Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sylvia Plath, Cheese and Onion & Ted: A walk up the Hill and back

this way
I walked up to Heptonstall yesterday mainly because I can see it out of my Bro’s front window and I needed the exercise. It’s quite a climb but I kept on. The road up is steep (going from the valley bottom to 600 ft plus in the space of a mile) all the way my vertigo kept leaping up, it’s an odd thing there’s nowhere very dodgy on the road but the combination of high wind, rain, low walls and steep tree lined hills sent me tingling and nervous . Even typing about the climb now puts me slightly on edge (this being said I have been up the World Trade centre and half way across the Humber Bridge but the loft ladders still make me nervous).

Anyway I made the top, Hep’s a little village perched on a hill overlooking Hebden, it’s got a distinctive parish church which you can for miles and the older part is made up of  narrow cobbled streets of stone built weavers cottages (that have dates from the 1600’s carved above their doors).

“Thems fresh cut” the man in post office said of his pre-packaged trading estate sarnies, amongst the usual sparse display of “fruit jam”, short bread and women’s magazines. Picking my way through his modest selection of snacks(I wasn’t feeling flush enough for the Tea Shop), who the hell wants “Cajun Tuna” I settled for a cheese savoury and some crisps and after a longer than necessary peer at my £20 quid note, I’m off out into the drizzle.

The village museum is shut until Good Friday so slipping on the rain shined paving, I look for a bench to have lunch. The winds up and no one is around, the church up close is a handsome if bland Anglican affair which is also closed. There’s a ruined of older church in the graveyard surrounded by a flat pavement of older grave stones shining in the wet, their fading inscriptions full of Samuels, Joshuas and Emillys.

Pens for SylviaAlthough not by any stretch my main motivation for coming here it would be perverse not to try find Sylvia Plath’s grave. It turns out she’s in the over spill graveyard across the road, a slightly more plain affair over looked by newish houses, it’s the usual mix of grave stones: Old plain gray, pale white marble from 70’s,the later ones black with gold letters and even a few reserved sharp cut sandy coloured limestone military memorials.

I sat on John Browne’s bench (no mention of where he was or what state he was in) and munched my lunch, flicking the crumbs off, I went for a wander. A few rows over there was a head stone for a RAF gunner and Radio operator who died in 1943, laying over his grave is another stone put there over a half century later for his wife, who passed away in 1998. Ben and Ethel together at last.

In the corner of the churchyard there’s a children’s garden trampoline, as I was examining this odd piece of fly tipping, my Brother rings and tells me this is quite normal apparently the wind picks them up round here and dumps them across the countryside. I am choosing to believe him.

fox poppyI was about to go when I noticed that a grave next to me had a laminated photo pinned to it , which turned out to be Sylvia Plath’s. I had expected more votive tat but apart from the odd pebble, plastic love heart and a fairy doll the main feature was large tub of biros (do famous pharmacist get pestle and mortars on their tombs and what do accountants get?). The inscription is “Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted”.

Walking out of the graveyard I notice Sylvia’s only two rows over from her in-laws (Ted being interned down south). I know there’s all sorts of controversy about SP’s grave, in the end I think most graves are sadly alike and the view from Heptonstall is much better than Poets’ corner.

Of course the Parish church isn’t the best church in Heptonstall that honour goes to the Methodist Chapel. Since I was kid I’ve been wandering round places of worship at first taken by my parents (yes we would have preferred a water park but nowadays I am glad I’ve been to Chartres too) and now of my own accord. I’ve seen big churches St Peter’s, new ones, bleak 50’s brutalist estate churches and small tiny one room affairs in the middle of fields. I must admit I find the smaller places the most involving and Heptonstall Methodist is one of those.

The smell as you enter of dust, hymns books and damp is always evocative for me the tight box pews, the mix and match stain glass windows and wooden balcony above make it a intimate space. We it comes to my view of the place I suppose it helps that it’s where my brother got married but I also find the idea of the people who built inspiring these tough hard working weavers etc who didn’t want to be told how to worship, found some land on the side of this windy hill and built this simple "Modern" before it’s time church. The tight Octagon shape dangerously new for its time. Perhaps too plain for some people’s taste but the function defining the form so that everyone could hear the preacher and that sound of the singing would envelope the singers. Oh and it was open on rainy day (never much gold plate to nick from Methodist) with sign on the door to tell you stop the cats getting in and need some peace.

Rested in mind and shank I wandered down the hill back through Hebden and along the canal only looking back when I got home.

Here's some more pictures the usual forlorn soft toys, catholic snow globes and some flowers made of dusters

3 comments:

Ex-Coventry Blogger said...

I was mystified when I visited cemeteries in Paris in the autumn - Serge Gainsbourg's had a cabbage on it, and Oscar Wilde's a potato.

al_uk said...

Top blog entry!. One of your best for some time. Glad to see your old powers of word smithery have not been lost. More please!

BLTP said...

thanks folks, I found an AA battery on William Blakes grave! will try to right more. soon