THAT strange, vaguely familiar whiff in the air? Can’t quite place it? Does the scent seem to pervade the room especially when you open the pages of the local paper – like The Press today?
It’s called a ‘council election’. You didn’t realize it had an odour all of its own, did you?
But it does, although like a dab of Chanel No.5 behind a lady’s ear, it can have distinctive aromas depending who’s wearing it.
Worn by that disheveled but very polite Eastern European lady who sells the Big Issue outside WH Smith’s in Dewsbury, you might not quite be driven to not only buy a copy, but go down on one Valentine’s Day knee and offer her a red rose too.
On a bikini clad supermodel however – in the unlikely event of you, me or anyone we know ever being in the company of such beauty – I suspect the scent would stay with you forever.
And so the effect of an impending local election similarly inflames the passions – and the nervous tensions – of the combatants.
It can lead, variously, to an aroma that is all too familiar to followers of such events – that of a stale, dusty room; one which has been closed to the outdoor world for a few years, suddenly to have the light and fresh air let in, with the metaphorical ‘Sleeping Beauty’ inside suddenly gamboling and frolicking, reminding all and sundry how they light up our lives ... and deserve to do so for another three years!
What might strike you as stale and dusty, too often carries the stench of rank hypocrisy to a battered old hack like myself.
I’ve seen those doors opened and shut with regular monotony for so long, that the flickering eyelashes of the suitor wooing my vote makes only a negative impression.
On others, worried by the threat of losing their comfy, stress-free financial sinecure with all its honorific entitlements, that’s the sweaty smell of desperation you detect.
You see the wife has gotten used to the civic invites, the nice wodge of extra cash, just for you attending a couple of meetings a month and answering a few emails … until that dreaded year comes round, when it’s your turn on the hustings.
Now then, what did I do with the email address for the local paper…?
It’s all part of a tired old game, I realise, even one that we local newspapers contribute to.
When a councillor like Cleckheaton’s John Lawson launches an impassioned plea for a replacement facility for the Whitcliffe Mount sports centre – on p12 today – we give him due prominence and publicity.
We don’t bother qualifying the story with “Coun Lawson, who stands for re-election to Kirklees Council in May…” although maybe we should.
Except the problem with that, would be that it would be repeated in almost every story featuring an elected member for months on end.
And the sad thing about this ‘game’ – because that’s what it is – is that not everyone will be playing.
When you come to tick the box for your local and European election candidates on Thursday May 22, you won’t know most of them from a tube of toothpaste. They will be names merely on the ballot for the sake of it. Many of them might have been there for years on end, without having trodden a street in your neighbourhood, or put angry pen to paper for our letters page.
They’re just going through the motions – which to a greater extent, is what the busy bees are doing too.
I haven’t a problem with Coun Lawson kicking up a fuss about a sports centre in Spen, and pleading for £3m for a simple hall to replace Whitcliffe Mount.
He’s spot on and the galling fact that Huddersfield is getting a brand, spanking new £35 million sports centre should make every north Kirklees councillor’s blood boil on our behalf.
But it doesn’t. I think Lawson and the Pinnocks in Cleckheaton (Lib Dems), like Robert Light and the Tories in Birstall and Birkenshaw, don’t really give a flying fig for the problems of Dewsbury or Batley.
That’s why Huddersfield has creamed the Kirklees pot for 40 years, because they have a united concern across party boundaries, while here, up north, we’re represented mostly – not entirely I have to say – by self-interested, parochial wannabes.
They’re our own worst enemies. And yes, it stinks.
INTERESTING to see Tory MPs Anne McIntosh and Tim Yeo deselected by their constituency parties. It’s enough to gladden a democrat’s heart and it begs the question why local Conservatives haven’t done the same with part-time MP Simon Reevell.
Simon’s a nice bloke, but he never campaigned on the basis of spending half his working time in a courtroom. It might be enough to ensure an easy win for Labour’s Paula Sherriff in 2015. But hey, don’t take my word for it.
Reporting on Yeo and McIntosh’s woes, Parliamentary sketch writer Quentin Letts wondered why 20 or so other constituency groups weren’t bending their members’ ears, for gross absenteeism.
On his list were both Reevell and semi-retired Mike Wood (although in fairness Wood has been that for years) but for some reason Batley folk love him for it.
Reevell will cling on until pushed, and I suspect Wood will only go if he gets to anoint his successor.
HAPPY Valentine’s Day ... ah, those sweet, sweaty, knee-trembling memories of youth! Getting up early and sneaking out of the house to post a card to yourself through the letter box – then hoping your mam didn’t notice it had no stamp on it!
Not that she’d ever have embarrassed you with such an observation mind.
Or commented when you’d nipped off to the postbox with a dozen anonymous cards, all properly swalk-ed (sealed with a loving kiss) because being a weedy, pre-pubescent teenager, you might as well cast your net far and wide and hope that one of the recipients might guess who her admirer was and – dare to dream – reciprocate.
They never did though, at least not for this lovelorn youth. All those stolen squirts of dad’s Hai Karate aftershave, on cheeks that wouldn’t see a hair for another half decade – all in vain.
And while I can’t remember what I had for my tea yesterday, the names of those unattainable classmates from the old Dewsbury Technical School are etched on the memory still.
I last saw one of them working behind a chip shop counter in Dewsbury, but resisted the temptation to go dig out my old maths book (covered with wallpaper offcut for ‘stylish’ backing as I recall) and reveal where our initials had once been etched in felt tip pen, within a heart!
Ah, such an old romantic…
But those were the days in one respect at least – days when the postman had been and gone before you’d kicked your cold, flaccid ‘hot’ water bottle out from under the eiderdown.
(Our kids probably won’t even believe that there used to be such a thing as two postal deliveries a day, let alone one before your mum had got up to light the fire).
But back to Valentine and young love. Do you remember ‘swalk’ and those acronyms we used to scrawl on the envelope?
There was Holland (Hope Our Love Lasts And Never Dies – yuk), Italy (I Trust And Love You - yuk and gip) and then quite a few more that were rather more risque, and which you’d never want your mum to see. And certainly not the subject of your devotion’s mum.
I think if I gave the missus a card with one of those on, I’d get a proper old-fashioned look and she’d start going through my phone and emails to see what I’d been up to.
As it is, I doubt that this year’s Valentine’s Day present will set her knees a-trembling with inflamed passion.
Her knees might be trembling with inflamed tendons possibly, because she’s the gardener in the household and that raging storm on Wednesday night flattened a long stretch of 8ft high fencing panels.
So together with her card she’s getting a cartload of 6x6 fence posts and a couple of pounds of six inch nails.
Happy Valentine’s Day love. Of course you’re special.
Where else could I find a woman who could put up with me and hold her own working as a ranch hand for Ben Cartwright on the Ponderosa?