It Snowed

snowy yards

“It’s always nice to have snow before Christmas.”

or

“Allus nice te hev snaar afore San’a comes.”

Take your pick as to the spelling, but we talk, tak, speak, spak different here.

Geraniums are still in flower in the sheds and polytunnels down the Fishbone, and none of the brussels have frosted. The bulbs we all planted last year down around Dalton play park are coming up, sightless and spindly wet.

There’s not enough snaar te mak a snaarman and it aal melted off by the neet, but it’s the start of winter proper, mid January.

She thought about putting out the washing this af’noon, the sun was awa bleendin’, but stepping out over the slippery back step to a puddle of ice, thowt better on it.

 

Twelfth Night

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She put up her decorations on 1st December, Christmas tree dragged raggedly out of the cupboard under the stairs, brisked up in that sprightly way she has, all spic and span and polished in a whisker and all of a sudden it was here, in our few streets: Christmas.

And like the inevitable flick-trip of a line of dominoes, one by one our windows began to twinkle with rock and roll Santas and nodding snowmen, strings of coloured lights raced across the sills, floofy white ’snow’ etched out the double glazing and Stop Here reminder signs at three or four doors, just in case Rudolph passed us by, out there on his way over to Murton.

Then just as suddenly, on Boxing Day, we’re back. Winter,  bleak and crisp and even, twinkles no more. There’s the occasional lazy days dozer-in, or she who loves it all so, so much, the bling and sparkle and pzazz, that here and there those bright strings and salutations twinkle away through those rambling days when nobody can actually remember what day it is, or whether it’s noon or night, and then, suddenly, it’s the New Year.

Twelfth Night is either the 5th or the 6th this year, depending on how we count. Dawn is breaking almost imperceptibly earlier and it’s still just about light at 4pm. No snow, not yet, although it’s forecast for next week, and down the Harbour the roads out and away are all flooding from the heavy rain. Caterpillar wood is on fire but it’s just the remains of the sunset, no-one is there.

One last stray firework fizzes a long whooshy pink out over the dene. It’s 2016.

Dark Days

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Mornings freshly crisp and laundered like the new year. Low light, little sign of our glorious warming orb under the soft canopy of dim day.

The little sparkling lights of festival will stay in some windows until the Saturday following New Year’s Day, or the 5th or some might say the 12th.

We revel in this small tradition, this small spark of joy, no stars, no moon, a string of lights in a neighbour’s window, just the job.

#alongtheline

seaham harbour

How do we lurch from sadness to a sundae.  How many people have walked past this memorial, stopped to look at it and wonder how sad the family must be, and then head on for coffee, ice cream or hot pancakes.  Do we count our blessings, do we think of loved ones.  Do we wonder what happened.  Do we wonder if, tragedy invaded our lives, would we too leave a memorial at the site of where our loved ones died.

I sometimes briefly wonder what that sadness must feel like, how would I cope with it.  We have all at some point lost a loved one, my dad died in old age.  It wasn’t a tragedy, it was how death takes you when you get old.  Sad it is, I still desperately miss him and my world fell apart the day he died.

But when death strikes when it shouldn’t.  The injustice, the guilt at being left behind. The need to remember, never forgot.  Lay my flowers, lay my wreaths, lay my teddies.  I shall always remember.

Lazy Friday Afternoon

Visited a few places in Blackhall to say hallo to some of the people I’ve met and taken photos of over the year.  Riley’s was my first stop as its one of my favourite places to go to, and the fish and chips are lovely too.  Got a lovely photo of Stephen stood in the doorway.  He did nominate his mum but she ducked out.  He is always quite happy to have his photo taken.  He used to be in a band so he’s used to it.  And he takes a good photo too.

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And then I popped down to Snipz to see how it was going and maybe get some shots.  Sadly all the ladies were in various degrees of having their hair done so weren’t too keen on having photos taken.  But I stayed and chatted to Ann and some of the customers and had a bit of a laugh with them.  Some you win, some you lose.  The only photo I managed to get was a cat in a window.    I seem to be collecting photos of cats, and dogs, in Blackhall.  At least they can’t say no to having their photos taken.

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Where Once There Were Dreams

memorial one

My mum is growing old and it is painful to watch.  When did this happen, when did I suddenly stop being the little girl and grow into this adult that watches with sadness as she grows weary.

She is 87 and lives alone, refuses to move having lived in her house since 1970.  She is lonely, my dad died nearly 20 years ago, and in between working I try and do as much as I can, spending my days off keeping her company.  I take her shopping and we have occasional trips to the cinema.  She clings to my arm as we take it slowly and she has to stop now and then to catch her breath.  But the guilt that I’m not doing enough for her haunts me.  And I am scared, very scared, of having to deal with the day that she is gone forever.

She fell recently, couldn’t get up.  Thankfully she managed to pull the phone off the table and call me.  And then it was a mad dash to get over there and get her off the floor.  She was scared, scared that she was going to have to lie there all night.  But we made her laugh and then we tucked her up in bed and kissed her goodnight.  So now if she doesn’t answer the phone I worry, thinking she might have fallen again.

