February 25th, 2012

Then And Now

Central Oldham is a building site and has been for months They're laying down the tracks and infrastructure for the trams which will arrive in 2013 or 2014- the date keeps getting pushed back- and you never know ahead of time which roads are going to be open. We were going to the library- and while we were there we took a quick spin round the art gallery. One of the permanent exhibits is a photographic panorama of the town as it was in 1876. The town was a building site then as well and the railway warehouse that got demolished last month was nothing but foundations and four or five courses of brick.  There are several temporary exhibitions; the one that interested me most was The Oldham Road- Second View by Charlie Meecham. Oldham Road is the arterial road- some seven or eight miles long- linking Oldham and Manchester. Meecham first photographed it the 80s- and I caught his first exhibition at the Manchester Cornerhouse in '87. Now he's been back and the new exhibition- as much sociology as art- has photos from then and now. This excellent essay by Steve Hanson (also available at the gallery as an illustrated leaflet) draws out the implications.

Forgive And Forget

A poem from back in the day that features the photographic panorama of Oldham I mentioned in my last post. The couple we'd fallen out with were members of our coven and are now Ailz's friends on Facebook- and would probably be mine too if I had a Facebook.

                       FORGIVE AND FORGET

                       The worst thing that happened last year
                       Was our falling out with that precious pair.
                       We'd done a whole lot of things for them
                       And who can abide a benefactor?

                       Know what I mean?

                                                                So when I saw her
                       Stood in front of  the panorama
                       Of Oldham in 1879,
                       (The only buildings I recognise
                       Are the churches and the Masonic hall)
                       It posed a moral conundrum, but
                       I thought to myself, this life's too short
                       For grudges, so forgive and forget-
                       Forgive and forget.

                                                             It felt almost right
                       To be hugging her and trading news
                       Of friends and asking after him,
                       The bloody swine.

                                                          The light came through
                        The glass roof of the gallery-
                        Rainy, colourless Northern light-
                        And bathed the blown up photograph
                        That covers twenty foot of wall.

                        So there behind her were factory chimneys,
                        All of them felled decades ago,
                        And new-built houses since pulled down
                        And marshalling yards now mostly grass.

                        The streets were bare, but here and there
                        Was a sort of thickening of the air,
                        A blurriness, a swirl- which is
                        What  a time exposure does to people.