Daily Archives: November 18, 2007

A taste of the grim past

When I lived in Sheffield in the early 1990s, it had become a very pleasant city. In fact it’s probably the nicest place I’ve lived and worked. But like many of England’s cities, it has a very different past, as a centre of large-scale heavy industry, under a regular pall of heavy smoke from a great forest of huge chimneys. Sheffield’s Kelham Island Industrial Museum brought the city’s grim past to life like no other: I think I found it more evocative even than seminal works of industrial Britain like Dickens’ Hard Times.

Now over the past couple of weeks, an echo of industrial-revolution hell has come to Tavistock. The road I live on runs in an east-north-east direction from the town centre, and up a hill. That’s precisely the direction of our prevailing wind[1]. There isn’t (usually) too much crap coming from the town centre, but it leaves me right in the path of it when someone a few doors down the hill burns coal. Because I’m above the level of their chimney, it billows throughout my flat: I expect the original occupants of the house would’ve gone downstairs at times like this, but that’s not an option since it was converted to flats. And it’s an inefficient domestic fire that belches out soot and carbon monoxide, and no doubt other nasties. Now it’s got to the stage of lingering: on Friday I returned home having been out for about two hours, and when I put my home-pullover[2] on, it smelt faintly of soot.

Sigh. Yet another reason to escape. Bah, Humbug.

[1] Hence why the “East End” of our cities is always the main area of poverty and slums – noone who could afford it wanted to live downwind of the city.

[2] Comfortable and once nice, but now far too tatty to be seen in outside the home. And I’m … erm … not known for my sartorial elegance at the best of times.