Monday, 21 March 2011

Bronte Burghers

To Haworth in West Yorkshire, now known as Bronte Country. The village has done well out of the brilliant but unlucky Bronte babes, selling cream teas and souvenirs to hundreds of thousands of dutiful pilgrims who trudge up and down the viciously cobbled hill on which they lived.

Mobility of the old folk in Haworth is kept up by a death penalty for anybody who can't manage the incline; it's no place for hip replacements and a wheelchair released at the top would hit the bottom doing 120 mph. Most places would put in a funicular railway and be done with it, but in Howarth every inch is a potential gold mine and so it is lined with gastropubs, holiday cottages, cheesemongers, toyshops and galleries. The tourist centre coyly gives the views at the top of the hill which flattens out in to a charming space fronting the church; it doesn't mention the ski-slope just beyond the Post Office. Photos are misleading; it is steeper than it looks.

The Brontes would always have been awkward, clever girls, following the footsteps of their impoverished but cultured Oirish father, but if that was not enough trouble, Haworth brought the strangeness out in them as even they struggled to portray themselves as ordinary genteel women.

It cannot help but do that; Haworth is a place which hums with Gothick presentments, where the everyday objects are caught in slanting light and for a moment look suspicious, as if they have been caught out having secret conversations with each other just beyond the range of human hearing.

A large hat with flowers will suddenly seem to have faces nestling in the petals, a cat walking along a wall seems stripey, then when you look again, it is plain. The Fleece pub has beer garden, but that is at the top of the fire escape above the roof and is built out over a precipitous drop, or what would be a drop if it wasn't filled with lean-to sheds snuggling against a cliff-face. If you could slip through the treads - which you can't, it is perfectly safe - you would crash through umpteen layers of glass in to the hidden crevasse.

Loitering by Spooks at 22 Main Street - Specialist Bookshop for Psychic Phenomena supplies - a vortex of strangeness is there, right on the stone slab by the side window. There is nothing whatever strange about a shop selling psychic accoutrements, books on Dowsing, Clairvoyance, Healing, Reincarnation, Alternative Medicine, Astrology, Local History, Tarot Cards, Crystals, Essential Oils, Incenses, Runes, Pendulums, Celtic and Mythical Pendants. Those are everywhere

What is strange is the planning application. There is a plan to change the ground floor in to an adult entertainment shop and the basement in to booths for private lap dancing. Maybe it's nominative determinism seeping through the stone. The sign on the wall says Purvs Corner and the shop stands on the junction with Butt Lane.

This is West Yorkshire, no more than a longish bus ride outside Bradford. It is moorland. It's not the fleshpots of York or the Dales with their undulating hips and ice cream parlours. It's not even Whitby with its unique approach to diversity. It's Haworth, dammit, where a lady changes her sheepskin mittens for crochet fingerless gloves indoors. The one place where going about in a burkha is considered foolhardy exposure to the weather, unless you can get it on over a hat and coat.

Who exactly is going to patronize this place? The stag party organizers Red Seven may have a point if sloping up and down the street, visiting good pubs and having great food is your thing. No shortage of those. However, as they say:
Boat party, Bobsleigh, Bungee jumping, City break, Clay pigeon shooting, Coasteering, Day at the races, Drive a supercar, Fishing, Fly a MiG jet fighter in Moscow, Football trip, Go-karting, Golf, Horse riding , Horse racing, Indoor skydiving, Kayaking or canoeing, Off roading, Paintballing, Powerboating, Quad bikes, Rally driving, Rock climbing, Skiing or snowboarding, Skydiving, Surfing, Tank driving, White water rafting and Zorbing (or Sphering). Not all of these are available in Haworth so you may want to consider other locations
The plan seems to be that stag parties will drift about the pubs before their booking in to the club. Are there enough stag parties to warrant this optimism? Despite the international visitors and the good value which Haworth offers them, you won't find "raunchy" on a list of the ten qualities people commonly associate with the town. If you are looking for raunch it's best to start in Leeds.

Haworth does a fair line in repressed passion, though. If unattached it is a good place to look for a certain kind of woman i.e. an available one, but a stag party is unlikely to want to settle down for a night of passionate readings no matter how much significant eye contact is involved.

The planning application closed on 20th March and we shall see what happens. The vortex by the paranormal bookshop giggled and determined that the Clerk to the Council be called Gordon Bashami-Ghoulis.

