Monday, 12 December 2011

4 baubles

I was up with the lark this morning, walking along the Archway Road as the blinding orange winter sun rose above the dark terraces. I don’t remember a great deal about my journey to Manchester. I had a cup of tea. I sat in a window seat, and then I was asleep. I slept all the way; my head lolling around and periodically bashing against the window. I finally woke up somewhere in the Peak District, which looked particularly magical in the misty early morning sunlight.
I got off one train and onto another – this one to Hattersley, which looked a whole lot more attractive against a back drop of blue sky; the hills behind, a patchwork of yellows and browns. I now begin to understand what it was that brought the inner city people here.

We met a local poet called Terry; a real livewire, who introduced us to his unique world. We went to the housing offices with him, to the supermarket, to his house, met about 600 people who he seemed to know, and went through his books of extraordinary poems.

The ladies at the community centre gave us a tour of their very special building, which is like a Tardis. Behind every door is another wing. There are changing rooms, classrooms, kitchens, bar rooms. There was even a room they used as a police station at one point. These days, everything is crumbling. The ceiling tiles are broken. The heating doesn’t work. Various doors, that would have been open to everyone are now kept locked. For the past 7 years, the authorities have been trying to close the centre down and replace it with a private building (no longer council-run), across a busy road, on the outskirts of the estate. This building, once the venue for weddings and fabulous New Years Eve parties, is soon to be no more. I have grave worries that the building that replaces it won’t be run by the community anymore. I worry that no one in the community will be able to afford the facilities.

Today, a group of pensioners were playing bowls on an enormous green baize carpet, which they rolled out and carefully hoovered before using. I just can’t imagine them being allowed to do something like this in another space, and that makes me feel very sad.
I bought 4 baubles from the table as a memory of my first period of time on the estate. They wanted 40p. I gave them a pound.
I came back into Manchester this evening and went out with Brother Tim and John; a couple of drinks sandwiching a very nice Italian meal, which John kindly paid for. We talked about politics. Both of them are horrified by Cameron’s recent behaviour in Europe. I’ve given up even caring about politics because I know there’s no point.

350 years ago, Pepys dined with Lady Sandwich and was worried to see a “strange gentlewoman” dining with them at the table as Lady Sandwich’s servant. Pepys assumed that this meant that the usual serving “Madamoiselle” had been dispatched, but he later learned that this wasn’t the case.

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