“Do they still speak of Wilfred Pickles…”

“Do they still speak of Wilfred Pickles there ?”

It was spoken over the breakfast table to a travelling companion of mine at some random accommodation in Seatoller, The English Lake District, we were a party of four, cycling the mountains of the Lakes, or at least three of them were, I was spending the weekend extolling the virtues of pushing a bike up as many mountains in the Lake District as my brother could lead me up.

“Do they still speak of Wilfred Pickles there ?” was asked of one of us four, Malcolm, the one who was a solicitor in Halifax, and he had made the grievous error of actually speaking to complete strangers over the breakfast table – something that I learned long ago never to do.

The questionnaire was a gentle old man accompanied by his gentle old wife, an ex-RAF type he was, of military bearing, you can always tell the type, very well spoken, gentle but authoritative with it, he’d have you on a charge at the adjutants office if you didn’t pass the marmalade when instructed.

He’d asked the incongruous question, “And where are you chaps from then ?”, very well spoken, very pleasant, I just ignored him, you never speak to strangers over breakfast, its just asking for trouble, but Malcolm was a solicitor, he was used to pressing flesh, meeting and greeting, circulating the crowded room touting for business, it was in his blood, “I’m from Halifax” he said.

“Ah Halifax” said the RAF type, “do they still speak of Wilfred Pickles there ?”

I nearly spat out my toast, leapt across the table and smacked him one in the gob, the condescending southern twat.

Wilfred Pickles was an actor and radio presenter in the 1930’s and 40’s, a Halifax man with a broad Yorkshire accent who inexplicably was given a job announcing things at the BBC in London, a token Northerner he was and an object for all of the Home Counties listeners to poke fun at with those quaint flat vowels, why they were sure he must wear a flat cap inside the BBC even though they couldn’t see him through the radio set.

“Do they still speak of Wilfred Pickles there ?” still had me choking on my toast as Malcolm smiled pleasantly back at Mr RAF and replied in his best advocates voice, “Why of course they do, we speak of nothing else in Halifax, why we even had a public subscription to erect a statue to the great man in the town square, what a wonderful ambassador he was to be sure”

“Oh” said Mr RAF glancing at his wife, “how nice” and he continued with his breakfast kipper and shut the fook up, unsure as to whether Malcolm was taking the piss or deadly serious.

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