Sunday, 23 July 2017

ONE WALL

Ragwort and convolvulus in front of railings on a high stone wall.
It was a mistake.
I'd thought photographing familiar plants would be a good idea; a clear connection between my old life and new. But it wasn't. Seeing good old convolvulus poking through railings instead of clambering over a blackberry hedge was painful. And ragwort should be beside tracks. Those tracks might be of the narrow, foot-trodden into earth kind, or they might be railway ones . . . but that's where I expect them to be. Seeing them spread about on top of a high, black wall was disconcerting - a clash of feelings. I came back to my new home tearful and full of home-sickness.

I doubt if many people move in this direction - from the sea and sand and sunshine and fossils of Dorset to the no-sea, no-sand, not-even-a-river, less sunshine, more rain of Halifax. Explaining is difficult. To say too much perfection is eventually boring might not sound very sensible. But where I used to find it reassuring to see the same plants coming up in the same place every year, I'd begun to think 'Year in, year out, that same old plant. How predictable can you get?'

Dandelion growing between black stones of wall in Halifax, UK
Of course, a wall might seem even more predictable; being there 'year in, year out' is precisely what one expects it to be. But for me - each wall here is new. Another new thing to explore. And the less like a Dorset wall it is, the better I can cope. Abrupt change is easier than struggling with memories.

As I write this, I'm hearing what I think is Kurdish music coming in from the house next door instead of silence. And people passing by in the street are more likely to be talking Urdu with a Yorkshire accent than English. At night, in my old house, it was so quiet I could hear the street lights humming. Incessantly they hummed. And I was becoming more and more frightened by the sea - the millions and millions of tons of pebbles which make Chesil beach crashing against each other, over and over and over with each white wave. There needs to be a new word for 'hearing'. To 'hear' the roar of Chesil Beach is nothing like hearing the roar of traffic on a busy road. In order to be run down by a car you have to step in front of it. No way is it out to get you. Whereas the sea . . . it's eating into the underbelly of the cliffs till there's no rock left to hold up the tops so they crumble away or come crashing down until in some places there's nothing but grass sticking out high above the coast; and whole sections of cliffs are cracked sheer from top to bottom by alternating rain and drought - and the sea is sucking everything that falls into it greedily away.

Willow Herb and bindweed growing on a wall in Halifax with house behind.
In an era of Brexit, it's best to be clear about this from the beginning. Where I've lived until now, it would rarely come into anyone's head to mention anyone's ethnic background. For nearly everyone shares a similar heritage. Now, all of a sudden I'm being confronted with the oddness of citizens with different cultures living in different 'areas' all within the same small town . . . and of shops being defined by the ancestry of their owners - this is a Pakistani shop, this is a Polish shop, this is a 'European' shop. I think I'm classed as a 'European'. I've always thought of myself as English. And one might as well say it aloud - that to be defined as 'Eastern European' (as opposed to just 'European') round here tends to mean you are expected to be rowdy, loud, litter strewing and drunk. (I've yet to find out what the stereotype of someone like me is - so I don't yet know whether I will live up to it, or down to it - or what!)

Plants and grass growing on a blackened stone wall.

Thatched cottages are common in Dorset. Hardly any buildings are abandoned or broken. Abandoned and broken is new to me - and here 'abandoned and broken' is everywhere. The buildings which have fallen out of use are too large and too many to be turned into holiday homes for wealthy people who like to look at a bit of greenery and a few cows at the weekends.


You'd have thought that once into the the countryside I'd feel more 'at home'. But the leaves on the trees here have more blue in them. Their green heads towards emerald. And the whole landscape is over-coloured and so highly saturated it's disconcerting. It's alien. It's an adventure.

Polystyrene cup and metal cans stashed where a stone is missing in a wall with convovulus hanging down.


So . . . I hope you will adventure with me in this new land . . .

as I get used to convolulus growing thinly on black, urban walls.

A change is sometimes way more than a rest - it's a regeneration of life. Already, brushing away the tears, I can feel that new energy begin.



36 comments:

Diana Studer said...

A little sad, a little daunting.
But all different. Was talking to a friend this afternoon whose life is soaring into a new challenge.

I watch from the sidelines and wish you both a safe journey.

Linda aka Crafty Gardener said...

That is quite the move, so much to experience and discover. Hubby's mum came from Oldham, was a war bride to a Canadian, children born in Canada, but she missed home and they returned. Hubby lived in Oldham from when he was 3 till he was 11 then they all returned to Canada. Loking forward to reading about your adventures.

PlantPostings said...

What an interesting perspective! After visiting London, I have a picture of what you're saying about your new location. We live in a suburb of a city, and our city is very near two very large cities--Milwaukee and Chicago. We also have a cottage in a very quiet, rural place. So, it's nice to have access to both. Your mention of being fearful of the sea is interesting. I've never lived near the sea, but I can imagine what it would feel like to witness the shoreline slowly eroding. Good luck with your new adventures! It sounds like you have a healthy frame of mind and acceptance.

