Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Yer Bike

Two middle-aged Yorkshiremen, Brian and Alan, stand facing the audience. 
They speak outwardly to us, but also to each other.

Alan                There’s about twelve people in this Council who decide everything.

Brian              That’s right. Douze personnes, you understand?

Alan                We can get you access to them.

Brian              Nous.

Alan                And when I say everything, I mean everything.

Brian              Tous.

Alan                No not two, twelve. There’s the chief exec, the head of Planning, the Treasurer -

Brian             ‘Tous’ means everything in French. I was translating.

Alan                Just … let me speak.


Alan                What we’re proposing, is that the route starts in Leeds

Brian              Commence a Leeds

Alan               Thank you Brian, we’ll commence a Leeds, and then head north-east out through the Dales – beautiful countryside –

Brian              Tres joli.

Alan                Continuing to York – historic city

Brian              Beaucoup de histoire.

Alan                That’s right, then we’d send them across the Moors – wonderful, mysterious landscape –

Brian              Tres mysterieux.

Alan                Before finally arriving in Scarborough on the coast.

Brian              Maisons magnifique.

Alan                What?

Brian              Maisons magnifique.

Alan                What does that mean?

Magnificent houses.

Alan                Why are you telling him that?

Brian              Scarborough’s got some lovely houses though han’t it.

Alan                It’s the Tour de bloody France, Brian, what they want to know about houses for?

Brian              They’re picturesque.

Alan                Yes but they’re not going to cycle over them are they.

Brian              Might cycle past em.

Alan                Anyway, this is about Leeds, not bloody Scarborough.

Brian              I know but –

Alan              You’ve said York was historic, the Moors were mysterious and Scarborough has nice houses. You’ve said nowt about Leeds. (to us) Sorry, un moment, por favor.

Brian              I’m just translating what you’ve said.

Alan                The point is, the big event, the start, will be in Leeds.

Brian              Commence a Leeds.

Alan                Yes, it starts here for a reason though, Brian.

Brian              Ok, go on.

Alan                What do you mean ‘go on’?

Brian              List the reasons and I’ll translate.

Alan                Right. Right. Well there’s many reasons why the Tour de France                         should start in Leeds.

Brian              Beaucoup de raisons pour commencer a Leeds.

Alan                That’s right. We’ve got a vibrant cultural life.

Brian              La vie de couture.

Alan                We’ve got ballet, opera, dance, orchestras –

Brian              Hang on, hang on. Are they going to cycle over them though?

Alan                What?

Brian              Because I thought we could only mention things they could cycle 

Alan              Don’t be so bloody facetious. (to us) You’ll have to excuse my colleague.

Brian              But you said -

Alan                That way we could only mention tarmac. And we’ve got a lot more than tarmac in Leeds. Back me up here, Brian.

Brian              Beaucoup mas que les routes.

Alan                What does that mean?

Brian              ‘A lot more than roads.’

Alan                Than tarmac.

Brian              I don’t know the French for tarmac.

Alan                It’s a brand name. It’s probably just ‘le tarmac’.

Brian              You’re right, he’s nodding, look.

Alan                Right. Yes. Good. Because we have. Got a lot more than tarmac.

Brian              Like?

Alan                What?

Brian              I think we ought to list them.

Alan                Yes, right , alright. Well, well, there’s the – the – Leeds – the Leeds -

Brian              The Leeds Cycling Action Group.

Alan                Brian, for goodness’ sake.

Brian              What? It’s cycling-related. And they’re very active locally.

Alan                You make us sound provincial.

Brian              We are provincial.

Alan                No we’re not.

Brian              Yes we are. That’s part of our charm. Anyway the French love their provinces. They’re what make a country special. It’s not a shameful thing over there.

Alan                I never said it was.

Brian              You mean parochial. And we’re not that.

Alan                Oh no, we’re certainly not that. How could we be? We’re the capital of the north. Britain’s second city.

Brian              Well, third, technically.

Alan                Don’t mention Birmingham. It’s a bloody mess. Can you imagine the Tour de France there? They’d be spend all week going round and round Spaghetti Junction.

Brian              And there’s Manchester.

Alan                Manchester cheats. Greater Manchester does not count. Bloody gerrymanderers.

Brian              I just think we ought to be honest.

Alan                What you have to understand, is that we’re in direct competition here with a real capital.

Brian              I thought we were a real capital.

Alan              We are. But our French friends here will be hearing pitches from Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Brussels. In fact they’ve got bloody Paris haven’t they. They could sack it all off at any given moment and say sod it we’ll stick with Paris. Paris – or Leeds. It’s a tough fight. But this is our moment, Brian. We’ve got to show what we’ve got.

Brian              So what have we got?

Alan                (to us) The trouble with us Yorkshire folk is we don’t like to brag.

Brian              Nous aiment pas le bragging.

Alan                That’s right. Which isn’t to say we’re under achievers. We’re the biggest financial and legal services centre outside of London.

Brian              Er, right –

Alan                We’re in the top 25 shopping destinations in Europe.

Brian              Aye but Alan –

Alan                And once the Trinity quarter opens we’ll shoot up those rankings.

Brian              But Alan –

Alan                We’re getting a brand new concert arena, for world class acts. It’ll seat twelve and a half thousand.

Brian              There’s Leeds United.

Alan                Probably best not to mention them.

Brian              Why not?

Alan                And we might have missed out on the Supertram but my goodness the Trolleybus is still going to really be something when it’s up and running.


Alan                Translate then.

Brian              No.

Alan                Why not?

Brian              Because none of that’s Leeds.

Alan                Course it is. It’s the 21st century regional powerhouse.

Brian              But every modern city’s trying to get those things. What makes us, us?

Alan                (to us) I’m so sorry, excusez-nous for one moment. (to Brian) If you bugger this up for our city, Brian, there’ll be hell to pay from the Chief Exec.

Brian              But I don’t think we’ll win this by sounding like Anywheresville.


Alan                Alright then, lad. You do your thing. But be it on your head.

Brian              (to us) Do you know what Leeds is to me? It’s the Leeds letter writing club. It’s Drink and Draw. It’s Buns and Roses, the funky WI. It’s the billboard defacer with a witty riposte every time something daft gets put up at Westgate Roundabout. It’s the oldest West Indian carnival in Britain. It’s Leeds United and hope springing eternal every Saturday afternoon. It’s the fact that The Kaiser Chiefs named themselves after the South African football club that Lucas Radebe played for. Understand that and you’ll have cracked the true essence of what it means to come from Leeds. It’s Leeds market, Chapeltown Road, Richard Whiteley and Jimmy Savile. It’s Atkinson Grimshaw’s rain-soaked, tear-drenched pictures of who we were, who we are, and who we might’ve been. It’s the city in our hearts, not on some retail consortium’s drawing board. And I can’t translate that. Because Leeds does not translate. Not in a million years.

Alan             But here’s the question Brian. Can you cycle over any of that?

Brian            On yer bike.

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