The Swifts Are Screaming

Above the house, the swifts are screaming.

Can you hear them, Clarice?

We are bogged down by time and heat and lethargy.

I’m thinking of an old poem of mine, Dog Days, written under the sledgehammer of a July, noon-day sun:

who can deny /the sapping sun/at its highest point /lording over /our genuflecting /straw gods

We are all genuflecting, lowering our weary, supine brows. It’s been a hell of a long summer, and we’ve not yet reached July. Who could have foreseen this, who prepared? Not we little men, we average Joes and Josephines.

Not tonight, you-know-who.

Tomorrow is more of the same, that has been foreseen, but nothing lasts forever, nothing lasts at all, and storms are due to hit the day after that.

And then we batten down. Straw Gods and rush men.

Children of the corn. Drinking in the rain.

Storm Lore And Sundry

I’m getting old.

Yesterday, a clap of thunder woke me in the garden. The last thing I’d known was that I’d been reading a book in the shade. Looking up, I could see that there were clouds up there, obscuring part of what was otherwise a bright blue sky.

But they were white clouds, empty of rain. The few rounds of thunder was the only anomaly to that warm afternoon.

Later, I heard that there’d been flooding in Altrincham and Rochdale which is, what, ten minutes away from here? They had been besieged by downpours while we hadn’t had a single raindrop.

This afternoon, however, we got the full works: thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

I do love a good thunderstorm, and consider it a waste if one should occur in daylight hours.

I’d never been afraid of storms, even as a child, though I know many people are. I can recall my brother and I, back in the seventies, going around to my grandparents’ house and asking my Gran if we could play that game again.

“What game?” she asked.

“The one where we all sit beneath the table.”

The previous week there’d been such a storm, and my Gran, susceptible to omens of doom and taking no chances, would hide beneath the dining table until it passed. Taking us with her for company.

I wonder now if she’d ever heard of that old custom of leaving both the front and back door open, so that any lightning or thunderbolt would pass through the house. I think she’d probably have seen that as tantamount to making an invitation. And, even if she did indulge in such a practice, she’d of course have to cover up all mirrors and shiny objects that were known to attract lightning.

If you should be caught outdoors in a storm, it was vital to know your tree lore, such as:

Beware of an oak

It draws the stroke

Avoid an ash

It courts the flash

Creep under the thorn

It can save you from harm

I think we’d be best off staying indoors, though, covered mirrors, open doors or not.

In the current climate, battling this virus as we are, our social distancing measures have worked well in the good weather that we’ve been blessed with. Queuing outside shops, two metres apart, one person in, one person out, no more than two inside at any one time. . . . under regular deluges such as this one, today, I have a feeling that all order would break down, despite our good intentions.

To test this theory, I chanced our attic window a few inches to see what the shops down the hill were like. There wasn’t a single person outside any of the shops, and it looked like there were several people huddled inside the chippy for shelter from the almost horizontal onslaught.

Just as I thought. Never mind Corvid-19, the last thing you’d want to catch these days is a chill.

Stuck Indoors; Stuck Not In The Past

Books and music, music and books,

of all the arts these are the two that I’ve lost myself the most in since childhood. And sometimes, of course, I combine the two.

One Train Later is the autobiography of The Police guitarist Andy Summers. I read this book in the last few leisurely days.

I was already familiar with the group’s hits, staple fare of the airwaves since I was growing up, and now this lockdown had afforded me some time to work my way through their albums. Acquainting myself with their less well known tracks, I made my way through their material in chronological order, allowing me to chart their development in a way that their fans at the time would have experienced them.

It further cemented the belief that my musical taste is fixed, mostly, on this side of the millennium.

Of course, there are a few exceptions, (and I don’t think it healthy for anyone to live solely in the past), and nothing can beat stumbling upon a great busker on the streets of Manchester when loaded down with bags in the wake of your wife’s shopping trail.

But that is a luxury currently denied to us, and so in the meanwhile it’s this:

books and music, music and books,

with hopefully good weather and copious amounts of coffee.

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.

Nowt But Sun

A rainy Manchester makes the city much more familiar to me. Heavy, grey skies instead of the blue.

And we can’t complain, this April just gone being the sunniest one on record. And the irony on me, as a fan of non-league football, is not lost. All through Autumn and Winter, match after match was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

Since attending matches at this level, I’ve never checked the weather reports so much than since I was a postman.

Then, once all football had been cancelled due to this pandemic, of course, we have had nothing but glorious weather.

“Every single match would have been on,” my son, James, lamented.

What days out we would have had. Days out being currently denied us. But such are the times.

Then, from local weather and local football, to local vernacular.

I spotted this recycling bin in the centre of Leeds.

‘Empty plastic and cans, nowt else’

It’s the use of that word: nowt

This is a word that we use in Manchester, too.

Is it a Yorkshire word that slipped unobtrusively over the border into Lancashire? Or did it take the other route, from Yorkshire to Lancashire? Arriving unheralded and, without us realising it, becoming a part of our everyday vernacular?

I looked it up.

The word nowt is a Northern English dialect term meaning nothing, none and no one. This local dialect word is in common usage among the people of Northern England, predominantly Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Nowt often features in the dialogue of the TV soap, Coronation Street.

Well, Corrie is a Manc soap, but, coming under the umbrella of Northern England, I reckon it’s a word that we can both lay claim to, Yorkshireman and Lancastrian alike.

Nowt wrong with that.