Saturday 22 December

I wipe the soot off my brow, give Miss Jordan a hug, at length (they can’t be getting bigger?) and take the intercontinental tram to join my family around the hearth in Yorkshire, the godless county to which Joshua Brookes banished them upon learning of their ‘ungodly Godly beliefs.’ The cottage is warm and welcoming, my brother more and more the baby rhino I almost took him for in Kenya that year, my parents busy farming the country, making us city folk look like little but self-serving parodies! My grandmater, contrary to popular belief (anyone born in the last century is a didactic ‘dinodragon’), has a new story every time I speak to her and today it is of Peterloo. How refreshing to learn she and her sisters were not hutched rabbits but as excited as they were horrified at the events that unfurled around them. For the hacking sabres were not only brandished by frothing madmen but by handsome officers from a local regiment who a young girl might have taken to had they not taken the sword to them. It was no less a confusing time to find right and wrong as is today. In the event a kindly butcher on Piccadilly took the family in, tending to the wounds of a brother who’d been tenderly dumped from horseback by a guilty guardsman, ‘as white as his grey’. He died and his grave lies in the square as much as the woman who didn’t look before she crossed and was crushed by an unblinking omnibus last week. The roots and dust of us are here and will not leave while memory allows. Manchester swallows its heroes and tarmac is no worse a grave than fresh earth. Melancholia you fear dear reader! No, simply a time of quiet reflection, encased in rural mists. Most years back here I will send a carrier pigeon hither and thither to deposit my affections upon some poor woman’s head. Not so this time. There is a clear run up to 1863 and I will pause to take it. Perhaps I am growing older, perhaps wiser. However, as my surviving great uncle once said - if you are not tickled by your own moustache then shave it off. That, as you correctly suspect, is the last thing on my mind.

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