For the Love of Lancashire- Focus on Fleetwood.

Historically speaking the origins of Fleetwood might go back to Roman times but the Fleetwood you and I know really dates back to the nineteenth century when the area was developed as a fishing port and seaport.

The manor house at Rossall had been notable back in the 16th century and it was later taken over by the Fleetwood family, they were a respected baronial family whose lineage dated back to the 14th Century.

It was Peter Hesketh, a Fleetwood descendent through his maternal lineage, who effectively created what we know as Fleetwood. He was Lord of the Manor, High Sheriff of the County of Lancashire and MP for Preston, and he had designs on creating a port at Fleetwood an extension and link to what was the existing port at Skippool. He commissioned an architect to plan the town and envisioned a thriving port at the sheltered mouth of the River Wyre. It seems so strange to think that it was entirely a planned town unlike so many of the other towns that flourished and grew during the Industrial revolution.

Fleetwood for a short time became a well-travelled routeway to Scotland, and folks would board ferries at Fleetwood to take them to Ardrossan where there was a rail link to Glasgow. It also began to flourish as a market town and seaside resort, the market was established in 1840 and the rail links enabled it to became a popular day trip resort especially at Whitsuntide Week where thousands of trippers travelled to Fleetwood on the half fares offered by the railways. Fishing also became an important part of Fleetwood’s economy and by the late 1870’s Fleetwood had become the third largest fishing port in the country. It was the Cod wars of the 1960’s that caused the collapse of the fishing industry.

There were maritime tragedies and one of the saddest was the sinking of the trawler Michael Griffiths which got into difficulties on January 30th 1953 during the great storm. She put out a mayday just eight miles South of Barra Head, but the wreck was never found.  All 13 hands on deck were lost despite the search efforts of lifeboats aircraft and a destroyer and a combined maritime effort from both England Scotland and Ireland.

Ferries from Fleetwood took travellers to Ardrossan, Belfast and the Isle of Man, but the ferry services gradually went in to decline towards the end of the twentieth century.

No story of Fleetwood would be complete without mentioning “Fishermen’s friends”, and the very first ones were developed James Lofthouse, a Fleetwood pharmacist in 1865 to help with a variety of respiratory complaints suffered by fishermen working in the extreme conditions of the Northern deep-sea fishing grounds. The mixture was originally a liquid but he then began to manufacture it in a lozenge form that was easier for the fishermen to carry around. In the 1960’s Doreen Lofthouse (a Lofthouse by marriage), turned the lozenges nicknamed Fisherman’s friends into an international renowned product/business with global exports and reportedly still producing 5 billion lozenges annually.

Doreen Lofthouse was a philanthropist as well as a shrewd businesswoman and always contributed to the upkeep and maintenance of Fleetwood and funded many charitable projects including a Lifeboat for the Fleetwood RNLI and the Welcome Home statue on the Promenade. For her charitable works she was awarded both and OBE and an MBE in her lifetime. She passed away in March this year at the grand old age of 91. She bequeathed £41.4million to the Lofthouse foundation to continue to support efforts to revitalise the town. A true gem, she has often been referred to as the Mother of Fleetwood.

©Alison Jean Hankinson.

Apposite. A shoe story.

When you have lived in different places it is almost as if you can never unlive those experiences and you become almost spiritually homeless. It isn’t so much about not belonging as belonging to more than one place. When we went to New Zealand we suffered huge culture shock at the beginning but then became assimilated and the reverse culture shock when we returned to the UK more than 10 years later which was just as punishing. What was suddenly glaringly apparent was that anyone who had never lived in another country with another culture had no real concept that in other places there might be other ways of doing things that are almost opposite and yet apposite and make perfect sense if you are in the other persons place and shoes.

In fact shoes are a prime example.

We arrived in Whanagrei in the early summer of 2006, and the first thing I noticed as we drove through the centre of town and along the main street was that the children were barefoot, they weren’t wearing any shoes. You have to remember that we had never visited NZ, and I had engineered all of our migration from the living room of our detached house in the Isle of Man with the aid of my trusty computer. All my assumptions about Whangerei were based on what I knew of towns of that size based on my exisitng experience of the UK, US and Europe and a little bit of applied logic. Shoes had never entered my head, I had never studied shoes. My first thought and reaction was- Oh no they must be poor. I have brought my family to a poor place where they can’t afford shoes.

