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Wednesday 6 March 2019


Castleford, Yorkshire: Church Street at the end of Bradley Avenue, early 1970s

Conversations can be disturbing. They come back to trouble you decades later, especially when they involve some element of social awkwardness, which in my case is quite a lot of conversations.

Not long after taking a job at a university in Scotland over thirty years ago, I was invited to a regular end-of-term gathering at a professor’s house where everyone and everything exuded an air of intellectual wealth and entitlement. Most people there were Scottish, with that precise self-assurance an educated Scottish accent gives you. I felt out of place with my English ears and English voice. I tried to look comfortable in such surrounding.

The professor’s wife, like me, was English – in her case posh plummy English. She had left her brick of a Ph.D. thesis, with its absurdly long title, casually out for all to see on an out-of-the-way occasional table we had to pass, or wait beside, on our way to the loo.

It was only a matter of time before someone was going to bring up the issue of my accent: my “dulcet Yorkshire tones” as they put it. The professor’s wife showed unexpected interest.

“Oh! I’m from Yorkshire too,” she revealed. I was taken in by the hint of something in common.

“Where abouts in Yorkshire?” I asked, predictably.

“C-aaastleford”, she replied, the ‘a’ drawn out as long as the title of her Ph.D. thesis.

Well, you probably know that Yorkshire people have a tendency to blurt straight out what they are thinking, and I did.

“Y’don’t sound as if ya coom from Cassalfud,” I said, in my normal voice of the time.

She looked like she wanted to pick up the thesis and hit me with it.

I wish I could say I passed it off with poise and confidence, but I didn’t. I flinched at every flashback for the next few weeks. I still do, sometimes. It’s like that for some of us who score highly on Asperger tests. At least it means you remember things you otherwise wouldn’t.

I was only invited there the once.

The photograph epitomises how I imagine Castleford was in the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies, when, as in my own Yorkshire home town, the National Coal Board were still recruiting mining apprentices (“Look Ahead Lads!”).  If you find the location now on StreetView, the building in the right foreground is the only thing that still remains, barely recognisable. The other buildings have all gone, including what looks like a Tetley’s pub in the row of buildings on the left (they still use the same sign). The cars date the scene to the early nineteen-seventies: from left to right I think they are (all British made) a Triumph Herald, an Austin or Morris 1100, a Ford Escort and possibly an Austin estate on the right. I can hardly begin to make a stab at the cars in the modern picture.


  1. How can you write about Castleford without mentioning Rugby (albeit it that funny padded version with too few players).

    1. I suspect that the lady mentioned would consider rugby too coarse to think about, especially that version of rugby.

  2. I didn't realise the whole "flinching at every flashback for the next few weeks" was a trait of Asperger's. Things like that experience boil up in me out of the blue, frustratingly so, but as you say, at least it means you remember things you otherwise wouldn’t.

    1. From time to time I suddenly remember one or other unwanted occurrence from years ago - my goodness there are plenty of them - and cringe again even now. But all I'm saying is I tend to get high scores on self-administered online tests. I've no need or wish to take things further. Everyone has to be somewhere on the spectrum.

    2. I've changed it now from "people" to "some of us" as it might not be everyone's experience. If anyone is interested, have a look at my review of Chris Packham's 'Fingers In The Sparkle Jar' which gives a good idea of what it's like to properly have Asperger Syndrome.


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