Dec 11 2011

Witchcraft, cake and wine

The car parking is suspiciously cheap.

Maybe I don’t want to go to a town that offers four hours of car parking for a pound and free car parking on December Saturdays. This must be a rancid desperate whore of a town.

But I do love a bargain. We leave the car. We will probably never see it again in such a frontier town frowned over by the misty misshapen satanic Pendle Hill, too far away for celebrity, too close for pleasantry.

We slither up the first ice we have encountered this winter. It would be here, darkly shadowing the paths up to the castle. Because how can we not go to the castle first? It has a Grim History. And I do love a Grim History.

But where were once gargoyles heads and revolving smouldering oxen’s bodies are now too bright lights, fake heat, cheery informative placards and MDF plastered over ancient dank walls. I can see why.  Schools will not pay to witness a dank ruin and risk a small modern knee smote through with an ancient rusty nail.

And now here is an over lit room with fossils and timelines. I have always hated fossils and timelines and little displays showing soil changes through the ages. Which is annoying, as I have always wanted to be an archaeologist. But without the boring bits. I find it sad though that the castle looks more like a Little Chef with display cabinets and a good view than an ancient building perched high on a hill.

But now is the Witchcraft Bit, which makes it all ok, and you can hear people with Lancashire accents talk through a speaker about long dead malevolent servants enticing people into a local river. And here is a tiny ancient shoe found hidden in the eaves of a nearby cottage. And the owner of that tiny shoe is forgotten, dead, unnamed and blown to the wind. And so is the optimistic owner of the supposedly charmed shoe.  Heh.

The Keep, also  at Clitheroe Castle has a sound installation based on the Lancashire Witches Trials. In a sleet swept happily unmodernised crumbled building, next to the castle, it is the only building in Clitheroe, which has the height and the bloody history to stare Pendle Hill in the eye.

Sighs and murmers echo and chasten, murmer and fold through the ruined prison where an ancient door on a floor that nobody earthly can access stays forever locked. The sighs and hummings are through a speaker but in this desolate spot so near humanity but so far away, it is hard to tell the difference between the past, nature and a heavily advertised sight specific musical installation. Which means in my head at least it worked. I suspect letters to the local paper might suggest otherwise. Although on my brief perusal it seems the good citizens of Clitheroe are more obsessed with cat murder and dog shit.

A licensed café built into an historical site is what the world needs and the Atrium Café is very impressive with its alcohol list wider than its food range. I think I will move to Clitheroe I decide after soup, chips, and wine which is pretty much all one needs to be happy and alive and with change from a tenner.

I do not want to leave the castle, its over lit history, shops featuring glass bracelets, highly censored children versions of witches, well priced shiraz and crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside chips is pretty much all I have I have ever wanted out of life.

But then I discover a market with cheap butter pies, a shop that sells expensive cheese and bread with fancy stuff in it, the most ludicrously gorgeous trendy café featuring antique rocking horses, flamingo wallpaper and mulled wine tea.

People are so friendly I keep looking for a TV camera. Because this is Islington meeting the North in the shadow, the ever looming and ominous shadow of Pendle Hill.

And I shall return.