My knowledge of shoe habits was entirely linked to my own poor range of experience and my very working class roots where shoes were actually a symbol of security wealth and status. The wearing of shoes indicated that your family could afford them and they were worn with pride and tended only to come off your feet at bedtime. There were also cultural overtones to shoe wearing, there were new shoes or special shoes for special occasions, in childhood the Whit walks always guaranteed a new pair of shoes, generally white (so very different to school shoes) and obviously the start of a new year at school was always a new pair of appropriate footwear. I also got into very big trouble one year when I was sent out with money to buy my own shoes and came back with an aquarium and two terrapins from the market- no shoes.

In the early 1970’s some family friends of ours emigrated to South Africa, we helped them pack and saw them off and when they came to visit in 1983, they regaled stories of barefoot children, and even though they said they strolled barefoot, to my mind it conjured up images of sand and dirt roads and I wondered how their feet were not cut to ribbons on glass and debris. The stories did little to challenge my clealrly poor understanding of culture geography or shoes.

So here we were in a hire car, all our wordly goods in the car-boot, two children aged 6 in the back, and we had moved half way round the world on a whim to wonderful Whangarei and despite the drizzle and the umbrellas, there was no mistaking that these people were roaming the streets with no footwear. So I had resigned myself to the fact that our new home was a place where there was abject poverty. The truth was and still is, that to some extent Northland and Whangarei could be described as of lower soio-ecomomic status compared to other parts of New Zealand, but what it lacked in economic wealth it more than made up for in culture, compassion and collaboration and the shoe issue was absolutely nothing to do with the economics of the place.

It soon became apparent that in this new place it was more respectful and appropriate to be barefoot and in fact in virtually every Northland place and home there was a cultural expectation that you would remove your shoes and leave them at the entrance/doorway. We learned this very quickly as even when viewing houses this expectation was a non negotiable. We quickly learned that the best and most appropriate footwear was footwear that could be removed quickly and easily and not mourned and grieved for if it was forgotten or left behind.

We soon adopted so many of these unwritten and previously unknown cultural customs and practices. It was apparent that all children under the age of 12 seemed to go everywhere barefoot. The girls would go to school with shoes on and somehow come home without them. Endless visits to the school on Friday afternoons to try to retrieve shoes were largely frutless, there just seemed to be a bagful of totally unrelated shoes in every cloakroom. You would take shoed children to Mcdonalds for a treat and arrive home to find they were shoeless. On May 3rd 2006, shortly after we moved into our own home in Kamo, my husband called me from work before I had taken the children to school, to alert me to the fact that we were on a Tsunami alert following a significant earthquake at sea. My snarling response was related to shoes not impending doom. I have two children to get to school and I can only find one size 8 left shoe and one size 9 right shoe and how am I supposed to get them to school. I gave in, and my children went to school barefoot like everyone elses children. We were officially done with shoes.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Latch-Key Kids

The Summer Olympics of 1972- Munich

In those days it really did take a village to raise a child.

The 1970’s is a decade often forgotten and often undersold, a decade where the post-war affluence bubble burst with a bang and successive governments were plagued with political and economic unrest. The decade began with promise but Ted heath faced early challenges by strikes financial crash and energy crisis, and some of us went hungry. Callaghan famously told colleagues in 1974 “If I were a young man, I should emigrate.” For some of us the backbone of our extended family had already emigrated in the late 60’s  as £10 POMS and were already seeking a future promising fame and fortune in new and exotic lands.

Not surprising that it was often called the lost decade and growing up perhaps that is what we were too, the lost generation, generation X, a generation of latch-key kids who brought ourselves up because nobody knew any different. Nobody even realised we were doing it on our own. We had it all, freedom and then some and yet we had nothing, no prospects but kind hearts, glam rock and big dreams.

