Thursday, April 7, 2011

G is for Gloucester


OK. Gosh. I never thought this A-Z challenge would be easy but to be fair I didn't think it would be so hard either.

When you write for a living you learn to write through the bad times as well as the good ones.

But I can certainly say under normal circumstances I wouldn't be blogging tonight. Sleeping, albeit fitfully seems like a better idea. And maybe too I am detecting a lethargy from some of those fellow bloggers out there too who set off at such an enthusiastic clip. The initial following frenzy seems to have eased off. I just wish I had more time to read the blogs of all these new followers. Unfortunately blogging duty calls.

So, in terms of a marathon, 'g' is the bit where you realize you have lost your first wind, but there's still a long blog slog ahead and you want to save some of that energy for the end. My role as Michael Caine's body double in Zulu - that kind of thing.

I've never run a marathon but I've run a couple of half marathons, the first in Gloucester - cue clumsy cogs that turn slowly into the theme of today's blog.



I'm not really from anywhere. When Americans ask me I always say London because it was the last place I lived in Britain and, chances are they may have heard if. But if I'm from anywhere I'm from Gloucester where I lived for a good decade and went to school.

Gloucester's a funny place because it's frequently overlooked or written off as unappealing and industrial.

Yet if you shoved it in the middle of America, it would probably become a major tourist attraction. For a start it's historic. Its center The Cross, follows the lines of the original Roman city of Glevum built a few decades after the death of Christ.

Gloucester boasts a massive cathedral that has been a place of worship for 900 years, although it's not on the A list of Britain's cathedrals with Canterbury, Westminster Abbey, Salisbury, York Minster, Lincoln and Durham.

And hidden down a winding street in the cathedral close is the Tailor of Gloucester Beatrix Potter Museum and Shop, celebrating the author's book and sketches of the city.

Even the old docks that were rat infested and derelict warehouses when my family first moved to Gloucester have now been converted into waterside restaurants and antique stores.

Despite this my memories of growing up in Gloucester aren't sophisticated ones. They revolve around historic pubs that were frequented by louts with ill grown moustaches; they involve fights and stolen bicycles. They revolve and revolve until the room of some badly lit pool room starts to spin.

Gloucester had rugby and machismo, but there was little sophistication. It had a chip on the shoulder that's typical of provincial English market towns. While nearby Cheltenham had its grand Georgian boulevards, the literary festival and the races, Gloucester had shabby concrete shopping precincts with fountains that never worked.

I'd like to think I grew up watching art house movies in bijou venues but the reality was a bag of Wotsits on the broken seast of the Odeon which watching a Rocky movie with a girl who looked a lot better in the dark, although that didn't stop her trying to grab one's Wotsits.



Spiritualism didn't happen much on the streets of Gloucester but there were the occasional tranquil moments when I walked the cathedral cloisters in spendid isloation and wondered if I would have turned out differently if I hadn't gone to a comprehensive school but had instead been instructed in Latin at the fee paying cathedral school.

Perhaps because of the memories of so many queasy nights, I couldn't wait to escape from Gloucester.

But later when I worked in London for a number of papers, one was based in Gloucester. I went back and the old streets seemed familiar but strangely different, my old school shruken in stature while the weeds had grown, my old estate long past its 1970s prime and falling into disrepair.

Most disturbing of all, I saw a grubby guy begging in the streets of the city center. He looked disconcertingly familiar. As I walked past I realized I'd been looking at Gallager from my school, a kid who dropped out to sniff glue and take just about every substance known to man and Keith Richards.

Could it really be that while I had spend two decades working all over the country and seeing as much of the world I could afford to, he had been rotting away on the streets of Gloucester?

It made me think of a Smiths song but I'm not sure which one.

10 comments:

  1. Some beautiful architecture there David. Apart from that it doesn't sound like a nice place - which is a pity really.

    Grandpa
    Life on The Farm

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  2. So you did turn out differently, spiritual or not....Steeped in history but lost in the race to modernity, that sums up your old base for me....As always, interesting tit bits from a world that is different from the mainstream projections.

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  3. Yes, I definitely started hitting a wall around F. (F'en F. I sense it'll be downhill or nothing from here.) You, on the other hand, show no signs of lethargy with these well written, rich posts.
    xoRobyn

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  4. thanks Grandpa, but it has it's nice parts. Thanx Rek, I like to be different from mainstream projections. No really Robyn but you are too kind, last night was difficult and I may hit an 'h' wall - but I hope they day off will give me time to regroup my thoughts etc.

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  5. Doing the A-Z challenge too. Great pictures and layout.

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  6. Makes me thinkg of the Pogues "Dirty Old Town".

    You may be tired, but your writing doesn't show it. I enjoyed this piece!

    Pearl

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  7. Thanks again for a great read of a place far from Colorado. I enjoyed the gritty realism and juxtaposed quaintness of Gloucester.

    Cheers!
    Julie
    Julie Magers Soulen Photography

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  8. Interesting post, David. The end saddened me. Well done.

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  9. Thanks Standard. I will have to check out yours. It's fairly scenic Oilfield. Glad you enjoyed it Pearl, thanks. Gld you liked it Julie. You are too kind Daisy/

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