Wild is the Wind


Buxton in Derbyshire- ever heard of it? It’s a spa town one thousand feet above sea level, built among the rolling, pitching hills and moorland of the Peak District.

Being so high, it has its own micro climate. There’s many a time I’ve caught the train from Stockport on the way to visit my mum, and as the engine pauses at each little station- Davenport, Woodsmoor, Hazel Grove– the grass beyond the window becomes low and scrubby –Middlewood, Disley, New Mills– the incline of the track grows steeper- Furness Vale, Whaley Bridge– and there might even be a smattering of snow on the limestone peaks. By Chapel-en-le-Frith the temperature in the carriage begins to dip and once the Dove Holes scrap yard has flown past the window, you know you only have five minutes to grab your bag from the rack and wrap up warm.

Brace yourself is my advice. It’s usually windy, always a few degrees colder than even Dove Holes (pronounced Duvuls by some locals) and most streets rise up or round a hill, meaning that in the winter you struggle up or slide down to the shops. Every road out of town snakes through open moorland, so most years it’s cut off from the outside world as the snow descends, and when it does, it feels as though the town itself hunkers down to wait for the thaw.

When I was twelve, we moved into a house similar to the ones in the picture above. See the funny dormer window, jutting out of the roof? That would’ve been my bedroom, the one I shared with my fifteen year old brother. Even the sandstone’s similar, except ours was sooty and blackened from a century of coal burning.

I remember ice on the inside of that little window: hunched by a one bar electric heater, colouring in my Doodle Art posters: listening to Wild is the Wind by Bowie, the scratch as the arm lifted from the record, the click as it settled into the opening grove- that song always on repeat.

I tried to paint a mural on that sloping roof-wall. It was intended to be a castle-topped crag, fire-breathing dragons swooping majestically around the turrets. But the paper was wood-chip so impossible to paint on and anyway my artistic skills let me down. Dissatisfied by my ow inadequacy, I went off the whole idea. I still remember being offended when my mum painted over my grey and black splodges.

I don’t have many shining memories of that house. We’d left behind a semi on the outskirts of town, a vegetable garden and the wilderness of the hills, for a terrace near the town centre, where there was nothing but a mossy-flagged back yard and the serenade of drunks singing and laughing their way home from the pub.

I passed through the years of mental illness people call their teens in that house. I skipped school from there, scraped a few ‘O’ Levels and dropped out of ‘A’ Levels, all whilst sleeping under that roof, staring through that dormer window.

And now I live in another terrace house. It’s in the South-West of England, where the weather is many degrees warmer and the spring flowers come up a good four weeks before they do in Buxton. I still live on a hill, but because the winters are kinder, the Gulf Stream closer, we don’t hunker under the same snow-laden skies.

And anyway, I look on that old house more kindly now. I’ve walked past it several times since we all moved out and it’s bright and cheery, a pleasant family home.

It seems the blackness left the place when I did. Funny that.

Writing 101- Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old?Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

PS Can’t believe I forgot Wild is the Wind when I talked about my favourite songs the other week…


How to love you kitchen cupboards

Our kitchen is scruffy.

The windowsill cradles an array of dessicated cacti, swagged with dusty spiders’ webs. Oh, yes, I know I could grab a cloth and clean the spiky little blighters, but I don’t. It’s not because I’m a terrible housewife, though that is certainly true, having always thought there were better things to do with my time- use this blog to rattle on about being a bad housewife, for one. But the webs also stay because I don’t want to evict their creators and (being an old Goth at heart) I like the feeling that I live in a Haunted House fairground ride.

Our kitchen units were installed in the days of Bananarama, shoulder pads and mobile phones the size of house bricks, so the cupboard doors drop at the hinges now and the drawers sag so that you have to complete a clever push-down-and-pull-out manoeuvre just to open them- a move so complex it could become a new Olympic sport.

You won’t see granite worktops or marble slabs for making pastry. Our worktops are a plasticised artificial wood, complete with painted grain and knots, just to add some class. We don’t have steel racks for pots of herbs or bottles of wine, we don’t have spotlights or a portable island for chopping lemon grass and mooli. And it’s mint green- a misguided attempt on my part to make it bright and airy. Unfortunately, when the sun shines, the paintwork bounces the light, so we all look like we’re suffering from jaundice.

Worried it all sounds pretty depressing? Then look at the cupboard doors.

No, not the exposed chipboard corners and the appointment cards for dental check-ups– look at the pieces of flapping, damp-crinkled paper. There’s a certificate my son received from school for supporting other students in their work: a photograph of the solar system reproduced in flower petals: a self-portrait my son drew in felt tip pen, his face so bright pink, it looks as though he’s been dipped in beetroot juice: a drawing of a Dalek: a drawing of an alien called ‘The Consumer’: a piece he wrote in admiration of the amazing Mae Jemison .

And then there’s the photographs: my lovely son, aged three wearing a stripy woollen hat that’s slipped rakishly over one eye: the same lovely son, aged a few months old, with the biggest, maddest smile and a pint of dribble splattered over his delighted face.

So, it’s tatty, full of spiders and needs gutting, but thanks to my son, the kitchen is a joyful place to be.

Thanks to the Daily Post for the prompt!