“Mark. We didn’t run anyone over when we parked, did we?”
As Mark and I descended the steps at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, two pairs of legs, clad in bright orange high visibility trousers, were sticking out from beneath our truck.
(I have written this post in the vernacular. I hope it makes sense. If you struggle with the Yorkshire dialect, there is a short Yorkshire/English translation at the bottom of the page!)
As we clattered down the steps, the legs spoke.
“Eyup! Ah didn’t realise there were anyone in!”
A slim grey-haired chap slid out from under the truck, followed shortly by his stockier mate. Both sporting full Hi Vis onesies.
“We were underneath lookin’ at yer axles! Ah heard voices and thought Ah better introduce meself! Tek this down lass. You know how to do Google and that, don’t ya? Look me up; ‘Ian Coates Honda’. Ah can do work on this truck. This is me apprentice, Willie. ‘E’s in ‘is fifties now though! Ah’m seventy five!”
That was our introduction to Yorkshire’s answer to Fred Dibnah, Lancashire’s highly colourful and much-loved old school steeplejack-cum-steam-traction-engine guru.
We invited Ian and Willie in for a brew, for which they reciprocated with truck wisdom and entertainment. Ian shared his life story,
“Ah’ll tell ya this. A bloke asked me to go to get ‘is Land Rover from Johannesburg. Ah said, ‘wheer’s Johannesburg? Is it in Wales?’ ‘E said, ‘No, it’s in Africa!’ So, Ah said, ‘Wheer’s it near?’ ‘E said, ‘Cape Town.’
“Well, Ah said to me missus, ‘Ah’ll be gone four month,’ so Ah set off and got tuh Africa. Ah went along a bit, then a country wouldn’t let me in. Ah stopped at a shop wi’ a phone and rang t’bloke wi’ t’motorbike. ‘What country you in?’ he asked. Ah asked lass in t’shop. ‘Kenya,’ she said. ‘What town,’ ‘e asked. ‘Nairobi’ It were Sudan wouldn’t let me in.
“Well, Ah thought, there’s me motorbike in t’cowshed, so Ah phoned our lad and said, ‘Pack that up and send it tuh Nairobi.’ Then Ah phoned our lass an’ said, ‘Ah’m gonna be gone longer than four month!’“
Ah went round Africa for four year on me bike! Ah went to Johannesburg, then Malawi an’ Namibia. Ah nipped into Sudan – under t’radar, like. Then Ah asked, ‘Wheer’s Egypt?’ Ah didn’t ‘ave a map. Yuh don’t need a map.
“Then, Ah asked, ‘Wheer’s Argentina?’ So Ah had me bike shipped out there! There were snow on t’ground. Silly buggers there ‘ave winter in July! Ah asked, ‘Wheer’s Alaska? Ah’m gonna go there!’ So, Ah rode me bike all t’way up America. Ah were gone fourteen year!”
“You were gone for fourteen years!” Mark and I exclaimed. “What on earth did your wife think?”
“Judith? Eeeh, when Ah got back, she ‘ad a face like a bulldog suckin’ piss off a thistle!”
Ian shared some tips on safety while travelling. Pointing at me, he said,
“When someone comes knockin’ by surpise, you need to say, ‘Oh. Ah thought it were Frank. I’m expecting ‘im and ‘is son.’ Then they’ll think you’ve got someone comin’ and you’ll be safe.”
After tea, we all went back outside. Willie had a look under the hood and showed Mark how to use the tyre inflator that runs off the brake compressor. He also told us we need to grease our nipples weekly. Mark and I caught each other’s gaze. We didn’t know we had nipples to grease, but we do love a double entendre.
The next surreal moment of the day was when Ian and Willie took Mark off to see their workshop. I found myself sitting in the truck with the dogs all alone, with no phone, as that was in Mark’s pocket. I locked the door and spent the next ninety minutes wondering whether my husband had actually been kidnapped.
You get a feeling about people, and I reckoned Ian and Willie were good eggs, although I noted the registration number of Ian’s Landrover. Just in case.
In due course, Mark returned with Ian and Judith, a grease gun (“a solid one you can ram right in”) and a couple of tubes of grease.
Ian stared at me with eyes like lasers. “Who are you expectin’?” he asked.
“Frank!” I replied.
“And?” Ian didn’t drop his gaze.
“Frank and ‘is son!”
“Good lass!” Ian beamed.
They both came in for a cuppa. Judith was a sweetheart. A tiny slender lady with a serene face, framed by wispy grey hair swept back into a ponytail. Her gentle demeanor belied a core of quiet Yorkshire grit. I asked her,
“How did you get on with him gone for fourteen years?!”
“Oh. It were alright!” she sighed. “Ah ‘ad me kids and grandkids. An’ Ah used to fly out and meet ‘im every now and again.” I got the impression she had quite enjoyed the peace.
Clearly, the meeting at Ian’s place had gone swimmingly.
“You should see his yard,” Mark told me. “It’s amazing!”
Then, Mark laughed as he prompted Ian,
“Tell Jackie why you were thrown out of Kazakhstan.”
