This posting was drafted before the latest AGM, which took place today, Wednesday 22 April. Of which, more later. In the meantime, back to Chesterfield...
To take my mind off my narrow escape from the grizzled jaws of death, Kathy wisely decided to take me on an evening jaunt to Millthorpe, a tiny Derbyshire village not far from her home. This wasn’t just to calm me down, however. It was also by way of being a kind of pilgrimage. For it was in a house on the edge of the village that Edward Carpenter lived for 40 years, almost until his death in 1929.
Go to the top of the class if you know who Edward Carpenter was. I am genuinely ashamed to say that, until very recently, I had never heard of him. A few weeks ago, my friend Sue (whose voice was heard several times on The Nightshift) was given a new biography of him and has talked about nothing else since. I promised her that, at the next available opportunity, I would visit Millthorpe on her behalf to pay homage to him.
If you google him, you will quickly realise why I am so ashamed of my ignorance. Here is some information about him gleaned from Wikipedia...
Edward Carpenter (29 August 1844 – 28 June 1929) was an English socialist poet,
anthologist, early gay activist and socialist philosopher.
A leading figure in late 19th- and early 20th-century Britain, he was instrumental in the foundation of the Fabian Society and the Labour Party. A poet and writer, he was a close friend of Walt Whitman and Rabindranath Tagore, corresponding with many famous figures such as Annie Besant, Isadora Duncan, Havelock Ellis, Roger Fry, Mahatma Gandhi, James Keir Hardie, J K Kinney, Jack London, E D Morel, William Morris, E R Pease, John Ruskin, and Olive Schreiner.
(The ‘E R Pease’ mentioned in the above list was a crusading socialist who lived for a time in Newcastle).
A strong advocate of sexual freedom, Edward Carpenter had a profound influence on both D H Lawrence and E M Forster. Amongst many other things, he became fascinated with Hindu mysticism and travelled to India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). As a kind of ‘by-product’ of these visits, he took to wearing sandals, eventually introducing them to England!
He lived at Millthorpe with his Sheffield-born partner George Merrill for 30 years - an unbelievably courageous thing to do at the time. During this time they played host to the greatest contemporary figures in international literature, progressive socialist politics, philosophy and the arts. I’m delighted to say that a small plaque at the crossroads in Millthorpe sings Edward Carpenter’s praises fulsomely.
I’m even more delighted to say that, when I knocked at the front door of his house, a lovely lady called Jo opened it and welcomed us in as Carpenter pilgrims. She showed us photographs of The Great Man and expressed dismay - as well she might - that his life and achievements are so utterly neglected these days. It was genuinely thrilling to walk around the garden he planned - and also very sobering to realise that, despite all his ground-breaking intellectual and artistic achievements, being a radical gay activist - especially at that time - has consigned him to the dustbin of historical neglect.
The photograph above was taken when he was in his 30s. Lucky George Merrill.
And we’ve only got to Monday...
THE NEXT AGM
The Birkheads AGM today was a huge success. I think all 5 of us enjoyed it immensely. Good weather, good surroundings and good company. That’s what shunting trucks is all about! Photos will be posted in due course.
It’s been suggested that the next AGM should take place nearby at the Tanfield Railway. Wow yesssss. How about on Sunday 24 May?
And, in the meantime, if you've got any interesting outings planned and won't mind if I tag along, get in touch in any one of the usual ways.
I agree with the ‘regular’ truckshunters on this blog; if you’re reading this and haven’t made yourself known for a long time - or at all - post a comment. It’ll be good to hear from you.
As far as I’m concerned, Spring has well and truly sprung when the central reservations of our dual carriageways are carpeted - as they are right now - with a healthy covering of Danish scurvy grass. Gardeners probably regard this recent invader of our shores as an unremitting weed - it arrived, apparently, on the wheels of Scandinavian lorries. To me, though, the snowy effect of the flowers means that Summer can’t be that far away and I'll always be grateful to Alan Savage (of the Cramlington Millennium Arboretum) for telling me about it.
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