Michael Palin: The Monty Python star's love letter to Sheffield

Monty Python star and Tv traveler Michael Palin has written a love letter to Sheffield which he calls our great underappreciated city.

Thursday, 9th December 2021, 3:45 pm

The 78-year-old, who was born and raised in Ranmoor, writes in The Spectator magazine of his admiriation for his home city. He also touches on the Yorkshire cricket racism scandal and has a dig at English Heritage.

Palin, who received a knighthood in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to travel, culture and geography, says: “I was born and raised in Sheffield, a proud steel-making city which drew much of its energy from a sense of under-appreciation.

"Manchester had the airport, York and Leeds the fast mainline to London. Film stars went to Birmingham for premières. But we were part of Yorkshire, the greatest of English counties, with more acres than words in the Bible.

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Michael Palin has written a love letter to Sheffield in The Spectator

"Yorkshire tea, Yorkshire pudding. Yorkshire grit. Now the grit has got caught in the works following the cricket scandal. It could be a long time before the Yorkshire brand recovers.”

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His letter is punctuated with typical Palin humour. He writes: “One great Yorkshire institution is Bettys of Harrogate, which provides tea, cakes and respectability to the ladies of God’s Own County.

"I was having a coffee in its Ilkley branch while filming A Private Function, when Alan Bennett, frustrated by the lack of local urinals big enough for a scene in which the town bigwigs confront me while I’m having a pee, appeared with a smile on his face.

"In a stage whisper loud enough to turn freshly permed heads right across the teashop, he cried: ‘Good news! We’ve found a lavatory in London that’ll take ten.’”

Palin discusses global warming. “In all the global-warming figures I’ve seen since COP26, one stands out,” he writes.

"In 1943, when I was born, the Earth’s population was 2.3 billion. Now it is nudging eight billion. That’s all you need to know about the causes of global warming.

"To satisfy this massive, unprecedented growth, we’re taking the place apart. Perhaps they should substitute the daily Covid figures for population figures.”

He also criticises Historic England, formerly English Heritage, for its handling of Kenwood House - the majestic villa built for the great judge, Lord Mansfield which is beside Hampstead Heath. “Back home, our idyllic surroundings are, or were, the gentle slopes in front of Kenwood House,” he says.

"For the past few years English Heritage (or Historic England as it now is) has loaned out Humphry Repton’s sweeping grassy banks for private events, installed on an industrial scale with trucks, generators and boards laid down on the grass.

"The footprint left can be seen long after the lifters have gone. Strips of dead grass ripped up, swaths of brown and black where access tracks have been laid. A once-green surface that will take months, if not years, to recover.

"Historic England will say it’s all about raising money, but if you have to destroy something to preserve it, what’s the point?”