Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not much changes...

For the present day, the word 'dead' has been banned from any editorial coverage of Burslem in my newspaper. The word rings around too much like a mantra for me to want any part in reinforcing it, as it does no service at all to all the living, breathing people working hard in the town*. You'll find the script here if you scroll down the depressing Doulton story and even more depressing bulldozer comment, by 'Burslem resident'.

Today I was told about a video from the 60s in which people talk about the decline of Burslem, which surprised me. To hear about that period today, you think it was the most bustling, thriving time. It reminded me to dig out a passage in the Old Wives Tale, coming up to its centenary next year, with Sophia's reflections upon returning to Bursley after a few decades getting rich in Paris:

In its contents the Square had not surprisingly changed during the immense, the terrifying interval that separated her from her virginity. On the east side, several shops had been thrown into one, and forced into a semblance of eternal unity by means of a coat of stucco. And there was a fountain at the north end which was new to her. No other constructional change! But the moral change, the sad declension from the ancient proud spirit of the Square--this was painfully depressing. Several establishments lacked tenants, had obviously lacked tenants for a long time; 'To let' notices hung in their stained and dirty upper windows, and clung insecurely to their closed shutters
The Square really had changed for the worse; it might not be smaller, but it had deteriorated. As a centre of commerce it had assuredly approached very near to death. On a Saturday morning thirty years ago it would have been covered with linen-roofed stalls, and chattering country-folk, and the stir of bargains. Now, Saturday morning was like any other morning in the Square, and the glass-roof of St. Luke's market in Wedgwood Street, which she could see from her window, echoed to the sounds of noisy commerce. In that instance business had simply moved a few yards to the east; but Sophia knew, from hints in Constance's letters and in her talk, that business in general had moved more than a few yards, it had moved a couple of miles--to arrogant and pushing Hanbridge, with its electric light and its theatres and its big, advertising shops.

The heaven of thick smoke over the Square, the black deposit on painted woodwork, the intermittent hooting of steam syrens, showed that the wholesale trade of Bursley still flourished. But Sophia had no memories of the wholesale trade of Bursley; it meant nothing to the youth of her heart; she was attached by intimate links to the retail traffic of Bursley, and as a mart old Bursley was done for.

* However, it does make for a great Facebook group title.

No comments: