Month: September 2019 (page 1 of 2)

The 11:42 to York

I woke up to rain. There was nothing gentle about it. It was violent, each droplet drilling its way into the sodden earth with the force of an unseen battering ram. But moments before I left to walk, Andante of course, to the railway station the opening movement of the suite had worn itself out and as the conductor raised his baton for the openings of the gentle pastorale the clouds dispersed leaving  the sun it all its finery. The river, however, was still in an angry mood, a seething blanket of rich brown water with a rumble of bass tremolos punctuated by violin glissandi as twigs and branches raced underneath the bridge. The big puddle on the edge of Holme field, always present after a heavy rain, was basking, yes, radiating in its full glory. A family in wellies were wading through, enjoying their puddle-stomping, but a couple, ill-clad for such Calderdale surprises, had decided to take off their shoes and go for the bare footed approach. I opted to edge around the water in the deep mud preferring muddy boots to soggy socks for my day out with Van Gogh.

The station café was a hive of activity as busy bees consumed their chosen nectar at tables, and lovers passed their Saturday mornings whispering sweet nothings to their honeys. Did steamed up windows blur the outlines of passing trains or did the ghost of an engine in full steam just chug down the track?

On board the train was packed. Empty beer bottles and cans outnumbered the coffee cups and water bottles even at this early hour. Across the aisle from me 2 gold hobgoblins were doing battle with a can of Stella Artois, a can of  Carling and  2 bottles of water while  2 phones looked on in amusement and the  glasses case acted as referee. Beside them 4 gentlemen of a certain age were dressed in their Saturday best: brown leather shoes, fitted jeans, button down shirts and jackets – leather or linen. They talked in a language foreign to me – words like ‘interconnectivity’ ‘accumulated depreciation’ ‘differentiated target marketing’ fell like aleatoric fragments in an atonal score. I shared my table with three orange-faced women wearing shoes I’d barely be able to stand still in, let alone wobble, and certainly not move in straight line in the cobbled streets of Calderdale. Heavy smears of dark eyeliner and black eye brows drawn onto smooth brows peeked out from above  pink leather jackets adorned with shiny jewelry which looked capable of being strong enough to tether a bull, while the length and sharpness of their matching fingernails would have allowed them to tear the bull apart with their bare hands.  In the corridor between the coaches it was standing room only but the residents there seemed to be have a jolly old time judging from the sforzando outbursts of guffaws that seemed to increase in tempo in sych with the speed of the train. Half a dozen young ladies were struggling to inch their way along the aisle on their way to the toilet. To say they were scantily clad would be exaggerating the extent of their wardrobe. Judging by the looks they were receiving from the sitting passengers I was not the only one to think that these girls must have left home in a hurry – in their underwear. Two of them were trying to cover up as much exposed flesh as they could by wrapping jackets round their posteriors but that was tricky since that meant they couldn’t hide their chests with their arms at the same time. Something had to give! Meanwhile we’d sped through Halifax, taken a quick look at Bradford station before backing out, and had exchanged passengers at Leeds, so now it was standing room only in the aisles too. A large man stood by me. He had a large fully laden backpack, a laptop case over one shoulder and an enormous carrier bag in one hand. As the train progressed, so did his trousers. Down and down. By the time he got off  – the train, that is – his trouser belt was below his buttocks and his underwear was following the downward trend exposing the white belly as  . . .

the touselled heads of the rosebay willow herbs on the tracks bowed their demure heads, too shy to see what would be revealed next.

