Second book in the Gift Trilogy

On Sale Now

On Sale Now
The Gift

Out Now!

Saturday, 31 March 2007

The Street

The Power-Station, a medieval castle, the Alamo, a Commando stronghold...depending.

Ribblesdale Avenue with power-station at far end.

This is a picture of May and her sisters Mary and Lily. The woman next to my mother is her friend, Dora. They're walking along Blackpool promanade. For me the picture is all about the sunny optimism of the early 1950's. It brings back the almost magical sense of community I remember as a child. Back doors were always open to children (like cat-flaps today) and the street was like a village with the shared experience of war.

The most important feature of Ribblesdale Avenue was the brick power station at its end. Beyond that was a small haulage yard, a few apple trees and the railway embankment. The power station had a decorative feature on either side of it: red brick protrusions, half and inch thick that allowed us access to the top.
That building was dominated much of our childhood. It doubled up as the Alamo, countless US Cavalry outposts, Spanish galleons, pirate ships, pill boxes against hard faced Germans, or creepily ferocious Japanese.

We never ran out of ammunition for the top of the power station was deeply gravelled and it made excellent grapeshot. Sometimes we would carry up our own stones, when the conflict was serious, the Germans more hard-faced than usual.

Our most usual weapon was the invisible gun - two fingers and a whistling cluck, the invisible rifle, an extended right arm supported by the left and two rigid fingers you sighted down. On each corner of the building were the machine gunners who’d erupt in loud staccato hiccups when the fighting got tough. We saw off Comanche, Apache, Arapaho; Mexicans charging across endless red plains; we saw off rustlers, Confederates, Japanese, SS, the Afrika corp. Our guns were most effective. The other side dying spectacular deaths, only to get up again - after a decent interval - brush themselves down, and continue the fight. It was a child’s Valhalla. When the battle was over we went in for tea.

How did our neighbour cope? They’d just fought world war 11. We were small beer.

When I think of it now, they were remarkable people bound together by remarkable events. All of them had either fought at sea or on land, and those too old to enlist had manned the anti-aircraft guns positioned on the railway embankment close to the street. For years after we scavenged shells, cartridge cases, helmets, gas-masks. Today we have play stations - which everyone knows are really for ‘oldies’ seeking active minds.


Andy Bruce said...

Did you know that the first letters of the avenues names spelled the builders name,that built them besides being places from the Lake District. ? There was allways a door behind the Ribblesdale entry with a letterbox that if you banged on it a big dog would have a fit and try and drag you through we thought as 4/5 yr olds. We used to call it the ghost entry, dont know why. It was a scary place, the mother of the chap who ran,was it called 'wyresdale motors' reputedly kept a loaded .45 gun to scare anyone off, I was told that by a chap who worked there. You mentioned dentists earlier on, I started with that episode unfortunately as again a kid with a doctor Lowe who I think was down on longmoor lane, I used to be dragged there and then carried home on dads shoulders spitting blood. You knew what was hapening on a thursday when they dragged you in because you could smell gas, and see the gas bottles there waiting for us. Later for some reason, we joined Chisholms opposit Wyresdale and he did look after me well. I remember sitting in his chair one day concentraiting on painters painting the shops opposite while he drilled and plugged my cavities. I think his son took over from him, and now I think it is still a dentists. Two lads that used to see us that might be between our ages were one called Gordon and the other called Wheeler, he lived in the bottom avenue I think. I remember that they were about late teenage years and me being about 9 I whipped out my 4" sheathed bowie knife and they both showed me proper ones. There was some sort of a problem and soon after I had to give Dads knife back and I had been caught urinating on the the wall by an old lady in the narrow entry as per one of your photo's. Trouble again! By the way, those big stone sets in your photo at the base of the boards or wall as it varied, I used to think were some old sleepers for railwaylines, They had iron brackets fixed in them some of which were still protruding and I remember a girl trying to climb the boards in Allendale falling down an landing on one . Her dad came with a hammer and bent them all over. INK they might have been sets used before sleepers?

Mike Keyton said...

Yes, I knew about the street names and the builder. I think my mum told me that. Here where you write:
We used to call it the ghost entry, dont know why. It was a scary place, the mother of the chap who ran,was it called 'wyresdale motors' reputedly kept a loaded .45 gun to scare anyone off, I was told that by a chap who worked there I found really interesting, because other than lurking Gestapo or the occasional Apache, these entries held no ghosts/terrors for us. It's fascinating how different generations create new myths. I do remember the scrap yard/motor yard because we were convinced it disguised the machinations of a criminal mastermind. It was an exciting place to climb over and explore.
By the way, and I think I asked Anonymous - I've forgotten - how did you stumble upon the blog?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, years ago I had afantastic book about the adventures of a Highwayman, who held up the north bound stages travelling up warbreck moor. Although semi fictitious it was based in our area and they used to make thier escape across country to The Bootle Arms which is still at melling you may recall. The Bootle arms was then a proper den of rogues and no enforcement officer would venture near. Anyway, they made a whole gripping novel about it that I havent read since my teens. I was hoping to get a copy again, and was googling every permutation in since I cant

Anonymous said...

cont; remember the name, Eg Highway men/ bootle arms/ warbreck moor etc, found your site in what seems mostly house prices, W.moor dentists and thought that looks interesting and there we are. Think Ive used up all my stuff now though, cheers Mike, Good luck with the page!

Mike Keyton said...

Thanks Anon. Funny how Warbreck moor brings up dentists. Thing is, now you've got me obsessing about Highway men and googling away.

Have you checked up on Ned King Highway man novels?

I did find this link which has excellent woodcuts but the book itself can't be the one, else you'd be older than me!
Thanks for breathing more life into Warbreck Moor. It may build. Who knows.

Anonymous said...

Hi MIke, No, but the book I got was old and plain, found in the house of a deceased lady who lived near melling, friends had bought the place and I scrounged the book. It was before colour was being used widely, perhaps on low budget stuff especially. Maybe 30's 40's 50's ?
I dont want to mess up your site with my non revelant stuff why not get me on an then delete it from your side, ? Andy

Anonymous said...

Hi Mike, We lived in Ribblesdale in the 80's and I knew May. She was quite frail then as I recall and we used to help her out with odd jobs when things went awry. I spent an occasional afternoon supping tea and biscuits with her. A lovely lady. Cheers.

Mike Keyton said...

Hi Anon, thanks for dropping by. Out of curiousity did you live at No. 16, the end house? My mum wrote of a lovely young couple who'd moved in there. Having said that, none of us are so young now are we :) If I'm barking up the wrong tree, it just goes to show that my mum was gregarious, and Ribblesdale was a very friendly street.

Anonymous said...

Yep, that would have been us. You are right, we are none of us as young as we were, but still young at heart! You are also right that it was a very friendly street. I remember lending May a hand with a burst pipe and being surprised that when I went under our floor (it was almost high enough to stand upright in), I could just pop through a large gap in the bricks to next door and make repairs under her floor without having to take any boards up in her house! Hardly secure, but they were different times I suppose.

Mike Keyton said...

Different times, exactly. I visit Facebook pages on Orrell Park and Walton. The people on it are great, but its so dispiriting to read about all the crime and anti social behaviour that seems prevalent.

Unknown said...

The woman with the hidden gun was called mrs sawyer,her son bob owned wyresdale motors

Mike Keyton said...

I remember Sawyer's yard. It had an apple tree and we sometimes got a clipped ear if caught scrumping. didn't know it was her son who owned Wyresdale Motors. For us it was just an adventure playground.
Thanks for the comment. Every so often, I learn more and more