Our parent’s generation were the first generation of latch key kids, born towards the end of World War two against a backdrop of poverty, harsh winters and a changing workforce, there was food poverty and many families were living in urban slums and the housing stock was in dire need of upgrading and repair. At the outset of the forties the menfolk were away at war and women were required to fulfil working roles in factories, munitions works, and even on the land and the docks, it meant that an entire generation of working-class kids was forced to get itself up and ready and off to school and fend for themselves at the end of school, it meant that older siblings carried the responsibility of caring for younger siblings and often completing the household chores.

The mothers were responding to the needs of the war effort and had little choice, and it was this generation of children that found themselves with a world of opportunities in the later fifties and early sixties but as new parents themselves in the late sixties and early seventies due to the economic downturn and the increasing phenomena of the working mum were to become the parents of the next generation of latchkey kids, our generation, the latchkey generation of the seventies, generation X.

My parents both worked and so in the holidays we really were home alone. Dad was working for the Post Office and mum worked as a machinist at the Isle of Man Mill, where Mr Harold Dugdale had an active workforce of about twenty working at the Rossendale Quilting Company, they made ironing board covers and continental quilts (a forerunner to the Duvet) and they were all exposed to asbestos and cotton fibres in a harsh hot noisy mill. The village was home to at least three working mills, across the river from our house and across from the Isle of Man mill was Wood-eel, it had a great timber yard to play and explore in and all the local kids would collect bags of sawdust from the mill for their pet rabbits, surprisingly it made wooden heels that were used up and down the valley in the still proseprous and busy boot and shoe factories.

Mum left us under the watchful eye of our next-door neighbour Rosina Giddens, known to us as Nana, even though we were not related. She would make us lunch, and we would wake her up to call for help in the event of breakages, windows, arms, and legs, or toys that were broken in our sibling squabbles. The older folk did that, watched out for the youngsters and we paid the kindness back and in later years when we had moved to the Post Office we went back to Nanas every evening to make her tea and make sure she was well for the evening ahead. She looked out for us and made us lunches and we looked out for her, and the day when she slumped into her sausage and mash and her gnashers fell off the table and onto the floor, we looked after her, quickly raising the alarm that Nana had fallen asleep and wouldn’t wake up. She had suffered a stroke but our speed at raising the alarm meant that she was on the mend in a matter of weeks.

If it was dry- we were outdoors, we met up with whoever came to call, who ever knocked on the door to see if you were playing out, and everyone did that. There was an unwritten rule that no-one came in the house and you didn’t go in their houses unless they were invited but you could pretty much do what you like outside the house. And we did. If it was climable- we climbed it, if you could make a game out of it, you made a game, if it needed exploring we explored.

We were very young that first summer we spent home alone, it was 1972, and I know this because we loved to watch the gymnastics that were on. It was the Olympics in Munich and we were enraptured by our favourite gymnast Olga Korbut. We thought she was amazing. Tracey loved her work on the beam, I loved to watch her floor routines. She was so small but so incredibly athletic. I was 5 and Tracey was 7.

Tracey preferred Olga, who was small and petite and in some respects the underdog, to a very womanly Ludmilla Tourishiva. I thought she was the most graceful swan I had ever seen on a gymnastics floor and at nineteen she no longer had the angular bones of the minute Olga. Tourishiva won Gold, but Olga won hearts and inspired an entire generation of young girls to take to the gym floor.

Nana would pop in and out and would get us lunch and we would sometimes go out with her in the afternoon, she would walk us to the stream at the back of Crawshawbooth and she would sit I the sun and she taught us how to wash stones from the river bed. Sometimes we would play in the garden in front of her house and make dens from sheets, and she would show us how to make clothes for our dolls with old stockings. So we weren’t officially abandoned, it was just that we were really latch key kids.

It isn’t something that you would do now, but in those days I suspect it was the same story up and down the valley. We were all home alone. When we were old enough to go to the park alone, it was obvious that this was what all the kids did all summer, the park was our meeting place and there were never any adults around and even when Lesley Stansfield broke her leg and the bone came through the skin, after she got dragged under the roundabout after falling off because it was spinning too fast when we were playing pick up sticks- it seemed to be ages before any adults arrived.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Turn right at the crossroad.

