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A Shout From The Attic: Finding North

...In later years I travelled even past the bike hire man to go to the Savoy cinema, affectionately referred to as “The Cabbage.” The commissionaire, a man who wore a multi-coloured overcoat made in mock military style sufficiently roomy for a family of itinerants and a dog...

Ronnie Bray defines the urban boundaries of his childhood world in a Yorkshire town.

To read more of Ronnie's absorbing life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

I don’t remember when it dawned on me that New North Road couldn’t get north for going west, or that Trinity Street was not the natural indicator of northwards that I had always taken it to be. We spoke of “up North” and “down South” and so up was North and down was South in my boyish view of the world, and Trinity Street went uphill like no other road I knew. And, apart from the short downhill dip between the reservoir at its top end to just past the Junction public house, and another short dip after cresting the Ainley Ridge after leaving Salendine Nook where it merges into Mount to drop into Outlane, it didn’t stop upping until it levelled before it dropped off the high Pennine ridges somewhere on the dark side of the supernaturally visited moors to descend into the gloomier places of Lancashire.

Starting with my childhood north, and working clockwise around Huddersfield, my boundaries were well defined and unmistakably marked the limits of civilisation as I knew it. These boundaries also circumscribed my comfort zone.

I was born at 121 Fitzwilliam Street in January of 1935, to Louis Bennett Bray and George Frederick Bray, eighteen months after my sister, Irené, who is named after her godmother Irené Wigglesworth, a worthy in the Girl Guide movement and chief official at Martindale’s Coal office at the corner of Upperhead Row and Westgate. My sister was always called René.

We left for a short period when my parents moved to Alder Street in Fartown. The horrors of wife and child abuse caused us to return to Nanny’s home, where my mother divorced George Frederick Bray, and, some time little later, married Tommy Scott. Apart from three painful memories at Alder Street, the world of my childhood rippled out from the house in Fitzwilliam Street, close to whose top Trinity Street went downwards into town and upwards to the roof of the world before entering the enemy territory of Lancashire where they “spoke funny.”

Trinity Street’s outer limit for my explorations was the Junction public house just beyond which, it is told, James Mason was born and lived and his mother continued to live there long after her son left Syringia Street to follow in the footsteps of Harold Huth. One summer, René and I actually went past there and wandered a little way up Westbourne Road, just below The Cropper’s Arms, where a man hired out rickety antique bicycles at sixpence an hour, entirely on trust and no deposit or names and addresses. This outreach was exciting and troubling, but the hour passed, as hours do, and soon we were headed back down the hill to the satisfying safety of terra cognito.

In later years I travelled even past the bike hire man to go to the Savoy cinema, affectionately referred to as “The Cabbage.” The commissionaire, a man who wore a multi-coloured overcoat made in mock military style sufficiently roomy for a family of itinerants and a dog, and who was well along in developing full blown paranoia would walk along the queue that sometimes stretched out into Westbourne Road and if he overheard anyone calling the Savoy the “cabbage,” he sent them away. Obviously, the commissionaire was not on commission.

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