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A fond memory

Yesterday morning, I took the opportunity of being in Oldham to walk back to a place with memories - Victoria Street, Chadderton, to see what has become of it. Coming down Middleton Road, Chadderton Town Hall still stands on the corner.



My Aunt Gladys - really one of my great aunts; my mother's aunt - was of strong Lancashire stock, but moved to London before our family did - in the 1950s - and worked for many years as the company nurse at Glacier Metals near Hangar Lane. As the son of two single parents, and with only one grandparent beyond 1963 or 1964, apparently distant relatives were really close, and I remember many happy visits up from Petts Wood to Northolt to spend the weekend with Aunt Gladys, and being happily allowed to do more or less anything including rearranging her hair in a way that must have been fearsome to sort out later. In those days, Gladys lived with her older sister Clara and Clara's husband Jack; they emigrated to South Africa in due course and after a further period Gladys moved back, in retirement and still a "Miss", to High Crompton - sharing a bungalow in Netherhouse Road with here other older sister Ethel and her husband Jack. Lots of Jacks around. And - another welcoming house that at time felt like a second home as I travelled the UK for pleasure in my teens.



So - why am I walking up Victoria Street in Chadderton towards the old Manor mill, and photographing the old terrace houses?

To our surprise (well, mine at least), aunt Gladys got married to Jim - the brother of Jack (the one now in south Africa) and move in to his terrace in Chadderton and - goodness - another truely welcoming home; for sure I popped in to see Ethel and Jack, who moved in time to Salt Street right near Shaw and Crompton, but when I was travelling free and easy my real stopping point was Victoria street. A toasty-warm little house. A fondness for Victorian terraces. A back yard and alleyway and the next back yard. An Aga for hot water and food.



Alas, some of those houses of gone - a patchwork of modernisation in which much has been lost. And, alas, Jim and Gladys passed away and even now - decades later - I both shed a tear and remember a funeral that was a celebration. Gladys was a primitive Methodist though never pushed religion and the open casket was both horrifying and fascinating. And the party afterwards - at an old blackened pub beside the road high up to the moors, and catching up with Anne and Barbara, David and Judith - Ethel and Jack's two daughters and grandchildren. How time has passed already, with Judith (who as a three or four year old) I has swung around in games that would remind Lisa of "pappouse", very much the find lady, and I believe the kid had gone far and got herself highly qualified. I know I've left a brother out there, but memories are patchy and some people make their mark where others do so less.



The Chimney at the Manor Mill still stands. Where so many old mills have gone, and others are derelict, this seems to have a proud new lease of life.



And the house where Jim and Gladys lived still stands too. In my early morning walk, one of the doors popped open and a couple of bubbling school kids, day-start smart in their uniforms, dropped out and they turned up the road toward the bus stop. Good to see the old houses are still homes. Good to celebrate the homliness of Oldham. And proud to celebrate a lady who was a positive and loving influence on me far beyond what the norm, or her family relationship, might have suggested. As I head back south this evening, writing this in the train, all the other things I need to do are forgotten and trivialised as I remember.
(written 2013-10-02, updated 2013-10-05)

 
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Extended Weekend - but not a quiet one!
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