Phil’s Forty, 40: The year that got away

So there we are, 40 essays all done but of course it wasn’t supposed to be like this. When the Editor and I sat down to kick around some of the ideas for Phil’s Forty we envisaged a stack of fun stuff inspired by the vibrancy of our wonderful city as we wondered from gig to gallery, taking in the pubs and restaurants and chatting to some of the people who make Hull so special. Talk about being overtaken by events.

The first big surprise was that amazing comeback in January when Hull City revitalised their season by coming from behind in the FA Cup against Chelsea, the hat-trick in the last five minutes from Jarrod Bowen adding a few million to his transfer fee.

Then came even more drama as BBC Burnsy won a record pay out on the lottery just in time to buy the club, pick up a couple of bargains before the transfer window closed and install Swanny as manager.

City fans worldwide hung on his every word as he announced: “If Boris Johnson can write books while being Prime Minister I’m sure I can run Hull City while keeping my day job, but I need Swanny as my right-hand man to look after the team.”

City at Wembley.
City at Wembley.

The rest is history. City swept all before them en route to repeat visits to Wembley, or Boothferry South as it became known. Premier League promotion was secured with victory in the play-off final against Leeds only a few days after beating the same opposition in the FA Cup Final.

Triumphant manager Swanny admitted to a touch of sentimentality but denied complacency: “We’d had a long season and a few of the lads needed a rest so yes, I decided to put myself on the bench for the play-off match against one of my old clubs.

“I wasn’t planning to play but Chillo and Waggy both admitted their legs had gone after scoring a couple each so I decided to have a run out. After all, it was only Leeds. The hat-trick was a nice bonus”.

That the season finished at all was down to the superhuman efforts of a government which had the foresight to ensure the menace of a new virus was finished before it began. With hundreds of thousands of fatalities across the world the pandemic posed a huge threat but Boris Johnson battened down the hatches, making the right calls at the right time to protect the country and keep casualties down to just a handful. The strength of the economy enabled the UK to take a lead internationally, manufacturing world-beating PPE and vaccines in unprecedented amounts and ramping up efforts to deliver everything in record time to global friends and partners.

But for the Prime Minister’s obsession with Brexit he’d probably still be in the job now. His undoing came with his attempt to solve the fishing issues with the EU and the need to feed children in schools by introducing free food as long as it’s mackerel.

Waiting in the wings as the real surprise package was the other Johnson. The former Hull West and Hessle MP Alan hadn’t really fancied being Prime Minister when the opportunity arose before, preferring to concentrate on his career as an author.

But he told Hull is This: “If Boris Johnson has taught us anything it’s that you can write books and be Prime Minister at the same time. And my books are loads better than his.”

The new Prime Minister Johnson swept to victory after cornering the popular vote with his Beatles-themed Masked Singer routine and hijacking the three-word phrases which had served his predecessor so well.

He said: “My message to voters is simple: Please please me, love me do and let’s get Boris a ticket to ride!”

The combination of City’s success and a local Prime Minister was a catalyst for huge new levels of investment. 

Murdoch's Connection.
Murdoch’s Connection.

Hull Trains celebrated the scrapping of Brexit and prepared for City’s Europa League campaign by launching direct services from Paragon to Paris and Brussels. The finishing touches were put to Murdoch’s Connection, although whether it will be used heavily remains to be seen after the decision to replace the Castle Street improvement scheme with a revolutionary tunnel inspired by children at Chiltern Primary School.

Their technique of sticking together 15 donuts was initially developed with the aim of mounting a Junior Bake Off challenge, but for engineers who had struggled for years to build waterproof tunnels in Hull it provide a eureka moment. We look forward to the day when the city centre is at last reunited with its waterfront and we wish the children all the best with part two of their incredible plan – converting the now redundant Daltry Street flyover into a dry ski slope based on their award-winning profiterole stack.

Culturally, it was a mixed year. The Holderness Gazette leaked the news that Dean Wilson had turned down an invitation from Boris Johnson in February to be the next Poet Laureate.

Dean revealed: “It’s one thing being able to write books while also being Prime Minister but it’s quite another to write all my stuff while also pulling together the Withernsea Festival of Poetry and Pebbles.

“There were also issues around political interference. I haven’t got time to translate all my back catalogue into Latin and it’s not the Poet Laureate’s job to write Facebook posts advising schoolchildren about the perils of standing on deckchairs.”

Steely Dan.
Steely Dan at The Adelphi Club.

BBC Billionaire Burnsy secured the future of the Adelphi Club by investing some of his lottery winnings and the state-of-the-art venue with its extension and underground car park reopened with a blistering set by Steely Dan following their sensational warm-up gig at the Bonus Arena. Jacko said thank you by releasing a limited edition Adelphi scarf with on one side “BBC Billionaire Burnsy” and on the other “Flipping Ace”.

Flipping Ace scarf.
Flipping Ace, limited edition Adelphi Club scarf.

As the year ended, Life managed to go one better than The Housemartins and bag the Christmas number one slot. It’s 34 years since Caravan of Love missed out but Life went all the way in 2020 with another classic cover.

Stewart Baxter, the band’s drummer, told Hull is This what was behind their decision to release their own version of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: “We’d always fancied having a crack at the Christmas number one but it’s not easy writing new material with all the demands of touring so when it got to mid-November we opted for a cover. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is an anthem for positivity, and perfect to commemorate everything that 2020 stands for. It’s going to be hard to beat in 2021.”

But maybe not. Rumours are rife that at long last the manufacturers of Stella Artois are to recognise the fabled achievements of the Hull Cheese in the 80s in becoming the biggest seller in Europe of their magnificent brew.

Stella Artois.
The Stella Brewery will be part of the Albion Street development.

Sources suggest there are plans to build a small brewery making only Stella as part of the Albion Street development, with the finishing touch a sophisticated pipe network to deliver the beautiful beer to every pub in the city centre, including a new one in Whitefriargate being built as part of the long-awaited canopy project.

It’s not known whether BBC Billionaire Burnsy is one of the investors. It’s absolutely certain that I’ll be applying for a product testing job. I’m off for a bit of practice now, so on that note, happy New Year!

Phil Ascough

“I’m beginning to think I’ve lost my mind!”

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