Authors: Walter Greenwood
Walter Greenwood was born in 1903 at Salford in Lancashire. He was educated first at Langworthy Road Council School, Salford, and then by himself. He began part-time work as a milkroundsman’s boy when he was twelve, then worked, again part-time, with a pawnbroker, before leaving school at the age of thirteen. He later worked as an office boy, a stable boy, a clerk, a packing case maker, a sign-writer, a car-driver, a warehouseman, and a salesman, never earning more than thirty-five shillings a week except while working for a few months in an automobile factory. He was on the ‘dole’ at least three times.
Love on the Dole,
his first novel, was accepted for publication in 1932, and when it appeared in 1933 it was at once recognized as a classic. Walter Greenwood published ten more novels, a volume of short stories and his autobiography,
There Was a Time.
He also wrote plays, several of which have been filmed. He died in 1974.
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Adobe ISBN: 9781409004080 Version 1.0
Published by Vintage 1993 10 9
Copyright © Walter Greenwood
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser First published in Great Britain in 1933 by Jonathan Cape Vintage
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The Time is ripe, and rotten ripe, for change;
Then let it come…
JAMES RUSSEL LOWELL
THEY call this part ‘Hanky Park’.
It is that district opposite the parish church of Pendleton, one of the many industrial townships comprising the Two Cities. In the early nineteenth century Hanky Park was part of the grounds of a wealthy lady’s mansion; at least, so say the old maps in the Salford Town Hall. The district takes its name from a sloping street, Hankinson Street, whose pavements, much worn and very narrow, have been polished by the traffic of boots and clogs of many generations. On either side of this are other streets, mazes, jungles of tiny houses cramped and huddled together, two rooms above and two below, in some cases only one room alow and aloft; public houses by the score where forgetfulness lurks in a mug; pawnshops by the dozen where you can raise the wind to buy forgetfulness; churches, chapels and unpretentious mission halls where God is praised; nude, black patches of land, ‘crofts’, as they are called, waterlogged, sterile, bleak and chill.
The doorsteps and window-sills of the houses are worn hollow. Once a week, sometimes twice, the women clean them with brown or white rubbing stone; the same with portions of the pavement immediately outside their front doors. And they glare at any pedestrians who unavoidably muddy their handiwork in traversing the strip. Some women there are whose lives are dedicated to an everlasting battle with the invincible forces of soot and grime. They are flattered when you refer to them as ‘house-proud’. But they are few. The others prefer to have a weekly tilt at the demon dirt and to leave the field to him for the next six days. Of a Friday evening when this portion of the housework is generally done, the pavements have a distant resemblance to a patchwork quilt. Women, girls and children are to be seen kneeling on all fours in the streets, buckets by their sides, cloth and stone daubing it over the flags, then washing it into one even patch of colour.
Families from south of the Trent who take up residence here are astonished at the fashion and say that from whence they came nothing like this is ever seen. The custom persists. The ‘sand-bone men’ who purvey the lumps of sandstone in exchange for household junk, rags and what-not, can be seen pushing their handcarts and heard calling their trade in rusty, hoarse, sing-song voices: ‘San’ bo -. Donkey brand brown sto - bo - one,’ which, translated, means: ‘I will exchange either brown or white rubbing stone for rags, bones or bottles.’
At one time, in the old days, when local men made their millions out of cotton and humanity, when their magnificent equipages trotted along Broad Street past Hanky Park from the local Eccles Old Road - or ‘Millionaires’ Mile’ as it then was called - when large families lived in the Park’s one room cellar dwellings and when the excess in population was kept in check by typhus and other fevers, it was the custom of the ‘sand-bone men’ to sprinkle sand on the newly scoured flag-paved floors of the houses in exchange for bones, which, I suppose, went to the tallow factories to be made into farthing dips. Most of the flag-paved floors are gone, now. The years have brought their changes. Water closets have superseded the earth and tin privies, though not so very long ago; the holes in the tiny backyard walls from which the pestiferous tins were drawn when to be emptied of the ordure are still to be traced, the newer bricks contrasting in colour with those of the original wall. Fever is rarer; large families are no longer permitted to live in cellars; instead, by force of circumstance and in the simplicity of their natures, they pay much more than their grandparents did for the convenience of living in a single room over a cellar.