Just before reaching York the train pulled into the tiny station of Church Fenton. According to the 2011 census the population of this little village was 1392. It has a village shop, two pubs and an Indian restaurant in the former station building. A mass exodus from the train took place at this very spot. The orange ladies, the young ladies almost wearing clothes, the business men, the dad  who’d been entertaining his two wellie-clad, superman sweat-shirted small boys with Quavers, rice crispie treats and Vimto, and the group  Chinese students who had spent most of the journey lying prostrate, if such as thing is possible on a Northern Rail seat, covered in piles of coats, all got off in this middle-of-nowhere. I must have been gazing rather quizzically at this sudden departure of passengers  because the man across from me  offered ‘It’s the mint festival,’ by way of explanation. Immediately pictures from my former life in California came into my head:  the Pacific Grove wildflower festival and the lovely begonia festival in Capitola For some reason I was  finding great difficulty imagining these departing passengers drinking mint tea, sniffing mint soap, and carefully creating artistic displays of mint leaves, eager to be selected  Best In Show. It wasn’t until I got home that I fully appreciated what I’d missed by staying on the train. Instead of immersing myself in the ‘incomparable universe of Vincent Van Gogh thanks to the most recent virtual projection technology’ I could have attended the Leeds End of Summer dance party and got absolutely immersed in torrential downpours throughout the day while listening to Patrick Topping, Gorgon City, Enzo Siragusa, Claptone and Richy Ahmed. Who?

Captured on camera , just before he’s led off to the scaffold. Guy Fawkes pub, York, where Guy Fawkes was born.

Frederick Denton claims to be the dad!

My great great great uncle 1831-1912

Cheltenham Chronicle – Thursday 06 May 1852

“Rival Parentage.
The bench was engaged for upwards of two hours and a half in the investigation of an affiliation case, which created a considerable degree of interest from the very novel circumstance of linen draper’s shopman, of the name of Denton, in the employ of Messrs. and Holmes, voluntarily coming forward to claim being the putative father of an illegitimate child in rivalry to the supposed real father. Mr. Pilkington remarked it was a most novel proceeding, for he generally found that young men were only too anxious to get rid of the burden of maintaining an illegitimate offspring. The case was as follows: Jane Challenor v. W. Gardner. Mr. Chesshyre appeared for the complainant, and Mr. Pruen for the defendant. Jane Challenor, a good looking and apparently respectable young woman, stated that William Gardner, late assistant to Mr. Whitcombe, carver and gilder, Clarence Street, was the father of her illegitimate child, which was born on the 12th May, 1851, and that he allowed her 5s per week for its support until the child was four or five months old. Several low letters, written by the defendant, were then put in and read, the contents of which created no little merriment. The complainant, on being cross- examined by Mr. Pruen, said that the defendant was the only person that she had been on terms of intimacy with, had promised her marriage, and it was not until he deserted her and transferred his love to another that she took the present proceedings. She never charged any other person with being the father of her child. She had never written a letter to a person of the name of Denton, shopman to Messrs. Ponting and Holmes. The letter now produced was not her hand-writing, but will not swear whether it is or not. Never left the child with Mr. Denton in his employers’ shop, has she ever received any money towards its support from Denton. After the examination of the complainant’s mother, brother, and another witness in support of the case, Mr. Pruen called Mr. Frederick Denton, who gave his evidence in the most flippant manner, and was continually laughing, for which indecorous conduct he was severely rebuked by the Bench. He said he was a shopman to Ponting and Holmes, linen drapers, and he knew the complainant, with whom he had been on the most intimate terms. He received the letter now produced from the complainant, which is in her handwriting, and in consequence of that letter he had an interview with her, near St. Paul’s Church. He then told her that she had better write him word to say what sum money she would take to say nothing about the child. He had seen the complainant with the child in his employer’s shop, and told her if it was his child he should feel it a great honour to pay. [The witness here again commenced laughing.]

Mr. Pilkington—Witness, I must again request you not to make such flippant observations, and while in that box to behave with little decorum. In answer to some further questions on the subject, the witness said that the purport of the letter which wrote to Miss Challenor was, that having heard that she stated he was the father of her child, he thought it would be better to enter into some arrangement respecting it, and something like £10 would satisfy her, he would pay that amount, and that he would meet her any place she thought proper to name, to arrange the matter. The witness then said that he had paid 3s. 6d. towards the support of the child. (Roars of laughter.)

