“The black pudding’s black today, mother!… Even the white bits are black!”
An observation made by Eric Olthwaithe (played by Michael Palin) in the 1970’s TV comedy series Ripping Yarns; a collection of separate whimsical tales written by Palin and fellow Python Terry Jones.
Footnote – For the uninitiated, when writing Python above I’m of course referring to both gentlemen making up part of the (then) six strong Monty Python comedy team… To the best of my knowledge, neither Palin or (the now late) Jones have ever been limbless reptiles with a penchant for constricting prey prior to consumption.
In the yarn alluded to in the first paragraph, Olthwaite was a character who spouted such boring anecdotes his family started conversing with each other in French. This gambit aimed at negating against him joining their discussions.
Sadly for Eric’s brood, though, it was a strategy which failed to spare them from his habitually tedious tales. These humdrum stories including accounts of neighbours buying new coal shovels with brass handles, or bulletins of precipitation readings on the Town Hall rain gauge, still delivered with gusto by the misguided lad.
In one particular soliloquy from this episode, set in 1920’s West Yorkshire, the dreary young man informs viewers of his despair at the town’s prevailing meteorological conditions with the following:-
“It were always raining in Denley Moor, except on days when it were fine. And there weren’t many of them. not if you include drizzle as rain… And even if it weren’t drizzling, it were overcast and there were a lot of moisture in the air…You’d come home damp as though it had been raining, even though there had been no evidence of precipitation in the rain gauge outside the town hall.”
Palin’s bromidic fictional monologue summing up how weather has actually felt in West Yorkshire today – One hundred years on from the grim early 20th century landscape painted in his parody protestation.
For days, rain has relentlessly poured from skies as dark as Olthwaite’s mum’s black pudding. I’d venture, akin to Eric’s fried breakfast, so stark is our prevailing overhead cloud cover even the white bits are seemingly black.
After living in the south of England for nice years in my twenties, I’m aware many individuals from that area caricature northern counties as stark places similar to those painted in Palin and Jones’ farcical plot line.
Ordinarily I deem the assumption “It’s grim up north!”as a misconception playing out in the minds of Englanders who haven’t experienced the wonders of life in many areas of Yorkshire, Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham et al.
That being said, this morning, upon witnessing a third day of dark nimbus clouds enveloping Yorkshire, it was hard not to think of that Ripping Yarns parody. A generalisation with which southerners gorge hungrily from when seeking regional oneupmanship.
Of course, black clouds are oft used as a metaphor for an individuals low mood or depression. In the 1960’s novelty song ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh’, heavy rain moved singer/co-writer Allan Sherman to contact his parents from summer camp, lamenting “Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh;… Here I am at Camp Granada;… Camp is very entertaining; … And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.”
Fingers crossed the above verse’s final line will come to fruition shortly, putting a stop to Saturday becoming a figurative and literal washout.
Right, enough of this excitement, I’m off to check the rain gauge at Ossett Town Hall.