Mar 11 2012

Haigh Hall and highlighters

This post is dedicated to Lemons who replied to my blog when I thought I could not be arsed to write anything and after the realisation I had a reader, I wrote….

The elegant manor house hides nothing more sinister than flip board charts featuring ‘mind maps’, corporate slang and possibly some comic sans handouts in the cheap tin bins. I don’t know. I never went inside but ghosts do not appear wherever there is designated parking.

Haigh Hall near Wigan looked very haunted on ghost hunting sites on the Internet where in some Ballardian scenario it is now more scary than in actual reality. It was owned by People of Pedigree and a delve through its old parkland, skirting dog poo and having to reply to cheery people saying ‘hello’ did not diminish my enthusiasm and trust in coming face to face with some wraithly ancient nobleman-would he have a 19th century Wigan accent? And how would I be able to tell?

Then I saw the designated parking. My heart sank. For ahem, some strange reason I never get to actually see any undead but the conference rooms on the first floor looked despicably modern for being in such a glamorous sweep of antique façade and the function rooms downstairs were too red napkinny looking to harbour a visitor from another realm. I suspect he would be asked to pay a sixteen pound a head surcharge in case of potential ectoplasm stains on the canapés.

The view across Wigan is glorious and tinged with a little irony, as now, it is the slightly shabby around the edges manor house, which works for a living. The chaise longues have been carted off to auction and replaced with well-lit fire escapes and I imagine precautionary laminated signs possibly with warning Clipart near the hot taps.

And now the people who used to work at the mills whose chimneys still stand untouched, admired and part of the landscape come to t’ manor to sit in rooms now stripped and unsmocked of velvet and learn in a different less physically grubby way of how to make more money for someone richer. But at least there is probably a coffee machine. I was too scared to enter the building, it being a Sunday morning and looking neither bride or slightly over eager trainee at Footlocker who really wants to maximize her potential by getting there a day early.

The parkland surrounding Haigh Hall is still (apart from the dog poo dodging) timeless (actually I suspect dog poo dodging or the lack of dodging and thus resultant swears might be the only thing that links all of humanity throughout the ages)

A handwritten sign states that the small gauge railway described and pictured on Haigh Hall’s website in a charming glossy chugging photograph is not working today. A look at the rusty tracks says that the small gauge railway has not worked since Chesney Hawkes was number one.

The enshrouding managed nature is extensive and beautiful though and free to wander around in. I liked the high barbed wire walls surrounding the abandoned zoo-such things are a delight to the macarborous viewer imagining the entombed lion skeletons which clearly do not lie within. There is a derelict crazy golf course; surely the perfect setting for a first novel that nobody ever buys. There is a walled garden for people to read in, surely the best use of council tax to ever exist, apart from boring sanitisation.

I like Haigh Hall and respect to the ghost hunters on the websites I guiltily peruse who profess to have found the undead here hanging around the Douglas Suite, possibly like me, wandering what the hell is a slide carousel? I suspect it is not as fun as it sounds.

And what is more terrifying? The possibility that ghosts exist in this Hall or the actual realization that people are forced to sit in a room in it, visualising not the past but future profits and how they can be a key marketer and upsell, upsell, upsell.

This is why I like the past more. But even now the Past has to work for a living.