Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

All Things Are A Flowing

 It's twenty two years since I left the parish- long enough for kids to be born and grow up and have kids of their own. I drive through occasionally, on the way to somewhere else- and note how the area is going up in the world. There's a wind farm on the skyline now and the huge, old cotton mill that stood next to the church has just been demolished and replaced by a friendly looking estate of faux-Georgian houses. St. Anne's Place is what they're calling it. I've seen the advertising: edge of the Pennines, within easy reach of Manchester, good local schools...

You look at pictures of the area as it was in the first half of the twentieth century and it's a forest of tall chimneys set in a smog as thick as the smog they've got in Beijing.  Now there's scarcely a chimney left.  You can't regret this; the old town was a hell hole. On the other hand it had a character and a culture- tough, chippy, self-mocking, proud, sentimental, that was worth something and is now history.  I saw the fag-end of that culture. If it didn't kill you it made you strong. I had people in my parish- older people, all now dead- who I think of as moral giants: Fred Lloyd, George Sherratt,  Marian Jones. Pah, I'm getting sentimental myself now. But  I hope they'll leave a mill or two standing as a reminder of how things used to be.

When you've known a place for any length of time you have a movie of it you can play in your head- a fast forward movie in which the years go by in seconds. My  movie of St. Anne's Royton starts in black and white- the black and white of the hard winter of 1981 when the built environment was still largely Victorian and Edwardian- then rushes forward- in a fidget of walls coming down and walls going up-  to the bright colours of the day before yesterday- with baskets of flowers hanging off the barriers at the intersection below the church- where I once worked- at my lowest ebb- as a school crossings attendant. Irrespective of the virtues of old and new, that onrush is- in itself- a wonderful, enthralling thing- and bearing witness to it makes me happy.
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