Infinite space and time separates what I was then to what I have become now.

I don’t even know if I became what I was supposed to be,

Or if I was always supposed to be what I became.

It is as if the space I occupy is still connected to the child that I was but my awareness of who I am has given me a different form. A different format.

I am learning that the only thing that is truly certain is that nothing will remain the same, it never does.

Our time on earth is so short, and how strange it is that a life can come and go and there be so very little left to demonstrate it’s existence. A tombstone, a photograph, a name in a narrative. Most of which will be erased with time and have no connection to the real essence of the person that lived and breathed and walked the earth.

When mum died she lived on in our memories, and possibly in some of our actions. Part of her continues to stretch into the future in what can be remembered by those she left behind, but what about when we are gone, and our memories are extinguished, eventually even the photographs will become meaningless, they will gather dust in some box and occasionally see the light of day as someone struggles to identify who these people were and what their link to the present and the future is.

Earlier this month her eldest sister Rita passed away and it was like losing another part of her, almost like whilst Rita was alive there was still some small connection back to that house in Waddington Street, still someone alive who remembered mum coming into the world and shared childhood pleasures and treasures, someone who shared part of the same story.

They lived in post-war poverty in the back streets of Salford. The kind of poverty they endured would be difficult to comprehend in our modern world. Perhaps it was this poverty that gave them the drive and resolution to step out and walk tall and try to make their own way in the world. Which all three of the sisters did, Rita Shirley and Anne. (my mum).

It was the same urban landscape in which Greenwood was to depict the impact of the Great depression in Love on the Dole. The same urban landscape that was demolished and swept aside in the slum clearances of the early 1960’s to make way for high rise suburbia and what became the equally tarnished Salford Precinct.

Eventually these stories will be cast aside, abandoned, no longer memories but trash that is no longer connected and meaningful to anyone left alive.

How sad. Done. Gone. Cleared. Deleted.

It feels like I am the memory keeper and that I have to keep some of the stories alive.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

For Sarah.

Steadfast we stand, we shine our lights in solidarity to the memory of your soul.

The tragedy that took away your cherished life is beyond unimaginable and I send my heartfelt love and sympathy to your family and loved ones.

It is so hard I have drilled it into my children and so many girls that I have taught about how to try to be safe on the streets. Not because I wanted them to be afraid, but because I didn’t want them to ever come to harm. As a mother for me, that has always been the one thing that was important, for them not to be harmed. What saddens me is that they have both already had to survive sexual harassment that is unwarranted and unwanted.

I have walked in the middle of the road on a dark night to avoid the parked cars, I have changed my route and taken a longer safer one, I have quickened my pace at the heavy sound of footsteps behind me, I have had my keys clenched firmly in my fist poised and my cellphone ready to dial.

I have avoided going out at night, been the sober driver so I didn’t leave myself or any of my friends vulnerable. I have gone to evening events and my mantra is always the same – I can have a glass of wine when I get home. I have worried as a mother, ensured that my girls could phone me at any time of day or night and in any state of drunkeness, My husband and I have rescued them in the middle of the night, provided a taxi service to ensure that no-one was left vulnerable or alone.

I have survived being followed, being stalked, being cat-called, seeing men expose themselves in public, (more than once- I was just 7 years old the first time it was in the Children’s play park.) I have been assaulted and stood my ground and had to protect myself and I am acutely aware that I am not alone and that most of what I have described is laughed off, unreported and unchallenged.

In my thirties I was assaulted and abused for going into my local bar without my husband and no-one in the bar stood up for me.

Yesterday at the age of 54 I went on a 5km walk alone, by myself, along the canal in the daytime, for me it was my attempt to reclaim the day in memory of Sarah Everard. I do go walking on my own but always in places where there are likely to be other people. There are hills I would still like to climb but I still lack the courage-it is a work in progress- I am working on it.

