The fight to save Northern England’s historic mills

Interior of Dalton Mills in Keighley, Bradford — ¬©Historic England

The history of the textile mills of the north of England is one that must not be lost. It is a story too precious to forget. It is the story of industrial revolution, of a way of life that defined and indeed oppressed many people, it highlighted the disparity between privilege and poverty which led to the some of the most important reform of the last few centuries. The poor were given a voice, the privileged few demonstrated their gluttony and the resulting legislation is the reason why today we see injustice and say, “this isn’t right, they can’t do that”. It’s because someone once spoke up and said, “I’m going to speak up now so that people don’t have to in the future” and died hoping they were right and that future generations would continue demanding that their rights be honoured.

As always, with history, this isn’t just an old building. It represents, like a toy from your youth, like a family heirloom, like a recipe, a part of who we are — all of us — why we are what we are today and where we can look for answers about how to change tomorrow. Letting these relics get erased is a sure way to insult the advancements of previous generations and doom ourselves to face the same challenges again, ignorant of our past. Tyrants never forget history. In fact, they use history to see how much farther they can push the envelope. Tragically, the rest of us never seem to care to remember the fight of those that came before. Because we think we’re unique. We think everything happens to us and has never happened before. We think ‘this is different’. We think we’re modern and ‘those people, well those people lived in the past’. Except it’s not different. At it’s core, the human experience is the same. Time and time again. And you live in the present, knowing far more and with more at your disposal than they in the past had, which begs the question: what’s your excuse for forgetting the past?

Textile mills and other such historic relics aren’t just old buildings that cost money to maintain. They are tombstones that mark something and someone important. Their effects and their stories offer lessons that stretch far beyond England and matter to us all. And any effort to let them stand proudly and command their skyline should be applauded and supported.

For more information on what can be done to help save the mills of the north of England, visit:
https://www.historicengland.org.uk/get-involved/protect/mills-of-the-north/

Bowlly. Two years later.

It was two years ago this week that we brought Bowlly home. Just weeks before, he had been rescued from living on the street in Paris near Palais Garnier, chained to a chair, helping beg for money that was probably never used to feed him or care for him properly. If the terrified and defensive emotional state we received him in is any indication, he was surely, as the woman who rescued him described, living life as a function and an object, not as an animal.

And yet, given the right behavioural nurturing and healthy food, one of the benefits animals have over us is that they can be rehabilitated to a point where they don’t retain the memory of their past in the same way that humans do. Removing the conditions that have caused pain and fear in the past is usually enough to make an animal regain confidence. Though Bowlly isn’t, of course, capable of this level of introspection, I do think where he is today is a way of remembering to remain positive. And so this song posted below, sung by the man he was named after (due to both of them having light, trilled voices and a similar sharply parted ‘hairstyle’) has come to be for us a sort of anthem for him and his way of being so rambunctiously joyful today despite having spent his first three years in such deplorably horrible circumstances. Historically, the song is an anthem of its era. A 1930s popular song from a musical of the same name expressing a commonly felt sentiment of its British Depression times and while generally upbeat, there’s a bitter sweetness to its tender longing. But that’s for another blog post…

It was a relatively difficult few months last summer in the events leading up to us leaving France and all its associated annoyances and challenges, some of which still linger today like a crackle in one’s breathing from a weeks old chest infection. Bowlly in our lives helps us in ways he’ll never understand, keeping us positive by remembering that nothing we’ve gone through is as bad as what he went through and to remember that one can not change what has happened, nor can one always design the options one is given. But one can choose how one reacts.

Now when we hear this song we think of our Bowlly and how despite what he went through, he’s happy today nevertheless due to our efforts and the efforts of friends in two countries who have met him who probably don’t realise how much their understanding and gentle touch have helped him come out of his shell. The only way we can thank him for what we’ve learned observing him over the last two years is to make sure he lives like a star. A small in stature, unassuming star, like his namesake.

“I’m looking on the bright side, though today’s all care and strife.
I can wear a grin, keeping up my chin, looking on the bright side of life.”

The Ramses II Discovery and Colossal Egos

In what might be one of the most fascinating historical discoveries in the world since the British discovery of Bronze Age settlements in East Anglia last year, an artifact was unearthed this week in Cairo. The Colossus or large statue of Ramses II who ruled 3000 years ago was found near where his temple once stood. He was one of the most powerful rulers in Egypt, reigning for 66 years. Needless to say, they didn’t talk about term limits in those days.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that this statue is likely older than anything around you at this very moment wherever you happen to be sitting, it’s fascinating if a bit challenging to get one’s head around the fact that this statue was buried all this time without being spotted. Buried, in fact, in roughly the same spot as the entire world that belonged to those people 3000 years ago, known today only to Ancient Egyptian History enthusiasts, historians, and archaeologists. What exactly of whatever that man thought of himself, of his prominence, of his importance, or indeed of his reign of power, matters today other than as a period in history?

Ramses II, to the Greeks, was known as Ozymandias. In romantic English poet Percy Shelley’s poem of the same name, a man finds a statue of the famed pharaoh, and sees a pedestal on the statue that reads,

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

However, the man says in response to this boastful declaration,

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Timely, I thought, that this statue of the powerful ruler immortalised in Shelley’s poem should be unearthed from relative obscurity despite all his prowess and magnitude, at our current moment in history when we seem surrounded by several leaders (apparent or actual) claiming their eminence, and yet seemingly oblivious to their own arrogance in thinking they’ll ever matter to anyone in the future. They might consider, if they’re not too enamoured by their self-proclaimed brilliance, whether they’ll leave behind anything more than a failed attempt to transcend and a pile of rubble.