in, not for strolling on the prom. Whatever next? Scarves for a day trip to Cleethorpes?

So whenever you have a chilly summer in the UK you see chaps from Leeds and Barnsley and Heckmondwike and Hull and any Yorkshire town or village you care to mention walking around shivering rather than put their jumper on. Their sensible wives are wearing a cardy or perhaps a light jacket but the man is walking (briskly, to keep warm) in a T-shirt or, worse, a vest and he’s having to grit his teeth against the biting wind that’s coming straight off the North Sea like a knife made in Siberia. His arms have goose-pimples the size of golf balls and he can’t speak because his teeth are chattering, castanet-style. But the jumper remains unused in the caravan. He’s on his holidays, his hard-earned fortnight of rest and recuperation, and he doesn’t need any help from wool-based garments, thank you very much.

I know this because I have been that goosepimpled guy. I have been a member of the NJO brigade. I have shivered in a thin shirt, pretending that I needed to go to the public toilets for a wee but really just enjoying the warmth of the hand dryer for a few lovely seconds before I had to return to the cold. I’ve suggested trips to cafes so I can lean close to the teapot and I’ve wandered round museums paying more attention to the radiators than to the exhibits.

At times of almost Arctic conditions the NJO-man can be convinced to carry his jumper, and if you look closely you can see that he’s burying his hands in it like a toddler clings to a comfort blanket. In really extreme circumstances the denier of jumpers can be seen to drape it round his neck in what he fondly considers (he is from Yorkshire, after all) to be a sophisticated and bohemian style. He thinks he looks like a French actor in a black and white film when in fact he looks like a very cold man with a very hot neck, which isn’t the title of any black and white French film I’ve ever seen. Back at work he’ll proudly say to his colleagues “Yes, it turned a bit cool in the evenings but I’ll tell you what: you didn’t need a jumper on.” Many of his colleagues went to warmer climes and of course they didn’t need their jumpers and perhaps that’s the point of the NJO movement: the Yorkshireman who won’t wear one wishes he’d gone abroad, wishes he hadn’t said, “We like to take our holidays local” and “You can get everything you need right here in our country. And they don’t know how to make tea over there”. Mind you, I did know somebody’s mother who always said “It was that warm in Brid you didn’t need your corset on”.