Peter Rhodes on burning bikes, rioting over microchips and mixed reflections on being Yorkshire-born

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

A very Dutch riot
A very Dutch riot

Anti-lockdown demonstrators in Holland set fire to bicycles. A very Dutch riot.

I was transported back to 1981 when I was helping to choose a new computer system for a newspaper group. Our research took us to The Hague where a Dutch newspaper proudly showed off its system. We remarked on the silence, the tidiness, the cool competence of a computer-powered newsroom. Each time we paid a compliment, our Dutch hosts smiled and chorused brightly: “Ya, it's the new technology.”

When the time came to leave, our guide took a phone call. His smile froze. It would be better, he said, if we left by the back door because the city's bus drivers were rioting outside. What, we asked, were they protesting about? “The new technology,” he said glumly.

When I was due to be born, my mother was living in Lancashire. She had the choice of having me delivered either just up the road at Clitheroe Hospital or 20 miles away at Skipton General. In other words, no choice.

For hers was an old Yorkshire family. Producing a sprog in Lancashire was unthinkable (Wars of the Roses, and all that). I was therefore moved across the border to be born in Yorkshire. And thus, I became heir to a county which is more like a country. Yorkshire is a massive place, with a massive ego. As any Tyke will tell you, there are more acres in Yorkshire than words in the Bible, and a Yorkshireman's place is in the right.

But the greatest privilege of being born in Yorkshire was that I was eligible to play cricket for the county. Until 1992 Yorkshire County Cricket Club restricted itself to players born on Yorkshire soil. One cricketing pundit has described the system as “a strange, self-imposed apartheid system.” And yet it endured. Today's scandal over Yorkshire's attitude to black and Asian players goes deep into the culture of a county which, not so long ago would not contemplate polluting a team of true-born Yorkshire cricketers with any offcumdens (outsiders).

Most of the time, Yorkshire folk laugh about their self-appointed role as the best folk on t'earth. But there is a darker side to it, when obstinacy turns to ignorance, banter becomes bigotry and pride morphs into prejudice. I have always been proud to be from Yorkshire. But over the last few days, not so proud.

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