Cross-examined by Mr. Chesshyre—And so, after having offered £10, you come down to the liberal sum of 3s. 6d., is that so ?

Witness—l paid 3s. 6d. for one week. I paid it about six months ago.

Mr. Chesshyre—How did you become acquainted with the poor girl Witness—By serving her in the shop.

Mr. Chesshyre—And so you always serve your female customers in this manner Witness—l always serve them so if can. [The effrontery of this flippant answer caused no little surprise and indignation.] 1 have met the complainant dozens of times; I have met her every week until near the birth of the child. When the complainant brought the child, called my fellow-shopmen to look at it, believed I was the father of the child until one night I met the defendant Gardner, when he said he was the father, and I immediately replied, ” Oh, no, am the father; it is my child!” (Loud laughter.)

Mr. Pilkington—He certainly is most anxious to claim the honour, regardless of all shame. After the examination of another witness and the defendant, who was called to prove the hand-writing of complainant, Mr. Chesshyre said he should make no observations, but leave the matter for the Bench to decide. Mr. Pilkington said he hoped it would be a long while before they had such another case before them, when there were two claimants for one honour. After a brief consultation with Mr. Barnett, the worthy Chairman said the case was dismissed. The young lady said she was not satisfied, and applied, by the advice of Mr. Chesshyre,, for another summons, which was granted.”

(When Thomas Denton, my gt gt gt uncle, silk mercer and linen draper of Wootton Lawn, Gloucester, died in 1896 he left a considerable sum of money to Henry Ponking, silk mercer and linen draper. Thomas Denton was son of my gt gt gt gt grandparents: Daniel b. 1779 and Hannah. Thomas’s brother, Daniel, b 1804 and his wife Elizabeth had a son, Frederick. So I think this article is about ‘that’ Frederick. That would make Frederick the nephew of Thomas the linen draper, and therefore highly likely to have been working in his uncle’s shop. Thomas was joint owner of Denton and Holbrooks.
My gt gt gt uncle, Frederick Daniel Denton, was born in 1831 in Stroud. His parents were Daniel and Elizabeth.

