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

Salomé

His fatherly love was a foreign country

All cut and thrust and emotional obviate

No physical boundaries and no commitment

 

Her needs were greater

Than simplistic supine surrender

at the border of his lust.

 

She needed a soul

Preferably on a platter

Served with a side order of motherly love.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

At poetics for d’Verse we were given border as a prompt. My poem is based on the Richard Strauss version of Salomé which was the first opera I ever went to see in Manchester 1985.

The image is The Dancer’s Reward and is available in the public domain:

http://www.artinthepicture.com/paintings/Aubrey_Beardsley/The-Dancers-Reward/

 

 

 

 

The best birthday present ever..the forgotten soldiers.

You came home.

In May 2003 a large number of men who served with Lancashire and Cumbria Volunteers, formerly known as reservists of 4KOBR received compulsory call-out notices to serve in Optelic 2 in Basrah as part of the deployment of Queens Lancashire Regiment. They were a jolly bunch of souls from across Cumbria and Lancaster and this was the first time any of them had faced a compulsory call-out to serve in an actively hostile environment. They were given 21 days to sort out their families, their jobs and their affairs before departing from Alexandra Barracks, Lancaster at the end of May.

They served in gruelling heat in and around Basrah Palace and were on duty for a six month active tour. During that time they saw at least one of their officers Captain Dai Jones killed. It was supposed to be a peacekeeping mission but they faced hostilities on a daily basis and there was the constant threat of exploding IED’s. They were “butchers bakers and candlestick makers” and part-time soldiers, and yet they served admirably alongside full-time fully trained army personnel.

Their families back home also survived admirably with little in the way of active support and no garrison to back them up.

There were 2314 reservists called up for Optelic 2, made up of both volunteer reserve forces like LCV and regular reserve forces.

My husband was one of them. He was 41 years old and an HGV driver. We had just moved to the Isle of Man with our two small children.

He missed his children’s first day of school but he came home safe.

For years afterwards, he demonstrated hyper-vigilance but at least he was alive.

He still won’t talk about many of the things he witnessed.

But he came home.

Not everyone did.

They landed safely on Nov 7th (my birthday), and whilst it was another week before we got him home at least we knew he was safe and sound.

Fifteen years ago tomorrow.

He got four days leave- shown in the top photo and saying goodbye again at Ronaldsway Airport.

 

 

Banishing Demons.

He slayed the dragon, the sun shone he wiped the blood from the sword and went on his way.

For her that wasn’t the end of the story though.

She cooked him fried eggs for breakfast, ironed his shirts, darned his socks, plumped his pillows and waited for the debt to be done.

Paid in full – but it never was. She began to wish she had eloped with the dragon or that at the very least the dragon’s breath had scared away her knight in shining armour.

She began to wish she had reclaimed the night without her knight.

She began to wonder what dragon children would have looked like.

Perhaps she already knew-with their curly locks and their churlish charm and the devil may care attitude they had clearly inherited from their father not to mention their charming eyes of blue.

And all he had had to do – was slay the dragon.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

I am submitting this for d’verse Open link night.

The link below will take you to a lovely dragon, created by the very talented Soju Shots-Evan Heasman fromWhangarei.

Facing your demons

Voices of Whittingham….Past lives in an Asylum.

This is again for mental health awareness week. I spent some time today at the archives in Preston. I am currently participating in a local history/arts/creative writing/mental health project. It is based around the Whittingham Asylum at Preston and it aims to give a voice to the lives and stories that played out there. It was a very large Asylum and Preston was very proud of it, there were about 500 staff and often as many as 3000 inpatients.

Whittingham Lives Project.

I have learned a lot in such a few sessions and certainly had some of my own assumptions challenged. The Asylum opened in 1873 and had patients sent there from all over the north-west of England, many of the other Asylums, workhouses, almshouses were already bursting at the seams. It was regarded as a model Asylum and postcards of its external facade were sold as memorabilia. There were extensive gardens where fruit and vegetables were grown and it even had its own orchestra. Underneath this facade still lurked the very real horrors of Victorian poverty and the mental health of a scarred nation. End-stage syphilis was one of the significant causes of the mental and psychotic decline that resulted in many people spending their end of days in the Asylum and in the period of World War 1, both shell-shock and a form of hydrocephalus resulting from the Spanish flu were  responsible for increased demand for spaces and places within the Asylum. The superintendent’s journal from 1873-95 was stark to begin with detailing the very worst events including the frequent dismissals of staff for what can only be described as physical abuse of the inpatients and the frequent outbreaks of scarlatina, diarrhoea and typhoid, whilst rules and regulations resulted in greater detail in later entries, including the deaths from misadventure, poor health and at their own hand.

The Asylum had its own cemetery. People came and went though, it wasn’t always the end of the road and when the photographer that came to capture the newly admitted, those well enough would ask to have images taken to show they were well and recovered to send to their loved ones with the plea to come and take them away.

Today we were considering restraint, emotional, physical and chemical.

I wrote this for Charlotte.

 

In Chains

Into the light, beyond the bands that bind me tight,

Into the dawn, beneath the hands that hold me down,

Into the sunlight, the stench of starch and sulphur stings my eyes

Into the madness, my muddled mind festers in fetid fettered manacles.

Deliver me.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

 

img_6872.jpg

 

 

 

The day we fell….

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,

We remember them each and everyone, every year, it is our duty

We solemnly speak their names, we treasure their memories in our hallowed halls

We honour their fate on memorials and museum walls.

 

Kick back, flashlight, night flare

We are back there

I do solemnly swear to bring honour and bear witness

To my country but he is missing in action.

tap tap….clack clack…. frack frack

I scour the wall of missing people.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

 

First line taken from For the Fallen- by Laurence Binyon. Last line taken from “Leaving time” Jodi Picoult. For Bridging the Gap at d’Verse.

 

Shades of Betty.

It was damask and silk with woven flowers,

Azure, ruby and evergreen on a backdrop of black velveteen.

Her favourite scarf.

 

She wore it like a shawl

skittered, off-centre a-kilter

slightly syncopated in the spirit of her slightly singular eccentricity.

 

Shades of sublime serendipity

Shades of anguish unfurling

Shades of Betty.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson.

The image is my own. ©Alison Jean Hankinson

 

Tuku Iho

In this house we live year on year

Our lives enriched by treasured trinkets we hold dear.

Each memory good or bad permeates these walls

Each sound of love and cry of pain echoed through these halls.

 

In this house of love we played and plotted undaunted

Our lives enriched by dreams of grandchildren and children wanted.

Each wall on strong foundations built to withstand falls

Each garden flower planted with patience and nurtured with love grows tall.

 

Our house is strong from loving bonds

Our legacy seeps through each foliage frond

Every brick and stone when we grow old

Carries enduring imprint of our souls.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

this is for the final day of napowrimo2108

Liminality….

I miss lavender

It attracted the bees and reminded me of home

When home was half a world away and beyond the realms of reality.

 

I miss home still, not a place or sense of belonging

But the physical space that keeps us safe from the rest of the world

The place where it is okay to be nothing to nobody in a non-descript kind of way.

 

I miss being valued and making a contribution that is deemed worthwhile

Beyond the futile measures of a financially strapped world or work.

Where experience, age and wisdom lies currently forgotten alongside dandelion dreams on the kerbside of parsimony.

 

I miss the bright star of hope and the sense of celestial justice

That came from the certainty that there was some unwritten moral code

Whereby staunch steadfast endeavour would be rewarded with reciprocal remuneration.

 

I miss being able to do what I do best

Taking my place in the workforce

Having my tools at my desk to bring the world alive for the future generations.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for Day 28 Napowrimo