In the Shoes of J B Priestley

Bradford has a tradition when it comes to the shoe trade based around Stylo which was founded in 1935.
The Stylo business grew in the 1960’s by buying Barratts and in the 1990’s when they bought Priceless. Unfortunately that record is badly tarnished by receiverships, administrations, redundancies and liquidations. Barratts shoes, Priceless, Stylo, Shutopia and Dolcis have been ‘rationalised out of existence’.
Three times the same executive management of Michael Ziff and family have tried the shoe trade on for size. Let us hope that they are more successful this time around having just bought the latest, much reduced, business from the liquidators.

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With this as a background I found it interesting to see Bradfordian J B Priestley was being used in the Bata-ville shoe context by the folk at No Way To Make A Living. In ‘Bata in Essex and the Decline of the Third England’ they record

‘When J. B. Priestley wrote Eng­lish Jour­ney he was exer­cised by some trouble­some 1930s women: lip­sticked, dressed up to the nines to ape Hol­ly­wood glam­our on light industry wages. These were the women of the third England.

“the Eng­land of arter­ial and by-pass roads, of filling sta­tions and factor­ies that look like exhib­i­tion build­ings, of giant cinemas and dance-halls and cafes, bun­ga­lows with tiny gar­ages, cock­tail bars, Wool­worths, motor-coaches, wire­less, hik­ing, fact­ory girls look­ing like act­resses, grey­hound racing and dirt tracks, swim­ming pools, and everything given away for cigar­ette coupons.”

Priestley, J. B. (1984[1934]) Eng­lish Jour­ney, Pen­guin Books.’

These fact­ory girls were an object of con­cern and scru­tiny, troub­ling the estab­lished cat­egor­ies of class with their out­spoken, per­formed fem­in­in­ity. A new, light, indus­trial labour force destabil­ised the estab­lished under­stand­ings of gender and class. The Bata fact­ory in East Tilbury was staffed, in part, by this kind of woman: mak­ing shoes in order to pay for new shoes and hand­bags and lip­sticks. And to keep their fam­il­ies: women’s work is not all about pin money and frivolity, J. B.’
Read the full ‘Bata in Essex and the Decline of the Third England’

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J B Priestley and English Journey from Amazon

What Would J B Priestley Make of This

  • Stylo Shoes is now a sound business based in Pakistan becoming the largest selling ladies’ shoes brand in Pakistan and the largest ladies shoes retail network in the country with 57 outlets in 30 cities.
  • Bradford’s Shoe business could be three time losers with the Ziff family.
  • The ‘English Journey’ is being used in academic texts about the decline of the third England.

Sir Fred Hoyle Astronomer, Cosmologist and Sci-fi Author

Sir Fred Hoyle FRS 24 June 1915 – 20 August 2001 a Yorkshire man who coined the phrase ‘ The Big Bang’ and missed out on not one but two or three Nobel prizes for physics.
Fred Hoyle was born in Gilstead and went to Bingley Grammar school and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. During the war he worked on radar and assessing the height of enemy planes. After the war and a period as a lecturer at St Johns College he reached the top of ‘world astrophysics theory’ and was appointed to the illustrious Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge University.

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Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science by Simon Mitton

A fascinating biography ‘The scientific life of Fred Hoyle was truly unparalleled. During his career he wrote groundbreaking scientific papers and caused bitter disputes in the scientific community with his revolutionary theories. Hoyle is best known for showing that we are all, literally, made of stardust in his paper explaining how carbon, and then all the heavier elements, were created by nuclear reactions inside stars. ‘
Fred Hoyle: Fellow of the Royal Society, Astronomer, Stellar nucleosynthesis, Cosmology, Big Bang, Science fiction, Geoffrey Hoyle.

Looking at Stars not Feet in Shipley Glen

In 1997 at the age of 82, while hiking across moorlands in West Yorkshire, near his childhood home in Gilstead, Fred Hoyle fell down into a steep ravine we know as Shipley Glen.
It was approximately twelve hours before Fred Hoyle was found by a search dog deep in amongst the rocks and trees.
He was hospitalized for two months with kidney problems as a result of hypothermia, pneumonia and a smashed shoulder.
It is probable that he never fully recovered as from around that time he suffered from memory and mental agility problems.

Quotes from Fred Hoyle

It seems Fred Hoyle had a way with words and could help the uninitiated get their heads around difficult astronomical concepts as he did with his use of the phrase the ‘Big Bang’ as opposed to his own theory of ‘steady state’.

