I used to look at picturesque ruins and think of them in their glorious heyday, long dead people suddenly moving , blank stone arches alive by the sun splattered pattern of long smashed stained glass.
Now I look at the present and see a dead future.
Ever since my child was a few weeks old we would go to the Maritime museum in Lancaster. A grandiose yet cosy building with smiling staff who knew my child by name- I watched him grow there by the way he stared then grinned at painstakingly made model ships, shouted then talked to the model stagecoach whilst I listened to the smooth pleasantly spoken recording of deaths via quicksand on Morecambe Bay as the rain lashed outside.
He crawled then walked around the museum, noticing more every time he went- each time we watched the ‘History of Lancaster’ film getting a bit more of the way through it. And I can recite the first ten or so minutes off by heart- a party trick no-one will ever want to see.
He will probably never get to see the end. The Maritime museum has been closed since December due to the flooding but a man-made disaster wants to close it to ‘save money’.
A canny trick that, in a small ancient city reliant on tourism.
In the summer months, I can’t remember an occasion when I have been out and about and not been asked directions to the city’s museums by tourists. Sadly due my dyspraxia, despite being eager to give advice, there are probably some lost souls from Tokyo and Plymouth still wandering around looking for that promised ‘up a bit, then down a bit then left, no right, past that good pub’ golden path.
Maybe I did it.
‘Never go to Lancaster, my good friends, they don’t know their left from their right but they pretend they do.’
Now it will be, ‘Don’t go to Lancaster, my good friend. All the interesting things about its history you can see on the internet only. It has a new Primark though.’
‘But new Roman roads were discovered in Lancaster last year!’
‘ Yes, they have been covered over and you can’t read about it or see what was found because the museums are closing.’
‘But amazing ancient treasures have been found near Lancaster!’
‘ Yes, they are in London. The museums stay open in London. London is the SOUTH. Things are a bit different, once you get past Crewe, my good friend. Only one museum per city is sacrificed there’.
The Judges Lodgings has already gone, fallen under the knife. Fortunately the finances of the country are not in such perilous straits that the MP’s can’t award themselves pay-rises and hurray, they still have subsidised lunches and booze. Phew.
Nevermind that the handsome Judges Lodgings was an amazing multi-tasking museum of stunningly intricate and local Gillows furniture, a treasury of toys, interactive Victorian playrooms and costumed guides who lead generations of kids around its ancient rooms and told them all about their own local history. A history now denied. It saves money, you see.
The cottage museum. A tiny little portal into the past, one wee terraced house preserved from the past for the present and the future- a chance to see for two pounds, a slice of history shadowed under the great castle. No. One person in a waistcoat or pinnie to smile and take your two quid, to show you around three floors of untouched past, tell you about wattle and daub and give you a chance to add to a rag rug using an old clothes peg? No.
In the City Museum, right in the centre, Anglo Saxon and Roman artifacts rub shoulders with waxworks of Victorian men on the toilet and has a whole room dedicated to the First and Second World Wars. Meh. Who need to know about that? Who needs the original art displays and sweeping staircases featuring oil paintings of the entire history of the area? Who?
Right- now think of Lancaster.
What do you think of?
Is it student housing, the new Primark or that massive historical structure that dominates the city?
That’s right, the castle.
That looming landmark that has decided history, changed history, been the death of many and the birth of legends. Where so called ‘witches’ died to earn the council a fortune in perpetuity and crude drawings of witches in black hats on broomsticks rule sublime over a rather more unpleasant actuality of elderly women dying in the dark dark cells.
Dark dark cells you say? Market them!
Imagine an eternity pool in the black of a witches cell! With Jo Malone candles- only rich people who mostly aren’t local will die to come to a place where many local people actually died!!
What Lancaster needs is a luxury hotel.
Museums are old-fashioned.
Oh what a joke! Oh the hilarity! Oh the despair!
‘Don’t go to Lancaster, my good friend-the past has gone and so has its future. But soon, soon, it will have a fucking Primark and a maybe a cocktail in the Castle called a ‘Long Drop’.