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I stop to talk to a pigeon. I am taken by its fine hood of taupe fluff and a thick coat of beige and brown feathers. One eye assesses my intentions, unperturbed by my proximity. On closer inspection it wears identity anklets, above fetching red feet and white claws. This particular symbol of peace and love is taking a nap before returning to a ‘well-feathered’ nest.

The cemetery stretches into the distance. Monumental headstones made of York stone sit near, marble with occasional flower vases in the far reaches as the centuries shift. I park randomly, stepping out to find my great great uncle Jehu’s grave and along the first line of stones there are several familiar surnames. I scatter ginger cake and crumbly cheese, leave white roses as offerings to these forebears I never met who lived in this town I never knew until now.

The name of the mill was built into the brick façade with the confidence of the industrial revolution’s entrepreneurs. The history of the family is bound and twisted – like the ropes they made – with the mill. The place, its legacy has been knitted into my own psychogeography. Here it is, my first encounter with this legendary edifice. The dark red brickwork and broken windows conceal a complex weave of family history, ethics, and exploitation, and the story of cotton in Lancashire.

This is an acerbic, witty slice of the politics of 1988. It shows a stone hurled from Thatcher’s Britain and the consequences reverberating into 2019. Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings spar with brilliance as a tory minister and his bitingly sarcastic wife. The punch, however, when it comes demonstrates the destructive power of undigested grief. Simon Woods underlying manifesto is a prayer for compassion.
www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/hansard

In 1901, my great great grandfather William, his brother and sister with their families lived in this terrace of 3 houses. The houses, ‘The Brooklands 1, 2 and 3’ still stand. Well to do briefly at the turn of the century, signs of worth and respectability have fallen into disrepair. My great grandfather who would later live in one of the houses is a cotton spinner living in a red brick two up, two down on the other side of town in 1901. My mother recalled him saying knowingly, “it takes 3 generations to go from clogs to clogs”.

Four hands sweep in unison across one after another back, shoulders, calves. We know the rhythm of each other as we kneed together. Then it is our turn to be stroked, by an emerald green cricket eager for the residue of jojoba and sweet almond oil. It tends to me, its proboscis tickles my skin.

On waking there are two symmetrical neat circles of fox curled on our neighbour’s shed roof. I inspect the garden and note this morning’s flattened plants, where they lay earlier. I find a totem, lost by someone else. Fox energy is clever, playful, shape-shifting, signifies the ability to observe unseen. Dog chases, myopically barking.

There is a cotton skin between me and the weather. Inside I can hear the percussion of rain, but feel dry. I am less separated from nature, yet swipe at the sides of the tent. I coax a wasp out into brief sunshine, return to my canvas indoors. Spider, beetle, hover fly take cover in my beloved summer palace.

Droplets of water sweat inside the plastic pocket, ink slowly dissolves to turquoise. A black and white cat is missing – lost, injured, dead? I wonder about the untold story, the ending. I wish the neighbourhood was full of posters bright with fresh pictures of found cats. At the miraculous return of one cat I heard about recently, I felt tears rise to my eyes, my breath quickening.

 

Blackberries need enough rain to swell the berries, and enough sun to sweeten them. This wet sometimes sunny August grows an irresistable prize to pluck from a hedge row. The sharp sweet tang of vitamin C spreads on my tongue.