I have visited the Woodlands Crematorium on several occasions. It is in Scunthorpe - an iron and steel town in north west Lincolnshire. The town is presently home to some 83000 souls.
We were there to say farewell to one of Shirley's relations - Auntie Joyce. She had died in an old people's home in Gainsborough having attained the ripe old age of eighty seven. Sadly, her last years were tainted with dementia.
After the ceremony at Woodlands, we decided to visit Scunthorpe town centre. Neither of us had been there in many years. Thirty years ago it was a white working class town with thriving foundries. People had money in their pockets and pride in their hearts.
Nowadays, many residents of Scunthorpe have their roots in faraway cultures from Asia to Africa and from eastern Europe to Turkey. In addition, the town seems a lot poorer than before.
You can see that poverty in the bargain shops and the boarded up store fronts. You can see it in the countless mobility scooters and in the drawn expressions of passers by. A tall thin man with bloodshot eyes and wild hair held a tatty purple quilt around his shoulders. He lurched towards me with his hand stretched out. And this was in the middle of High Street. You would not have seen that thirty years ago. There were no beggars in Scunthorpe back then.
We entered Cafe Jazz on Cole Street but there was no jazz music. No pianist in the corner. No saxophonist connecting with the stars. This was a humble cafe with a very inexpensive menu. A fat Chinese woman was bent over her "Christmas Dinner Special" (£3.90) shovelling in the sliced carrots and the roasted potatoes as if she hadn't eaten for many days.
A terribly obese woman in a grey overcoat waddled in with her grown up daughter and grown up son. They were also very overweight and their faces were similarly the colour of uncooked pastry. They ordered their calorific food as Shirley and I tucked into ours. She had vegetable soup with a roll while I enjoyed a bacon and egg bap with a latte. The bill was £5.80 and Shirley also had a mug of tea.
Afterwards we wandered down to the indoor market. Once bustling it is now almost empty - with just a handful of stalls holding on. Nearby - in Foundry Square - we noticed a brand new statue - unveiled as recently as this November. It is called The Scunthorpe Steelworkers Sculpture and it celebrates the town's proud steel-making heritage. Though I liked it, it appeared somehow discordant. After all, you can't heal deprivation with a statue.
England is a wealthy country. Recognising the poverty that has become a part of Scunthorpe's new character makes me sad and mad and frustrated. It doesn't have to be this way. There should be more equity and more hope and less blaming of the poor for the condition they find themselves in. Our visit provided but a snapshot on a sunny Monday afternoon in December - just a week before Christmas Eve. Lord knows what Brexit will do to the town. Nothing good - that's for sure.
Happy Christmas Scunthorpe! May Santa bring you everything you asked for!
I'm sorry to hear of the loss of Shirley's aunt. It is sad when a town goes down like this. I've seen many similar here when a major business or factory closes. The town goes down and takes many residents with it. The loss of hope goes deep.ReplyDelete
And it is a very difficult thing to get back isn't it Bonnie?Delete
This description of a once thriving place applies to countless other parts of the country....it is sad and worrying and quite frightening....how lucky we are, at the moment, to be in a home with a roof and food in our bellies.ReplyDelete
"At the moment..." The Brexiteers seem to have opened a Panndora's box. Who knows what future we will find in Brexitland. I am not optimistic.Delete
Visitors please note - Offensive remarks by embittered old men will be deleted.Delete
The key to this is your statement...once thriving iron and steel town. People have to either reinvent the wheel or move or the third option...be poor.ReplyDelete
I fear that you are right Red.Delete
Strange with all the poverty...there are obese folk around. One would imagine if they are so poor, they would be skin and bone.ReplyDelete
What a pity the original industries that kept the town afloat no longer exist. Perhaps the Greenies can come up with a worthy solution, that gives people jobs and brings the town and area alive again.
You are right to point out that it is quite strange that fatness and poverty can often go hand in hand these days.Delete
I think Red made an important point. It can be very hard to convince people to move on to a different way to make a life. It means retraining and change of all kinds. It can be done, but folks need lots of support to make it work.ReplyDelete
I don't find it strange at all that poor folks tend to be overweight. Eating properly (lean meat and a variety of fruits and vegetables) is, generally speaking, more expensive than the alternative (carbohydrates like pasta, and fatter cuts of meat). And often poverty goes hand in hand with lack of cooking skills and/or knowledge of nutritious alternatives; the lack of skills and knowledge are passed from generation to generation, too.
But you know that.
Yes I do my friend and I also know that successful transition needs "lots of support" as you say.Delete
the biggest problem is that we have no political policy to overcome all this. Left and right winged politicians have no answers. No revolution on the horizon either.ReplyDelete
If Brexit happens it will make matters worse but the politicians who hatched Brexit will still live comfortable, well-heeled lives.Delete
When Steve and I used to come to Scarborough regularly for our summer holiday, we couldn't help but notice how from year to year there were more boarded-up shop fronts and more poor-ish looking families about. The last time we were in Scarbie was 2006. I was also a bit shocked when Steve first took me to Barnsley, there was so much concrete about in the town centre, and so many people in shabby clothes and with really bad teeth.ReplyDelete
I understand there is a lot of poverty in Scarborough but I must say that when Shirley and I visited last year that poverty remained unseen. It was still the happy Scarborough of my childhood. Are there poor towns like Barnsley in your region?Delete
No; I happen to live in one of the most affluent parts of Germany. But we do have our share of poorer quarters in each larger town, and even in OK's small village there are some folks whose poverty can not be NOT seen.Delete
Im a Scunnie bunny , but it just depresses me these days i havent even visited this year . But if you want to see real poverty go to GrimsbyReplyDelete
I love that nickname - "Scunny Bunny". Makes me think of Hugh Hefner and "Playboy" but I doubt that Hugh Hefner was from Scunny.Delete
I've been reading recently about the effects of austerity on many parts of England, and I suspect that's what you're seeing in Scunthorpe. With cuts to many beneficial programs the poor and the workers are left to fend more for themselves. Thus, you get the anger that fed the Brexit vote.ReplyDelete
Yes. The connection is clear.Delete