Skip to content

Into the Heart of Darkness…

Written by


So yesterday we ventured out – far, far out.
WE had to collect a laser printer from Rochdale. It had already been waiting a week, it was desperately needed for a printing job (our current printer having turned up its toes in the middle of it); the seller refused to pack it so that our courier could pick it up and deliver it. So when the weather reports indicated a slight thaw and no snow (in the Northerly parts of Albion, at any rate), we decided to risk it and drive down to fetch it.
Taking no chances, we dressed on layer after layer, chucking more clothes in the back of the car; also in the back went our wellies and a sleeping bag – I drew the line at a shovel, since we wouldn’t be going off into the snowbound hills.
The motorway bit of the journey turned out to be ridiculously easy – even in the inevitable contraflows and roadworks, we hardly slowed down at all. The motorway was completely clear of ice and snow all the way down and the white-blanketed landscapes all around made for lovely viewing for this particular passenger. It was when we hit Rochdale that our only problems appeared – and they weren’t anything to do with the weather.
Despite spending twenty years in Lancashire, I’d never been to Rochdale before. OK, maybe a January Sunday in terrible weather wasn’t the best time to view it, but it struck me as a amazingly ugly place – it even made Wigan look good. My overall impression was that three or four perfectly OK small towns – each with a centre and a shopping street, with straight radial roads running out with terraced streets off – had been picked up by some giant toddler and squashed together in a tangled mess.
Getting around the place was a nightmare. We had an A-Z, but but signposts and street signs were so bad that we couldn’t follow it; the address we wanted was close to the railway station, but following the signs for the station kept bringing us into a Matalan car park! And the road layout made no sense – almost everything seemed to end up a a car park. (I told B about an art student I knew in 1970, who claimed his grandfather had been the last man hung for sheepstealing in Rochdale; “I can see why – they had to make their own entertainment in those days.”) Eventually, after a full half-hour of bumbling around and cursing, we had to phone for help and get guided in.

Getting out was a whole lot easier – we were on the motorway in five minutes flat. It was snowing again by then, so we decided against going over to Preston and dropping in on the kids; instead we got onto the M6 and headed for home. We stopped only at Forton services, for some food. Not having eaten since breakfast, we’d planned on having a full meal, but changed our minds when we got inside. It wasn’t just the rip-off prices that deterred us – it was the glossy emptiness of the place, the blank-faced minimum-wage workers standing around dreaming of the life they might have had in a better world, the plastic-wrapped factory-produced microwavable food. I looked around at it all and longed for a proper greasy spoon place, one that gave you plates piled with chips and runny eggs and white bread with cheap margerine. Heart-attack food for sure, but the staff would look you in the eye and smile and even joke. But there wasn’t such a place for miles. So we got ourselves some plastic sandwiches and ate in the car.

Coming down our road and seeing the lights of our neighbours, I congratulated B on his speed in finding his way out of Rochdale. “I keep telling you” he said “Wherever I am, I always know which way is home.”

Previous article


Next article

Down to business...