Romance is Dead
It is about six years ago. I have just moved to Lancaster. I am in my twenties, have rented a tiny prettily shambolic terraced house with a dodgy boiler but a walled garden.
I set out to explore my new territory. I was living in Bath and was thus residing in rarified glorified surroundings. Every time I went for a walk, I saw picture postcard beauty, calendar shots and soaring white wedding cake architecture. And tourists.
I was living in a city which did not feel like mine. The rent was impossible without help from family and few seemed to live in Bath without help from family, whether alive or deceased.
A leek from the farmers market would come to such a price that I would back away nervously and pretend I had been mugged and thus had no purse. I loved it very much but I could not continue to live in a theatre and did not have the funds to do so, only the debt.
My boyfriend lived in Fleetwood in a flat big enough for two but after an embarrassing experience involving looking for feta cheese in the town, I did not want to live there.
Lancaster looked nice on the Internet so I gave in my notice at work in Bath and trusted my life in the safe hands of Google Images.
In our new snug (tiny) terrace, which cost less than a leek in Bath per month to rent, when my boyfriend went to work, I was suddenly alone to explore my new city.
I wandered along the road to the quay-neglected and empty where toppling red brick factories surrounded me, smashed windows and such urban dereliction that I nearly wept for sheer delight.
And on a parched stretch of weedy wasteland, there was a boat. A tired old fishing boat, paint shattered, broken yet jaunty and with its name still written on the side. I phoned my boyfriend to tell him, forgetting he was working and he could not understand my excitement.
I saw the boat before the river and at first thought it was parched and dry on an inland isle.
Then I saw the huge river Lune over the sudden drop. There is something so magical about seeing something unexpected and unknown-every road in Bath was worn-out by semi-empty tourist busses.
There was no magic left, even despite the beauty it was a worn out to well traversed and photographed husk, a dry fake representation of a fake past where nothing apart from Georgian elegance had apparently ever existed.
A parched wreck of a fishing boat would not have existed in a city like Bath; it would have been cleared for a new All Saints shop.
I was somewhere different.
And I loved my little fishing boat.
I walked past it every day. I became pregnant and then walked past it with my baby every day.
There was something about the incongruity of a pretty major city with two universities, three theatres but yet still yet a few minutes from town, the dry weedy Strongbow can bedecked dock of a little boat, crumbling gently against the shadow of the old factories, their old windows disintegrating gently in the wind.
I saw a local performer, Rat Bit Kit’s accordion punk video performed in the wired off area of wasteland around my little boat and even though in some strange way it felt like my little secret, it made it more romantic and anarchic.
The little boat dilapidated over the years but you could still see her name.
When the planning permissions about the old factory buildings were plastered up, it meant little.
It’s a recession. Nothing will happen to change this Ozymandius walk to the city where the great red buildings crumble and slightly shatter, where a fox or feral cat might be seen skating from one behemoth industrial building to the next.
But now suddenly it has gone.
Were this Bath, this would have been Heritage. But Heritage does not exit unless women in multi tiered gowns have gently supped tea in it- not the working class so now the bulldozers have been removing real peoples lifetimes by the scoop.
I saw them coming towards my little fishing boat. It was on the other side of the road, that tiny strip of wasteland between the road and the river. No good for building, no good for anything.
They kept coming closer but my little boat was solid and sensible just like it always has been, a barometer for my life, no matter how I’m feeling, that little boat has always been there, this little jetty of jetty of romance and mystery.
I walked past it every day, every day and thought about it and how it came to be here. I walked past it when I was unemployed and bored, pregnant and scared, then with my little boy.
I thought about who owned it and when, where it used to go and how it came to be here-so high up on concrete it could only ever hear the river, its bright blue paint disintegrating.
The diggers came nearer but I watched carefully and they didn’t travel far each time.
My boat was still there safe on its concrete tide.
They came closer and then it was gone.
It had evaporated. I visually searched the huge piles of dirt left where it had sat and concluded that someone had rescued it. There was no sign, not a single shattered weather-beaten blue board to show that a little blue fishing skip had once sat here, so close to the river it had not felt in so long.
Someone has saved it.
I talk to a friendly man who is working on the site.
‘It’s been smashed into smithereens,’ he says and smiles at my son.
You can never make a new beginning.