Bridge Of Sighs

Remember this? The outside world?

With the news that children are to begin the return to school from the eighth of March, and that grassroots kids’ football is hoped to resume not long after this, I managed to peel my son, James, off his PlayStation to go on what I hope will be a series of regular walks to build up his fitness. Mine too.

We set off down a long road which, despite us coming from the same place, some of my friends refer to as The Mad Mile. I, however, know it as The Heywood Stretch.

At the end of this road you come to a roundabout bridge which looks down onto the M62, as shown in the photograph.

We stopped there, for a breather, the wind blowing in our faces as those below us, those fellow lockdown escapees, blew their horns and waved up at us in a semblance of some barely remembered social interaction as they disappeared from view.

“Why are they waving at us?” James asked.

“They are just being friendly,” I replied.

“Do they think we’re gonna jump?”

(Long pause.) “I hope not.”

Winter Days, Winter Nights

After two days of heavy rain there were flood warnings throughout the country. I’m fortunate that I don’t live near to any river unlike those unfortunate people whose homes always seem to be at risk at this time of year.

I was sat with a coffee, watching the rain outside the window.

It reminded me of the time I was on the island of Rousay. I’d had some time to kill before the ferry arrived to take me back to what is known as mainland Orkney and so sought out a cafe overlooking the jetty,. I was sat with a coffee then, too, again watching the rain that had behind it the force of an ocean wind. The last of my coffee drained, I’d then ordered a hot-buttered bannock. Very Scottish, I know. When in Rome and all that.

Panoramic though it was, that view didn’t include an ornamental giraffe like mine did now. A giraffe which, if you look very carefully, you’d see is missing an ear thanks to Bryn, our Welsh Springer Spaniel.

Scottish, Welsh, for the interests of inclusivity I think my next drink should be some nice English tea.

*

Who’d have thought it? After forty-eight hours of heavy rain winter blew in during the night and we were moved to make the most of it. Heaving on boots and heavy coats, we went out into a blast of cold air, even though it was 10.40pm on a school night. School night- that’s a laugh. They are now known as stay at home and do school work nights.

Millie walked ahead, giving an unsuspecting Bryn his first experience of snow.

With Millie’s arms aching we changed over and she managed to catch a second’s worth of our expedition.

The night wore on, the snow continued, and as we decided to head back we spotted a bus crawling up the road towards us. On the rare occasions that we get a considerable amount of snow around here the bus services are often cancelled as we live on a hill, but this one made an admirable job of it, its lights carving through the gloom as it succeeded on its way past us to its frozen destination.

We got in, dried the dog, dried ourselves, closing the blinds on that cold January night. The next morning I drew back the blinds in great anticipation on what would be waiting for me, ready to go again. Wrapped in layers and past experiences for reference.

Typical ‘Happy’ Birthday Conversation

We’d had a good morning, considering we are currently in the midst of Tier 3 Covid restrictions, having found a place where we could (legally) sit in for a few coffees. In the afternoon, Jen and I sat in the car outside my daughter’s high school, waiting for her to come out.

Jen: I think we are going to have to go shopping once we get back

Me: Aw no

Jen: We haven’t got that much in

Me: Let’s leave it ’til tomorrow

Jen: It’ll be too much messing tomorrow, we’ve got a lot on

Me: We’ll go in the morning

Jen: Today would be better

Me: Naw, it’s my birthday today

Jen: Life doesn’t stop because it’s your birthday. I worked on my birthday

Me: I don’t want to go shopping on my birthday. It could be my last ever birthday. Some day it will be my last ever birthday

Jen: Then you’ll always remember it

Me: Not if death brings only sleep

New Life; New Blog: Family And Football

With the demise, temporary or otherwise, of my son James’ team, Bury FC, I started taking him to watch a local non-league team by the name of Prestwich Heys.

A world away from the Premier League football that we could stay home and watch on the TV, it’s a real community club that values our support and attendance.

With no pretensions or VAR in sight, it’s proper football with proper fans, giving a warm welcome and an inclination to visit again – for the club quickly got under our skin to the extent that it has now become a family affair with both my wife and daughter also attending games.

We were having a great season, and then that damn Covid-19 virus arrived and everything was brought to a premature close.

In the meanwhile, a friend has started up a blog about all thing Heys to keep everyone still connected in these barren months. It isn’t on WordPress, but if you follow the link below you can enter your email address to subscribe to his posts.

So if you have an interest in non-league football; football in general; want to know what is going on in this part of Northern England, or to gain a glimpse of some of the things that I and my family get up to here in Manchester, UK, please follow the link and subscribe.

It’s a new blog and I’m sure the writer will appreciate the support of you lovely people.

His name is Rick, go say hello.

https://rickbarrett753.wixsite.com/website-2

Summer Lions

I’m sitting in the garden, once again, this time reading Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine.

It’s summer. I can smell summer; taste summer. My jackdaws are lining up along the neighbour’s rooftop, tethered by the sun.

It’s in the autumn I’ll think of my father; my grandparents, see the young ghosts of my brother and I playing cricket in the ginnel, dwarfed by walls I can comfortably peer over.

