Worn. [The Great Escape, day 1]

WP_20160703_17_32_03_ProA sunny Sunday in Haworth.

No traffic. No urban buzz.

Just gentle tourists bumbling around, collecting pollen (in cake form) from the cafes and the bakery. Some, wearing Joni Mitchell’s ‘passport smiles’, hail from foreign countries.

They’ve done the Parsonage and possibly the church. Now they’re browsing the shops and small galleries.

Sampling the ale at olde worlde inns.

WP_20160703_17_15_57_ProNavigating the cobbles lying underfoot. Cobbles of different sizes, different shapes. Some shredded by old faults.

Stone is all around us, above and below us.

Steps worn into concavity by the passing of many feet.

Buildings cleaned, many years ago, of a century’s worth of soot, catching shadows again, as the dust of cleaner times accumulates.WP_20160703_15_53_46_Pro




Church and apothecary, pubs and shops. The old Co-operative Society, sadly gone, except for the sign cut into the stone.

The station where the steam trains run, bedecked in summer flowers, garnished with gleaming paintwork. Heaps of shining anthracite, waiting to feed the iron beasts.

As the day wanes a sound comes from the school the Reverend Brontë established: many hands clapping as the poetry performance we’ve missed comes to an end.

A woman in a bright full skirt with many net petticoats knocks on the next door house, delivering a birthday present. For a dog.

A doggy-kerchief.

How silly.

And with that, a burden has been lifted.

Last week was pretty grim in England. Well, that’s if you’re interested in politics. And believe we belong in the European Union.

‘We’ English folk (and the Welsh) voted to leave the EU. Scotland didn’t. Northern Ireland didn’t. But ‘we’ did.

The area where I live didn’t either, but that’s tough. We’re part of England. And contrary to what some (rather snipey) people have said, I accept the verdict. I have no choice.

That doesn’t mean I’m happy. I’m not. I still wake each morning feeling normal and it’s lasting a little longer, now, that normality, but then I remember what ‘we’ have done.

It’s wearing, that feeling of bereft-ness.

By Wednesday of last week I felt worn to a frazzle. Started looking for a place to escape, to recover.

Some force above – or at least beyond me – guided my hands to type ‘self-catering Haworth’ into a search engine. That same force came up with ‘romantic retreat for two’ as its first link. I looked no further. Clicked. Rang. Booked. And here we are.

And here, all is well. All manner of things are well.

Shh don't tell we also ate this - chocolate teardrop filled with cinder toffee ice cream

Shh don’t tell we also ate this – chocolate teardrop filled with cinder toffee ice cream

Last night we ate at the pub where Branwell Bronte drank. Hard by the apothecary’s shop where he bought his opium.

And later, opium-free, but drugged with a little red wine and fed with a local game pie, we slept well for the first time in a week or more.


Today, the promised rain and grey clouds are nowhere to be seen. Yet.

Rooks caw. A robin sits on a telegraph wire.

DSCN1773Through the window opposite the bed where I’m lazing, drinking tea, I see stone-tiled roofs under a blue sky, streaked with hazy clouds.

Beyond them is a slate-roofed Victorian church where the Brontës all lie buried and where poor Reverend Brontë preached.

It’s a reminder, this happy weather, that, now and then, the Brontës would have had merry times. That not all their lives were spent living with tragedy and the miseries of which they wrote.

Here, in the old forge, in a courtyard, we’re surrounded by small, inward facing cottages. There’s no privacy outside the house walls.

DSCN1766Charming now, but in Brontë-days the salt-glazed chimney pots would have been dirty with coal smoke. Privvies in the yard probably stank to high heaven in the warmth of the sun.

It’s peaceful now, but then, horses’ iron-shod hooves would be striking sparks from the cobbles.

Wooden wheels clattering. The smith at work, iron resounding on iron in the confined space, echoing through the smoky dwellings above and around.

A cacophony joined by voices, barrels and clogs.

And smells.

People coughing in the streets, some in the early stages of consumption, others with bronchitis. Venting congested lungs, fuelled by coal smoke curling from many chimneys.

All gone. Except the chimneys. And a pair of old wooden-soled, lace-up leather clogs hanging from an elderly woman’s washing line post.

And so, as the sun shines on the church roof I feel blessed – and grateful.

An old hymn plays in my head.

“Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire

Speak through the earthquake wind and fire

O still small voice of calm

O still small voice of calm.”

And I realise, I’m happy.WP_20160704_10_38_36_Pro


This entry was posted in Art, jaunts & going out, Yorkshire and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Worn. [The Great Escape, day 1]

  1. Christa says:

    This is lovely, Mary. I am so glad you are having a break from the nightmare….. and you write so evocatively, I can see and hear the ghosts.


    • Thanks Christa – I think this is my Beaumaris. I love the place and to experience it in fabulous weather – I feel truly blessed. Wait till yo see the pictures in day 2! x


      • Christa says:

        I must definitely go there. I am ashamed to admit I have never been….. So, two literary pilgrimages I am promising myself: Haworth, and Plymouth Grove, Manchester.


        • If you decide to go and need a b&b let me know there’s a lovely one near the parsonage. Went back to Thornton (a place I was v happy as a child) today and had special darjeeling and a limone pastry in a hipster cafe (the only hipster thing about poor old Thornton) and a peek into the teeny 2 up 2 down house where Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell were born. Elizabeth Gaskell’s Charlotte is apparently far from accurate and my turn to be ashamed, I haven’t even read North and South! x


  2. Liz ferguson says:

    Glad that life is getting back to normal…ish ! Life goes on and whatever it’s not boring .


    • Indeed, it’s been a tonic but I can’t say I’m looking forward to getting back. Day 2 has some fab pictures – do take a look – Bronte country as you’ve possibly never seen it – sunny and gorgeous!x


  3. Judy Barnes says:

    Good to hear that you’re happy and having some time out. I enjoyed your words… as always Mary. Xo


    • Hope you like the pictures of the grim north in the next one – it has been so fab and we have been so lucky with the weather, it is unheard of! I am reluctant to go ‘home’. But hey. life must go on… And my office must be cleared and the holes in the ceiling mended! xx


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