June 12

So here I am tucked up in bed in a former dye mill, stone built in the 1800’s. It’s fitting that I’m spending a month living in a renovated mill since the ancestors that I’m researching were all woollen workers – first of all in the home and later, with the onflux of the Industrial Revolution in the mills themselves. My great great grandfather, Ishmael Nutton died at the age of 39 leaving a wife and three young children.   The cause of death given on the death certificate is ‘Blood poisoning from sorting Alpaca wool. Exhaustion.’ Apparently the fibers of the alpaca were much finer than sheep’s wool and could be inhaled by the workers, causing abrasions to the lungs, rather like the results of exposer to asbestos. To avoid the problem workers were told to grow long mustaches to filter the fine hairs and prevent them from being inhaled!

my o]rrom

My room

It’s been an eventful two days of travel. I set off from home at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Alice had offered to drive me to SFO. I changed planes in Toronto – the ipad airport!  – and landed in Manchester where it was trying – desperately – to rain. Thwarted in my search for a toasted tea cake I settled for a paper cup of tea from Greggs while I reassembled my bags. My ‘carry-on’ roller bag had been deemed not carry-on-able by Air Canada so I’d had to have it stowed. We were eventually reunited in Manchester but I must admit I was concerned about the fate of my lap-top and my other “essentials.” I mean, that’s why I’d chosen to put them into my carry-on, so that they would remain in sight at all times.

With the wonderful help of a Welsh information desk clerk and a young Indian who ran the check-out at W. H. Smith’s within 45 minutes they had figured out how to insert a new Sim card into my phone. I told them they both deserved extra Brownie points.

At the rail terminal it took longer to be issued with a train ticket to Hebden Bridge than it had done to get through security. Unfortunately I had to change stations in Manchester, a hassle I’d done with Rachel last year. I had no problems finding willing guys to help with my bags whenever I needed a strong arm. All I just needed to do was ask.  And I feel that that’s what I’ve been doing all day – something that I’m always reticent to do at home, but it’s certainly paid off today.

Manchester was packed with Parklife Fest teens many of whom were wearing very little at all – and carrying open bottles of wine and beer on the Metro-link and the trains.I chatted to a group of girls who were squashed against me like sardines in a can. I was told it was Parklife-2015-920x515-735x400“all ‘appnin’ ” at Heaton Park. 70,000 fans were expected during the weekend causing disruption to public transport.

I had intended walking from the railway station to Canal Works but soon realized that a combination of cobble stones, mud and puddles were not conducive for rolling two roller bags for half a mile, so I called for a taxi. But the driver couldn’t find Hebble End so I called Paula and she arrived, brolly beclad, to collect me from that bastion of British consumerism, the Co-op. It was a walk of one minute along the canal tow path to my new home. There I met with Chris and Paula and the arrangements were explained to me over a welcoming cup of Yorkshire tea. Within 20 minutes they were offereing to do a house exchange with me! The room that I had signed up to rent through AirBnB was in Paula and Beccie’s apartment but their next door neighbour, Chris,  had offered to house me since I was staying for a whole month. The major differences were that  my room in Chris’s apartment didn’t have a window, and there was no TV in my room, but I did have my own bathroom.

After unpacking I took a walk in the rain along the tow path   directly outside the factory. It was slippery and muddy underfoot. I passed several families of ducks and geese with young duckling and  goslings. There was even a blue heron. It was very quiet in a relaxing sort of way – Andante tranquillo. I passed a few other people, walking in the rain on this late Sunday afternoon. The only worries I had were 1. My battery would fail on my iphone and 2. I’d slip on the muddy cobbles and fall into the canal.

Stubbings Wharf pub was already buzzing and when I went in to peruse the menu I found it was already fully booked for the evening, even though it was only 5:15. So for dinner Paula recommended the Old Gate pub which was very much alive and kicking. Until the disastrous flood on Boxing Day 2015 there were 10 pubs in town – far fewer now: tug boats are still dredging the canal. I was looking for somewhere quiet where I could possibly find a dark nook hidden away and write my journal and eat some delicious food. By no means can this  spot be described as quiet but I find that rhubarb cider is delicious and is excellent when combined with a ‘Fish Butty and Chips.’


View from the tow path

If I stop for a moment to contemplate it all feels a bit surreal but I’ve always found that   – with a combination of jet-lag and a return to my old culture. The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations on TV make a stark contrast to the biggest mass shooting in U.S history today in Florida.