For now, it’s my children, playing with the dog as I pause to watch, mid-sentence, laughing on the threshold of a great beyond.

Dear Friends

Reading all of the status’ on my Facebook tonight, coupled with several conversations throughout the day, it suddenly struck me that things are starting to kick in for everyone now, it’s no longer novel or an inconvenience. Health, family, logistics, finance, we are all in for some difficult months.

Try and stay positive people. Look out for each other.

Thoughts On A January Day

City Jackdaw

Coincidence. It happens all the time.

I’m sat inside, reading a book as a weather warning comes over the radio threatening strong winds for my area in the next couple of days. The book I’m reading is by Nicolas Bouvier, and I’ve just got to the part where, during his travels in Ireland, he is asking a local about a meandering road of pointless bends:

I like that. I bet that’s why those lovers of straight routes, the Romans, wore helmets all the time.

*

I lost my Evie twenty years ago.

It was a man behind me, in the queue at the local bank, after enquiring how a newly widowed acquaintance of his was doing, during their chance encounter.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til you lose it. No, you wouldn’t have seen me, I’ve been in hospital for a hip operation. But I’m still here, still upright…

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Thoughts On A January Day

Coincidence. It happens all the time.

I’m sat inside, reading a book as a weather warning comes over the radio threatening strong winds for my area in the next couple of days. The book I’m reading is by Nicolas Bouvier, and I’ve just got to the part where, during his travels in Ireland, he is asking a local about a meandering road of pointless bends:

I like that. I bet that’s why those lovers of straight routes, the Romans, wore helmets all the time.

*

I lost my Evie twenty years ago.

It was a man behind me, in the queue at the local bank, after enquiring how a newly widowed acquaintance of his was doing, during their chance encounter.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til you lose it. No, you wouldn’t have seen me, I’ve been in hospital for a hip operation. But I’m still here, still upright. Eighty-one on New Year’s Eve. You’ve gotta fall apart sometime, haven’t you?

I was recently saddened to hear of the passing of an old colleague of mine. He’d made it to his eighties, too, though he’d succumbed to dementia. I bumped into him once, my own chance encounter, and he’d exclaimed “Bloody hell, I’ve not seen you in ages!” The next time I saw him he didn’t know me.

My Mum has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. At the moment she’s not too bad, and living next door allows me to keep an eye on her. I asked her if she could remember the name of an old dog that she had:

“Was it Andy?”

“No, I’m Andy!”

She laughed, confusing me with the one who had slouched on the sofa and pissed on the floor. Easy mistake.

Though she’s not yet at the stage that my colleague was, I can see that this person I’ve known for the whole of my life is fading. I guess time can do that anyway, regardless of that particular condition. The years diminish us. It’s like we grow, we build, we peak, then begin to slip back to our primordial beginnings.

*

There is a house near to us where the occupants are shut away. Every single window, both front and back, night and day, has the curtains closed, fastened together in the middle to create a perpetual twilight for those, unseen, living inside.

The young me, the one who had not yet reached his teens and spent his time watching Hammer movies on television, would have immediately thought: vampires. The current me, a bit longer in the tooth, came up with crack den.

Time Span, From Me To You

Here the sun has set on 2019, darkness has fallen on the previous decade.

I don’t have any diaries on hand to consult, and have not the time now to go through all of my City Jackdaw posts and FB status’, but, from the top of my head:

On starting and finishing the decade-

my wife and I were foster carers and now we host students; we lost our dog Rydal but gained our dog Bryn; we lost some good friends but gained some new friends; our son James was born and my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimers; ups and downs; highs and lows; but on the whole a good ten years.

I’m not sure why we chop our lives up into segments and chapters, but we do.

I do.

Wishing you all a great new decade. Pace yourselves.

See you all in 2020.

On The Centenary Of His Death

I’ve mentioned this man before on City Jackdaw, usually around Remembrance Sunday, but I feel that I should mention him again as today is the centenary of his death.

He is my Great Grandfather Albert Cartwright, of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

This is him with his wife, Ada. Maybe they had the photograph taken on his enlistment in 1914 because, you know, just in case . . .

He died at home, on this day in 1919, after being gassed during the second battle of the Marne in 1918. He was just forty. He lies in an unmarked grave at Phillips Park Cemetery, not far from Manchester City’s Etihad stadium.

That battle marked the beginning of the end for Germany. He almost made it safely to the end of the war.

He almost made it to 1920.

It wasn’t the first time he’d been injured. This photo, of course in black and white, shows Albert wearing his ‘hospital blues’, uniform they were given while recovering in hospitals back in England.

His war record states that he died on New Year’s Eve, though his death certificate says it was the 30th.

Perhaps it was either side of that midnight hour, when twenty four hours later the city would be ringing in the New Year, while his newly widowed wife Ada and his children, my Grandmother Lilian among them, would be grieving their loss.

It was a loss that reverberated down the years with my Gran.

And so, even further down the line, I remember him now, and always ❤️