Have you started writing yet?


Writing stuff is not for everyone. Life can be difficult enough. Who remembers the 1950s primary schools and all the mistakes we inevitably made? Red ink from ‘Miss’ and red faces from us. So there is something to be said for a more flexible style of learning reading, writing and arithmetic. I hope less people today arrive into adulthood, scarred and scared to death of pens and pencils. Anyone recall that crucial transition into ink? I thought it was never going to happen.

The Outsider

Forever alone.

Schoolmiss kept him in pencil

When the rest were in ink.

This is a haiku I wrote in the 1990s whilst studying English at Huddersfield University. I managed one year before I had to return to the real world and earn a living.

  In defence of my primary school, I passed my eleven plus, a devastating lifelong failure for some if they didn’t. In addition, Miss Town read to us every Friday afternoon. Treasure Island had us all enthralled. And, incidentally, I played in a great school soccer team. And Miss Town would not forgive me for starting any sentence with ‘and’.

  So you survive the obstacle course called adolescence, college, first job and career, marriage and kids (there are plenty of variations on this curve) and if you are not already writing, then you might want to have a go.

  A diary can be a private start. A record of events, a breathing space for opening up concerns and their echoes (Seamus Heaney said he wrote ‘To set the darkness echoing’), and a glimpse of what might be different. Many of us have good friends who listen and that can be enough.

  I have recently had the privilege of editing the diary of the father of a friend, Arthur Hale (Another Barnsley Poet – in preparation). He was a newly-retired miner who only wrote for two to three years.

1988 Monday 14th November 

This week I reached my 65th birthday. It’s been a long time coming and I’m a little apprehensive. So I’ll go for my usual walk and try and get to terms with it. Weather beautiful.

Wednesday 16th November

No walk. The coke came – 9 bags. I had a couple to throw in as we’ve got a full coke hole. Bright and sunny again. Then went and collected my pension book. I came out of the Post Office feeling 94. It’s a psychological barrier, up to then it’s alright. You’re 64 and that’s okay. But getting the pension book does it, suddenly it’s there, you’re 65 and you’re Old. But it wears off after a time and you’re as old as you feel. I hope!

Thursday 17th November

My birthday, 65 today but no oobloodyray. Got my cards and my prezzies. Feeling chippy, think I’ll walk into town and get my bus pass, us pensioners have to watch the pennies. Call for May’s pension book at the social but it’s been posted. Walk back home, cold and dull for a change. That’s it then, dinner and settle down for the rest of the day.

May was Arthur’s wife and Annette, his daughter. In 1973, Scargill organised the miners’ strike that brought down the Heath Government. He led the union through the 1984-85 confrontation with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government during which the miners were defeated. Coal mining has declined as a major British industry.

  The ‘Right to Buy’ legislation as passed in the Housing Act 1980. Michael Heseltine was in charge. Six million people were affected of which a third actually bought their house. Heseltine said the ‘Right to Buy’ had two main objectives: to give people what they wanted, and to reverse the trend of ever increasing dominance of the state over the life of the individual.

The phones were denationalised, becoming British Telecom (BT) in 1980. It was more or less independent by 1981. Privatisation of the Post Office was thought to be too unpopular.

Monday 12th December

Beautiful morning less windy but slightly colder. Went into town to draw £500 out of the Coop Bank, put £200 in the building society and fetched the other £300 home. Called at the Housing Advice Centre to see about buying our house in view of the fact that we can be put onto a private landlord’s list. Got the papers and information I required re same, and while in the building society I checked on a £5000 mortgage should I require it. Called in at the bus station for our Edinburgh tickets. Not bad for £13.50p return apiece. Dunt us pensioners get some perks? Can’t go for the pensions today as the post office workers are having a one day strike in protest. The governing body of the Post Office are after making 250 main post offices into sub-post offices resulting in the loss of roughly 3000 jobs. But it is only a token gesture, this government has broken the unions and we can do what we will this government and its satellites will just bulldoze their way thro anything and anyway, so long as it helps them and the bloody rich people who depend on them. But, and it may be sour grapes till the opposition parties put their houses in order and come up with an alternative policy I’m afraid the Conservatives are in for a very long term. No cohesion, in-party fighting is just up Maggie’s street. While they are squabbling there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance of any of them taking over and it’s a sorry state of affairs. Makes you think the conservatives have inflltrated all of the opposition parties with the expressed intent of keeping the ferment going and thus leaving the tories with a clear field in which to work.

Arthur had arthritis:

1989 Thursday 11th May

Went into the Swance? with the detector after dinner only stopped an hour, didn’t find anything. I think it’s just about been emptied because I know detectorists have been coming on for years. There isn’t a lot round Barnsley really for detectorists it isn’t a very historical place as such and what places there are have already been picked over by detectorists in the last twenty years. Haven’t heard anything about the fishing tackle or anything from the insurance, but it’s early doors yet. The backache’s still with me, this how I used to get it when I was cooling down at Barnsley Main. Could work all day on my knees but when I came to stand up OH BOY! crippled. I’ve seen me go to sleep knelt down in front of an easy chair with my body and head on the seat just to be comfortable, and never without a bottle of Sloane’s Liniment in the house. And I hadn’t the weight I have now. I was 11st 10lb for years with only a 28in waist what with being tall and slim and a waist like that. Dante my tailor use to keep saying you ought to be a male model, used to feel like thumping him, me a model and miner to boot, cause at that time all male models were (we thought) dead poofters. No we had to keep up our image the strong sturdy miner who wouldn’t be seen dead with an umbrella if it was raining like hell and had one offered. ‘Get sum sheep head broth and plenty of ale darn thi un tha’ll be reight’ towd uns used to say.

And then:

1992 29th January

No more I’m afraid. May passed away at 1.30am Tuesday morning the 5th November, Never thought anything could have hit me so hard. I find I’m still weeping twice-three times a day. It’s going to take me a long long time to get over, if I ever shall.

There are no more entries except for three in 2000.

  This diary in a fuller version makes up a third of Another Barnsley Poet. There is also poetry and some reflections on his early life.

  These extracts cover several life events and some political background from the late 1980s. It seems easy to walk in Arthur’s shoes.



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