‘Space isn’t remote at all. It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.’
‘When I was young, the old regarded me as an outrageous young fellow, and now that I’m old the young regard me as an outrageous old fellow’. Well I guess that generally goes with being outrageous.

‘The Cambridge system is effectively designed to prevent one ever establishing a directed policy — key decisions can be upset by ill-informed and politically motivated committees. To be effective in this system one must for ever be watching one’s colleagues, almost like a Robespierre spy system.’ Not exactly a tow the line academic!

‘The successful pioneer of theoretical science is he whose intuitions yield hypotheses on which satisfactory theories can be built…..’ Fred put this to the test many times with his own theories. Many of his views were disproved or ridiculed by the establishment and he certainly used intuition in developing his own inimitable style.

‘Things are the way they are because they were the way they were.’

Fiction some co-authored with his son Geoffrey include The Black Cloud, The Westminster Disaster, Molecule Men, In to Deepest Space and Fifth Planet from Amazon

Alan Bennett Facts not Fiction in a Van

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What do Ladies in Vans, Smut and Talking Heads have in common? They are works by Alan Bennett, Lady in the Van being his latest DVD to be released.

Alan Bennett mini Biography

  • Bennett was born 1934 in Armley the son of a co-op butcher.
  • He went to Leeds Modern School and is reputed to have been in the same class as Bradford Taylor Bradford
  • At one time he thought he looked like a vicar and that this would become his occupation
  • Alan Bennett is an award-winning dramatist and screenwriter.
  • He was one of the original members of Beyond the Fringe, a satirical review that was a hit in both the London and on Broadway.
  • Other members were Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore.
  • Bennett had a close relationship with ‘Cafe Anne’ Davies of Clapham. There were portraits of him posing with the painter David Hockney on the walls of Davies’s tearoom until her demise in 2009.

Literary Works

  • Alan wrote the plays The Madness of King George and The History Boys and Lady In The Van.
  • He features on many peoples top Yorkshiremen lists including that published by biography on line listed only 36th.
  • He has survived 9 years since admitting he had long  suffered with colon cancer.
  • Alan was given the sobriquet “curmudgeon laureate” by Mark Jones.
  • A Private Function showed his droll sense of humour as did Take a Pew a skit on ‘with it’ vicars from the Edinburgh fringe

‘Alan Bennett at the BBC’ featured above is a DVD that includes his first television play, A Day Out, autobiographical pieces such as Dinner at Noon and Portrait or Bust and celebrated plays such as A Woman of No Importance, An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution.

The Lady in the Van

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Based on the true story of Miss Shepherd was a woman of uncertain origins who “temporarily” parked her van in Bennett’s driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years. The film version stars Dame Maggie Smith.

A wide range of other titles is available from Amazon



OED defines smut as lascivious talk or pictures…. There are some less refined definitions of smut on the Urban dictionary.

Talking heads  were an American band and is now a  Sheffield based Language Service in addition to being the Alan Bennett series of dramatic monologues written for BBC television.

Old Barry Cryer’s Support for Hernias

Book CoverLeeds born and educated, up to a point, Barry Cryer’s book now called The Chronicles of Hernia is a newly packaged comedy classic, first published in 1998 under the title ‘You Won’t Believe This But….’ Purchase from Amazon here
‘Still Alive’ is the name of his touring show and it is worth making special effort to see Barry perform although he excels on valve radio where he is ‘the cats whiskers’.
Barry will be 81 this next month and so I have picked out one or two lines with an ageist theme

“Stannah have got a new, faster stairlift. It gets you up the stairs before you’ve forgotten why you went.”

“Right now I’m having amnesia and deja vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before.”

From the new Uxbridge dictioery of alternative meanings for English words Platypus – to give your cat pigtails, Flemish – rather like snot, or Celtic -a prison for fleas.

If I go under a bus I don’t want any displays of loyalty.” Continue reading Old Barry Cryer’s Support for Hernias

A Yorkshire Woman of Substance

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After selling over 80,000,000 books the Leeds born Barbara Taylor Bradford aged 84, must certainly be a woman of real substance, even though she now spends most of her money living in the USA. It is 30 years since the 1200 page block buster ‘Woman of Substance’ was released in British book shops and there has been a prolific output of another 24 books, films and TV spin-offs. Not a bad output for a former cub reporter with the Yorkshire Post.

