Cankey And The Dead

I went for a walk with three of my children through the old cemetery. I have posted photographs of this place before, along with the neighbouring Jubilee Park.
This time I was showing them something that is well known, infamously known, to most of the locals in my hometown of Middleton: Cankey Ginnel.

The old cemetery stands above the town center, perhaps to remind us all of our ultimate destination whether life causes us to escape the town boundaries or not. From here we could see the shame of the 192 year old Providence United Reformed Church, allowed to fall into ruin despite being in proximity to the so called Golden Cluster of historic buildings. Not to mention Takeaway Run.

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From here we came to the top of a passageway known as Cankey’s Ginnel. Cankey is said to have been a body snatcher who used to live at the bottom of this passage, in a cottage across the road.

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It is said that Canky would be sat in front of his cottage, puffing on a pipe, watching as a burial was taking place up above him. Then at night, by cover of darkness, he would go up to the cemetery and dig up the body.

This is the passage viewed from the position of Cankey’s said home, looking up towards the cemetery.

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Then he would carry the newly exhumed body down this ginnel. Behind his cottage lay the River Irk that runs through Middleton. He would transport the body by water to Manchester, where he would sell the cadaver to medical students and anatomists willing to pay for such corpses.

This story is well known in the town, indeed Cankey is often mentioned in the local newspaper, although I’m not too sure how much actual evidence there is for this notorious figure. I’ve never seen any contemporary news article reporting on Cankey and his nefarious deeds. And, as with all great legends, there is not usually much in the way of quotes and source references. But why let that get in the way of a good story?

It is recorded though that Middleton’s famous son Samuel Bamford, 19th century radical poet and reformer, kept the body of his beloved wife Mima at home for a month before burying her in an attempt to thwart such body snatchers.

In places other than Middleton, family members are recorded sitting by gravesides for a number of days, effectively on ‘watch’ against the stealing of their loved ones.

The ginnel has always attracted local children, especially in the hours of darkness, wanting to retrace Cankey’s steps up into the old, overgrown cemetery and experience that sought after thrill of fear.

Perhaps a few older people too.

For the time being, my children take their chances by daylight.

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On A Train

On A Train

Window the eye
to fleeting worlds.

Silverbirch
and scrubland.
Contours of
the cultivated man.

Smokestacks.
Steel tracks.

Copper-corroded
blood stains.

Diesel plumes
caught in
conflicting winds,

twisting amorphous
trails.

We bleed our desire
in profusion,
fleeing our
structured hives.

Rushing headlong
to the end of the line.

©AJM

Happy Meal

This afternoon, for the first time ever, I saw Ronald McDonald in our local McDonald’s restaurant.

Kids were traumatised. He seemed totally oblivious to the wide circle that was forming as he moved among the queues. “Freaky!” was just one of the comments I heard muttered.

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Is he really a suitable figure to promote Happy Meals? Why don’t they go the whole hog and use Pennywise to bring the families in? Balloon, little boy?

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At long last I would be able to have a coffee in there in peace.

Whenever I think of clowns it is either Stephen King’s creation or John Wayne Gacy who springs to mind. 

Think it’s time for the kids to give Subway a go.

A Glimpse Through The Dark Glass

A few of my recent posts have been a little time-oriented.

I came across a quote a while ago in a book, and now I can’t find who it was that made it, or exactly what it was, verbatim. But it was something along the lines of how we cannot appreciate the present because we are too caught up thinking about the past, and planning for the future.

Or was it re-living the past and fearing the future?

If only we could learn to live in the eternal now, letting nothing pass us by. Opening our senses to the full, letting life flood us as it is happening. If we could but appreciate and experience all the good things that are occurring, and attempt to deal with the bad, so that they can be dealt with and filed away. Not hinder us, tearing us this way and that. Splitting us asunder from the present.

I know I speak like a naive idealist. But it would be good.

Of course another meaning for the word present is gift. I like that. An ongoing moment of opportunity that is given to us with grace.

All of us live in context, shaped by the time and place and circumstances that we find ourselves in. No matter where we may travel to, whatever strange and exotic shores we may find ourselves on, we take this shaping with us. All played out on our inner landscape. We are all made up of past experiences and current stimuli. I think what we need is a certain amount of acceptance.

Every view we hold, every opinion we develop, all have their point of origin. Our self-source, if you like. Even the genius is not an anachronism-that blinding flash of insight still has a source. A fertile ground from which it suddenly sprouted.

But what about the future, that distant, unknown destroyer of dreams? If you could somehow pierce its sanity-saving cloak, would you want to?  Or would knowing of future events absolve us of both action and responsibility? Those of you who are Doctor Who fans will know that the Doctor often speaks of fixed points in time. Would those fixed points be malleable, be subject to change? I’ve no idea! But I do know that the Doctor always has his hands full trying to save an imperilled universe, and is usually up to his eyes in paradoxes.

There are many scientists and physicists that talk about such things in a way that is beyond me, that makes my confounded eyes glaze over. You could always seek out their books if you are actually that intrigued.

This here is just a rambling set of questions provoked by my quest to locate a quote that I’ve temporarily lost. Everything is temporary!

