The Duke - September 17, 2014

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Beggars in Blackpool have gone up – slightly – in my estimation.

I meant you 
pretty much know where you are with them and what to 

Apart from the woman who asked me for some small change and when told I hadn’t any proceeded to karate kick my jacket pocket and hearing/feeling the rattle of coins informed me that I was being economical with the truth, they generally let you off with a sarcastic “thanks, have a nice day.”

I can cope with that and, more often than not, do indeed have a nice day.

But in Bradford things are a little harder edged.

On each of the two days I was recently there I was 
approached for money – 18p and 50p to be precise. On each occasion I politely declined contributing to the strong lager fund.

The response the first time was “you expletive English 
expletive” (I’ll leave you to guess the expletives) and be glared at as The Manager and I walked briskly away.

The response the second time was similar – “you expletive English expletive” (a different expletive for variety’s sake) followed this time by “and I don’t know what she sees in you.”

Now this may have been an invitation to enter into a balanced debate or sensible discussion, especially as the mouthy mendicant began to follow the pair of us down the street despite our obvious haste. Passers-by could have mistaken us for over-dressed joggers – but The Manager 
stifled her combination of laughter and fear for the duration of our getaway.

Friends with who we have shared these encounters have reacted with equal shares of “how shocking,” “he actually had a point you know” and “what in heaven’s name were you doing in Bradford in the first place?”

This last one’s quite easy. Along with our shared love of British seaside towns and The Manager’s near obsession with piers we’ve cultivated quite an interest in the fast vanishing architecture of the North’s 
Industrial Revolution.

Anyway, a recent Money-SuperMarket report ranked Bradford third for UK city quality of life (after Cardiff and Belfast). Making the most of the Institute of Fiscal Studies re-assurance that eight of 10 baby boomers are better off in retirement than they were while working, we’ve already done Huddersfield and Halifax and know Leeds only too well from our youth, so decided to give Bradford a go.

You can still travel directly by rail from Poulton or Blackpool and there’s a cheap and cheerless Holiday Inn Express just minutes from the railway station.

It’s donkey’s years since I’ve been to Bradford. My father worked there briefly and as a teenage autograph hunter (that’s collecting autographs as a teenager, not collecting the autographs of teenagers – because that would be very wrong) I’d catch the bus after school in Bramley and haunt the stage doors of the St George’s Hall and The Alhambra – sometimes even taking in the one night stands as well as just bothering the stars for their scrawls.

It was the St George’s Hall where I (and dozens of others) unsuccessfully chased the Rolling Stones from the stage door to a neighbouring hotel, later to be handed neatly signed pieces of paper which I can only presume some roadies had been writing in advance all evening.

I’ve still got the autographs somewhere but don’t like to look in case they are so obviously forgeries that I might have those classroom peer group brownie points belatedly subtracted.

Anyway, saddo that I am, I’ve now got a photograph of the stage door to go with them.

Not nearly as fearless (or stupid) as I was in my youth, too much evening exploration was ruled out in favour of making plans where to discover next.

Redcar seemed a possibility. Famed for its racecourse and steelworks, not to mention that my Aunty Eileen once caravanned there, it was shortlisted until scientists at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis put the dampers on.

Investigating nationwide patterns of Twitter profanity by monitoring tweets sent from smartphones with geo-locations switched on from the week beginning August 28, the boffins discovered Redcar residents are the most likely in the UK to swear.

Almost eight per cent of tweets from that area contained some kind of swear word.

Still, I suppose Tweeting a profanity is preferable to actually mouthing one. Perhaps Bradford’s beggars should take that into consideration.

UK may join the list of fond memory

Nostalgia, we are prone to say, isn’t what it used to be.

But now a Disney Channel survey of 2,000 parents has revealed just what exactly we regret our children will never enjoy like we did.

Forget such things as toy soldiers and playing safely outside, top of the Disney list was “making tape recordings of the weekly Top 40.”

Well, it saved money but was it really all that much fun – especially when you couldn’t quite edit out DJ Alan “Fluff” Freeman’s pop picking interruptions?

Having pen pals came second. No, today’s Facebook friends and Twitter twerps don’t count.

As a teenager I ended up with so many pen pals – mostly American – I spent much of my pocket money on paper and postage whilst taking hours handwriting replies to them all.

I still feel disappointed when the best my postman can deliver these days is the latest electricity bill.

Other missing moments include handwritten thank you notes (or these days any form of thank you), buying singes on cassette or vinyl (can you remember your first record?

Mine was Adam Faith’s What Do You Want?), watching Top of the Pops (usually without the family), watching Saturday night TV (usually with the family) when there wasn’t much choice to argue about and making solid plans which were not subject to change as a result of mobile communications.

Depending on what happens later tomorrow we may soon be looking back longingly on the days when we could tick “UK” on official forms and raise the Union Flag complete with the Saltire included.