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18 Oct 2014

A sense of place

There is a restaurant in Covent Garden ' a sense of place'. What more apt phrase for our time could there be. Half our troubles are from not knowing where we fit in, holding out for treats and surprises that aren't coming, and wondering where the money'll come from and the friends are going.

Harvest Day might be a time for reflecting that all our food and everything we need is coming from the ground, and let's include the sea in that.

I've been reading a detailed photographic tour of Ironbridge, one of those terrific small-town, countryside-nestling gems of a place. Pork pies in the market, a smattering of Victorian industrial remnants, an old-time pharmacy and chance of a walk along the river or open-skied hill-land.

Today I'm checking out the Midlands. I've been impressed for years with my Ellen Bagshaw's aunt, the first Ellen Bagshaw that went to Birmingham in her twenties and two (Irish) husbands later, started all over again in Stoke on Trent, running a lodging house. Her children got stuck into life here and the youngest girl especially had a hard life. Second husband was a coal miner in Werrington village, but she it was that died. It's her descendants, the Cookes, I'd be keen to call in on while I'm in Stoke.

Place and geography are important. My grandmother's family collected an assortment of unusual birthplaces as they moved around the country; moving every three years, being Methodist ministers. My uncle was born 1909 in Kidsgrove and his sister a few years later in Burslem. Their mother came into the world at Retford, some other Midlands town. The canal network, the yellowed tufty grass, warm glow from the redbrick buildings, the suddenly rising light industrial blocks; all giving a flavour of the landscape and place where people live.

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