ADRIAN said...

It's a grand area with beautiful, if bleak, countryside. I expect you to enjoy it as soon as you embrace the place. Good luck.

elaine said...

I can imagine it being a huge shock to the system but knowing you you will find what beauty there is and embrace it in whatever form when you have been there through all the seasons and found your feet and discovered different places I am sure you will feel more settled.

Mark Willis said...

Hi Lucy; I'm surprised by what you say about the aggressiveness of the sea. I have always thought of the sea as a calming influence (except on stormy days!), but then I have never lived that close to it. Your new life in Halifax is evidently going to be VERY different. I hope you find your own niche (fitting into the stereotype??) soon.

The Weaver of Grass said...

My grandchildren were all brought up in Halifax (my son and his wife divorced, but his wife stayed there)and although they have spread out now (one in Huddersfield, one in Glasgow and one in China)their roots are still there. Hope you settle happily - what is your reason for moving away from the lovely Dorset coast?

sharp green pencil said...

Lucy! I have every confidence, as I am a Yorkshire girl who pines to be back, that you will find some very lovely people... and plants to gladden your days! Good luck. Moving is no fun but I hope the sheer beauty of Yorkshire will grow on you. :). Having lived by the sea as well I do miss that too. Being stuck here for now, in middle England, in a cutural wasteland.. I have to admit to a little envy!
Val x

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Diana. For most of the time I'm excited and interested rather than daunted but sometimes it hits me . . .
I have an 'old person's' curved-top walking stick that I bought in a charity shop in Dorset with the express purpose of hooking blackberries I'd not otherwise reach. It seemed a good idea at first but didn't really work so I gave up on it. None the less it came to Halifax with me - not for any reason other than that everything got bundled together - so I hung it on one of the filing cabinet handles - again merely for somewhere to put it. But I've had to move it out of sight. Every time my eye fell on it I got so distressed that I won't be able simply to walk out of the house and pick blackberries for lunch in season any more that I can't breathe! And it was useless anyway. However, I chose to move. I needn't have moved. I could have stayed where I was if I had wanted - and one of the strong reasons for moving was that it's different here. So I can't complain that there are no longer blackberries immediately outside my front door!

Hello Linda. It's surprising how many people have links to this area. Thanks for signing up for posts to be sent you by email.

Hello Plant Postings. I've lived quite a lot in London too but hadn't experienced this strange separation of communities before. But although it's pretty awful that people are divided like this, it's interesting too. I am now living in a predominantly Muslim / Kashimiri neighbourhood even though I'm white with a Christian background. Hearing prayers called by loudspeaker from the mosque is a new thing for me. (I expect it's soon become so ordinary I'll hardly notice.) And all the wonderful variety of clothes people wear here is impressive - women and men. Such a change from the boring predictability of what I have been seeing around me for the major part of my life.

Hello Adrian. The countryside does, at present, seem bleak - with black rocks and grasses that make the hills seem as if they are always covered with frost. Someone told me recently that she had worked in West Yorkshire for five years having grown up on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. She said she had grown to love the area and that that love was all the deeper for having been learned.

Hello Elaine. In many ways I feel settled already. Each time I arrive in the road where my new house is I feel warm inside.

Hello Mark. The sea is calming when it is calm - and terrifying when it rages. And I feel a great sense of loss when familiar paths fall into it and familiar places become harder to access and landslides mean it's dangerous to walk along some beaches because tons of rocks might come down on you at any moment. I suppose it's a bit like a polar bear - beautiful when seen on TV from the comfort of our homes but less so if one were one to hear it roar outside the tent!

Hello Weaver of Grass. 'Roots' is one of the reasons I have moved. Because Dorset is a holiday destination one is always being mistaken for a tourist. No-one in Halifax has yet asked me if I'm enjoying my summer break here! So I'm hoping that one day I will feel I am living in a place where I 'belong' - even though it's currently new to me. More immediate access to 'culture' is a draw too. Opera North in Leeds . . etc.!

Hello Val . . . 'cultural wasteland' . . . some of us we eventually need something more than beauty. Maybe you too will be on the move some day.

Thanks everyone for your encouraging comments. I really want to be here - indeed I already love it. But affection doesn't stop it being a massive culture shock when one moves between such radically different places.


VP said...

It was a culture shock when we moved from Newcastle/Durham to Wiltshire over 30 years ago when we got married Lucy. It sounds like you're making a better fist of the shock than I did. It's only recently I've begun to feel positive about Chippenham, but then the north always pulls me back even though it's not where I came from originally. Looking forward to seeing where your exploration takes you...

squirrelbasket said...

