"Ex Pat from Saddleworth" RLFielding123A's Profile
My Dad used to say I was bred out - he was referring to my love of roaming - wandering. I see what he means now - I live and work in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, but I miss my native Saddleworth, the people, the moors, even the weather - it hardly ever rains in the UAE.
I write about Saddleworth quite regularly - on sites like this one and elsewhere, and that keeps me from feeling too homesick. I love the Gulf, I've got a lot of friends here, a good job, a nice house, all that, but I always enjoy returning to Saddleworth in my summer holidays. I go for long walks, sit on forms talking to people, do some writing, and really enjoy myself.
The hills that surround Saddleworth on three sides are really the edges of vast moorlands that stretch to the edges of Sheffield to the east, the Peak District to the south east, and the former heavy woollen district of West Yorkshire to the north.
To the uninitiated and the person rushing to get somewhere else, they are featureless moors, unending, under grey, overcast skies, but to walkers they are a joy - constantly changing underfoot and overhead - they are never boring - constantly presenting a challenge to your stamina, fitness and reserves of strength and humour.
Al Ain is beautiful - it's situated right on the border with the Sultanate of Oman, next to the highest point in the Emirates - Jebel Hafeet, which, being in this country, has a four lane highway running right to the top of it - once up there, you'll find a cafe, a four-star hotel and a palace.
Down below, Al Ain shimmers in the heat, the roads are busy, but not congested, the shopping malls are full of young Emiratis - pleasant and boysterous - jolly folk with the best of everything - traditions, modernity, family values and wealth.
For us visitors, working here, the place is welcoming - the weather is pleasant - I get to swim in an open air swimming pool every day, and life is good.
Looking at Oldham in 2003 and remembering how it was more than a hundred years earlier.
By Heck, in't it all grand, an' in't it all changed too. Thur's no chimneys, so I spose thur's no mills an' nowt to do fer t' folks as live in Owdham now.
Things curtanly 'ave changed. I dunna know what me an our Sarah ud do today, 'appen we'd walk out an look at yonder 'ills like we did when we 'ad time off us wark, which weren't so often i? them days.
Them hills are t' same though, jus' same as ever thi were back then, aye an' t' weather too, that?s jus' same, wi clouds rollin' in from t' West to cover our mucky town an' wesh it too nearly every day of our lives. I reck'n Owdhamers today know all about t' weather o' our days, cept 'appen they've getten better clothes on thur backs an' better shoes on thur feet an aw.
Them as worked alongside me an our Sarah ivery day of our lives ur o gone now, but we miss 'em, tha knows. Oh, aye, we do that. Why we even miss t'folks as owned t' mills an' made us all wark so 'ard fer so long fer so little. Ivery now an' then they'd lay us o off, jus fer a bit till everything picked up again, but they needed us jus like we needed them. We didna think so at t' time, but we did.
That wer't secret o them days, yuh know, it were what kept us all goin' through thick an' thin, mostly thin, I can tell yuh. What kept us goin were each other, an' knowin' that everybody i? t' town had summat to do, summat that contributed like to t' prosperity an' t' welfare o them as lived under those grey, cloudy skies.
An' you know what I'm tellin' thee, knowin' that we were all like children playin' in some dirty back yard somewheer, appen i' Hell it felt like at times, knowin' that kept us from goin' mad, an' it kept us o together.We sent all us cotton all over t' world to them places we saw in picture books at schoo, wi them as 'ave dark skins like our collier lads comin' up from a days wark three 'undert feet below, an' we allus wondered what thid be like as were wearin' our cloth an our cotton.
An' now we can see 'em walkin' about Owdham. That's summat, that is, seein' folk us we used to only know i' picture books, an' appen they're glad to be 'ere even though they don't see 'alf as much sun as they're used to seein' where they were browt up.
But still, jus' you listen to what I'm tellin' thee, don't go argifyin' an' gettin' upset wi 'em jus' because thur different, because they look different and talk different. They're all God's childer, aye, each an' ivery one o 'em, jus like me an' our Sarah, jus' like them lads goin' 'ome from t' mills an' t' pits over theer.
