David Parkin on city success, Christmas in the Long Room and strangers on a train

LEEDS has been named the best big city in England to live in.

That was the result of a survey this week where Yorkshire’s biggest city beat six other major English cities including Manchester and Birmingham in MoneySuperMarket’s 2015 quality of living index.

Apparently it scored highly in a number of categories with Leeds residents enjoying an average annual salary of £22,419 compared to £19,801 in Bradford and £20,382 in Sheffield.

House price affordability in Leeds was favourable, while the unemployment rate is listed as eight per cent in the city compared to 10.3%  in Birmingham and 10.6% t in Liverpool.

I discussed the merits of the city while lunching with Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan the other day.

I always enjoy catching up with Tom because he has a refreshing lack of ego for one in such a senior role and we can always discuss the fortunes of our respective football teams in the Championship – Derby and Middlesbrough.

Although Tom’s next visit to Elland Road might earn him a frosty reception from Leeds owner Massimo Cellino after he sat next to Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson as his guest at a recent match against Leeds.

On more serious matters, I told Tom it was great that Leeds has so many positives to talk about currently.

From the ongoing success of the first direct Arena to new office developments, the Trinity shopping centre and the new Victoria Gate retail quarter, there is plenty going on.

And the  announcement this week of ambitious plans to create the biggest railway station in the North of England in Leeds combining the new HS2 high speed rail hub with the existing station are to be welcomed.

But rather than getting too congratulatory I did point out to Tom that a city that professes to be so sophisticated and forward thinking shouldn’t grind to a halt because of the weather.

High winds often lead to the closure of Neville Street by Bridgewater Place, the main road entrance into the city from the motorway, whilst heavy rain often brings chaos to Northern Street, which leads to the station and the Armley gyratory where traffic goes to and from the M62.

It is all very well having impressive new buildings and amazing facilities, but if getting to them proves a challenge then serious work needs to be done to sort it out as a matter of urgency.


I WAS shown round a luxury hotel in London this week ahead of a visit by a client and their guests.

The sales manager giving me the tour paused at one of the windows looking out onto the River Thames.

“And if you look over there you will see HMRC Belfast,” she said helpfully.

My first reaction was to think that the taxman will do anything to crack down on avoidance these days, before realising she meant the warship turned floating museum HMS Belfast.


THE Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground was the venue for the 23rd annual Balloon Debate organised by the Lord’s Taverners charity this week.

Having organised the recent Yorkshire version of the dinner, it was good to see how the long-running event was put on at the Home of Cricket.

Competing in the debate as balloonists were former British Lions, England and Bath rugby player Matt Perry speaking about his former captain Martin Johnson, long standing producer of the BBC’s Test Match Special radio programme Peter Baxter, who chose former colleague Brian ‘Johnners’ Johnston, after dinner speaker Roger Dakin who proposed flamboyant former Bee Gees manager and Bunbury cricket charity founder David English and stand up comedian Andy Zaltzman, who made up a fictional character from cricket whose name I can’t remember.

Zaltzman, who with his balding head and curly locks looks like a cross between Harpo Marx and US comedian Stephen Wright, got voted out after the first round, his eclectic, eccentric approach too much for many Lord’s traditionalists.

Next to depart was Perry, who had veered towards telling funny stories about his former team mate and one-time Leeds Tykes captain Mark Regan.

Then it was a head to head between Peter Baxter and Roger Dakin with Dakin triumphing thanks to witty stories including one about how David English was once travelling in America with the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb when he spotted a local bar in an out of the way mid west town was holding a Barry Gibb look-a-like contest.

He persuaded the genuine article to enter and he ended up coming fourth.


ONE memory from Lord’s was from a visit to the gents.

I liked the fact that the entry and exit doors to the gentlemen’s toilets were market ’Not Out’ and ‘Out”.

Well it made me titter.


GENUS Law, the Leeds-based challenger law firm, held a sherry tasting at its Marshalls Mill offices last week.

The Genus team are a down-to-earth, entertaining group to share a sherry with.

Sadly I forgot my grandfather’s advice when he handed me my first sherry as a child: “Sip it”

After glugging more than my fair share of Fino, Manzanilla and Amontillado, I went in search of a bottle of QC and Harvey’s Bristol Cream.


GETTING on a train packed with football fans is always unnerving, particularly if you don’t share an affinity to the same team.

But on a train from Leeds to Huddersfield that was packed with Middlesbrough fans last Saturday, the atmosphere was lighthearted and upbeat.

That was until I heard one Boro fan in the carriage saying to his companion: “Kev, it’s not worth doing that, you’ve only had your tag off two weeks.”


ANOTHER train journey on Virgin East Coast to London this week was punctuated with an announcement on the tannoy.

“Ladies and gentlemen, finally, The Rock is back,” said a voice, before outlining the choice of drinks and snacks available on board.”

I’m glad that the habit of referring to oneself in the third person now stretches to catering staff on trains.

Have a great weekend.

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