I enjoyed reading your first post from the north but yes, it must be so heart-rending. You seem to have a whole wall of urban plants instead of the occasional one popping up through a drain.
I think it is a time of change for many people at the moment, with so much uncertainty around.
Think of yourself as Doctor Who - how many regenerations has he/she been through and come out the other side even better...
It's funny you mention people from other cultures. I had led a reasonably sheltered life until this last month when I did my "Teaching English to speakers of other languages" retraining, which brought me into close contact with so many people from all over the world. And they are all great!
Good luck - I look forward to seeing your regular posts again :)

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello VP. As you know, I too have lived in Newcastle and felt remarkably at home there. Indeed, I still feel that's 'where I come from'. But although Halifax is 'in the north' . . . it's astonishingly different from anywhere I've ever been before, let alone lived. For a small country it's amazing how different the North East is from the North West. Not that they are anywhere near each other - the North East is a good deal norther than here and there's a load of England on the west side before one gets to the Scottish borders.)

Hello Pat. I really like the idea of pretending I'm Dr Who.

VP said...

Forgot to say... Look out for a book called 'Halifax Revisted' by Vera Chapman. My mother-in-law wrote it and the last chapter documents her family's presence in the town. If you're close to Woodside Crescent, that's where her family lived in Halifax (and that railway wall and railings do look familar!). We went to Mount Tabor to find the family grave last year, but without any luck.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

VP - I'll look out for the book. I've looked up Woodside Crescent on Google Maps and although it isn't dreadfully far from here it's an area with a completely different atmosphere - and I think to walk there it would take a while because it's the other side of a valley so deep it's almost a ravine. I've been to Mount Tabor.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Oh and a PS VP . . . it's not a railway wall. There's a big grassy field on top which I imagine was originally a factory.

VP said...

Ah yes, I remember those steep hills! The photographer Bill Brandt did a series of photographs called Hail, Hell and Halifax which I loved. It's the first time I saw just how steep Yorkshire streets can be. I did wonder whether that wall might be masquerading as something other than the railway line we saw on our trips to Halifax... because I can remember how common that kind of wall is around there.

flightplot said...

A somewhat heartfelt post, and one I certainly empathise with even though I've always been what you might call a 'suburban son'.
I will add this new blog to the lists of ones I follow and look forward to reading future posts. Flighty xx

Countryside Tales said...

Good luck, Lucy. There will be plenty of new things to explore and settle roots with. I always think of Yorkshire as wild country in the best possible way. Looking forward to reading more. CT.

liz said...

Hi Lucy, I was transplanted from England to Canada and then to the U.S. (Kentucky) more years ago than I care to think about. It took me a very long time to become acclimatized to my new life and there remains a hankering for "home". Roots run deep, (and there is plenty of bindweed here too). I hope that the memories that stir your homesickness will transform into happy ones. Will look forward to your reports from your new life.

karen gimson said...

Good luck in your new home Lucy. Looking forward to your news from your new surrounds. Remember you carry your friends in your heart wherever you go. If you ever need me, just send a message. Love karen xxx

Gerald (SK14) said...

Well lass I'm sure the majority of tykes will welcome you to Halifax and help you explore the beautiful Pennine hills on your doorstep.

NatureFootstep said...

good luck with your new life :)

Come Away With Me said...

Hello Lucy, thank you for directing me to your new blog. I wish you all the best as you grow familiar with your new surroundings and find many things there to appreciate and enjoy in the midst of all the strangeness and newness. Like everyone else, I look forward to exploring it all with you through your eyes and camera lens and words. Peace to you!

Down by the sea said...

How exciting to now be in Halifax and having a new adventure. However much we loved Weymouth we have never regretted the move here and wish we had done it years ago. We rarely visit Weymouth now and I hope like us that you will adjust quickly to your new surroundings, and enjoy all the new things it has to offer. We did notice as we travelled North a few weeks ago that it did seem to get greener as we got further up country. I will enjoy seeing your new images although I will miss trying to guess the locations where they have been taken. Sarah x

Ela said...

I think that is beautiful place !!
I wish you a good luck with your new life !!
Greetings

desertskyquilts said...

I can understand your reasoning. I'm curious why Halifax? The pictures are still wonderful, even if different. I hope you find a place where you feel you fit. There's a university there, I think? So you may find things to do there that are to your liking.

Kay L. Davies said...