Update: A controversial Radio 3 dramatisation of Wuthering Heights is being aired. It has gone all DH Lawrence and has Cathy and Heathcliff swearing at each other.


Richard said...

My part of the world, and a marvellous piece. Thank you.

Joe Public said...

Great story, & made me smile.

But sadly, unless the clerk has very recently changed his name by deed poll, is the mundanely named Glyn D Broomhead

Submariner said...

And yet there is Gordon Bashami-Ghoulis on the planning notice photographed by Mrs Raft. Perhaps he is from The Other Side, and in charge of spiritual planning, whereas Mr Broomhead restricts himself to temporal matters.

Or maybe it's an early April Fool.

Woman on a Raft said...

There's nothing mundane about being called Glyn D Broomhead; with a name like that he really should be running a supernatural supplies shop.

See what I mean about Haworth?

PT Barnum said...

Delicious, Mrs WOAR, thank you.

auntieban said...

What beautiful writing.
I read it three times.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I called:
Mr Glyn D Broomhead
11 Lees Bank Avenue
Cross Road
BD22 9EW
Tel: 01535 647839

and he claims he dosnt run a sex-shop.

I have my doubts.

microdave said...

"The sign on the wall says Purvs Corner and the shop stands on the junction with Butt Lane."
Ha,ha! - that made 'oi larf...

We used to have a Chief Public Health Inspector by the name of J.H.Smellie - I kid you not! His name was on the side of every dustcart & street cleaning vehicle....

Woman on a Raft said...

If you go down Butt Lane and turn left, you find Penistone Mews.

There is a vacancy on the parish council; we may have to find a mole and get them to apply for the seat to get to the bottom of it.

Dick the Prick said...

Buxton in Derbyshire has a similar tourist trap 'don't mention the hill'.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Made me smile. Love your take on Haworth. I didn't know about that Radio 3 dramatisation but I suppose they would have sworn at each other.

Electro-Kevin said...

Most of the dogging videos I watch have people with Yorkshire accents in them.

lilith said...

WOAR, you are a national treasure.

lilith said...

As is E-K

Woman on a Raft said...

Glad people enjoy it.

For anyone who hasn't followed Welshcakes Limoncello, she is always a good read and an uplifting example of getting out there and living life.

Laban said...

What's "Whitby's unique approach to diversity"? I'm intrigued.

You should take a look at Thornton, where the O'Brunty sisters were born, and not too far away. A nice bike ride from there to Haworth via Denholme.

"Rain falls and the wind roars
All the folks are indoors
We came through a ford
Riding over the moors"

Woman on a Raft said...

Whitby is the Goth Capital of the world.

Over the last decade a spontaneous business has developed - with some disagreements in the last year - which brings thousands of Goths to the town to spend their money and take part in a huge public spectacle. On a good day it reprises William Powell Frith's 1852 painting "Ramsgate Sands".

Thornton does indeed look like a good place to stop for dinner. I must investigate further.

Laban said...

Ah, I see.

The goth styles of 25 years ago were quite charming. Pale faces, purple lipstick and fingerless gloves are very fetching on a slender young thing - even better if it's a girl.

But if you find yourself in Whitby during a Goth Weekend, let me tell you it's a truly scary sight on an overweight, fortysomething mother of three.

I'm not sure they do "dinner" in the evening in Thornton. Dinner will be at lunchtime. There's a spectacular viaduct across the valley, some fair pubs, and streets with names like "Chemical Street".

Laban said...

Just took a google - can't find Chemical Street. Sure it was there. Dole Street still exists.

Sen. C.R.O'Blene said...

I loved the bit about the wheelcahir hitting 120 mph! Hilarious!

In the film, 'The list of Adrian Messenger', there's a scene when some thugs push a guy in a chair off a cliff or into a harbour. (It is a murder story after all)!

The cinema erupted into bedlam, because the boozed-up Saturday night lot were sitting along the back row, and all shrieked with laughter when it happened!

I'm sorry to say, we all laughed at them too, and felt sorry much later...

Woman on a Raft said...

Having just read the synopsis of the film, Scrobs, it seems like there was quite a lot of scope for inappropriate hilarity.

I'll have to get hold of it.

gildas said...

Lovely writing indeed

black hole sunset said...

That hill sounds absolutely ideal for Zorbing, Mr Raft.

NickM said...

Do they still have a sign up at Bradford station saying, "Welcome to Bronte Country"?

I guess there it was apt. Well, in terms of your chances of getting TB anyway.