Death of Thomas Denton

my great great great uncle 1821-1896

Gloucester Journal – Saturday 29 August 1896

GLOUCESTER JOURNAL, SATURDAY, AUGUST 29, 1896. DEATH OF MR. THOMAS DENTON, J.P. regret to record the death of Mr. Thomas Denton, J.P., the well-known firm of Denton and Holbrook, drapers, a, Northgate-street, Gloucester, which occurred on Wednesday at his residence a 6 Wotton, 12.35 am. Deceased, who was 74 years of age, had been in failing health for some weeks past, suffering with an affection the heart, and the end had been expected at any moment. Mr. Denton had been prevented from attending to business since the middle of June, but previous to this he had bad rather severe illness. During his last attack deceased had received the best of medical skill, and he was attended by Dr. Batten, Mr. E. D. Bower, and Mr. Cuthbert, whilst last Saturday week Dr. Saunby, a specialist from Birmingham, was called in. The untiring efforts of both medical and nursing skill, however, eventually proved unavailing, the end coming stated above. The deceased gentleman was native of Thrupp, Stroud, and was in business as a draper in the latter town previous to coming to Gloucester in the early fifties. Mr. Denton first commenced business the city with a Mr. Aldred, but the partnership was dissolved after about two years, and the deceased carried on the business alone until the spring of 1887, when he was joined by his son-in-law, Mr. O. Holbrook. Mr. Denton was appointed a Justice of the Peace some few years ago, and held the office of City High Sheriff in 1881. It is, perhaps, by the local Wesleyans that the deceased’s Ices will be chiefly mourned, he being generally looked upon as the head of that body in Gloucester. For over 40 years deceased has identified himself with the work at the Northgate Church, and took the greatest interest in all that tended to help on the cause of Nonconformity in the city. Twenty years ago the present handsome chapel was erected a cost of £9,000, and mainly through the energy of the debt was cleared off 12 months ago, the fact being especially gratifying to the deceased. activity was so readily recognised by the local Wesleyans, that he was several times elected to the office of church steward, and he held every appointment in the Connection open to a layman. His home was always open to visiting ministers, all of whom have testified to the kind hospitality shown them. Deceased, who had been thrice married, leaves a widow, and four children by his first wife —Mrs. Holbrook, Mrs. Weston (whose husband is a Wesleyan minister Blackpool), the Rev. Sidney Denton, curate at Leamington, and Mr. Walter Denton, who is associated with the business. A t the Gloucester Police-court on Wednesday reference eras made to the death of Mr. Denton. The Chairman ( Trevor Powell) said: One of our most honoured and respected magistrates has this morning passed away, and I wish to express my deepest sympathy and that of the magistrates with the widow and family in their bereavement. Mr. Denton has been one of the most respected tradesmen in this city, and for his integrity he was greatly esteemed. He held several public offices in the city. Besides being a magistrate he one time filled the office of Sheriff.” Mr. D.C.C. Philpott said he wished to say that there was no magistrate for whom he entertained greater respect than for the late Mr. Denton. Pearce, Miss Lottie Pearce, Col. and Mrs. Arbuthnot, Mrs. Janet Slatter, Col. and Mrs. Seddon and family, Mr. and Mrs. Grimes, Mr. J. 0. Richards, Mr. and Mrs. Maitland, Trustees of Northgate-street Wesleyan Church, Mr. and Mrs. David Jones, Mr. W. E. Vinson, Mrs. Charles O. Grimes, the Misses Weston and Mias West, Mr, Percy M. Weston, Mr. Charles Davies, Mrs. Stafford Herbert, Mrs. Dainton, Miss Smith, Mrs. R. James, Miss F. Brookes, Messrs, J, B. Williams and Co., Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Carrington, Mrs. Castle, Mr. James Smart, Nurse Walsh, and Elizabeth (the housemaid). The funeral arrangements ware under the superintendence of Mr. F. E. Davenport, from the establishment Messrs. Denton and Holbrook.

Inside the Denton and Holbrooks store in Gloucester

The 12:27 to Leeds

“The next train to depart from platform one will be the 12:27 to Leeds

Calling at Mytholmroyd, Sowerby Bridge, Halifax, Bradford Interchange, New Pudsey and Leeds.”

The contralto’s opening recitative sends ‘shivers down my spine.’

This platform change has me running Prestissimo beneath the bridge passage synching my pulse to the finale of the William Tell Overture.

I slip for a moment on the wet cobbles but manage to avoid a fully fledged glissando,

Runup the stairs in whole steps and, with the leap of a tritone, like the Devil I jump aboard.

The iron Lion growls and lets out a roar as this Carnival of human Animals settles back in its seat to enjoy this Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

The Water Music to our left softly serenades with Tales from Vienna Woods

While the Ash Grove placidly sits on the hillside above soulfully singing Dido’s Lament over a ground bass provided bylowing cows.

Below me Mytholmroyd church still manages to keep its asymmetrical head above water

But with much more rain it’ll  become La Cathédrale Engloutie.

But for now in these green quilted fields Sheep May Safely Graze

Farther along the valley abandoned factories resound to the rhythm of Bolero

As ghosts perform a Danse Macabre on the skeletal remains of neglected buildings.

Through a dense mist of atonal fog Britten’s Night Mail performs an accelerando through the entire Four Seasons

Coming at last to a rest in Winter at Sowerby Bridge

Where the platform is humming to the Waltz of the Flowers as Eidelweiss pirouttes with Roses from the South

But at this time of year all respectable Bumble Bees have already taken Flight.

Continuing at a tempo moderato the train goes ‘past cotton grass and moorland boulder’ and eventually

Rows of saw-toothed weaving sheds climax in Halifax’s phallic folly

As, through the rustling leaves of Der Lindenbaum, I glimpse The Lark Ascending.

