I still get homesick. Even though my home is here in London and I love it, sometimes I just yearn for Lancashire, for its good ordinariness, its steadier pace, its not trying too hard, nor having to. I’d just like to hear northern voices with flat vowels at the supermarket checkout instead of the chewing gum voices of south London.
Odd though, the things I miss. Wigan had a beautiful Victorian market hall which was the bustling hub of the town and which was demolished in the 1980s to make way for a bleak, airless red brick, high walled shopping centre and although a market was incorporated into the scheme, the town seemed to lose its purpose. My grandmother would take me to the market. It was a place to socialise and gossip: the interminable shifting of weight from one leg to the right while she laughed and sympathised and whispered the latest scandal. She was a glamorous woman and never went out without heels and lipstick and a sharp skirt suit and hat and gloves.
Can’t think where I get it from……
It’s a cathedral this market hall.
Same thin yellow light.
Same unreachable vaulted roof.
Same feather-quiet hush, at this hour,
disturbed only by bird wings high-flapping against glass.
Fingers of sunlight fan through the wide roof space
illuminating facia boards and awnings.
Stallholders with faces lined with sleep and nicotine and age
push up shutters and slap back the
heavy rubber curtains hiding
the stuff of market stalls:
buttons, ribbons and elastic,
stockings, nylon lace cardigans stretched over half torsos,
floral house coats attempting prettiness,
liquorice, butterscotch, mint balls.
the sweep of bristle on flagstone,
the clipped click of heels and
the start of conversation:
flat northern vowels and
cigarette smoke blue-curling into the space under glass.