Them lads is black faced an' all, an' thur proud t' 'ave black faces, let me tell thee. Black faces means wark an' wark means brass, a bit anyroad, an' they o live in t' same sort o' houses close to thur wark like ah suppose you all do what's 'ere today, drivin' roun' in yon motor cars 'stead o' walkin' iverywheer like me an our Sarah used to do back in those days when life were simpler un we allus knew exactly who we were an' exactly what we 'ad to do t' get t'eaven.
I wrote this after seeing the photograph of Oldham hanging here on the walls of Oldham Art Gallery. After I had visited the gallery, I sat on the terrace outside and had a cup of tea and looked at much of the area I had just been looking at in the photograph. It was this that prompted me to write the piece.
In the summer of that year, Oldham Municipal Art Gallery displayed the work on their walls, to accompany an exhibition of local photography of the town.
Robert L Fielding
University of Bahrain
Diary of a genetically unmodified traveller: Hasn't it all changed?
Robert L. Fielding
Well, of course things have changed. Everything does - that's the only thing that's constant - change!
And so it is with people, houses, pubs, factories, offices (called Business parks these days), even bus services have changed.
In and around Delph, pubs are turning into Chinese restaurants (Cross Keys) or Indian restaurants (Rose and Crown). I don't say it''s a bad thing, far from it, but it is a change.
I remember when large parts of Manchester were being demolished - the pubs were always left standing - islands of refreshment in the midst of a sea of dereliction.
And shops - they're changing too - website addresses emblazoned across the bottoms of windows - strange and inviting names - Bay Leaf Restaurant - Christoria Beauty Clinic.
The oldest cooperative in Britain- craft shop, cobbler, cafe, picture framers - all under the same roof with the same door into the High Street - six businesses on three floors - since 1979.
Houses - more of -em - smarter, brighter stonework - window frames and doors made from clean hardwood or anodised aluminium alloy.
Buses - double-deckers only rarely - single-deckers mostly, and minibuses; mountain goats climbing out of Delph, up Stoneswood Road with names of their destinations on the front - Friezland Church - by a circuitous route - it would have to be, wouldn't it?
Factories, or should I say former factories - some falling down - others like Lumb Mill (once the home of Compoflex from Asa Lees's after the fire) - now split into so many units - all sorts of thriving enterprises - carpet stores and the like but sadly little in the way of manufacturing now.
A few things hardly change though - Jim Taylor out mowing t'bottom meadow before he stops for a brew at Thurston Clough Farm (Jim's as fit as he was thirty years ago by the look of him) - Mrs. Taylor brewing up indoors - not quite everything changes, does it?
Robert L. Fielding
Diary of a genetically unmodified traveller: Air conditioned bowling
Robert L. Fielding
"Phew", I hear you say, "it's too hot for me!
" And it is warm ? certainly, but let's not complain too much lest...
Instead, let's do like 'Christians in Sport' who meet every Tuesday morning between 9.30am and 11.30am for tea, coffee, a chat and a game or two of Short Mat (45 feet) Bowling - without the air conditioning though - that was just wishful thinking on my part.
Passing Zion Methodists Church in Lees yesterday morning, I noticed that 'Tea and Coffee Are Now Being Served' and popped in for a brew. Met by Harry Steele and Dorothy Brierley (formerly of the Chronicle) and who run the sessions, I was quickly and warmly greeted by all the players, plus the ladies making the tea.
On a strip of green felt - (6 by 45 feet), pairs of bowlers battled it out without succumbing to sunstroke, with the characteristic loud cheers of the group winning. Age is no barrier, and nor is being partially sighted as one lady playing was.
The Reverend Kofe Ansah, a native of Ghana and born on a Friday - hence his name, told me that his church facilities are in continual demand - Mothers and Toddlers on Monday - Wives' Meeting later that evening - Chiball exercises Tuesday, plus Short Mat Bowling, of course, an Age Concern organised dinner for the elderly on Wednesday - table tennis on Thursday and Karate Friday, with the hall hired out for things like Hoe Downs and the May Queen Festival at other times.
