Sunday, 5 June 2011


I first visited Leeds in 1994. The place did not look welcoming. It was raining for three days and I saw a bit of sun on the fourth day, when I was about to go. All in all, the visit was a success: I got my first job in the UK. I came back in 1995 and spend three years there. Yuri was born in Leeds. Also, I learned a thing or two about samba and guitar-making. I saw John Abercrombie, Julian Argüelles, Django Bates, Carla Bley, the late Michael Brecker, Juan Martín, Barbara Thompson, Keith Tippett and Stan Tracey playing live. I even bought the tickets to see Stéphane Grappelli, but the maestro got ill and the concert was cancelled. After Leeds, Cambridge seemed to be a deep province. All gigs of interest were elsewhere.

Leeds is an amazing city. It was transforming almost daily when I was there and it keeps changing. Day or night, it is busy with life. It still does not look welcoming though. The pedestrianised area aside, it is not pedestrian-friendly. Come to think of it, it is not motorist-friendly either. As far as cyclists are concerned, it is plain hostile.

Leeds is not an easy city to live in, let alone love. Do I miss Leeds? Sure I do. I miss being called “love” by strangers. (At the petrol station: “Number four, love? Ta.”) Live there again? Probably not.

Central Leeds boasts a bewildering array of shops, bars and restaurants, but it is not easy to spot anything, um, idiosyncratically Leodian. Here is a good one: Pickles & Potter deli cum sandwich bar in Queens Arcade. A welcome relief from Starbucks; cash only.

I saw these pearls of Yorkshire wisdom in a shop window in Grassington. I made note of them for our very own Yorkshireman, Yuri. He especially liked the “pay nowt” bit.

’Ear all, see all, say nowt.
Eat all, sup all, pay nowt.
If tha ever does owt fer nowt, allus do it fer thissen.

Tha can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but tha can’t tell ’im much.

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