So I am now riddled with this overbearing guilt and a fear of losing her.  And some days I wish that I could be that little girl again, that both my parents were around and I didn’t have a care in the world.  And I wonder how it all suddenly changed, when did I become grown up and when did I stop relying on my mum and she instead started to rely on me.

Where once there were dreams in my head there is now just memories.  And that’s what we cling to, the memories of when we were young and happy and nothing could touch us.

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Blackhall Bound

little cutie dog

Finally got out and about in Blackhall even though it wasn’t for long.  Had a lovely walk around.  Didn’t get no photos but it was nice to walk the streets again and see a familiar place.  The last few months have been very hectic, work, life, everything seems to get in the way of taking photos at the moment.  And the weather, hate it when its cold and wet, just want to hibernate away until Spring.  I’m still posting photos on the Blackhall History facebook page so that people know who I am and what I’m doing.  I’m hoping that people will trust me to come and take some photos in their homes.  That’s what I’d like to do next, get to see family life.  I’ve made a few more contacts, met some lovely people at the WI.  Its been a long progress and I’m not the most disciplined of people but I’m sure I’ll get there in the end.  What’s important I think is the enjoyment that both myself and the people whom I involve get out of it.  And I’m sure my Dad would have been proud of me too.  I always feel a connection to him whilst I’m in Blackhall and that’s what this project is all about, exploring that connection and exploring the streets and haunts that my Dad would have walked along or visited.

What I do love about Blackhall too is the vibrancy that you get when you walk along Middle Street.  This is what makes Blackhall unique, and is what possibly keeps it alive.  I know I’ve spoken about this before but at lot of pit villages died when the pits were closed but Blackhall hangs in there.

Stand in Middle Street and see the lovely people going about their business, the footfall, the traffic, its the hub and its busy.  A lot of people choose to look at the downside of many places, how people are alienated, how desperate lives have become, how people are struggling to survive.  It might go against the grain but I want to show the positive side of a place like Blackhall.

 

December creeps ever closer

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There’s something about this time of the year that slows you right down.  Makes you want to not get out of bed and stay indoors all day.  Yes I know, its the bloody weather.  But that aside I haven’t been out much lately to take photos down in bonny Blackhall.  I really want to take more photos of the people that live there and I’m trying to get some more involvement.  That’s my next step.   I’ve been having something of a mini exhibition of a facebook page entitled The History of Blackhall Colliery in Images.  And everyone loves the photos.   But let me take some more of you lovely people.  Dip your toe into the water, its not that bad really.

 

Wounds

We all have wounds.  Sometimes they heal, that’s if we let them.  Sometimes they leave scars that stay with us forever,  a reminder that we can’t move on.  Our past dominates our future, but is that a good thing.  We are who we are because of our past, we embrace our heritage, our upbringing, and we celebrate it.  But what about the wounds, the memories that hurt.  Do they make us who we are?

Do we get caught up in a never ending circle of blaming ourselves or regretting what we have done or said.

I hate that moment when you are breezing through life and something comes along to pull the rug from under you.  I had a moment like that recently.  Something that feels like I’m about to lose a part of my life that has happy memories for me and gives me a connection to my parents and childhood.  It has made me think about how I would cope if I lost my mum.  Badly is the conclusion I have come to.

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Our lives are forever changed, moulded, or destroyed by loss.  We can never go back, never be the person we were. But we do learn to smile again, laugh at jokes, have fun.  That I do know, because when my dad died I never thought I’d be able to do any of those things.  And we still do little things in memory of.  The tributes may fade and disappear but the memory is still there.

A Fleeting Moment

We drive, or walk, past these memorials wondering who has been lost, wondering how it happened.  For a moment we are immersed in a strangers sadness.  This photograph was taken in Whitby, a place, almost continually filled with tourists.  Who doesn’t love going to Whitby.   Not me.  Never tire of it.  Fresh fish stalls (a guilty pleasure only because I’m a veggie and shouldn’t really eat fish) ice cream, milkshakes (which seem the rage now wherever you go) candy floss, and the Dracula experience (cheap and cheerful and actually quite scary)

This memorial has been here for a few years, and I do wonder what happened everytime I see it.  The flowers fade but the memories remain and the hopes that our loved ones are somewhere else, a better place.

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Back to Bonny Blackhall

You could be forgiven for thinking that I haven’t been merrily photographing away for my Blackhall Project, having not done any blogging for two months now.  But I have been out and about, not as much as I would have liked, but I’ve been there in Blackhall taking photos, talking to the lovely folk that live there.

My last foray was a couple of weeks ago. Two of the lovely residents of Blackhall, father and son, took me on a walk around the site of the pit, showing me where everything used to be and telling me tales of life down the pit.  I loved every minutes of it and saw parts of Blackhall that I didn’t know existed.  This photo shows where one of the shafts once was that took the men down into the black.  Going down there for the first time must have been very scary, especially to the young lads that had just left school at an early age.

