by Royston Mayoh
The Gareth Ellis Story – with Vince Groak
The Selected Writings of Martin Kelner
With an introduction by Gary Lineker
‘By popular demand’ is one of those phrases like ‘we must do lunch’ and ‘your delivery will arrive between 9.00am and 10.00am’ that we have learned to take with a pinch of salt.
But in the case of the pieces in this book it is arguably true.
Admittedly, we only have the author’s word for it, but he swears that barely a week goes by – okay, a fortnight – without him receiving an email or a Tweet asking why an adoring public can’t enjoy his gimlet-eyed take on broadcast sport and addiction to half-remembered street jokes in the press or online these days.
The answer is that the current broadcasting landscape means we are all streaming madly or scrolling through our phones at different times, meaning a joke about the late football commentator John Motson’s jacket, which might have played to an appreciative audience of millions a decade ago, might now evince no more than a puzzled frown.
However, on rescuing these pieces from the dustbin of history – Martin’s laptop actually – there seemed merit in the view that a half-decent joke is a half-decent joke whenever it’s told. We think there are a few in this collection.
Where possible we have tried to supply a bit of context, and there are fragments of memoir too, previously unpublished, for anyone interested in the author’s ‘journey’ – as publishers seem contractually obliged to call everybody’s life these days.
We need a laugh in these difficult times – unless there’s been a recent economic miracle, in which case disregard. The good news is that age has not withered those in this long-awaited volume, nor custom staled their not quite infinite variety.
by Andy Bull
Just saying the name conjures up the golden age of motoring: a time when the open road spelled freedom and adventure, and when driving was fun.
Once, The Great North Road was spoken of as the UK’s own version of America’s Route 66: the Mother Road, threading its way across this green and pleasant land, linking the capitals of London and Edinburgh, taking in the great cities of York and Newcastle, numerous market towns and villages whose old coaching inns now catered for a new, romantic breed: the motorist. But all of that has long gone. Hasn’t it?
Isn’t the Great North Road now dead: buried by the A1, with its motorway-grade stretches and ubiquitous town by-passes?
Not a bit of it. Because the A1 is not the Great North Road. Realignment, renumbering, re-routing and extensive upgrading have meant that it bears little relation to the original highway. No more than a quarter of the modern A1 follows the route of the true Great North Road.
So, has that evocatively-named highway been wiped off the map? Actually, no.
These days it is hidden, renumbered as, among others, the B197, the A602, and the B656, but often still known locally as The Great North Road. All it has lost is the traffic that grew and grew until it clogged this great national artery.
That old, original route can still be driven the 400 miles from capital to capital, on a journey that does indeed have much in common with cruising America’s Route 66.
Driving the Real Great North Road is travel writer Andy Bull’s account of doing just that.
It’s also about re-living a time when the road, in the words of JB Priestley, cut through towns like a knife through cheese; when it guided stars from Sting to Bryan Ferry, Mark Knopfler to Eric Burdon, to fame and fortune; when Dorothy L Sayers found a road “that winds away like a long, flat, steel-grey ribbon – a surface like a race-track, without traps, without hedges, without side-roads, and without traffic.”
All you need to do is find the old road first. Let Andy show you how.
From Morley Boy to Westminster Knight
by Sir Rodney Brooke
“Few, if any, public servants can match Sir Rodney Brooke’s 60-year record … six decades of unbroken service across local government, the NHS, education, utilities and beyond surely give him a unique perspective…” – The Guardian
Sir Rodney Brooke has had an eventful life at the sharp end – thanks to a career that led him from 15-year-old school-leaver in Yorkshire to the corridors of power at Westminster… and all points in between. In The Winding Stair, his sparkling collection of memoirs, he takes readers through its highs and lows – beginning as a reporter on his hometown Morley Observer newspaper and ending with a CBE, knighthood and honours from five more countries. In so doing, he reveals hitherto unknown details behind six decades’ worth of controversial headline moments and colourful personalities.
As a former chief executive of West Yorkshire County Council, he shares fascinating background into the mysterious death of Helen Smith in Jeddah; the Bradford City fire, in which 56 people were killed; and the handling of the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.
As Emergency Controller in the event of nuclear war, he was told to shelter in a Pennine underground lair – and restore order as Geiger counters said to emerge. Read how Halifax invented the guillotine; why dogs could bark at night in Otley but not Ossett; how the law told householders in Huddersfield to whiten their doorsteps before 8.00am or be fined five shillings; and why the press camped on his Ilkley lawn after he resigned over the notorious ‘Homes for Votes’ episode – when Dame Shirley Porter was surcharged £42.5m.
Accounts of how he organised the final reading of the Riot Act and interviewed a talking dog with Mrs Thatcher’s press spokesman, Sir Bernard Ingham, are found among tales of Princess Diana’s underwear in Roundhay Park, Princess Margaret and the cakes at Leeds/Bradford airport, sex and the Poll Tax, the murky Dolphin Square scandals and how Trafalgar Square very nearly became Nelson Mandela Square. For anyone interested in current affairs and the reality behind politics, The Winding Stair – From Morley Boy to Westminster Knight is not to be missed.