My heart goes out to you and countless other British citizens, some of you bewildered to find the old prejudices, which only recently seemed to be gone, are now rising up again and creating fear where there was trust just yesterday.
Here in Canada, we're all just a generation or two or three away from England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain...but have considered all of us to be equally Canadian all our lives. Until now.
Now, even as we try to make up to my country's original peoples for the crimes of the past, new prejudices are making their way to the fore.
I can't say I completely understand the horror that has now taken over Britain, but I can understand, if only a little, to how it must feel in the hearts of many.
Western Canada, particularly British Columbia (my homeland) is now fighting against nature, with forest fires forcing thousands from their homes, so we have had to set prejudice aside because lightning strikes are a common enemy. I hope the feeling of oneness remains, after the fires are gone.
Hugs from here, to all of you in 'the mother country' who are confused and upset by a new war that makes no sense to anyone.
Kay
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Anna said...

Oh I'm pleased to find your new blog 'home' Lucy and hope that you are settling down into your new and very different environment. I imagine that it will be challenging and that you will miss what you left behind but there will be lots to discover and marvel over in a different neck of the woods. You also have the joy and reassurance of moving with Esther and family. Wishing you all the very best. Now I knew that VP once lived in Newcastle as did I for a few years but didn't know that you had that pleasure too :)

eljaygee said...

thanks for coming and finding me so I could find you Lucy. What a move you made - counter-intuitive by expected standards but you have your reasons. My mother left the IofW because it was too tame and headed into Derbyshire at age 68. My daughter moved to Doncaster a few years back for financial reasons and it took her a while to settle as she speaks like an English southerner! Her streets are just as you have described them - as long as there is a smattering of multiculturalism it is more than interesting but dominance of one causes major problems for everyone else. Halifax has a lot of history and I hope you will find taking root not too difficult. BTW - your observation in words and images are always interesting - thanks for sharing.

Stewart M said...

This whole post reminds me of when I left home to study - I went from Somerset to Sunderland - that is the sort of change that I think you are having. I used to miss spring - in the term break when I went back to Somerset, the spring had not started 'up north' - but was over 'done south'!

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Toffeeapple said...

I hope that you feel more comfortable very soon.

catmint said...

What vivid writing in this post. Good on you, Lucy, for moving out of your comfort zone and moving to such a different place. Makes me homesick for England, I lived in London and travelled around the UK in the 70s. No multiculturalism then, and who could predict Brexit?

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Mike / Flighty. Glad you like the new blog and will be watching out for further posts. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts as time goes along.

Hello Countryside Tales. I like to think that, mundane as I am, I might be walking in the wild side.

Hello Liz. Although there are moments of intense homesickness I haven't for one second regretted the move.

Hello Karen - and thanks.

Hello Gerald. Yes. I feel welcome and as if I can 'belong' here in a way I never did in a more 'touristy' area.

Thanks, Nature Footstep.

Hello 'Come Away With Me'. I do feel that fellow bloggers, blog-readers and others are on this journey with me - and to have such good company will be wonderful.

Hello Down by the Sea. I find it encouraging that you haven't regretted leaving Weymouth. As for guessing the places, several TV series have chosen West Yorkshire for locations so you may eventually recognise some places on this blog too.

Hello, Ella. And thanks for your good wishes.

Hello Desertsky. No university in Halifax. Perhaps you are thinking of Huddersfield, which isn't too far away. The best know university in the area is Leeds. People go there from far afield.





Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Kay. I really appreciate your thought filled comment. I've tried writing a proper reply several times and have given up because I can't pack all the issues it gives rise to into one short reply. But there's a lot there to reflect on.

Anna - yes. Lots to investigate and be inspired by. Did you like living in Newcastle?

Eljaygee. It's sad when 'multi-cultural' turns out to mean lots of separate mono-cultures. This area of Halifax reminds me somewhat of the East-End of London in that history sends it different groups of people in consecutive waves so as each group finds its wealth and its feet and it moves on or disperses, it's replaced by another.

Hello Stewart. It's extraordinary how climate changes quite radically within a very small mileage. England isn't very tall but I never got used to the lack of winter on the south coast. Here, there's a permanent notice outside a shop down the road telling customers how to take care in the snow. I'm very much looking forward to wearing thick jumpers again.

Hello Toffee Apple. I'm feeling more comfortable now the boiler is working. For much of the time since we've been here we've been without heat and hot water. It's not cold but the house has been empty for a while so it's a bit damp and damp always make things seem cold even when they aren't. And baths and showers are so comforting when you are getting used to a place.

Hello Catmint. I don't want to spread home-sickness! And as for 'who could predict Brexit?' In the next century I expect people will look back at this time of treaties and politicking with as much bewilderment as I do at some of the challenges Parliament had during its nineteenth century reforms. I know the impact was profound and led to the kind of country we have now (or have had) but trying to fathom the ins and outs is pretty difficult! (When reading some of Trollope's Palliser novels I think I stare at paragraphs rather than read them.)

Pat Tillett said...

It seems that you've got a lot of exploring to do there. Looking forward to following your adventures.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Pat. You are one of the most confident and detailed explorers in blogland so I will be inspired and encouraged by you!