So, rain or shine, hot or cold, winter or summer, people come from far and near to enjoy the company of others, the exercise and the fun and games - oh, and the tea and coffee too. See you there next Tuesday folks.
Robert L. Fielding
Diary of a genetically unmodified traveller: ?I used to work there, I did.?
by Robert L. Fielding
Walking along by the canal - the cut - from Wade Lock in Uppermill (how long is it since that bit went through a pipe?) to the Diggle end of the Standedge Tunnel - the highest, deepest, longest tunnel in England, and built at a staggering cost (for then) of GBP128, 804 (about the cost of the average semi-detached), I noted the icons of a bygone age.
A set of railway signals near the Ward Lane bridge, the sheds, wharehouses and former machine shops of Dobcross Loom Works, now and for a long time WH Shaw's - pallet makers - and the locks, embankments and bridges of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal - Saddleworth's former sustainers, lifelines and connections with the markets for its products; wool and machinery for turning raw material into fine cloth, and from there to Weaver to Wearer in Yorkshire Street.
Along the canal towpath - icons of a quite different age - anglers - people walking dogs - people just out walking, like me - an age of leisure activities - the Brownhill Visitors- Centre, longboats lined up to be towed in eights through the tunnel to Marsden, and the other way, through Greenfield, Mossley and Stalybridge, linked to the Peak Forest Canal via Portland Basin in Ashton Under Lyne, and on to Buxworth and Whalley Bridge.
But work here still goes on - for some - hillsides covered with grazing sheep - a small Canine Centre in a small corner off the canal, upholstery firms, car body lads, and firms that fit window systems operating out of Warth and Ellis Mills - and the Diggle Hotel bar staff working away to serve the ever growing crowd at the front enjoying a lunchtime in the sun.
Robert L. Fielding
Diary of a genetically unmodified traveller: The sounds of summer
Robert L. Fielding
A glorious day - a glorious weekend in fact - mid July and looking promising - fingers crossed, eh?
The sounds of the summer are all around - sheep plaintively insistent on the green hillsides of Diglea - a dog barking (probably at the sheep) - rooks cawing in the tall trees that are giving welcome shade - the odd car and a passing tractor (work still goes on for some even if it is Sunday lunchtime)
And another sound - equally familiar though unhappily less frequent - typical of a village green in the north of England - an echo from Whit Friday - a brass band tuning up. Meltham & Meltham Mills (1846) about to entertain a crowd sunning itself outside the Diggle Hotel.
Two Australian lasses tucking into roast beef and Yorkshire pudding - a chap who remembers following the band of the Salvation Army on its way down to the Citadel on Union Street when he was a little lad back in the 1920s - toddlers with their Mums and Dads - babes in arms, Grandmas and Granddads enjoying the somewhat rare sunshine, keeping safely in the shade of the tall sycamores with the rooks cawing accompaniment to the band about to begin.
Stuart Fawcett - a grand chap - a band chap - the band's jovial, knowledgeable conductor, sharing a joke with the junior members of the band, watching him to give them the sign to start blowing.
Stu recalls when he was a jig borer at Brook Motors in Huddersfield, and when, in Meltham, if you didn't work for David Brown Tractors you probably didn't work at all.
Cheerful Phil Beck selling raffle tickets in aid of the band. He sold me a roll and then never called my numbers at the end - cheers, Phil - really!
Young soloists - a cornet player probably doing her A-Levels - a lad with spiky hair ? a wizard on the drums, and the heavyweights - euphonium players - trombonists on the back row, ready to boom their base barreltones when the conductor nods banging out An American Trilogy and Mephistopheles especially for me at the end. The melodious tones that go entirely with the views up the valley to moorlands flecked with sheep and lumps of millstone grit - punctuated now and then with the train to Huddersfield as it plunges into the blackness of nearby Standedge Tunnel.
Then it's over and Stuart and his pals, all much appreciated in the usual way, packing up with a wave and a thank you. A grand day out.
Robert L. Fielding
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