1. It was also strangely enjoyable to visit my mother, we have absolutely nothing in common, except an interest in food, but there it is. With both my parents, i came to see them as children in adult bodies, and though i have no happy memories of either in my childhood and teen years, i feel we still have some basic connection. In truth i feel more kin to my stepfather, a dour, chuckling Yorkshireman born in ’45, left school at 6, worked in the mines, on the buses, etc. – one of these archetypal old English types, Orwell would have been all over him like a cheap suit, seeking the Wisdom of the Proles. He’s from Marsden, one of the Last of the Summer Wine locations, and really has that Scrutonian Oikophilia, attachment to one’s ancestral land, without any conscious reflection – just as instinct. He is one of these people who can do anything manual with ease, who naturally dominates without any sense of effort or aggression, so you simply accept that yes, he is in charge – he’s about 5 foot tall, or even shorter, so it’s curious that he can cow a bus full of teenage chav schoolkids. There’s nothing remotely uncanny or mystical about him, he just seems to have come from some pre-Roman Britain, where everyone was 5 foot tall and grew up with beasts – but in our age, he is an exception, closer to one of Alan Garner’s dwarves than a 21st Century human being. As with me, he prefers dogs to cats, though he & my mother recently acquired a cat and i note he has somehow trained it to behave like a dog.
He is in many ways the decent hard-working Englishman that socialists and Commies froth about, yet he is, like me, a Daily Mail reader who has never voted in his life; and when some political candidate knocked on his door he snapped: “Not interested, thank you – you buggers are all the same.” He has an aversion to froth and highfalutin talk & people, so he would regard all the lefties i know (either plummy-voiced champagne socialists or greasy-haired drawling potheads) as workshy loudmouths. It is a curious feature of both fascism and socialism/communism, that the leaders & intellectuals claim to represent a type very very far removed from these often clinically insane, bullying, obscene individuals – as a 30s joke went, the ideal German was tall like Hitler, athletic like Göring, blonde like Goebbels, manly like Himmler. Intellectuals, especially political intellectuals, simply want power over others – hence they violently resent anyone who abstains, who stands apart, who doesn’t vote and doesn’t militate for the Party – they believe everyone should be political, of course in the right way, meaning their way, and it is not permitted to simply get on with your life and be a decent human being – that is precisely what they cannot tolerate.
2. i took the opportunity to eat pie every day – the Bosche think pie is some kind of cake, because they are stupid. i reacquainted myself with Denby Dale pies, one of the finest works of humanity:
And most days my mother & stepfather took me around West Yorkshire. Colne Valley:
And Marsden, Standedge Tunnel:
We sat and waited for the next barge, and i ate a pork pie:
And then on into the dark:
About three miles into the subterranean labyrinth, we met a race of cave-dwelling folk who all look like Peter Hitchens. Unfortunately, they were smoking crack.
Back on the surface, Marsden:
And a local cat, with one green, one blue eye (sadly, i was unable to get this on film):
Amusingly, as i was stroking the cat a man came out, smoking a cigarette, and gruffly dragged it off, muttering that he used to have two such cats but one was stolen. Everywhere i went in England, people seemed to be stealing strange things – cats, drystone walls, etc.
3. We went to Saint Bartholomew’s, which has a WW1 exhibition honouring the Marsden dead of 1915, including my stepfather’s grandfather.
The custodian let us in and we had it to ourselves.
i found it unexpectedly moving, perhaps because i was also reading Geoff Dyer’s The Missing of the Somme and so had a clearer idea of this war. My mother followed me about, burbling incessantly, Ooh look, Elberry, there’s one of those pictures you see! Ooh, it says “don’t waste food!” I don’t waste food, do I Elberry? I had a big cake yesterday, ooh it was ever so nice! It had chocolate in it! and so on, till i tactically distanced myself by simply moving rapidly away from her every time she approached, maintaining an unpredictable (to her) zigzag motion so i could be alone.
My stepfather’s grandfather, died 1915 aged 27 from a leg wound – no doubt he would have survived such an injury with today’s medical care:
and my mother’s father, gassed at the Somme, still in his teens:
For a long time, i had thought of WW1 as too distant to be of interest – like the Crimean War. This exhibition left me saddened & troubled, i think because of the small, local focus – the Marsden dead:
4. Outside again, and the hills around Marsden:
A little fair with some local tractors and local ciders and local mutton chop whiskers and so on:
Almost Bavarian, bäuerlich. i found the people in Marsden, even the young people, a different breed to the townies in Huddersfield just 6 or 7 miles away. i didn’t hear the usual violent swearing (my objection to profanity is that it’s used idly, as a filler adjective, and yet with a kind of fury, so the speaker sounds permanently enraged, and indeed your swearers are, i’ve found, much more likely to suddenly attack a chap, verbally and/or physically).
5. We had a good English summer, i.e. no more than about 22 Celsius, often a good 10 lower, with lots of good English rain – slow and determined, not like this flashy Continental rain, which is all sudden downpours, soon over and forgotten like Mussolini. My students think i’m joking when i say i miss English weather, but for me this is perfect, and Heaven for me would be so – for perhaps 9 months of the year: