Saturday 28 April 2012

Meeting Myself Coming Backwards

The Eagle and Child from the Parish Churchyard, Leyland.
Once upon a very long time ago I joyfully left my hometown in the grim North-West, to go to art college.   

I'd found little inspiration in the place; I hated its non-descript houses, its cultural shortfalls, the drab council estate where I lived.. and  I especially despised the ugly Gasworks in the centre of town.

The Gasworks
 Over the years of separation, my feelings have mellowed, through indifference towards a grudging acceptance and a present re-appraisal. For many years my heart sank at the sight of the Gasworks. It's gone now, and there's a Macdonald's where it stood. Which still makes my heart sink- I'd much rather have the Gasworks, it'd make a great painting!

Some of my favourites are still here, however. There's the lovely park, the weird 'new' 1960's Catholic Church  ( "a thought-provoking treasure-trove of post-war religious architecture, art and design"), the Eagle and Child pub by the parish churchyard, the surrounding rich countryside of the Lancashire plains, and the ever-present distant hills.

But a huge new Tesco store dominates the prettiest, oldest part of town, imposing its huge car park onto the ancient crossroads and making mockery of thousands of years of history.. "Are we at the airport?" asks my grandson.
 I'm living on the outskirts of town, where the flatlands reach to the sea, and the feeling is one of space, light and distance. It's a big vegetable growing area- and farms stand out against the horizon. Towards the Ribble estuary and the sea are the villages my ancestors came from on Mum's side of the family, where they were mariners and farmers.

Great Uncle Captain Matthew Sutton Iddon

 To the south-west is the village where Dad's ancestors were innkeepers in the 1700s; to the North is Preston where they were cotton workers and 'tripe- dressers'. (they sewed  little frocks and trousers for it, haha!)

Tripe-dressers for the Guild 1922 advert

There are great views from all the windows of my house- well, my kind of views, which might involve sheds!
The river's nearby, too, with walks along it and intimate views of pretty gardens leading down to the water's edge. 

Across the River Lostock
So much has changed, even since we left for France.  Bus travel, central heating... shops that have moved or gone completely. Dodgy areas of town have become almost respectable; fields are now housing estates; the big car-building plants of  Leyland Motors have been razed to make way for Argos, Morrisons and Homebase.

 A boy I last met when he was ten is now a bloke with a kid, library books are no longer stamped and my 'card' is now plastic.. my postman is hatless, shaven-headed with shorts and an earring. Where's his uniform and cap, can I really trust him??

 What do I do with four dustbins, when and where, front of the house or back?
 'The Rates' are known as Council Tax and water is a Utility (I always thought it was useful), but why is the Electricity called the Gas?
From the Bus