Marrying a Yank (at least he had a Yorkshire surname) Barbara kept her maiden name Taylor but added the alliterative Bradford. After 46 years marriage they still work together “I refer to him as the General,” she says, “and he calls me Napoleon!” Robert Bradford produces all of her mini-series and films, structures her contracts and spearheads all of the activities of ‘the industry that is Barbara Taylor Bradford’. The Napoleon reference is said to be linked to the expat Yorkshire traits of Barbara’s strong will and blunt straight talking, although I never saw Napoleon as a Yorkshire man.

Barbara’s 25th book is ‘Breaking the Rules’ and ia available from the 3rd September 2009
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Continue reading A Yorkshire Woman of Substance

War Years to CND a Good Yorkshire Book Companion


Preface to Yorkshire Book Club (B2)

Something a bit different this time about one of Yorkshire’s famous literary sons John Boynton Priestley (JBP).
It is hard to know what is JBP’s most abiding legacy. ‘An Inspector Calls’ and the West Riding farce ‘When We are Married’ are plays that are regularly performed as are ‘Dangerous Corner’ and his ‘Time’ plays.
‘The Good Companions’ may be out of print but there is many a copy nestling on book lovers shelves up and down the country.
There is a special anniversary edition of ‘An English Journey’ linked to an earlier story on God’s Own County. However this time we are concerned with JBP’s wartime exploits.

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Priestley’s War Years by J.B. Priestley with contributions from his sons Tom Priestley and Nicholas Hawkes, with editing and collation by Neil Hanson with illustration by David Burrill.

Yorkshire God’s Own County Book Club Comments

I vaguely knew that JBP was a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) but I had no inkling as to why. He started work as a clerk in Swan Arcade Bradford but quickly joined up in the infantry during the first World War where he was badly gassed in the trenches. Doubtless this influenced his feelings about ‘weapons of mass destruction’.
JBP’s famous quote “I came out of the war with a chip on my shoulder . . . probably some friend’s thigh-bone.” seems very poignant.
Returning from France he went to Cambridge University and became a writer, journalist and critic.
As one of the founders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament he went on the famous Aldermaston march in 1958 and was a friend of Tony Benn and Michael Foot (he stood as an independent parliamentary candidate of Oxford failing to get in).


I haven’t read this particular work but may get the Kindle version when I get sometime for serious reading.
JBP interests me as a complex character who stood apart from some accepted norms but captured the spirit and ‘spoke for the common sense of the common man’.
Photo Credit for J B Priestley statue image IMG_1301 by riotcitygirl, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Know Your Oliver Onions Yorkshire’s Ghost Story Expert

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Oliver Onions was a contemporary of J B Priestley both were born in Bradford and both authors of significant talent. Oliver Onions wrote some of the finest Ghost stories of the time and his tales of the supernatural are still worthy of being read.

In his early life he was schooled in Bradford living in Undercliffe, Manchester Road and Little Horton. He became a pupil at Bradford Grammar School and as a student attended evening classes at Technical college (as many folk use to do).
After time at the National Art Training School, Oliver was apprenticed to a printer where he illustrated books and acted as a printers draughtsman.
As a war artist during the South African War he turned to journalism and then writing his first novel.

Specialist Subject The Novels of Oliver Onions

Many of Oliver Onions books were of interest to the people of the West Riding as they embodied autobiographical detail and memories from the end of the 19th century.
Oliver Onions oeuvre of 40 novels may not all be in print but a selection of his work is available via amazon
Widdershins (illustrated above) is a collection of short ghost stories Widdershins means “contrary to the course of the Sun”
Oliver Onions was a man of care and detail and this is demonstrated in his stories such as Back o’ the Moon and Ghosts in Daylight.

‘Oliver Onions is unique in the realms of ghost story writers in that his tales are so far ranging in their background and substance that they are not easily categorised. His stories are powerfully charged explorations of psychical violence, their effects heightened by detailed character studies graced with a powerful poetic elegance. In simple terms Oliver Onions goes for the cerebral rather than the jugular. However, make no mistake, his ghost stories achieve the desired effect. They draw you in, enmeshing you in their unnerving and disturbing narratives. This collection contains such masterpieces as The Rosewood Door, The Ascending Dream, The Painted Face and The Beckoning Fair One’ by David Stuart Davies.

Oliver died in 1961 at the age of 87 and I wonder if he is now taking part in some of his own tales of the supernatural or may be he is a genuine ghost and not having to fictionalise his writing.