Bonsoir Mes enfants perdus . . . welcome to a second and slightly sweeter slice of the blog tart, served up just in time for a late supper with Nanny before the nursery calls . . .
Despite my worries about my mood the afternoon in Bury went swimmingly; I feel my clients and I share really good and special relationships - which are amazingly intimate and yet so unlike any other I've ever experienced - and the pleasure and privilege I feel to be with them is quite breathtaking . . . I learn so much from them and appreciate their courage and perseverance . . .
Anyhow, I was sitting on the train again, trundling my way through the eventide and, as we approached Wigan North Western I looked out of the window and saw the sunset filling the sky with sulphur yellow light, dark streaks of cloud like scratches on the atmosphere and the curved and twisted finger of St Catharine's poking heaven-ward . . . and I was instantly transported back to Eric Blair's words describing the self-same journey made some 73 years ago . . .
"The train bore me away, through the monstrous scenery of slag-heaps, chimneys, piled scrap-iron, foul canals, paths of cindery mud criss-crossed by the prints of clogs. This was March, but the weather had been horribly cold and everywhere there were mounds of blackened snow. As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the-embankment. At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her--her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever-seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that 'It isn't the same for them as it would be for us,' and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her--understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe"
And later he vividly paints a picture that is somewhat similar to what I remember as a child:
"I remember a winter afternoon in the dreadful environs of Wigan. All round was the lunar landscape of slag-heaps, and to the north, through the passes, as it were, between the mountains of slag, you could see the factory chimneys sending out their plumes of smoke. The canal path was a mixture of cinders and frozen mud, criss-crossed by the imprints of innumerable clogs, and all round, as far as the slag-heaps in the distance, stretched the 'flashes'--pools of stagnant water that had seeped into the hollows caused by the subsidence of ancient pits. It was horribly cold. The 'flashes' were covered with ice the colour of raw umber, the bargemen were muffled to the eyes in sacks, the lock gates wore beards of ice. It seemed a world from which vegetation had been banished; nothing existed except smoke, shale, ice, mud, ashes, and foul water."
For those of you not familiar with the area he describes in the last quote I direct you to the following http://www.rspbliverpool.org.uk/Wigan%20flashes.htm and you will see how much it really has changed; as a child it was, as he says, a lunar landscape . . .
Dear, dear me! Daddy's rambling on and you wee things are missing your shut-eye! Well, let there be an end to it all now and let us all slink mercifully into the arms of Morpheus in our underwear - unless you are of a progressive bent and prefer something more sinful - to sleep and greet our dreams with open arms and rapture!
'til next time
Be Seeing You !
Postscript: I rather like this quote from the same pen which describes to a green tea yours truly . . . except for the biblical reference obviously . . . and the geographical one . . . and the colour one . . . otherwise it's damned accurate!
"If only the sandals and the pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaler, and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly!"