A few days ago I wrote about “Rochdale as muse” and I’ve been thinking about this as to what I meant. On reflection, I think perhaps this was a little flippant, an over-simplistic comment in communicating what I’m trying to do with my research. Possibly a little patronising too, and for that I apologise.
There have been more questions than answers today as I wandered around the shopping centres and explored some of the subways near Lower Falinge. Throughout this project I’ve felt – and still feel – like I’m treading a very fine line, dancing along a wire in the way that I’m writing about my observations and experience. There is a tension in what, and how, I write. I am concerned that anything negative could be seen as an attack by this “southerner” (I was born about 16 miles to the south as the blackbird flies).
I recognise that I’m in a privileged position as a “critical tourist” of the borough, and in being able to have the time and space to write creative responses. I’m still learning as I carry out research work and through learning with others as part of Touchstones Creative Writing Group*. Further, I want to do my best for the people who randomly, and generously, chat to me on the streets and in coffee shops/pubs (I have a “talk to me” face; it’s something I’ve had to get used to). I also want to be honest; to reflect my experience of and in the borough. This is where things can get interesting: as I talk I can almost feel my vowels flatten as my brain automatically strives to fit in – flattened vowels as a form of flattery or of bonding perhaps? American philosopher, Jennifer Morton, suggests that code-switching is, at its simplest level, “the ability to adapt one’s behaviour as a response to a change in social context much like bilingual speakers switch languages in response to a change in linguistic context” (2014 p. 259). If that’s the case, then I’m code-switching my arse off here: “Tea?” “Yeah, ta.” “Stayin’?” “Yeah, I’m stoppin’ in, cheers.” I am still feeling troubled – that I’m simply a charlatan in many things that I do, a tourist, a spectator. It’s this tension that I’m still trying to unpick and understand.
Today’s poem is an attempt at a tritina with some of the above thoughts in mind (although still very much a draft).
Continue under the concrete subway
(there is no flight needed for this journey).
When you near Lower Falinge take pictures,
then worry about taking those pictures.
Take a snap of the homes near the subway;
you’re at the ash end of your long journey.
You’ll find daffodils colour your journey,
a keen yellow guilt for sneaky pictures.
Trust me: you’ll not be mugged in the subway.
After your subway journey show off those proud pictures.
Morton, J. M. (2014) ‘Cultural Code-Switching: Straddling the Achievement Gap’ The Journal of Political Philosophy. 22 (3) pp. 259 – 281
* 1st Thursday of every month, 2 – 4pm at Touchstone’s if you’re free.