Saturday 10 November 1862

My name is Batson Bargreaves, a bachelor cotton trader living and working plum in the middle of Manchester (pop. 22,000). My family is rich but not wealthy, religious yet tolerant. Too old to return to the family barracks but young enough to be seeking (another) wife, I have chosen to live close to my work – on the top floor of a cotton storage warehouse on Princess Street, not far from the lush fields of Ardwick. I have been here since September, leaving the outlying village of Chorlton-cum-Hardy with a heart more middleweight than heavy; an organ I intend to make lighter in these parts.

Penning these word on thick, calibrated paper in a freshly-invented indelible ink I can’t help but wonder – especially given the snug-to-airtight cavities amongst the beams up here, the fact that I will doubtless preserve my work in canvas & string one day, the guarantee from Percy’s that my stationery should survive ‘both the bombs and investment of Irishmen’ – whether these papers may one day be read by some long-lost future audience, and, if so, what they shall make of them.

So what rests upon my mind these days? Why, Daisy of course – like a feather upon an anvil. A dark and tangled-haired beauty, painfully close yet well protected from me through her demanding job in the armaments factory and dreams of travel and ‘Latin’ (though not as I was taught it!) dancing. How I wish, on spurious occasion, that we’d continued our brief foray of two years back to its natural – or unnatural! – conclusion. So what else caps my head like a raw felt hat of inquisition? Wars and occupations - far away but much disputed - affect the country’s finer moral sensibilities, yet also (and I must segue myself to this segment) their fears of false economy as cotton and coal prices fluctuate. My friends – old and new – occupy my life as much as the chattering looms. Some are single like myself, some married, others in far-flung parts of the Empire. We keep in touch with the fledgling worldwidewotsit – a semi-organic network of carrier pigeons, tin cans and coded strings played furiously by dozens of underemployed harpists. Not without its faults, I am currently in a standoff with British Wotsit to whom I refuse to pay 125 shillings by way of reconnection fee. I write and read some, though not as much as I should. I own a daguerreotype-machine with which I record the latest works of architecture seen sprouting about this handsome, bustling town.

And so the day is done. I take a fat pipe and the advantage of a quiet evening to ponder upon my bed-deck for several hours before settling down for a think.

1 comment:

Single Mother on the Verge said...

So lovely to read your word mister cotton. Thou ist truly a man after my own heart.