We are back from a rather meandering road trip around parts of the country which somehow managed to evoke several of my heroes, many of whom I have previously mentioned in these 'pages'.
The ending of our half term holiday in the West Country coincided with a celebratory concert given by a political folk singer friend of ours [and hero!] - Roy Bailey. He was 75 last month. Picture above and click on the blog title to go to his website. Roy Bailey is a good friend of another of my political heroes, Tony Benn, and in fact they perform together in a 'gig' called The Writing on The Wall which is basically the history of dissent. There is a brilliant CD of this available from Roy's website [no I am not on commission!] I have seen them perform this gig many times, the last time at the British Library in 2009 during the BL's Taking Liberties: The Struggle for Britain’s Freedoms and Rights season.
Roy's concerts always feature him talking about his political beliefs and influences. On Sunday he was talking about two more of my heroes and influences - Paul Robeson and Joe Hill.
Our journey to Sheffield took us via East Midlands Airport, where we stayed at a nearby hotel on Saturday evening. However it was slightly alarming when watching President Obama [of course a hero of mine!] speaking about the foiled bomb plot on the Friday evening news to hear him mention East Midlands Airport.
When we left the East Midlands we travelled onto Sheffield via a circuitous route to take in places we had not previously visited. Driving through Matlock we passed Masson Mills which was Richard Arkwright's most prestigious mill. I suppose only a retired history teacher/lecturer would get excited about this and although I would not describe Arkwright as a hero of mine he certainly was a key figure in the industrial revolution. I suppose in a way it is not surprising that the site is now a shopping village [as well as a museum] and thus one of the birth places of the capitalist system has now become one of its 'cathedrals'!
Onto Buxton in Derbyshire, where Vera Brittain once lived. A definite heroine of mine, especially for her work toward Pacifism and Socialism. I had to restrain myself when browsing in a bookshop from buying yet another edition of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, my bookshelves are groaning as it is and I had already bought too many books during our days away....
Arriving in Sheffield it was lovely to see Andrew Motion's [a literary hero of mine, of course!] poem on the side of one of the university buildings. To see a wonderful picture of this and other great photographs of Sheffield please go to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theotherbailey/5137117621/in/set-72157625167089633/
Meanwhile the poem is a lovely way to end this travelogue of a blog!:
What If..? by Andrew Motion
O travellers from somewhere else to here
Rising from Sheffield Station and Sheaf Square
To wander through the labyrinths of air,
Pause now, and let the sight of this sheer cliff
Become a priming-place which lifts you off
Cloud shadows drag their hands across the white;
Rain prints the sudden darkness of its weight;
Sun falls and leaves the bleaching evidence of light.
Your thoughts are like this too: as fixed as words
Set down to decorate a blank facade
And yet, as words are too, all soon transferred
To greet and understand what lies ahead -
The city where your dreaming is re-paid,
The lives which wait unseen as yet, unread.