Andy Leonard is senior coach station manager for National Express in Leeds. Born and raised in Halifax, he went into banking after leaving school and 20 years later made a career change. He is married to Carolyn and still lives in Halifax.
What’s your first Yorkshire memory? It’s rather strange, but it has to be one that is linked with transport. I’d have been about three or four years old, and I can vividly recall standing with my auntie in a very foggy Sowerby Bridge and watching a breakdown waggon dragging a bus along out of the murk, and back to the depot. The bus was in that old orange and green Halifax bus livery that many will remember. We used to live opposite the bus depot in the town, and in the early morning, you could hear all the engines being started and the vehicles “warmed up”. It wasn’t a case – as it is today – of just pushing a button, and the thing starts electrically, back then they had to be eased gently into life.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?
Carolyn and I have just re-discovered the pleasure of being at Robin Hood’s Bay. I hadn’t been up there for years, and then we decided on a little break a few months back, and took our two dogs up and it was just perfect. Some walking, a lot of fresh air, and a few nice meals – plus the odd pint or two.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?
A family get-together at Brimham Rocks, near Harrogate, the lot of us just being out and running around, and then, a little more sedately, a lunch at the Boar’s Head in Ripley, with an ice cream.
Do you have a favourite walk, or view?
I’ve done the Three Peaks Walk a few times – when I was a lot younger. But now it’s the walk around Fewston and Swinsty reservoirs, which is pretty flat. It’s a fair few miles, but it’s still a pleasure.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?
Fred Trueman and Geoff Boycott, for being not only such a great cricketers, but also larger-than-life characters. The stories would be wonderful.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?
The Chuckle Brothers, who I’ve admired for a long time. Pure entertainers, and a lot of fun.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?
Ripponden, on the River Ryburn, near Halifax. It’s one of those lovely little towns that people have heard of, but few make the detour and go there. It’s not “chocolate box”, but it has its own charm, and if you visit, you’ll be smitten.
If you could choose somewhere, or some object, from or in Yorkshire to own for a day, what would it be?
Swinton Park, near Ripon. One of my hobbies is driving vintage buses at the weekends and a lot of them are for wedding parties. They have a lot of those at Swinton, and it’s always such a pleasure to drive a lovely old vehicle, especially when it’s full of happy people on a very special day.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
I’m lucky enough to go all over the country for my job and there’s nowhere else that you’ll find such friendly, warm and completely engaging people. Here, people get off the bus and thank the driver. Try doing that in London and they’d think you were barking mad.
Do you follow sport in the county, and if so, what?
I’m a lifelong fan of Halifax Town FC, and when they came back from Wembley with the FA Trophy, I thought that my heart would burst with pride – it was a sight that I never thought that I’d see in my lifetime.
Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?
We both love a little Italian place called La Luna, on Westgate in Halifax. It’s family-run, the food is lovely, and the staff just couldn’t be bettered.
Do you have a favourite food shop? Wilkinson’s the Bakers, who have a shop on King Cross Road in Halifax.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?
A little bit of each. We’ve seen big cities such as Leeds thrive and prosper, probably to the detriment of the smaller places such as Halifax and Huddersfield. The centre of Leeds is now a bustling place, with so many amenities, elsewhere, our high streets are beginning to look very sad and unloved. The old town centres charge parking fees and rates that are verging on the extortionate, and then they wonder why the shops and market stalls are closing down.
If you had to change one thing in, or about Yorkshire, what would that be? The M62. It doesn’t matter how many lanes they put in, it just doesn’t get any better. It’s a nightmare, and it’s even worse for the people who use the railway. At least I know my car will be there and I have a seat!
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?
That very fine actor, Barrie Rutter, who has done so much to give theatre a shake, and to engage new audiences. He doesn’t have any ‘side’ at all to him – we often see him wandering around Halifax, just getting on with everyday life.
Has Yorkshire influenced your work?
Yes. When I go to meetings in places such as Birmingham I’m known as “the loud northerner” – that’s because I say what I think, I say what I mean. There’s too much claptrap spoken and too much jargon that disguises the truth.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?
I’m an old rocker at heart and I’ve always loved bands such as Saxon and Def Leppard. But Carolyn and I have recently discovered a Hebden Bridge artist called Kate Lycett, who does vibrantly colourful views of the countryside, and we love her work.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?
York. It has everything, museums, the Minster and the Shambles. No matter how many times I’ve been there I always find something that is new or intriguing.