In Whangarei in May 2016 we did reclaim the Hatea Loop with what seemed like the whole town, following a shocking sexual assaultof a runner in the early hours of dawn. We turned out to walk at sunset, men women and children, and when this lockdown is finished maybe we can do this in memory of Sarah too.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Past One O’Clock…

SO I am doing my own version of poetry month and this is a poem that will always have meaning for me and when she was younger this was my Ellen’s favourite….don’t want to break any copyright so here is just a snapshot:

“Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.”

Taken from Vladimir Mayakovsky– Past One O’Clock.

We love the whole poem and everything it represents, it is a very tragic story and the poem was found amongst his papers following his suicide and also formed part of the epilogue of his suicide note.

Mayakovsky was a leading poet during the Russian revolution and was jailed several times and reputedly began to write poetry during a spell in solitary confinement.

Past One O’Clock

Te here tangata

It is fragile this thing called life but we are one.

All part of one tapestry in life. The warp is our connection to the past and the future, and the weft is that which connects us now. The present.

There is a Maori whakatauki, Ka mua Ka muri, walking backwards into the future. It reminds us that we can learn from the past and it will help us deal with what lies ahead.

I guess the difficulty is that we often don’t see the relevance, meaning and importance of moments- until they have gone. This is why, however difficult it might be we have to accept the current moment for what it is- and to value it regardless. And whilst singularly our life might seem insignificant or unimportant, that it is part of something bigger, that we are part of something bigger.

Perhaps we are like firefly’s. Perhaps we light the way for others.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Beyond the horizon…

It had been a long journey, her feet bore the bruised hallmarks of a difficult life, but still she walked on.

She knew that even if she could not reach the rich promises of the future on the horizon she could leave footprints for those who mattered to follow.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

it is enough

If you have food in the cupboard and a roof over your head, it is enough.

If you have worries that wake you but family that make you, it is enough.

If you have known love, shown love and grown love, it is enough.

If you have dreamed a little, worked a lot and been satisfied with your endeavours it is enough.

If the art of giving is more meaningful than getting, it is enough.

In the dark moments of life if you can still see a tiny flicker of light it is enough.

It is enough. It doesn’t have to be as vast as the oceans or as deep as the sea or as high as the mountain,

and you don’t have to be the richest, fastest, bravest, tallest, it isn’t about how much your worth measures but how you measure your worth.

It is enough. This I have learned.

Whatever I am, whoever I am, wherever I am, if I give with gladness of my heart it is enough.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

cropped-profile

 

When I was about 18 a very close friend of mine observed that I always seemed to be searching for something and that she worried that I might never be happy. I remember because it troubled me too, it was as if there was something missing from my life and I didn’t really know what it was, and I mistakenly labelled it happiness or perhaps even love. I think it took me many years to realise that it wasn’t missing at all that I just hadn’t recognised it even though at times it was staring me in the face.

 

I thought I had it sussed but you don’t know what you don’t know.

Sometimes your life can change in a second. A split second.

FAITH that which anchors us.

There you are swimming along, taking in the scenery, drinking in the wonderful aroma of a rich fulfilling life, clear in the knowledge of who you are, where you are at and where you are heading for and then BOOM.

A split second, no time to weigh things up, stack odds against likelihoods decide on the most suitable path forward and … Just BOOM.

FAITH that which anchors us.

In computer games, it is the moment when the screen says Game Over. You lost your final life, it wasn’t planned, it was some sneaky attack from nowhere, a slight slip of the thumb and the computer registered an 8 instead of a 7 and BOOM- game over. It wasn’t even intentional.

It is likely to be your own fault, a lapse in concentration, a misguided loyalty, a misunderstanding, too much haste in a too pressured job and that is it. Wiped out in a nanosecond. No insanity plea, no curtain call, just fingers gripping the edge hoping that you won’t fall, just silent prayers to an overworked God asking for forgiveness.

If you are lucky and your prayers are answered you will live to fight another day. You will be thankful, and kinder and maybe wiser and certainly more careful. You will always know and understand that everything can and does change in a split second for good or bad, better or worse and you will always know that the split-second can be at any moment in your life-that it is unlikely to have been planned, or heralded by omens and signs. Just BOOM.

FAITH that which anchors us.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

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