Tha's Going To Halifax
Tha’s Going To Halifax!
For a family of nine crowded into a large, but not big enough mid-terrace living out our post-war lives in what was left of the city of Salford a day trip was more than just a journey that took a tired and often hungry family out of the grime and the ruins for just a few hours; it was a defiant gesture that despite the hardships of the last six years, like the phoenix we would rise as one from the ashes of the past and prance carefree; if only for a few hours we would skip and dance on golden sands. Together again at last and united as a family we would break our chains and be free. Blackpool was our Mecca and a moment’s happiness our Holy Grail.
Dad did his best as a parcels porter at Manchester Exchange Station, but the long hours and poor pay gave mum little room for manoeuvre in an austere post war home, but she always seemed to pull it off. Bread and dripping was presented with a fanfare of fuss and devoured with equal lustre. So after the few short hours of rest she allowed herself, it was to the kitchen before the light of day sneaked in, to garner a simple picnic for a family of many. Duly the sun arrived surprised to see the task completed and as we her many sons ran amok with excitement she allowed herself a few precious moments to fix her hair and seek out her best (and only) frock.
The golden beams of a fresh July morning continued to sparkle as the droplets of a well-timed shower shone like the diamonds of a well-marked Gretel trail took the surging family hoard to Manchester Victoria Station. Dad glanced at his pocket watch and uttered a stifled cry that sounded most un-Christian, followed by “We’ll have to run mother or we’ll miss the bloody train!” So without further utterances we surged onto the station concourse and upon seeing my dad, who the ticket collector knew well, stepped aside as the human tide swept past with a mixture of excitement and heightened anxiety, descending upon the platform as the whistles heralded their impatience and urgent biddings to see the grimy coaches gone.
The porter shovelled us into the coach and waved the train away. Inside a controlled pandemonium ensued as little ones fought for window seats and parents frantically tried to calm and order the excited rabble. I had the honour of my mother’s lap as seats were in short supply and a very patient old gentleman smiled in the corner with a fair degree of sympathy and understanding.
As the din began to abate and the anticipation of a day at the seaside becalmed our excited hearts, we began to focus on the passing world outside. To us children one shabby terraced street looked much like another and we ignored what was before us and dreamt of what was to come.
My mother and father however grew silent and their troubled expressions turned to worried frowns of concern. Finally, my mother lent forward to address the kind old gentleman in his trademark flat cap and pipe. “Excuse me sir, but this train is going to Blackpool isn’t it?”
The old man smiled a sad smile and leant forward, taking his pipe from his mouth with considered caution and paused as a grin spread across his face…”Blackpool? BLACKPOOL!...tha’s going to Halifax!”