I took the Road to Wigan Pier way too fastly.
I drove by night through the 215 milestones between the beginning and the end of this trip.
I have just parked for a few minutes halfway on the blank space between part I and part II. I turned off the engine and the headlights, had a little nap, restarted and drove straight to the very last page.
I should have not been in a hurry. And yet I couldn't go any slower. Curiosity pushed me to run, to accelerate. And in that speed some details faded away, were left behind unseen, unchecked, misread.
The way back will be different. At this time I will pay more attention to the places I passed through, to the once appalling slums of Sheffield, to the black-faced ghosts emerging no more from the Lancashire ground.
The first part of this trip backwards and northwards was better than the second one. The guy I traveled with, a certain George, was definitely more interesting and entertaining while talking about that time in which he had the same trip in the 1930s. I remember how he kept me awake with his stories involving apathetic landlords, rotten tripe, smelly lodging rooms for men, a visit to a local mine. And poverty. And his ammiration for those who struggle to get a living out of coal.
I have just lost his track when George started comparing the 240 tons extracted per year by a miner and "enough to pave Trafalgar Square two feet deep" with the "two medium size shelves" he could fill with all the books he would have written in his lifetime ("If I will live at least 60 years").
And honestly I couldn't understand why George was so much against tinned peas and tinned tuna while branding homemade bread as a waste of food.
"Wait a moment, chappie - I told him - Don't you think this is a contradiction? On the one hand you accuse poor people not to eat fresh food and on the other you suggest to the British housewives to buy their bread at Tesco?"
He didn't mind my remark. I suppose it has been years since the last time George made his grocery.
The second part of the travel was a bit boring. First of all, we saw no landscape at all. The night was so dark that it looked like we were traveling in a tunnel or in one of those coal mines.
Apart from calling himself "a snob" and "a genteel bourgeois" with "an educated Southern accent" George talked about his Burmese Days and his Ins and Outs in Paris and London, with a lot of blabbering regarding "social classes" as seen by some old ladies he met in Brighton or something. Anyways. I'm afraid I haven't quite understood what was the point.
And then suddenly George pointed out how he can have an affection for a murderer or a sodomite but not for a man whose breath stinks "habitually stinks, I mean".
I got worried. We had only eaten corned beef and bread with dripping that night, so I felt like I irritated the nostrils and the genteel snobism of my car-sharer. I rummaged for o a peppermint on the dashboard, but only found out a handful of aspidistra leaves. "Keep them flying - said George lowering the window - They're coming up for air". Once again, I felt like I missed out what he meant.
When we finally reached the Wigan Pier, George paid his part of the gas and waved goodbye. We will see each other soon, on the way back. But at this time he will drive and I will talk.