It’s nearly three weeks now since Lyn and I moved from Thames Ditton to Rotherham. Since then, it’s been jolly cold, as it seems to have been everywhere in the UK, and full Lockdown in England has been in place until today, when anyone who’s hard(y) and/or desperate enough can go and drink outside (but not inside) a pub. Fortunately, barbers and hairdressers can also now open, which means I no longer have any excuse for looking like a member of the Hair Bear Bunch.
What that all means is that we’ve not been out of the house much. We’ve found a lovely woodland, which contains evidence of human life going back to the Bronze Age. Curiously, it was whilst walking round it last weekend that we bumped into our new neighbours, who are very nice and kind.
I’ve tried several different running routes, chosen by looking at my copy of the A to Z of Sheffield and Rotherham, but what that publication doesn’t show, of course, is the contours of the land. There are no flat roads or paths anyway around here – you’re either climbing a very steep gradient, which I confess I quite like, or going down one, which I don’t like, because I always fear that I might get shin splints unless I put the brakes on. My thighs and ankles have never taken so much punishment in such a short space of time. I’m beginning to sound like the Hunchback of Rother Hame, bellowing ‘The hills, the hills’ to anyone who’ll listen.
I’ve been pondering the socioeconomic differences between Thames Ditton and Rotherham. The tables below, of ONS data for 2016–2018, relate to the local authority areas in which the two places are situated:
I can’t be alone in thinking that such marked differences are scandalous. Of the 317 Tier 1 and Tier 2 local authority areas in England in 2019, Rotherham was the 50th most deprived and Elmbridge the 310th. Is anyone foolish enough to believe that our present government truly cares about addressing such inequalities as these? Opinion polls suggest that they are, which makes me very sad. Not that the last Labour government, 1997–2010, did much to ‘level up’, in today’s parlance, either.
The books I’ve read prior to, and since, our move include: the Collected Poems of Moya Cannon, the simplicity of which have an accumulative power and brilliance; Scouse Mouse, the last volume of George Melly’s memoirs, which is packed full of details and entertaining incidents from his childhood in 1930s Liverpool; and Lydia Kennaway’s superb pamphlet of poems, A History of Walking.
I’ve written nothing new of note for several months now. I suppose that’s to be expected given the move. Yesterday, I did my first reading this year, as part of the Red Door Poets events. It seemed to go well, though apparently the Wi-Fi kept making my voice dip out. Whilst it’s great that online readings (and workshops) can attract people from anyone on the planet, it will be lovely to return to in-person readings – Covid permitting, of course.