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Of course my father and his family were spoken of too.  its nice to be able to talk to people that knew them as I know so little myself about their life in Blackhall.  My Grandad apparently had some involvement with the NUM, although I’m not sure what yet, but I will find out.  I also, through my dads war papers, that my Grandad was a stoneman, which I think was someone who prepared the area ie. blasted it to make a way through.  I’ve still yet to find out exactly what my dad did although I have been told he was actually a developer which might mean that he too prepared the area ready for the miners to go and pick the coal.  This is all new to me so I’m still learning about the life of a pitman.  Oh and I found the exact address that my father lived at, 127 Middle Street.  I’m not sure how many bedrooms the house had but there would be 2 adults and 8 children living there.  Quite a squeeze I think.

I’ve had a few more forays walking around the streets.  Its always lovely to see people out and about.  I got to see the lovely Dot again who was happy to pose for a photo.

cat dot

I also took some photos of the children playing in the streets.  Go back 90 years and this could have been my dad and his siblings.  Although I’m not sure they would have had bikes, that might have been a luxury or they might have had one that everyone shared.  I might not have said it before but they were a poor family.  That’s probably one of the reasons that my dad left school and went to work at the pit, rather then heading off to grammar school.

girls on doorstep nathan two

So more digging to do, more research on finding out about pit life and hopefully finding out what my dad actually did. I’m still going through all my mams old photos to find clues about life in the old days.

Back in the Saddle.

Having been away and then off work with a dreaded chest infection it’s time to get back on the horse and get back to taking photographs of my beautiful Blackhall.  

I’ve been looking after my friends rabbit whilst she is away and on the way home i parked up in Blackhall just for a brief walk round.  

It was lovely being there, walking down the streets,  remembering the past.   i can’t wait to get started again.  

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Allotment

My dad grew his own veggies in our back garden once.  I can’t remember everything he grew, I can just remember the cabbages but I never really took much notice at the time.  I was a teenager and well, you know what teenagers are like.  My friend’s grandad has an allotment in Blackhall.  He grows all sorts, potatoes, leeks, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, oh the tomatoes.  He has a long line of tomato plants inside of his greenhouse.  And what an allotment.  Higgledy piggledy but amazing.  Water butts rigged up to catch rainwater, bits of wood holding other bits of wood together.  Empty marg boxes.  My dad was like that.  Everything at home was scrutinised to see if it could come in handy one day.  Boxes, bits of wood, old nails and screws, maybe its a man thing.  Oh and I got some good gardening tips!

Next time it’ll be chickens and pigeons. And maybe some photos of the tomatoes.  But here’s my first foray into the hidden world that is an allotment.  Oh and this is Grandad, in his eighties and just come back from a road trip across America, in which his wife did most of the driving.

allotments eight

allotments three

allotments two

Back to the tea dance…………

One of my friends at work mentioned her Gran and Grandad attended an evening tea dance in Blackhall so I thought I’d pop down and see if I could get some shots.  Some of the tea dancers I’d met last year were there so it was nice to see familiar faces.  Again I was welcomed with open arms.  People can be so friendly.  That’s something I’m finding out everytime I go out taking photos.

I loved taking photos of them dancing but I find that the photos I take whilst they take time out, including their tea break are the most interesting.  I love seeing people sitting chatting, interacting with each other.  It reminds me alot of my dad.  He was a quiet man but he loved getting together with people and having a good old chat.  And I’m sure he would have loved to attend the tea dance too.

I even got a cup of tea and a biscuit when I was there.  The lovely Doris looked after me and found me a mug and even poured mine out first.  And everyone insisted I had a biscuit so I eventually relented and had one.  Doris even washed my cup up for me.  And they wouldn’t take any money of me, but I will insist next time, especially if I keep going back.  Which I might just do because I see my dad in some of their faces.  When the old gentleman smile I see my dad smiling.  I know that sounds soppy but that’s just how it feels.

And I might even have a go at some of the dancing.  The music is not quite up my street, I’m more of a Who fan!  But the dancing does seem to do them good and as people often say, its just what the Dr ordered.

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Fish and Chips

If I was to put together a top ten of my favourite takeaway food fish and chips would win hands down.   In fact even the smell that wafts out of the chip shop as you’re passing would be hard to beat.   There’s nothing better then sitting down with a cup of tea and a plate of fish and chips smothered in salt and vinegar.  

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Living

Did you ever get that feeling?  It sort of hits you a few years after taking photographs.  Its a kind of like “I think I’m finally doing something right” feeling.  I’m feeling that right now.  I don’t know where it came from.  I took a couple of photos, had an article in the local rag and bang it suddenly hit me, I’m finally getting it right.

Its not just taking the right photograph its the pleasure that comes with it.  The joy you get when you see a photograph you’ve taken and it says to you what you’ve been trying to say for months.

The Road To Blackhall or Following my Father’s Footsteps has been like, and still is like, rediscovering who I am.  I love walking the streets of Blackhall, talking to people, taking their photographs.  They are what my life is all about,  they are what made me.  This is my past, my present and my future.  I am working class and proud to be it.  I am part of a working class community. I belong.

I remember seeing a photograph of me as a baby sat on a blanket in the front garden.  This photograph reminds me of that moment.  The present and the past meet head on.  A photograph of a child that I do not know and may never see again brings me a personal moment from my own childhood.  One simple little photograph that says you’re doing what you set out to do.

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