Heading over Coley viaduct staccato raindrops bounce on Satie’s umbrellas keeping dry the heads of men intently involved in Le Golf

As, high above them, marching with Pomp and Circumstance, huge pylons stomp across the course con moto like Martian fighting machines.

At length a dolce phrase from a Bach Suite greets our arrival After Eight in Halifax, home to Mackintosh and Quality Street.

And several crochets climb aboard accompanied by small quavers stoically holding hands.

 They scale the half steps and jump eagerly onto the two lined staff stretching across the page

While white haired minims and legless semibreves prop up the bar.  

Subito, we plunge into the blackness of the Hall of the Mountain King,

 Where sparsely orchestrated Catacombs lurk at ever diminishing intervals

“Where’s our Lux Aeterna when we need one?” I ask the ripieno gathered around me

‘But answer came there none’

For a grand pause was written into the score and everyone was silent.

Back under the Nuages Gris  and ever onward past Jardins sous la pluie

We pause for a brief fermata at Bradford station

Where the train suddenly goes into retrograde motion for the remainder of the trip.

As we make a controlled ritardando into New Pudsey

The vast expanse of Asda’s car park is revealed as a Land of Hope and Glory

Wherein ‘the machine of a dream’ vies for space with the lyrics of Queen. 

Ponies scatter on the sodden field dreaming of a life in the sun in Copland’s Rodeo

While at the Major’s poultry farm I spy a Ballet of  Unhatched Chicks

Caused by a sharp cat wandering into the flat yard

And causing havoc in The Hut on Hen’s Legs.

 Hen’s LegH

Oh puss, get out” I cry to myself, sotto voce,

But my voice is lost in a cacophony of cell phones

As aleatoric pings Come Together in a final cadenza

Heralding not The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba into Leeds railway station

But a Fanfare for the Common Man.

Soliloquy for a Soggy Saturday in Santa Cruz

Squelching sneakers skip over swift streams

Sweeping seaward, beneath sepulchral skies

Somnambulant surfers

Skim the stinging spindrift,

Solicitously circumventing the somber sea stacks –

Saturnine sentries surveying the sadness of the centuries

The White Rabbit offers his pocket watch to me

As Alice looks on bemusedly.

Bobbins of spun cotton fill the coal scuttle that adorns my table

As jostles for air between cake and cappuccino.

Through  glass, spotlessly clean, a crisp winter light pours in,

But, with eyes wide open I dim this light, cloud this glass, drown the music

And I’m in a dark forbidding place, a basement, where deafening thuds,

Piercing whistles and earth-shaking stomps

Transport me to a former time.

I glimpse a young boy, ten years old, flat-capped,

With thread-bare overcoat and scuffed clogs trampling along the shit drenched cobbles

Barely awake, barely cognizant of his surroundings

Where he s dwarfed by buildings so tall

That the sun never reaches the ground

Even in those times when, just for a brief moment,

It penetrates the ubiquitous smog and grime.

A surgeon signed his papers – he’s fit for work.

But he doesn’t stay long, and next time I meet him

He’s a gunner

Taking aim at other young men from factories and farms and homes

Where anxious loved ones await them.

Ishmael returned home,

Was he devastated?

Did he scream in nightmares in the living daylight?

In a gallery above me a striking wreath takes my breath away:

The dead eyes covered with pennies

The kit-box stenciled with numbers

Beyond my comprehension.

My great uncle Ishmael worked at Dean Clough carpets which was, at the time, the largest carpet manufacturer in the world. Today it houses, art galleries and the Loom Café, decorated with Alive in Wonderland paraphernelia.

Set in stone?

(West wall of Manchester Cathedral) A writing workshop with Manchester Cathedral’s poet in residence

A first view:

Black, pitted,

Scored by aeons of weather

Scared by centuries of man.

