IS it wrong to live vicariously through Jane McDonald?

It started in the first lockdown. At a time when a stroll round the block was the highlight of my day (this was when most of us were obeying orders and only leaving home for essential shopping and exercise, blissfully unaware of suitcases of booze being delivered to offices and garden gatherings elsewhere) I quickly became hooked on Jane’s Channel 5 cruise show. I suppose it felt a bit like being on holiday, and I had no idea when I would next be doing that.

I watched in envy as Jane travelled the world on luxury liners, living it up at the captain’s table and visiting places we lockdown mortals, with our comfy pants and Zoom bingo, could only dream of. There she was, cruising the Caribbean in a mega-vessel, whooping through the Niagara Falls and steaming up the Mississippi. She was cuddling a koala in Australia, jet-boating across the Great Lakes, dancing in the streets of Havana, dog-sledding in Alaska, and gazing at sunsets on the Med from her penthouse cabin balcony.

Jane’s no Michael Palin, and zipping up her yellow raincoat for an afternoon of mild white water rafting is as about as daredevil as she gets, but none of that matters on a Channel 5 travelogue. She’s just having a fabulous time being a northerner abroad; cackling with the locals, rummaging round the markets and moaning about the weather (the Northern Lights), the early starts (whale watching) and the penguins (Falkland Islands).

I’m pretty sure she’s contractually obliged to remind us, every 10 minutes or so, that she’s just a lass from Wakefield, while on a vintage car tour of Rome, fine dining in Monte Carlo or shopping in Beverly Hills.

And that’s the charm of the show - along with the obligatory song she belts out as the end credits roll, each with a vague link to the country she’s in. Highlights were Bjork’s Oh So Quiet (Iceland) and Ultravox’s Vienna (Austria).

Jane is the queen of easy listening telly because she’s professional-level Yorkshire. And there just aren’t enough programmes on Channel 5 about Yorkshire are there...?

Now she’s cranked up the northernness a notch for her new TV show, Jane McDonald: My Yorkshire. How has she never made this programme before! This week Jane took us to Holmfirth, which she said was “like real life” in West Yorkshire when she was a kid. Back then you’d find a Nora Batty and a Compo on every street corner, apparently.

At times, as she recalled her childhood - “big families crammed into terraces”... “tin baths, earth closets and a pile of coal in the back yard” - it did sound as if she’d grown up in Last of the Summer Wine. Or even in the 19th century.

But, as she reminded us several times, she’s fiercely proud of her roots, so why shouldn’t she romanticise it a little? Jane’s Yorkshire is like a souvenir tea towel with a Yorkshire Pudding recipe printed on it, or a fridge magnet that says: ‘You Don’t Get Owt For Nowt’. The stuff that that tourists buy in places like Holmfirth. To the gentle whimsy of a brass band soundtrack, she motored along sun-lit country roads in a 1970s Vauxhall Viva, and even made her beloved Wakefield, a place I’ve never had any desire to visit, seem like a half-decent day out destination. Well, the Cathedral looks nice, and Jane has her own star on the Wakefield Walk of Fame (she even whipped out the Brasso to clean it).

This show is her love letter to Yorkshire, and a touching homage to her parents. And watching it, I felt proud that I too am a Yorkshire lass. Although I will always loathe Last of the Summer Wine.