Monday, 1:50 p.m. in the Pack Horse at Affetside waiting for my sp of fish, chips and mushy peas. OK, I had look up sp too! What a strange day. When I checked the weather forecast this morning it looked the best day of the week for a long road trip to Affetside, so off I went, totally on the spur of the moment. 3 buses each way were involved. First to Todmorden, then to Bury via Bacup (which looked extremely sad) and Rawtenstall (which looked flowery). I had a look around Bury’s famous market hall and the Mill Gate Shopping center, and then the bus to Affetside. The Pack Horse looked closed but I guess no-one enters through the front door any more because the car park is in the back, along with the wonderful dining room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Holcombe moor. However, it was open so I used their facilities and then walked down to 3rd Bungalow from Millenium pond. There’s a new bench now at the stile dedicated to Geoff Kilburn who died last year. He was the father of my friend from the village, Kristine who I went to the 2 room school with. Geoff worked at the abattoir in Bolton and he sometimes brought offal home for my dad (on the bus, of course. I don’t think any of the villagers had cars at that time).
Nothing significantly had changed at the house. Every time I visit I worry that it just won’t be there! I dream about it quite frequently. But it was still there. There’s no footpath diagonally across from the stile to the house, but there’d definitely been someone there before me. The grass in that field is now waist high though when we lived there it was cropped short by the famous cows. Apart from three inquisitive goats I couldn’t see any other changes, and I popped a note into the letterbox so that Margaret and Graham would know who it was on their CCTV snooping around their property. I left by the path lined by the trees that me and my dad grew from 1 inch seedlings and planted to form an avenue of trees. My dad would have been very proud at the results. My school which doubled as a church on Sundays is still there, as is Geoffrey Bond’s phone number.He played the organ there when I was a child in the 1960’s and played for my mom’s funeral 50 years later.
Back on Watling Street it was time for lunch so in I went. I asked the server if there were any old time locals in but no, they tended to come in of an evening. In the middle of lunch I got a phone call from Keith. How surreal! We’re arranging a trip to do some ancestry hunting for him. His mom’s family issued from Beverley and he’s never been further north than Stratford-upon-Avon, so I can introduce him to ‘up North.’ On my way to pay at the bar i thought I’d take a look in at the snug. Rachel and I had hosted my mom’s wake in that room in 2010 and when i revisited the Pack in 2011 and 2015 I didn’t feel able to go into that room. But so much of the layout and decoration of the pub had changed that I thought I could handle it. Imagine my complete and utter surprise when the first thing I see in the room is my mom smiling down from the wall at me. No, I wasn’t experiencing some improbable psychic phenomenon, there, on the wall, was a large framed photo of my mom at 3rd Bungalow, shovelling roof high snow. I let out a yelp, disturbing the other customers in the room, just like at All Souls, Bolton, when I saw life size photos of my great great grandparents on display. But at least I knew how All Sous had come by the photo. I’d given them it on a previous visit! How did this picture of my mom get here??? (It’s still puzzling me 24 hours later. I contact the current residents of 3rd Bungalow but it wasn’t them). I asked the manager but she had no information, only saying that when she took over in 2014 there were a whole pile of photos in an upstairs room, and that at some point locals had been asked to submit memorabilia. The bar tender tried to take the frame off the wall to see if there was anything written on the back but it was so securely fastened that he couldn’t budge it. It seems a shame that there’s no name or location on the photo so that other people could make connections. Anyway, she looks exceedingly happy – and pretty – and yes, she was pregnant with me at the time of the photo. I should send them a picture I have of my dad standing on the roof of the Pack Horse that same winter.
After that very wonderful surprise I tried to take a selfie of me standing in the same position as in the Rose Queen picture (1959?). There was no-one around to ask to take my photo. 🙁 I had decided to walk down Watling Street towards the Bull’s Head since the views across the moors to Turton and Holcombe are very meaningful to me. Passing Walves reservoirs , now completely covered in yellow water lilies I kept walking, through Hawkshaw (The Wagon and Horses is closed for renovation), then on to Holcombe Brook timing it just right to get a bus back into Bury, passing through Tottington. Imagine my horror when I discovered that the only bus of the day left to get me to Todmorden ends in Bacup. I had visions of having to get back to Hebden Bridge by train. However, I did find an inquiry desk and a helpful clerk who rerouted me through Rochdale. This drive is a bit glum, passing through Heywood, a place Rachel and I had visited briefly last year to see the church where some of our ancestors were married. There are no redeeming features here, apart from the bus station which is stunning and new. From Rochdale I was able to get a bus directly to Hebden Bridge. So 7 hours of bus rides, 3 hours of pottering around my old haunts and I was too tired when I got back to plan for the following day.