About Me

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Blowing away the cobwebs

Having a break from my regular occupation, I head for the nearest coastal walk between the genteel little towns of Lytham and St Annes-on-Sea, a stones throw away from the proletarian delights of Blackpool.

 Changing trains at Preston, I ride on one of the few remaining branch lines. Once past Kirkman and Wesham, the track diverts from the West Coast main line and the  train goes along a single track to Moss Side, Lytham, Fairhaven Lake (Ansdell), Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Blackpool South. Alighting at Lytham, I make my way to the promenade and walk along the shore towards St Annes.

There is always something slightly bleak about estuaries but, looking east, the Ribble Estuary is rather beautiful, and, on a clear day such as this, I can make out the hills that overlook my own small town: Winter Hill and Rivington Pike with their distinctive shapes in the distance.

As I walk past the Easter Monday strollers, I look out over the Estuary cold, grey and clear. A group of people launch a small boat from a short wooden pier.  As I move further away from Lytham's central promenade, I see a group of redshanks scuttling up and down the rich silted muddy sand in search of rich pickings.

Reaching the outer edge of Fairhaven Lake, the sun breaks through bringing sudden warmth which cuts through the sharp cool breeze. I stop and sit on a bench and soak it up for some minutes before walking on past the beacon and cutting down to the rough silt and stone path that leads between the sand dunes and the marshy grass to the more seaside oriented St Annes, where I stop for tea and a hot steak sandwich. Unfortunately, enjoying the sunshine sitting on the decking, below which a number of children spin around inside clear plastic globes, I forget to keep my eye on the train times.  When I do check, I discover that the next train involves three changes, one of  which requires me going back on myself and adding unnecessary time to my journey. Better to catch the next one but  what to do with myself meantime?  I reluctantly accept that I will need to wait in the busy but rather souless new build pub near the station, when I spot a board directing people's attention to No 10, where fine beers, ciders and wines are to be had.

Number 10 turns out to be a micro brewery bar in a disused shop premises, where a large glass of Shiraz can be purchased for less than a fiver. With an hour an half to fill, I consume two. The clientele are pleasant and the staff friendly without being intrusive.  I attract the attention of a lone gentleman, whose gaze I avoid by playing with my phone and reading a book. Still, at my age, I am flattered.

It is nearly time to leave for the station, when a man drives into the bar on a motorcycle. This causes much joviality amongst the regulars, of whom, I assume the biker is one.

'Another glass of wine following that?' says the gentleman.

'Time for my train,' I say putting on my emerald green coat. '

' Where are you travelling to?'

'Horwich Parkway. '

The man frowns, as if this is long way from St Annes.

'Good place to wait for a train,' I say 'Better than the place by the station.'

'Make sure you put us on Facebook,' shouts a man sitting across the way.

'I already have and on Twitter. ' It's not everyday a man on a vintage motor bike drives into a bar.

On the train, bouyed and made mellow by the wine, I listen to Stornoway on my headphones, my walk by the sea having blown away the cobwebs.

Stornoway - Get Low

Related post. Arnside 2007

Sunday, 12 March 2017

My Northern City

A northern lass, my nearest city is Manchester. A city I love dearly. Powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution and commercial hub for the now defunct Lancashire Cotton and Textile Industry, these days Victorian grandeur sits side-by-side with modernity.

Catching the train from Horwich Parkway, it takes around thirty minutes to reach Manchester Piccadilly, the city's biggest railway station, whose electronic boards and crackly announcements signal national as well as local trains. Yet, as I arrive, on a dull, overcast Saturday, the station seems quiet and suspended, like the woman on the bench between trains. 

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I take the tram to the Northern Quarter, passing from one side of the city centre to the other courtesy of one of Europe's best tram networks. As a nation, we abandoned trams in the late 40s and 50s believing  them to be an old-fashioned method of transport. Prompting light hearted entertainers Flanders and Swann to develop this daft little ditty:

  Last of the trams

In the 1980's Manchester, always a forward thinking city, reintroduced the tram making it easy, along with the free metro shuttle buses, to get around. I am lulled by their gentle swaying motion and soft choo-choo whistle, alerting pedestrians to be aware trams are passing through the city's streets.

The Manchester Metro
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 Stepping off at Shude Hill, I make my way to the somewhat trendy Northern Quarter, where hipsters mingle with Stag and Hen parties at weekends and where the fa├žade of the old fish market has been conserved as a wall around blocks of recently built apartments.

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Walking through the narrow streets and back alleys ...

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...I soon arrive at my destination...-

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Manchester Craft Centre
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...and my favourite jewellers

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RA Designer Jewellery

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where I purchase two pairs of earrings and then amble back across the city toward King Street, with its imposing architecture.

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Sadly, as I make my way across the city, I notice far more homeless people than I have noticed for many, many years, since the 1980's in fact and wonder how much this has to do, as in the 1980s, with having a well established Conservative government. See the person wrapped up in a blue sleeping bag in the doorway in the photo below.

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I make way my way to Waterstones on Deansgate, where I get carried away and buy five books before settling down in the cafe for a piece of flap jack and a large Americano
(Although I have posted on a Sunday, I will forward this for T is for Tuesday via Bluebeard and Elizabeth, as I work on Tuesday making it difficult to post a longer entry on that particular day.)
 Image may contain: people sitting, coffee cup and indoor T is for Tuesday (even on a Saturday afternoon :) )

Finally, I head for Manchester Victoria Station, which has recently undergone further modernisation (I am old enough to remember when they changed the access to the platforms in the late-mid 1980s; I preferred it when there were tunnels rather than overhead steps but they must have had their reasons.) The new upgrade is very much in keeping and effective, giving a smarter feel to the station and a more space for the busy tram stop. As part of the refurbishment, the tiled wall map of the old  Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway has been restored, as have the old shop fronts.
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I read one of my books on the train as the not so dull, dull day turns to evening as I travel homewards.