And I think the main question is: if you could see into the future to discover what life holds in store for you, would you want to do it? With all the ramifications involved?

Well, would you?

 

Oh Norma Jean, if you only knew.

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Unsmiling Summer Life Snippet

Last Saturday my daughter Millie  and I ventured into Manchester for the afternoon. Sometimes my home city leaves me feeling young, sometimes feeling old. Often, weary.

While we were there, my wife sent me a text asking me to pick her up a pair of slippers. Slippers-the must have for middle aged people everywhere.

We went into Next, where I foolishly expected an uneventful stroll around a spacious store. Air conditioning, light music playing in the background. Perhaps a few leafy plants.

It was bedlam. Like the Boxing Day battles you see on the news. People were competing everywhere, nudging each other out of the way, sweaty and red faced, paper and labels strewn all over the floor, with no seats or benches left unoccupied for my daughter to dramatically collapse onto.

Explaining why I was there, I asked a young beleaguered assistant for directions towards the latest thing in fluffiness. I also asked her whether it was always this chaotic in there. I usually associated this kind of feeding frenzy with Primark, and so stubbornly avoided all requests from my wife to set foot in there.

I think I had been blindsided.

She nodded sagely. “Always. Not just Saturdays either.” She pointed towards the long, snaking queue. “If you want to abandon things, take a photograph to show your wife what it’s like.”

Get thee behind me Satan.

I got the best slippers a tenner could find (I got the only ones left in her size)  and joined the snaking, sweaty queue. I was immediately aware of a woman in my peripheral vision, approaching with something sparkly, two sullen, slovenly kids in tow. An unsmiling boy and a pouting girl. They took their place behind me.

I heard one of the kids speak, not whining or complaining, just monotonously asking when they were going somewhere else. Probably anywhere else.

I empathised.

Mum answered, very sharply:

“Be quiet. I spent the whole of yesterday buying you clothes for our holiday, and now I’m getting myself clothes. It’s my turn now.”

The boy let out a huge sigh, “I only said.” 

Very loudly, in a head turning way, she exclaimed “God, do I need this holiday!”

I got the feeling that her dream holiday might not live up to her expectations.

With fluffy footwear bagged, we then headed for the bus station. As we left the Arndale shopping center we passed a couple with two boys. The man was bent down so he could look one of the lads square in the eyes.

“So you just went ahead and did it, did you? You did it off your own back?” Then, threateningly, “We will return to this when we get home.”

I guided Millie past while her head remained glued in their direction. “What did he do, Dad?” 

Who knows. Maybe something murderous.

There was no doubt whatsoever that tempers were fraying at the edges, people seemed a little touchy and impatient. The kids had only finished for the school holidays the day before-there was still six and a half weeks to go. Maybe it was the hot day beating everybody down, along with the thunderstorm that disrupted  everybody’s sleep the night before.

We got on a bus and went upstairs, opening a window to let a little warm air into the stuffy deck. Other passengers joined us, and to my utter chagrin coming to sit in front of us were the couple with the two lads, adults sitting on one seat and their sons sitting on the other on the opposite side of the aisle. From the back the children looked slumped, and Mum was sat at an angle so she could peer out of the window and not have to face her loving clan. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife. As the bus pulled out of the station, one of the lads decided flattery was the highest form of creeping.

“Mum…..Mum..you’re beautiful.”

Mum continued to look out of the window, answering with a very disinterested “Am I?”

In a conflict of confrontation-when-home-avoidance-desperation and sibling rivalry, his brother joined in. “Mum, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”

“Is that right?” No change in tone. She was obviously accustomed to this strategy.

But then, surprisingly, Dad joined in. “People might say it, but we all KNOW it.”

He then started serenading her with a paraphrased Christina Aguilera song. “Because you’re beautiful, no matter what they say. Words won’t bring you down. Because you’re beautiful….”

She showed signs of thawing as the air on the moving bus became a little less oppressive. My daughter collapsed into a fit of giggles which I tried to stifle, as we left behind the anchor of our satellite towns.

Manchester always leaves me feeling either young or feeling old.

But never uninspired.

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A bit of colour and a daughter’s smile. Never uninspired.

A Fellow Blogger’s Poetic Challenge

After a collaboration of comments over on   http://theadventuresofrosebud.wordpress.com/ , made on a posted photograph of La Madeleine church in Paris, the site’s host Erica provided the challenge, well, more the inspiration, to put down some lines in poetic form. As so often happens the subject matter changed a little as the poem took on a life of its own. Originally referring to the angelic figures that stand above the church entrance, it then changed to the kind of gargoyles that I have seen on so many old churches over here. But the initial inspiration was Erica’s and so I thank her. Thank you Erica :)

It still needs some tweaking,  (patient decay will go) but here is the first attempt.

Gargoyles
The figures loom high above us beneath spires, tall
Silent witnesses to the predilections of flesh
Perched firmly upon rain-lashed sandstone walls
Weathered and worn, writhing in still form
Kissed by the sun and the moon's fingering frost
The winds of the north with their finite call
Have taken their hoary toll, and time, always, time
Burrowing her way from the inside out
Her threaded veins spreading their patient decay,
Yet impervious still, they cling on, strong,
Obstinately, impertinently, outliving us all


©AJM