Neither Nowt Nor Summat: In search of the meaning of Yorkshire by Ian McMillan
|Neither Nowt Nor Summat: In search of the meaning of Yorkshire by Ian McMillan|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Digressions on the subject of God's Own County from a professional Yorkshireman whose writing is exquisite. Recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: June 2015|
|Publisher: Ebury Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Ian McMillan, poet, radio presenter, poet in residence at Barnsley Football Club and professional Yorkshireman, is worried. It has crossed his mind that he might not be Yorkshire enough, given that his father was not from God's Own County, but was a Scot by birth. In a series of discursions on the subject of Yorkshire he attempts to distil the essence of the county and to understand what being a Yorkshireman means. To this end we accompany him through towns and cities, the Cudworth Probus Club, Ilkley Moor and elicit contributions from Mad Geoff the barber, a kazoo-playing train guard and four Saddleworth council workers in search of a mattress. Amongst others. All of Yorkshire life is here. Including Yorkshire puddings.
The theme of the book resonated with me. You see, I've been hiding a couple of dark secrets. My mother was born and bred in Yorkshire, but my father was an off-cumden from County Durham (or, tha's naht but a Geordie as was said on his elevation to Yorkshire) and I was born in Harrogate (Arigut as it's known outside the town), which used to be in the west riding of Yorkshire, has now moved to North Yorkshire and probably won't be completely happy until it finds a spot in the Home Counties. Am I really Yorkshire? And could Ian McMillan help me resolve my doubts?
I've yet to encounter a poet who wasted words or used them with gay abandon and little regard for their meaning. McMillan is no exception, but there's a particular talent in being able to convey the Yorkshire dialect with all its intricacies and nuances in such a way that it can be understood by those unfortunate enough not to have grown up with it as a first or second language. (A few years ago we went to see a puppy up in Airedale, but couldn't find the house and stopped to ask. Ova thee ya, bah t'leet, was the response.* If you're from around here, it's obvious.) Perhaps my fondest memory of this book will be the discussions on the Yorkshire dialect.
Did McMillan resolve my doubts about whether or not I'm really Yorkshire? No, he didn't but then I suspect that he didn't resolve his own either: [I]t's a place that I still cannot work out, he says but does agree that it's unlike any other. I was left with the feeling that south Yorkshire is unlike any other place. This is obviously the area which is closest to McMillan's heart - he's lived in the village of Darfield (which used to be in the west riding, but is now in South Yorkshire) all his life and it's where the heart of this book beats. If you live elsewhere - even in other parts of Yorkshire - you will feel a little like a visitor.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.
For a look at all the English counties we can recommend Engel's England: Thirty-nine counties, one capital and one man by Matthew Engel. For the ultimate fiction about Yorkshire, have a look at God's Own Country by Ross Raisin.
- Over there by, the light.
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