I think we can all agree that Haworth in the 1840s was a pretty terrible place to live. By all accounts it's much improved these days, but it does leave me with a bit of a conundrum. How do I convey what it must be like to reside in such a gloomy place? In order to fully understand this, I took a trip to California.
No, not that one.
Very few people know that there's actually a village in central Scotland called California, on the bus route between Stirling and Bathgate, near Falkirk. It's one of those odd facts that pop up in trivia books and pub quizzes now and again, like how Ben Affleck is taller than Morgan Freeman, or that it's still a legal requirement in the UK for all beached whales and sturgeons to be offered to the ruling monarch. There's also a Moscow in Scotland. On reflection, the Scottish seem to have run out of names for places don't they? Either that or they have town planners who are engaged in a bizarre and furious game of town-naming one-upmanship.
Anyway. California. Try to envision the most dreary, dour and depressing village imaginable. The kind of place dreams go to die. Now imagine it raining. Pebbledash is lashed liberally across every building, and packs of feral children engage each other in brutal internecine gang warfare, fuelled by sectarianism and old fashioned, full sugar Irn Bru. I once saw a man sitting cross-legged in the middle of the road in California, sobbing with the throaty intensity of a man truly defeated by life. I like to imagine he was a bewildered tourist whose joy at getting such a reasonably priced ticket for the holiday of a lifetime had been overtaken by horror as he realised his error. I can picture him desperately moving from one dead-eyed citizen to another, pleading in increasingly frantic tones for directions to the Golden Gate Bridge. His breaking point was when his search ended in front of the dilapidated Golden Gate chippy where he was offered a soggy smoked sausage at a truly exorbitant price, causing him to collapse in a gibbering heap. California had won.
Actually, now I see it written down, California isn't like 1840s Haworth at all. Bit of a wasted trip really.
Probably should have spent that time learning my lines...
'We are Three Sisters' will be performed by the Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre, Delph, from 2 – 9 June. Tickets £9 (£5 students) from our booking site.
James McKean, May 24, 2018