I walked to one of my client’s today, and it really reinforced the Bolton I won’t miss.
Slate grey tarmac dappled with old, trodden-in chewing gum; dirty concrete slabs; phone-boxes with the receiver torn out; smashed glass on double-yellow lines; an abandoned can of Kestrel Super Strength on the Con Club window ledge; shuttered shop windows. Buses and lorries spew out noxious diesel fumes, belching and farting along the street. Alongside them, a full spectrum of grey cars protects cross mothers who shout at sullen children, vacant businessmen, van drivers on their way home from the Monday grind. Gordon Brown’s face is everywhere, gloating over his work like Ozymandias; as powerless as TJ Eckleburg – the Conservative advertising strategy only stretches to cynicism, not belief. The pub is shut up now, with cheap MDF panels covering smashed windows. The paint has chipped and the sign is broken.
Some lurid yellow forsythia blossoms break free against the grey. It might be April, but there’s a bitter wind yet. Dandelions are the area’s only successful bloom, visible everywhere, although the grey gloom blanketing us shuts out the sun. Some blousy, brash daffodils line up in regimented rows between red brick walls and paving slabs that serve as gardens. This isn’t what Wordsworth envisaged. I think Betjeman should have widened his dislike of modern England. Come, friendly bombs.