My essay on Bradford Interchange, 'What Ship is This?' has been published in 'Elsewhere: a journal of place.' I'm really happy about this. As you have probably gathered, I think 'Elsewhere' is a quality journal.
Well worth exploring this online and print journal. Excellent on the nature of place and identity.
'Elsewhere is an English-language print and online journal dedicated to involved and intelligent writing about place, whether from travel writers or local ramblers, deep topographers or psychogeographers, overland wanderers or edgeland explorers.'
I’m frequently startled by the beauty of some of our library buildings. Baroque Nelson (not in use as a library), Neo Classical Lancaster and Kendal’s sandstone beauty proclaim the power of knowledge. If this country was to last a thousand years, these buildings would ask why we chose to throw it all away.
We went over to Clarion House, Nelson yesterday. The rain held off and we had a lovely relaxing time among friendly people, in fantastic countryside. Red Shed from Wakefield gave a small but perfectly formed performance starring Larry the Downing Street Cat. Clarion House has been run by volunteers for 119 years. It was originally funded by Nelson Weavers Association. It is encouraging to report that The Last Clarion House appears to be in fine health. Clapham Film Unit have produced a charming and informative twenty minute film that explains all. http://www.claphamfilmunit.com/projects/clarion-house/
Another visit to Nelson today. It took two hours each way by train, including changing stations in Bradford and Burnley. It didn’t help when the guy in the ticket office at Burnley didn’t know where the town’s other railway station was and didn’t have a map. If Beeching hadn’t cut the (what? 15 - 20 mile?) link to Skipton it would take half the time. There is talk in Skipton that the rail link with Colne (currently the end of the line) should be renewed. Maybe some of the pocket money from HS2 could find its way northward. Carillion can't use it now.
Nelson Library made the tedious journey all worth while. Enthusiastic members of staff dug deep into the archives, to find photographs, newspaper cuttings and niche interest books. At the same time, one or two library users who were awkward, the worse for drink, or just lonely were treated with respect and dignity ensuring the library remained welcoming to all as a place for study and reflection. What a joyful experience; what a great asset to the town.
The weather forecast was good, so I nipped over the Pennines to visit Nelson. The forecast was wrong. By mid morning it was raining heavily. But I had a smashing time. The staff at Nelson Public Library were lovely and couldn't have been more helpful. They registered me for a borrowers ticket and found a biography of Sir Learie Constantine. Sir Learie was the Nelson professional from 1929 until 1938, asking CLR James, another Trinidadian - later cricket correspondent of the Guardian, and author of 'The Black Jacobins', which he started writing in Nelson - to join him in 1931. They lodged together in Meredith Street. Sir Learie later became Baron Constantine of Maraval in Trinidad and of Nelson in the Palatine of Lancaster.
Next stop the Town Hall, where a friendly encounter resulted in a free Pendle Guide and Street Atlas (retrieved from the basement). The rain continued to pour, but I had spotted the cricket ground on the street atlas and headed across the M65. Nelson Cricket Club shelters by the east bound motorway embankment. The club was in darkness, but I found an open door. So I wandered in. I pushed on the door to the bar and was welcomed by another friendly soul. He was waiting for workmen to turn up after a break in at the club the night before. He said there were mountains of material about Sir Learie and his time in the town waiting to be archived, but currently it was stuffed down the backs of drawers in bedrooms and attics across Nelson. He strongly recommended a BBC programme, 'Race and Pace'. He insisted I would like it. When I got home I found a podcast by that name. The memories of those who knew Sir Learie, and other West Indian professionals in the Lancashire League was heartwarming. I did indeed like it.
Thank you Nelson.
CLR James, author of 'Beyond a Boundary' - considered by some to be "the best cricket book ever written" - lived in 'Red' Nelson, Lancashire in 1932, where he started writing 'The Black Jacobins', a history of the San Domingo revolution.
I'd love to hear from anyone who has information, or knows, about CLR James time in the town
Adventures on the High Teas is about Middle England, Leamington Spa and the like. It is a respectful, relaxed, funny exploration of towns across the midlands. Stuart eschews northern triumphalism and embraces the love of life he finds in less fashionable, more ‘ordinary’ places, wherever they happen to be. In counterpoint to the pleasure he discovers in adventures On The High Teas he has this to say about the worst of the north:
‘… the worst of the North. who bang on about it being God’s Country. It isn’t. There is no God’s Country. Unless it all is. Or unless it’s Einstein’s Country. Merely coming from the north per se is nothing to be proud of. You have to do something, go somewhere, be clever and beautiful and charming and yes, maybe northern and share it with the world….the England that made Vaughan Williams and Shakespeare is dearer to me than the England that made Bernard Manning and Liam Gallagher.’ (p341)
Good Companions celebrates achievement, not because is is northern, but because it is clever, beautiful, charming or, I would add, brave.
With the exception of Kirkcudbright, Good Companions could be said to be ‘northern'. But they don’t have to be. I just happen to know something of these places.
Stuart Maconie is a fine writer, and if you have a spare ten minutes, nip into a library and read a couple of pages, any pages. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.