In Remembrance

Remembering Sharon Tate who, along with her unborn child and four other people, was savagely killed fifty years ago today by the Manson Family.

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22 Miles; 300 Million Gallons

Yesterday, the 1st of August.

Lughnasadh, the beginning of the harvest season.

What will we harvest? Will we reap what we sow? I don’t mean to get all biblical on you.

In Manchester yesterday, some of the older buildings of Dantzic Street here are dwarfed by the omnipresent CIS tower. The blue skies obscured by menacing clouds. The transition point of old and new; the transition point of summer and autumn.

I had 19th Century ancestors that lived on Dantzic Street, though I’m not as knowledgeable about that particular branch to tell you about them. Yet.

I got home to learn about the drama unfolding twenty two miles away in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Toddbrook Reservoir looms high above the town, much higher than that Manchester CIS tower. As torrential rain continued to fall, it was discovered that part of the dam wall was damaged. With a 50-50 chance of the water, all 300 million gallons of it, rushing down onto, into, over, the town below, the thousand residents were evacuated.

Whaley Bridge now sits as a ghost town, a ghost town waiting to be either swamped or saved. An unwanted cleansing of biblical proportions.

There I go again.

Today, this second day of August, the battle goes on. RAF helicopters, engineers, volunteers, all working together to try and hold back the tide, aided thankfully by a dry night.

We wait to discover the nature of this harvest.

After Speaking With A Parisian

Surviving Revolutions and World Wars, Notre Dame’s spire has long been a familiar sight to generations of Parisians, puncturing the capital’s skyline for over 800 years.

Back in the 1500s, the culture that we had built in the West embraced multigenerational projects quite easily. Notre Dame. Massive cathedrals were not built over the course of a few years, they were built over a few generations. People who started building them knew they wouldn’t be finished until their grandson was born.

-Jamais Cascio

Maybe it’s hubris, but we expect our creative monuments, our works of art, to last forever. Fixed points in man’s timeline.

Last night I spoke with a Frenchman, a Parisian, who was in mourning, speaking of a devastating cultural loss. I began to think of iconic buildings whose loss would affect we British people similarly. And then, as a Mancunian, a particular building in my own city, regularly seen and taken for granted.

I struggled to make a connecting comparison.

Then, the morning after that conversation, I woke to a photograph and the idea that, within all of those images of destruction and despairing I had lost touch with: there’s always hope.

Beneath A Red Moon, The Moorland Burns

Here in the Northwest of England it’s not often we have much of a summer to talk about. But at the moment we are in the middle of a prolonged dry spell, in the middle of a heatwave, nonetheless.

The other night I sat in the back garden listening to Son House, thankful for the cooler air that evening brings. The moon was a striking red colour, possibly portentous but more likely, I thought, due to some strange meteorological condition I’d been too lazy to learn about.

The following morning I stepped through the front door and was immediately aware of a strange smell in the air. My children screwed up their faces dramatically, asking what it was, and then on the school run we noticed in the distance smoke billowing into the bright blue sky from the cradling hills.

The moors were alight. Saddleworth moors, lonely, expansive and untamed, were besieged by crackling swathes of fire. Though we were some miles away it was the scent of the tinder-box peat burning that was reaching us on the westerly breeze.

We have no forests as such around here, at least not to the extent we sometimes see on the news when America suffers those great forest fires. But we do have moorland-possibly the last real wilderness of England, to me northern, bleak and inspirational. The sight of this destruction, on the edge of greater Manchester, was both a novelty and distressing.

Long time followers of City Jackdaw may recall a post from 2013 when my family visited Dovestone Reservoir. That day the scenery was photogenic:


Yesterday it was apocalyptic:


The village of Carrbrook, in Stalybridge, had to be evacuated for the first time in living memory, as the inexorable cocktail of smoke and fumes inched closer, despite the best efforts of firemen to halt it. Peat and heather are slow-burning, difficult to anticipate with the ever-changing winds. Fire in one spot, seemingly vanquished, can burst into flame once again from sparks smouldering beneath the peat. Ash snowed down upon surrounding towns.

People are safe but the effects will be devastating on the wildlife of the area. Already there are tales of deer going into the smoke for their young and coming back out in flames, ground-nesting birds swirling through the smoke crying for chicks that don’t respond, hares lying strewn across the fields while the domesticated animals such as sheep and cattle have been shepherded away to safety, with people offering stables and sheds to locals displaced with horses and chickens. It’s that border between the rural and urban that’s been breached, both joined together in a desolate, charred landscape.

Within the last few minutes I’ve heard that the army has been called in to help stem the tide, and, while on the one hand being angry at the (unsubstantiated reports) that the fire was caused by illegal, off-road bikers, I can only be filled with admiration at the Herculean response of the emergency authorities, battling away in such difficult conditions.


Yet still, in this flaming June, as man does his best to beat back the fire’s advance, we can but pray for rain. Normally the one thing we northerners can count on.