THE newspaper columnist Liz Jones (of ‘CBB’ fame) recently wrote a depressing, somewhat biased article about a city girl’s life in the Dales. I thought ‘CBB’ was a children’s channel and have since discovered that it is a programme where people talk about themselves a lot and do rude things on television in front of millions of people.
Someone has to respond to this so, as a lady of nearly the same age as Ms Jones and one who lives in the North Yorkshire countryside and loves the Dales, here goes! Living in the country is different to living in the city. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, just different. There may be some in the Dales who refer to Jimmy’s shoes rather than Jimmy Choos, but that just adds to the charm.
Ms Jones suggests it’s a miserable place, pickled in time with lazy bakers, mad bikers, bad tempered, cruelly treated animals and talking hedgehogs. She moans about there being no Waitrose, no fast broadband and the fact that the hairdresser’s doesn’t even have an answerphone. The lady who dislikes life in our countryside says: “If you stop in the middle of the road to pick up a hedgehog, you get verbal abuse.”
Ms Jones is also most upset about speeding cyclists. The number of cyclists sporting slinky, shiny clothing with padded bottoms has, without doubt, increased dramatically since the highly successful Tour de France, but so has the number of tourists flocking to the Dales and they all help to keep rural businesses alive and thriving.
On the subject of country businesses, is it wrong for the local bakery to ‘shut up shop’ at 5pm? If you want freshly made, yummy bread and cakes then the baker has to get up at the crack of dawn to make them. By five in the afternoon, having worked more than 12 hours perhaps, ’t’baker’s buggered’ as they say in these parts. Do note that for most in this area, ‘buggered’ means very tired.
There’s no doubt that rural broadband is a something of a problem occasionally and there are many areas with no reception for mobile phones but this does have advantages – some people are so addicted to their hand-held devices that they pay through the nose for detox holidays to deal with their unreasonable need to check their phone ever two minutes. Maybe, the author could embrace the fact that she is getting a free therapy because of where she lives.
Apparently, the lady who wrote the blistering article about life in the Dales moved here under the assumption that a northern ‘silicon valley’ was to be created. It’s said that Silicon Valley in California is where they make chips. We do that already in North Yorkshire and we do it rather well, just take a trip to the Magpie Café in Whitby where the haddock and chips will titillate your tastebuds.
For the benefit of Liz Jones, Waitrose isn’t hidden away in a secret location. We all know the nearest one is Harrogate and there’s one in Otley too. It’s a case of planning and making one trip to stock up on their goodies.
However, we have farm shops galore, and there are delivery companies who will supply you with anything your heart desires from tofu to shower gel and we have some of the best local producers in the world located in the Dales. Our beef, lamb pork, venison, poultry and game is right up there in the quality stakes or should that read steaks?
Whilst on the subject on local food, never forget nature’s own larder – our hedgerows (albeit inhabited by apparently irate hedgehogs). The sloe berries will soon be ready for picking and that means sloe gin time which may, just may help with the author’s seeming dissatisfaction with country life! The Dales are full of real farms managed by hard working farmers whose flat caps tell the time better than any watch as the peak of their flat caps moves around their heads over the day. By the time the peak gets to the back of the head, you know, it’s time for home.
Perhaps, if we were all more careful with our shopping, bought locally-produced food, learned to cook it economically and paid a little more in the short term, then the poor farms struggling to survive would stand a chance and then there would be more happy cows grazing outside.
There are, without doubt, some large scale farms across the entire country where the desire for profit overrides the desire for sustainably-produced meat but these are rare in North Yorkshire. The claim about 13 lame sheep in one field makes one wonder if this is ignorance about animals or poetic licence.
There are, without any doubt, some absolutely miserable sods about, people who never smile and just hate everything and everyone but that’s true of the entire planet. Hiding in the gently rolling Yorkshire Dales are some of the best people in the world though. There’s a dry wit and humour that can cause you to cry with laughter.
The real people of the Dales are trying to protect and enhance a way of life that should be valued and allowed to grow – and Liz Jones should accept this.
Jules Marley is the regional chair of the CPRE. She is writing in a personal capacity.