Man and horse struggled

Through the penetrating precipitation

Of a Mancunian winter to carry that once-golden stone

Masons left their marks

Gauged with chisels, struck with hammers, polished it until smooth.

Set in stone implies ‘forever’

Yet here the ravages of time, be they made by man or Nature’s serendipity

Have destroyed those chiseled lines,

Blurred those straight edges,

Roughened those smooth surfaces until

Only scattered remnants of fine tracery peak out with blinded eyes from beneath its wretched face.

And now, like an ancient mummy the once-smooth skin is black and pitted,

A volcanic crater of aging epidermis.

But wait,

A second viewing, now informed by a Father

Garbed in mockery of the knights that lie prostrate beneath our feet.

That ancient wall that spoke to me of medieval masons

Whose marks I’d traced with hesitant fingers,

Yearning to connect across the centuries,

Its marks are mutilations, wounds wrought by virtuous Victorians

Intentional disfigurements of medieval craftsmanship

By prim men in straight-laced garb

Yearning to cover the ancient disorder with modern clarity of line.

This wall, with its pock marks and scuffs bore witness to my forefathers,

Their birth, their love, their demise.

Music shrouds their spirits for

Without them I wouldn’t exist.

“That wall needs a face lift.

Cover the blemishes, obliterate the scars,” the renovators had said.

Today that white wash has flaked away into its own oblivion

Leaving the pitted West wall to conjure its own convoluted saga.

Remembrance Day: Halifax Cenotaph and Blackshaw Head

As the Last Post sounds

A multi coloured caterpillar stands to attention

Its rainbooted feet silent and still.

Above it towers the church, clad in her coat of black grime,

 Staring with unseeing eyes  at the vast hills that encroach upon her

Threatening to overcome her once dominant position.

Rain pours from my eyes as well as the sky as Jerusalem resounds

As if in mockery of  ‘England’s  green and pleasant land.’

Out of the rain now

Into the vast echo chamber punctuated with blood-red bullet points.

A thousand people gather to sing, to listen, to cry, to pray

To remember

Not only the fallen

But the damaged, in this, the war to end all wars.

As I leave the church the sun peeks out from behind her shroud

To cast a glittering eye through  her own tears

A rainbow arches through the sky

Coming to rest directly over the black foreboding tower

As if to say ‘You have my blessing.’

In the dark of that evening

A beacon is lit high on a remote hilltop

Here, handbells ring out from a tent,

Where poppy quilts and paper gravestones bump elbows with

Hot soup tureens and tea cups,

Fussy toddlers and excited canines,

Joining the nationwide remembrance

On a  more intimate scale.  

Beacon Hill

(On performing at the Piece Hall for the Overgate Hospice candlelight vigil)

With rain streaming from my eyes I gaze up at Beacon Hill

Where a lone car’s headlights trace the tortuous road plunging into Halifax,

The vantage point had provided a favourite photo op on the way back from Southowram with Rachel

In this vast courtyard Anna had dressed  up in period costume

And I’d wondered what it would be like to play music in this cradle of textile history.

Now I’m here, wearing 4 layers to keep out the cold and rain,

Squeezed together with other musicians

Beneath a leaking canopy which performs, unscored, Halifax’s own Water Music.

Two hundred candles glow in unsteady hands as nurses, volunteers and  doctors

Relate heartfelt stories of comfort to the bereaved and grieving.

A  surly-looking man in a high viz jacket wipes a tear from his eye as he stands motionless

While a press photographer tip-toes judiciously between the congregation.

A beautiful version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow renews the tears in my own eyes

As I recall my visit to Lily at the Overgate Hospice in Elland just before she took her place ‘beyond the rainbow.’

Thinking of her reminds me of the visit that Sarah and I took to her grave

And my distance from my own children is so painful that the floodgates open once more.

The baton is raised and the tips of my fingers emerge from their thermal blankets.

