6 December 2012


Once I was a teacher but now I am a walker. When next I have to fill in a form that asks for my occupation, I will say "walker". Mind you, perhaps I could say "writer" because last Saturday I met somebody I had never met before who asked, "Aren't you a writer?". I was mystified but also rather pleased. She had come across my e-book, "The Headland". But until my writing becomes more successful, I think I ought to stick to being a "walker".

It has become my habit to mix up  walks - not always chocolate box hilly walking country as in The Peak District but also urban walks or walks round about industrial neighbourhoods. Yesterday, I drove to Rawmarsh north of Rotherham. It holds a special place in my heart because it was here that my mother was raised in the late nineteen twenties and into the thirties. She shared many fond memories of the place and the adventures she had there, living with the Whites - my great grandmother and my great grandfather who, I am proud to relate, was a coal miner at nearby New Stubbin pit.

Unusually for a working class family in the nineteen twenties, my grandparents split up and Mum - with her younger brother Derek had to escape to Rawmarsh in what I think of as their apocryphal walk - past dirty coal mines and smoky railway yards - over canals and fetid pools all the way from Mexborough to Rawmarsh - about four miles. They were both under ten years old but they found happiness and security with their maternal grandparents. Nevertheless, the emotional scars of that apparent parental rejection remained with Mum until her dying day and it was never fully assuaged by the love and kindness that she found in 13 Quarry Street, Rawmarsh - close to Rosehill Park.

That was where I parked yesterday before walking to Wath-upon-Dearne, then on to Swinton and Kilnhurst. The coalmines have all gone thanks to Thatcher and her spiteful Tory henchmen - who were determined to bleed the very heart of Britain's coal mining industry back in the nineteen eighties. Yet the ghosts of our country's hundred year coalrush are less easily exorcised.

I was walking along streets and past buildings and fields that Mum knew well - before television, before air travel, before supermarkets and before World War II. That was a war that changed her life utterly and without it I wouldn't even be here. As a bright young office girl of nineteen, she joined the Women's Royal Airforce - the WAAF - and left grimy, parochial Rawmarsh behind. She was soon shipped to India where she worked in administration for the Royal Air Force in Delhi. It was there that she met Philip - a young officer in the meteorological department who was also a recently qualified primary school teacher from Malton, Yorkshire. That man was my father.

Images from the walk:-
Dec 5. 12 From Rawmarsh 002
13 Quarry Street, Rawmarsh
Dec 5. 12 From Rawmarsh 017
Rowan berries - Wath Golf Course - former coal-mining territority
Dec 5. 12 From Rawmarsh 047
The derelict Dearne and Dove canal at Swinton - for a hundred and forty years
it carried coal from the South Yorkshire coalfield
Dec 5. 12 From Rawmarsh 059
St Thomas's Church, Kilnhurst with a memorial to the local pit which "died" in 1989

Dec 5. 12 From Rawmarsh 063
Sad face - entrance to Kilnhurst church
Dec 5. 12 From Rawmarsh 074
Mum's old school - Rosehill, Rawmarsh


  1. What a lovely way to remember where you came from and who 'made' you...the photos are smashing and I love the berries one and the beautiful stone face...not like the ugly stone face I posted recently!

  2. How's the second novel coming along, YP? I have a space on my Kindle just waiting for it. ;)

  3. Me too.

    Did I tell you how much I enjoyed 'The Headland'? I hope so. I intended to, but these days I forget if I've done things.
    I especially enjoyed the everyday references to Yorkshire... encore!

  4. LIBBY Did you post a self-portrait recently? I missed it!...Ha! Ha! But thanks - that was a special walk.
    JENNY & KATHERINE Thanks for remembering... I wrote almost fifty thousand words of that novel and then we went on holiday and the "flow" stopped but it's still there and I am looking forward to reviewing it with fresh eyes before revising it and taking it on to its conclusion. Besides, soon I will be back in Bangkok where I'll have plenty of time to get my head down and write thousands more words. Perhaps I'll include a retired Welsh-Scouse primary school teacher and a Kiwi lady who lives by a river with a brush-tailed possum called Wilf. They may get to mud-wrestle!

  5. On every document other than my visa renewal form (which here one really has to take seriously), under 'Occupation' I write, 'Reclusive Alcoholic'. You'd be surprised how many times it passes without comment.

  6. HIPPO It would be great to have fun with bureaucracy like that. Why do they need to know our occupations anyway? Maybe I'll be a trapeze artist or a baby rabbit sexer...Thanks for the idea.


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