If Walls Could Talk, Concrete Confess

If walls could talk.

If concrete could confess.

If soul could seep through cement.

If only one of those monochrome apparitions could reach out and take me by the hand, leading me into a world of smoke and ale and revelation.


The woman stood by the door on the right of the picture is my great grandmother. The two little girls are my grandfather’s older sisters. The guy on the far left, in the bowler hat, is my great grandfather. The other two younger men could be family, I don’t know. Will probably never know. Posing with a football and a trophy of an unknown triumph, they remain silent, anonymous ghosts. Enigmas of imagination.

The building itself, its very brick and mortar, contains more than can be revealed in a two dimensional image. It contains that which is valued in meaning.

Ancestors of mine dwelt in that place between 1901 and 1939. A descendent of theirs also ran the pub for a short period in the 1950’s. What emotions those rooms must have absorbed. Laughter and tears resonating in time. My great, great grandmother died in there, as did her son in law, my great grandfather.

Behind those upstairs windows, in one of those unseen rooms, my grandfather was born. At the other end of life’s spectrum, two of his siblings died in there.

Happy times, sad times. The building stands in the photograph as a mausoleum of memory.

I would love to be able to go into that pub today, buy a drink and take a seat in the corner. Shift my sight and listen to echoes. Watch the ghost of an old man skip through those doors as a little boy. Perhaps whistling the tune of a song that one day, many years in the future, he would sing to another little boy.

Hand me downs of blood and mannerism and story.

Alas the pub no longer stands-it fell victim to the slum clearances that transformed whole neighbourhoods and scattered communities. I’ve been to the site where it originally stood. Ironically there was another pub there, empty and boarded up. Perhaps its own ghosts were walled up inside, caught in the shadows. Memories in a new mausoleum, waiting for people of their line to come searching and shift their sight.


Faded Views

I’ve not posted any old photographs for a while, and when I saw these three, of my home city of Manchester, being shared on Facebook I thought that I would share them with you.

As you know, I love these old black and white pictures, and if there is a local connection then so much the better.

Dirty Faces, Scabby Knees, Jam Buttiesphoto (76)


Typical kids on a typical Manchester street, 1947. Could have been my Dad’s street-he would have been seven at this time. Kids played out, got mucky, took supplies of jam butties and water, and, did you catch that first bit –they played out.

So They All Rolled Over And One Fell Outphoto (77)


Bed time 1947. I’ve heard all of the stories: everybody crammed into one bed, coats on top as covers, ice on the inside of the windows. We today, with one-switch central heating, able to stretch out (starfish) in a bed toasted by an electric blanket, sweltering away like a boil in the bag Kipper, we just don’t know we are born.

Swinging Six…er…Fiftiesphoto (78)


Kids’ play, Manchester, 1950’s.

It was on a lamppost such as this that my Mum broke her collar-bone on. Or, rather, off. Not having the luxury of a rope swing or seat, she jumped off a wall to grab hold of one of the ornamental arms (here just out of view, being near the top), caught it with one hand but missed with the other, did a somersault that any trapeze artist would have been proud of, and then crashed onto the hard floor.

Days later, a neighbour asked my Gran: “How is your Lilian? She didn’t half hit the floor with a bang!”

She replied “She is okay, but she has broken her collar-bone. It is disgusting that people will just drop banana skins on the floor,” (that old slapstick chestnut, or rather, banana), “for someone to slip on.”

The neighbour, leaning on her door jamb and folding her arms in full busybody pose, said:

Banana skin? She was swinging on the lamppost and fell off.”

My Gran, formidable and widowed, bringing up three children alone, later said to my mum “You just wait! I won’t hit you now-I will wait until you’ve had your plaster taken off!”

There’s nothing like a mother’s love  when you are hurting is there?