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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley »


It’s April 2000 and I’m 64 and in good health. Any of you who have read through the memoir so far will realise that I’ve spent a fair bit of time since last June sitting her in the kitchen and banging away on this bloody keyboard. It has been quite an experience!

When I started this I was quite clear about what I was doing, I wanted to give my children, grandchildren and anyone who came after a better idea of what I was like and what I did in my life than I have of either of my grandfathers. I took care of my father when I recorded his life story and transcribed it so you will have had the benefit of that. I didn’t do enough with my mother and I’m sorry for that. However, warts and all, you now have some inkling about me! So far so good.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to this interim conclusion. (I say interim because there’s plenty of life in me yet and who knows how many chapters I might add on before I finally die!) I found out that sitting down and writing your life down can have some very strange effects. Things that happened years ago suddenly pop back into the conscious and in some cases bring with them explanations and reasons for consequences that you’d never recognised. The ones that spring to mind are my thoughts about divorce, I’d never realised who I was angry about until I wrote it down. The fact that I had been sexually abused and bullied when I was a child and the consequences. Perhaps the most important thing of all, I began to get some clues as to what components of my character had been most influential in my life so far. In other words, how I had managed the events in my life and what the results have been. I suppose that this is the main area I’d like to think had been of help to my children down the years who read this.

I remember my dad once saying to me that it didn’t matter what the outside world thought about anything you do, what matters is whether you can justify it honestly to yourself. If you can, get on and do it because it is the right thing. He never said it but what he also meant was that if you procrastinate when a decision needs to be taken you’ll miss the boat. When things get so complicated that you are swamped with different opinions and advise the thing you have to do is to go somewhere quiet, think the whole thing out and having come to a conclusion, ask yourself whether this is an honest process and whether you are prepared to live with the consequences. Having satisfied these criteria, you take action. This is the cure for worry and sorts the good ones out from the others. It all sounds a bit arrogant but look back at your own lives and identify how you make important decisions, I’ll bet you end up agreeing with me.

Many a time you will find that you have to put with flak after making one of these decisions, W C Fields once said that the nice guys never get anything done, it’s the bastards that make progress. I don’t go for that view 100% but there’s a lot of truth in it. In the end, you have to live with yourself, nobody can help you, it helps if you are straight in your mind about your actions and aren’t living with a lot of baggage like what might have been.

All right, would I have changed anything? Nope, I like where I am now and if I change anything in my life, chaos theory states that the rest of my life would have been different and I wouldn’t have wanted that to happen. There have been good bits and bad bits, you will get just the same mixture. The bad bits fade with time, there is always an end to them and the good bits just go on building. I realise that this wouldn’t be true of someone who had been put in a gas chamber at Auschwitz in WW11, the difference is that I have been lucky and this never happened.

On Boxing Day evening last year I was on the way back up the M6 coming back from Daniel and Georgie’s at Monmouth and found myself sliding sideways at 65mph towards a ruck of cars all smashed into each other on a freak patch of ice. I remember thinking “Oh shit, and I thought I was going to survive the century!” Instinct took over, I put my foot down, found a gap and shot through the mess emerging on a clear road the other side. I lost a wing in the process but apart from that all was OK so I kept going until I got home. Never mind what got me through, most of it was luck and years of experience, I was acting on instinct. The point is that it was one of those events that could have been terminal. My name wasn’t on the card so I got through. This can happen any time and there is nothing you can do to stop it or avoid it. That’s when my dad’s providence that looks after drunken men etc. comes in. All you do is take a deep breath, say thank you God and carry on.

So, life’s a lottery. You do your own risk management and don’t take too much notice of the mass of information coming in from outside telling you all the things you have to worry about. Use your head and assess the risk yourself. How many people would bother to have kids if they took notice of all the dire warnings coming in from the experts. You have to grab hold of your optimism, jump in and get on with it, otherwise the human race comes to an end. Vera and I used to muse in the 50’s about what sort of changes our kids would see and how they would cope with what we saw as a very dangerous world. Remember we were under the very real threat of all-out atomic warfare. We had seen World War, times were hard, what incentive was there for us to have kids? We made our decisions, had Margaret, Susan and Janet and I can’t believe that Margaret is 40 this year! She’s middle-aged for Christ’s sake! How did it happen?

Enough of the advice, what am I doing now that I’m retired, terminally disabled and facing death very shortly? Well, I’ve not given anything up! I’m still smoking my pipe, eating far too much fat and am in rude health and thoroughly enjoying myself. I’ve written the memoirs so I don’t feel guilty about leaving you lot in the dark and I’ve decided how I am going to attack the writing of the history of Barnoldswick. I’m getting everything to a straight edge before I go off to the States and my travels in Europe this year so that when I get back I can crack on with some serious writing.

At the risk of boring you I’ll lay out my view of what history is all about. I was asked not long ago as part of an interview that’s going into the archives as a memorial to the 20th century whether I was a patriot. I told them certainly not! How could I be with a pedigree like mine, who am I going to patriot for? Which flag do I wrap round myself? Besides, I’ve seen what patriotism leads to, war and death. One word of advice, whenever you see someone using patriotism as an argument to do something, avoid them like the plague and oppose their view because it is dreadfully flawed. I told them in the interview that I’m a Barlicker. My town, my friends and my history are what give meaning to my life. I go out on a walk and everything I see has significance for me from a bank and a hedgerow to a fold in the ground or a group of people sat on a form.

I hate history which is nothing but a regurgitation of facts culled from materials written by other people who have, in turn, culled other archives. I’m not saying there is no room for research into old documents and materials but it should only be used as reinforcement for history gained from prime source material. This is the evidence from good archaeology, oral history, personal experience and the built environment or artefacts. This will be the foundation of what I write about Barlick, my experience, what I have learned from walking the ground and the interviews I did for the LTP. It won’t be complete, it might not be believed but I shall be able to justify everything I say. It will be written not as a ‘history book’ but as a story for Barlickers. I want to give the town something they will enjoy reading and learn at the same time. Of course, it may all turn out to be a failure and they won’t read it but at the very least I will leave a body of original thought about the history of the town which might be useful to people researching the place in the future. I will have been honest and I will have tried. You can’t do any better than that!

Then there is the workshop at the back of the house. I haven’t said a lot about that but I can’t feel comfortable without a lathe or two and some milling machines and hand tools in the house! I’ve got six sets of castings for steam engines and other sets for various small things I want to make and I’ll give some time to that when I need a rest from the hard work of writing history. Then there’s the dark room, the office, the books, no chance of me getting bored. The only problem is finding the time to fit all these things in!

I’m looking after myself, I’m a good cook and I don’t eat anything that isn’t natural and cooked by me. I have my whisky in the morning for medicine and take my vitamin pills regularly. In short, I’m doing all I can to make sure I’m around to annoy for a long time yet. For those of you who come after I die, don’t be sad, I have no fear of death and if it all ended tomorrow there would be no sweat, it’s been a wonderful and interesting ride. I’d like to think that we would have got on well together, one thing is certain, I’d never have let you down! Try to be the same yourself, invest your love and affection in other people and reap the reward. In the end it’s people that matter. You, who are reading this were the reason for my life. You can only leave two things behind you when you die, your kids and your work. I like the look of the kids, it’s the work I have to finish off now. Talk to you again in another twenty years!

Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!
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