Thursday, 1 January 2015
The Return of the King
Dawn dripped over the sodden hills that look down on Cleator, a small village stuck between the Irish Sea and Ramsgill Wood a looming fastness that threatens to march on the blighted inhabitants of this veritable clone of Mordor.
This morning I ventured out looking for a cash point located in the centre of Wath Brow: the very name conjures up warlocks and trolls. I assume the town grew up around the coal mines. The rows of terraced houses front door directly opening onto the street, sad remains of closed pubs and unnaturally large churches bear witness to a more prosperous past. There to the west of the town are the grass covered heaps: the remains of years of hard labour and prosperity.
Dog shit littered the pavements: and there's fields and moors a plenty to exercise your mutt. By comparison Walthamstow's streets are pristine. The local health centre is closed: the land for sale with planning permission for 6 houses. The only shops of the few in the high street that were open were the betting and convenience shops. The Chinese and Indian restaurants were closed; maybe New Year's Eve was good for them.
Any fantasy I may have had about moving out of the smog into the sweet green, green grass has been well and truly killed off. Walking the bleak streets here, I longed for the noise, density and dirty vitality of north east London. We have problems that for sure, but not like here.
This is an ideal setting and mood. Tomorrow it's the funeral of my last uncle. His death was sudden and unexpected. I'd spoken to him and my aunt a few weeks before his death at the beginning of December. He was really excited for after some 20 years he wouldn't have to work all night to get the local paper he'd edited off the press. My aunt was going into hospital for an operation on her knee. She is wheelchair bound and the operation was essential.
My uncle was rushed off to Carlisle hospital having collapsed outside their house. He was taken to the same hospital his wife was at. When it was discovered that they both were there she was taken to see him and they were able to kiss as he waited to be transferred to Newcastle's specialist hospital. He died on the way there.
There'll be a number of the family at the hotel I'm staying at - I'm a tactical B&B so says my booking form. It's an opportunity to meet many of my relatives who I see extremely rarely. The last time that happened was 5 years ago. The occasion? the celebration of my aunt and uncle's 50 years of marriage.