As we finish our set the clatter of dismantling music stands and stacking chairs replace the serenity of the carols

While tree lights twinkle like the headlights of that car high above, reflecting on the web cobbles

And lighting my  approach to the railway station and my journey home.  

Sally (of Lily Hall)

Did you love him, Sally,

You know, the man who lived next door?

A moment of passion

A stolen hour of comfort

That changed my life forever.

You were hardly a spring chicken

Newly widowed

Three young children

And him, newly wed

With a bairn on the way.

You took him to court

Made him pay for his deed

Support this new daughter

Miss Elizabeth Ann

Did he hear her cry in the night

Through the partition walls that divide Lily Hall?

Or did his wife’s child’s whimperings

Obliterate that constant reminder?

She took her dead father’s name

And didn’t call James  her father

Until she married for a second time

Barely clinging to the hillside

Defying gravity

Lily Hall’s window eyes survey the town

Keeping a watchful eye

On the terraces below

As they seemingly slide down the hillside

You watched the mill chimneys soar

New manufactories rise from the ashes of old

The streams diverted, the sluices opened

And the millponds enclosed.

James came from a family of builders

Plasterers, carpenters, cabinet makers

The business grew

Schools, churches, banks and factories.

Now, today, you keep your watchful eyes on me

As I explore the buildings

Where you lived, that you built,

Roads that you traversed

And paths where you once walked.

(Sally Whitham was my great great great grandma)

Pie or Crumble?

I stop for a moment to gaze intently at the fluorescent pink of the Himalayan balsam plant that lines my path, adding a welcome burst of color to this rolling sea of green.  Yes, this plant’s an invasive import and  is considered a menace by many, and I actually know people that walk these very paths scything it down, violently uprooting its stems – but it’s a beautiful menace just like the rhododendron. I step closer and peer into the flower’s very being as it gazes back at me with its hidden jewels. Its elongated body is hat shaped and cavernous as if to shade  and obscure its innermost secrets. Above me  the tousled heads of thistles, once proudly purple, now bow their shriveled heads, now grey with age,  bowing to the earth, where they soon will  come to rest. Above them the mountain ash forecasts the onset of winter with polished berries, as eye catching as Hawthorne’s scarlet letter. 

The insistent singing of Hebden Beck navigates my scattered thoughts back to my morning’s reading, Glyn Hughes’s The Rape of the Rose, in which he describes the throstle machine which spun the cotton onto cones. A couple of manufacturers actually built child size versions of these machines so that children as young as five could be employed. Yes, employed, but disfigured, lungs ruined, fingers severed and lives cut short by this work in the new manufactories. The machines were named after the song thrush whose song they recalled. Residents of Lily Hall had been throstle spinners and throstle doffers, so it’s yet another link with my ancestry. 

Passing Dog Bottom  I imagine packs of wild dogs rampaging the steeply sided river bank before every inch of the river  was imprisoned by walls, whose outlines are  now softened, sculpted by stitches of moss into weird and wonderful creations that glint in the morning’s sunlight where a break in the trees allows the morning’s sunlight to penetrate the secret recesses, a green blanket  gently enfolding and softening the brutal sharpness of life in Foster Mill. I have ancestors who worked at Foster Mill. I have ancestors who lived at Dog Bottom too. Above me the cold, weeping stone spine of Heptonstall stands atop the ridge like a watchful sentry perched above the two valleys, leafy trees now hiding their dastardly deeds. I loved Hughes’s description of the people going home after work up the stone steps with their lanterns radiating from the glowing mill like a starfish. A rustling in the bushes to my right startles me for an instant, but I smile to myself and  console with the thought that  it’s just the ghost of a wild dog. Then “Pie or crumble?” comes an utterance, unexpected but unhindered by the beauty of the balsam or the sighing willow herbs’ fleecy down.  It rose  from the darkened cluster of trees beyond me. I froze – unsure of my response. But I was saved by a reply from behind me, where I’’d heard the rustling branches. “Jam.” 

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