It looks as if we have turned the corner, weatherwise. Daytime temperatures going forward are all into the twenties, now and the only rain day on the forecast is a couple of weeks away, In addition to which, of course, the clocks went forward this weekend and so it was still daylight at nine o’clock. Soon it will be time to stow my long-sleeved shirts, trousers, shoes and socks, and switch to shorts and sandals.
Yesterday, we went for lunch with friends who live in the old part of the village - el barrio morisco - and ate outside on their terrace. They are high enough in the barrio to look out over the rooftops and down the valley to a broad sweep of the Mediterranean, sparkling and blue in the sunshine.
It struck me as such a contrast with where I came from. This thought was prompted by a book I bought recently on the internet, Lancashire by the Salford author, Walter Greenwood, best known for “Love On The Dole”. In particular, on Saturday, I was reading his chapter on Salford, the town where I, too, was born and where I lived until I left in 1960 to go to university.
I have long suffered my own version of SAD, not Seasonal Affective Disorder, but Salford Affective Disorder. Somehow, every time I cross the city boundary my mood slumps, only to revive when I leave again. Since the death of my stepfather a couple of years ago, I no longer have any reason to return, but I often wondered why I should have this reaction. Greenwood’s account of the city brought back to me what I had consciously forgotten; what an appalling place Salford was during the 1940’s and 1950’s, the years of my childhood and adolescence. The skies were rarely, if ever, blue, on account of the very high rate of atmospheric pollution, and for the same reason our main experience of the sun was as a brighter patch in the all=pervading haze. In winter days on end, sometimes weeks, passed under a blanket of yellow, choking, sulphurous smogs, which annually killed several hundred people, visibility reduced to a matter of yards. I do not exaggerate. One evening my father, walking home from the far side of neighbouring Manchester where he worked, on account of the fact that the buses had had to stop running, found himself not on Chapel Street as he should have been, but on the towpath of the canal, having misjudged the point where he thought he was turning into Chapel Street.
The pollution, too, was all-pervasive; it was taken as a matter of fact by we children (though perhaps not strictly true) that should you have the misfortune to fall into the River Irwell with your mouth open, you would be dead before you had the opportunity to drown.
Today people are openly disbelieving if I ever tell them that as a primary school child I had to attend the Police Street Schools’ Clinic for a course of breathing lessons.
What a transformation my life has undergone between then and now!