Related posts:

Second visit to London

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A virtual journey to the Dove at Hammersmith

Invited to share a drink with The Altered Book Lover. I  decide we should go down to the Thames at Hammersmith. Cutting through the quieter terraces that lead from busy King Street to the river, we take a detour up river along the Mall as far as Chiswick Eyot and back again. The early spring air is sharp but the sun is shining and we are warm enough so long as we walk briskly 

Just before we reach the narrow passage way, which houses our destination, we spot a sign outside the annex of a large Victorian villa and spend half an hour admiring the designs of C19th fabrics at the William Morris Society.

Then, cosy inside the annex of the tiny hostelry, we look out over the pier and watch the muddy river forever flowing to the sea and wonder at all the history it has silently witnessed.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Outside,  fine but dull grey mists leave the ground chilled.  Inside the rapidly moving train people engage with electronic devices. No more friendly conversations with people thrown together for two hours around the compact tables of a second class coach.  Each of the passengers around the table is sealed inside their own private space.  Sometimes, when I look up, I see  the woman with the short blond hair looking at me . Perhaps she wonders what I tap into one note on my little machine. Does she intuite that I write of her? Perhaps she is relieved she is not forced to converse with me?

The clouds become less dense and the warmer light behind penetrates through.  The train continues through the heart land of the country. 

As I often do on the train,  I listen to an episode of Desert Island Discs.  I choose June Brown,  the actress,  now aged 90 years old. Her relationship with music is engaging.  I think she would need conversation should she share a train table,  though I suspect I would need to upgrade to first class

I walk From Euston to St Pancras down Phoenix St accompanied now  by Catlin Moran doing her Desert Island Discs. Two very different but equally engaging women.  Caitlin, I am sure would chat away the whole journey,  should she happen to sit down at my table or walk between stations with me.

Settled on the fast train to the East Kent Coast, I pull out my paperback and ponder why I am fascinated by the places and spaces in between.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Look! We have come through

DH Lawrences's famous words were written about his relationship with his lover, as they defied convention and culture and overcame the obstacles that faced their love. Nothing quite so romantic for me but after two difficult professional years in which the institution in which I work 'required improvement' we got the necessary 'good'.  Not that things have got easy mind, the challenge of teaching the new syllabus and the demands of teaching adults and young people coming back - and not always voluntarily - for a second, third or even fourth chance, is still as difficult and rewarding as ever. To say nothing of working in the most emotionally volatile team but amazing team this side of the Irish Sea!

And indeed, to say nothing of being the late-middle-aged daughter of elderly parents - praise the Lord for supportive sisters!

'More for less' is the mantra and we seem to wait in vain for the government to step  back and fund us properly. Meanwhile, a possible take over from a richer and more powerful institution stands in front of us. More unknowns.

Nothing stays the same; everything changes and sometimes I long for the past when it all seemed simpler but then as my old senior manager used to say, 'hindsight is  wonderful thing.'

In a couple of days' time, I go to spend time with my recently widowed father and connect with the Kent coast almost 300 miles from my northerly home. How I love to visit Reculver on a cold February day or shop for nice treats in Canterbury.

Hopefully, I will have time to write abut my journey before I go back to the all consuming life of a full time lecturer in further education.

Song of a man who has come through

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A winter walk as the sun goes down

 (Photo taken on a different day)

I am lucky to live not far from the West Lancashire Moors, recently given SSI status by the powers that be. A very good thing which should, hopefully, protect it from fracking should it come our way, which I fear it will if the government's energy policy continues unabated and local authorities are overruled.  Beneath the Moor lies the small town where I live and my avenue is built upon the gradual hillside which signals the end of the Lancashire/Cheshire plane and starts the upward ascent to the moors. Behind the neighbouring avenue is a small clough, known locally as Nellies' Clough, home to Hawthorn, various spruce, the odd sliver birch and a culverted stream which finds its way into the River Douglas and beyond. This is where I like to walk when I have been couped up at home too long.

Not just Sunday but New Year's Day;  today the paths were very quiet, a handful of  people walking or exercising their dogs. The sun sends a golden glow across the land, as I walk up the hill, up the wooden steps out on to the narrow path. Turning around I see below me quite a steep ravine, to the spot where the culvert crosses the path and the fields open out. I imagine this is an old place, an old path, a way where medieval carts came down from places like Belmont on their way to West Lancashire.When I reach a certain point, now bracketed on one side by 1970s houses and a wooden fence, I feel the expanse of the plane opening up before me.

It looks as though there are  some changes to the broken down old barn, where I wish for, but never see, the owls that are rumoured to roost there. The ivy has been removed from the windows and the wall rebuilt. It is no longer possible to push through the low bramble to the old iron gate that faces towards Bolton.  This is as far as I will go. As I walk back down the sun is softly blinding.

Now alone in my tiny office, the sky has turned a transparent yellow rising into an almost sapphire blue as evening takes hold.

(photo taken 1.1.17)

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Two rainbows for Andrew

Andrew's funeral was a lovely, as far as funerals can be described as such. It took place in a beautiful old church, tower  dating back to the fourteenth century. His brother read a most moving eulogy and, as we stood around the graveside and the curate read from the burial service, a rainbow shone over the green spaces, copses and houses that that covered the land below.  Disappearing  from view it was soon followed by another, spread in a larger arc across the landscape as far as the West Pennine Moors and it was hard not to believe he, and we, had been blessed.

Memories, a few bevies and a bite to eat were shared afterwards in a panelled side room at Wetherspoon's. His immortal innings - 14 for  150 balls to force a draw -  will not be forgotten.