The identical houses of yesterday remain, still valuable in the estate market even though the cost of their building has been paid for over and over again by successive tenants. The houses remain: streets of them where the blue-grey smoke swirls down like companies of ghosts from a million squat chimneys: jungles of tiny houses cramped and huddled together, the cradles of generations of the future. Places where men and women are born, live, love and die and pay preposterous rents for the privilege of calling the grimy houses ‘home’.
A drizzle was falling.
The policeman on his beat paused awhile at the corner of North Street halting under a street lamp. Its staring beams lit the million globules of fine rain powdering his cape. A cat sitting on the doorstep of Mr Hulkington’s, the grocer’s shop, blinked sleepily.
‘Tsh-tsh-tsh-tsh-tsh,’ said the bobby and stooped to scratch the animal’s head. It rose, crooked its back, cocked its tail, pushed its body against his hand and miowed.
The melancholy hoot of a ship’s siren sounded from the Salford Docks.
A man wearing clogs and carrying a long pole tipped with a bunch of wires came clattering down Hankinson Street. His back was bent, beard stained and untrimmed, his rusty black bowler hat was tipped over his eyes. Blind Joe he was called, though he never gave wrong change out of a shilling nor had need to ask his way about. Whether or no he actually was blind none could say; he was Blind Joe Riley, that was all.
The bobby straightened himself as Joe approached: ‘Mornin’, Joe. Heigh, hei, ho. More rain, more rest,’ said the copper.
‘N’ rest f’ t’ wicked, lad, ‘cept them as is bobbies, an’ they ne’er do nowt else. Ah don’t know how some folks …’
‘Ah know, Joe. … Ah know,’ the bobby interrupted: ‘Ah know all about it’
‘Well there’s one thing Ah’d like t’ know if tha knows all about it … how thee and thy mates have cheek to hold hand out for wages just f walkin’ about streets…. N’ wonder folks call it a bobby’s job.’ He ejaculated, disgusted, clattered into North Street, stopped at No. 17, raised his pole and began to rattle the wires against the bedroom windows. A voice responded. Joe answered: ‘Come on, now, Mrs ‘Ardcastle. Hafe past five, Monday mornin’ an’ pourin’ o’ rain….’ He shouldered his pole to repeat the performance at other houses in the street Then he turned the corner at the far end.
Silence. Not a cat stirring.
The solitary lamp half-way down the street emphasized the enshrouding gloom and silvered the gently falling drizzle.
Lights began to appear in the lower windows of the houses. The grocer’s shop at the corner of the street blazed forth electrically, the wet pavement mirroring the brilliance. Unwashed Mr Hulkington, the gross, ungainly proprietor, shot back the bolts and stood on the step, wheezing, coughing and spitting on the roadway. He panted, shivered in the rawness of the morning, turned about and closed the door to stand behind the counter in readiness for the women who would come, soon, stealing like shadows, to buy foodstuffs on tick.
At No. 17, Mrs Hardcastle, an old woman of forty, came downstairs ‘Ah-ah-ing’ sleepily, hair in disarray. She groped on the tiny kitchen’s mantelpiece for the matches, struck one and lit the gas. The glare hurt her eyes: she blinked and stifled a yawn, stretched and shrugged her shoulders. It was cold. She stooped, raked out the grate and stuffed it with a newspaper taken from a thick pile under the cushion of the rocker chair. Then she stood, indecisively, still sleep-dazed, as though at a loss what next to do: ‘Oh. aye,’ she said: ‘Coal.’ She picked up the shovel, trudged to the back door and paused by the stairs to shout: ‘Harry, Sal. Come on, now; five an’ twenty to six.’ She unbolted the door. The cat ran in miowing noisily, tail in air: it leaned heavily against the table leg and walked round and round, still miowing. Other people in the neighbouring backyards were shovelling coal; the gratings of the shovels on the yards’ flaggings rasped harshly in the still morning air.
In a few moments the fire was made. The shovel, balanced on the top bar with a sheet of paper spread in front, drew a great draught and sent flames roaring and leaping round the kettle. Smoke and flame roaring up the chimney, gushing out of the chimney-pot and into the sky; thousands of smoky fires;
millions of chimneys exhaling simultaneously; smoke drifting, converging, hanging, an immense pall over the Two Cities.