I live in Yorkshire but I was born and raised in the deep South – yes, I am an Essex girl. Don’t get me wrong, I am fond of my home county and it has some very lovely parts, but I’ve lived ‘oop North’ for over 25 years now. Yorkshire is home. Not that you would know it to hear me speak – when I first met my other half he loaned me a book called ‘Larn Yersen Basic Broad Yorkshire’ but he took it back when I could only manage North Yorkshire rather than West. I was living in County Durham at the time so he’s probably just glad I didn’t go Geordie. (To tell the truth, I tried. I love the Georgie accent but I was pretty rubbish at it…). Anyway, I sound vaguely Southern (not very cockney or estuary) but, as with most languages, I can read and understand much more than I can speak.
You may be wondering why I think this is relevant in a book review (of a book which is not about language or linguistics)? Well Stevan Alcock’s novel is set in West Yorkshire in the era of the Yorkshire Ripper and, more topically, it is written in the local accent. Don’t let this put you off though – even this Essex girl could understand every word. And, more importantly, I was hanging on each and every one of them.
The book focuses on a lad in his teens, Ricky, who works as a Corona pop delivery boy (remember? You could get your regular ginger beer order delivered….) in Leeds. We see his relationship with his workmates – who seem like proper adults but are only in their twenties – his family and with people he meets connected with the Leeds/Bradford gay and punk scenes. His life is not easy – money is short, he feels alienated from his family and he has a lot of anger. There is an air of barely restrained violence about him for much of the time and when his temper erupts it seems to read like A Clockwork Orange with a Leeds accent.
There is tragedy and a lot of comic moments in this book. We can look back on the politics of that era – in terms of race, sexuality, deprivation and so much more – with our feelings of living in a more enlightened age but, to those of us in the North, some of the issues haven’t really gone away. The additional fear and pressure on communities which the Yorkshire Ripper’s reign of terror caused are now replaced by other factors and lads like Ricky are still with us.