With a massive grin, Ian told the tale.
“Well, Ah got to’t border and Ah were all set. They stamped me passport and everythin’, then they asked what Ah was wantin’ to do there, so Ah told ‘em. ‘Ah’ve come to see wheer Borat lived’ and they chucked me out! Ah spoke to me mate and told ‘im, ‘They chucked me aht o’Kazakhstan!’ and ‘e said, ‘Yer didn’t mention Borat did yer?’ so Ah said, ‘Ah did!’ and ‘e said, ‘Yer daft ‘apeth!’”
In case you’re not familiar with the controversial mockumentary comedy film, Borat Sagdiyev is an anti-Semitic Kazakh journalist, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Personally, I love Baron Cohen’s trademark of shockingly exaggerated characters who poke fun at racism and prejudice. However it does not make him popular in all circles.
The film Borat was banned in Kazakhstan and Russia and, according to the news agency Pravda, left the Kazakhs feeling furious and humiliated.
If you’re unfamiliar with typically British satire and self-deprecating humour, I can see the problem. In the film, Borat jokingly describes Kazakhstan as a country whose people drink horse urine, and whose national pastimes include rape, incest and shooting dogs.
Ian’s travels had taken him to almost every country in the world. He told us all kinds of stories. At one point, he was teaching English in a girls’ school.
“Ah taught ‘em to sing ‘On Ilkley Moor Baht ’At’. That took about two week. After that, Ah taught ‘em ‘The Lassie from Lancashire’ – then Ah thought, ‘Oh no! Ah’ve taught ‘em to sing it in a Yorkshire accent! But Ah don’t think anyone would know.” (There is a fierce rivalry between the northern English counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire; think the Wars of the Roses. This applies in every instance, unless Lankies and Yorkies meet ‘Down South’ , in which case, we are all Northerners, presenting a united front of opposition to the Southern Shandy-drinking Softies!)
In addition to a grease gun, Mark came back with a list of maintenance tasks. Naïvely, I had thought the truck was like a car, and just needed a service every year.
“Tek this down, lass,” Ian instructed. “You need to mek a list of spares and maintenance things and tick it off when it’s done to keep track. If you don’t keep yer nipples greased, yer prop shaft can seize. If owt else goes wrong, you can still drive. But if yer prop shaft goes, yer well and truly stuck…”
Mark was thrilled with his new-found wisdom regarding which of the six were the drive wheels. Ian explained the new regulations for coaches and lorries, which requires the tyres on the steering wheels to be fewer than ten years old. That was thrilling news; we had thought the regs applied to all tyres, so it meant we only needed to change the two front tyres, rather than the full half dozen. As yet, we had no inkling of the tyre-related Pandora’s Box that lay in wait. Ian hinted at it as he pressed home the benefit of us carrying both spare wheels,
“You have split rim wheels, which have to be inflated in a cage. So if you get a puncture, no-one will want to change a tyre on those at t’roadside.”
So, besides greasing our nipples weekly – or possibly monthly with our mileage – we needed to stock up on Type 30 brake diaphragms, bleed the brake air tanks daily – or weekly with our mileage – to get rid of water condensed in the tanks, and change our front tyres.
Mark and I gave ourselves a virtual high five. We had a maintenance schedule and knew our drive wheels from our steering wheels. We were really getting the hang of this truckin’ mullarkey.
Or so we thought.
- Tenses – In Yorkshire dialect, verb tenses and participles are mixed around, e.g. Ah were doin’ summat instead of ‘I was doing something’, or I was stood instead of I was standing.
- Dropped Letters
- Letters are often dropped from the beginning and end of words, such as ‘E (He) and Goin’ (Going).
- Aitches are always dropped.
- Plurals – the S is frequently dropped, so ‘four months’ becomes ‘four month’.
- Pronunciation – think professional Yorkshireman, Sean Bean!
- Ah – I
- Apeth – Literally a Halfpenneth or Halfpennyworth, but used as an affectionate term for a silly person, as in ‘you daft apeth’.
- Aht – Out or outside
- Bloke – Man
- Brew – Cup of Tea
- Eyup! – ‘Hello’, or an exclamation along the lines of Flipping Heck!
- Lass – Girl
- Me – My
- Mek – Make
- Meself – Myself
- Missus – Wife
- On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At – On Ilkley Moor without a hat; Yorkshire’s unofficial anthem.
- Our lad – My son (Our would be pronounced Ahr, but I have left it as ‘Our’ so that it wasn’t too complicated to read!)
- Our lass – Our girl – my wife
- Owt – Anything (Nowt is nothing)
- T’ – The. Sometimes the definite article is also dropped, as in – ‘I asked lass in t’shop’
- Tek – Take
- Tuh – To
- Wheer – Where
- Ya – You
- Yer – You or Your
A Question For You!
Reader Feedback – Ian’s wonderful Yorkshire accent and turn of phrase was very much part of his character. I would be really grateful if you could let me know in the comments if you found this post, written in the vernacular, easy to read and understand, or whether it would be worthwhile for me to provide a standrd English translation!
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