Tag Archives: Up North

Nostalgia Trip

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……

Wigan Market

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

gilding dust,

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,

plugs, screwdrivers,

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.



Filed under oddbods, poems, poetry

Still a Yellow Thing

My garden is a joy, a fizzing sherbet of yellow and acid green and I can’t post photographs because I’m in The North, visiting, and very far away from any kind of technology that would allow me to do so (I’ve cranked up the old pc and have made a coffee and scrubbed the kitchen while it very gently warmed up to lift off…). I planted Euphorbia amygdaloides Robbiae last autumn and have been waiting for its butterfly-bright flowers to open all winter. And they have: tall bracts of yellow-green flowers that remain steadfastly undiminished by pelting rain. The daffodils planted among them have bowed to the weight of Monday’s downpour but not the Euphorbia, it’s strong, upright, defiant.  There’s a metaphor in there somewhere…

The Chaenomeles nivalis has been in bloom for weeks now, if not months. Some flowers have only just burst, others have wilted and browned and become slippery-rotten. It’s been its best year yet and I’m waiting to see how many flowers hatch into small, hard, unprepossessing fruit. Edible and a fine addition to an apple pie but nothing compared to the truly magnificent, pendulous quinces with which I make jelly and which vanishes down the gullets of small children, spoon by quivering rosy spoon.

I travelled with the children on the West Coast main line yesterday along with several thousand other people who had also sharpened their elbows in preparation for the battle for a seat (reservations mean nothing). Conclusion: defibrilators ought to be compulsory kit in every carriage. There’s always an overly red puffing chap, hard bellied and broken veined trying to squeeze a suitcase the size of an elephant into the overhead gap. I fear for him…..

Having announced to the carriage my children’s predilection for throwing up on pendolinos (people flee…we get our seats) we headed north. From the window somewhere in Northamptonshire I saw a field of oilseed rape luminous yellow against a dark slategrey sky. The perfect unblended meeting of colour. Glorious.


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Filed under gardens, oddbods