I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Miller's Tale: A Man And His Machine

Memory is just another instance of the many ways in which we make stories. JENNY DISKI

After the Green Bridge the track curves round...



...to the top of Rocket Lane, which you'll recall was the start of this walk a few days (or was it half a lifetime?) ago...


If you double-clicked on the 1st pic you will have seen a black and white mill tower in the background. This was my father's windmill, and his father's before him. It was sold when my father retired, and is now a private house. There's scaffolding up for repainting the tower. When I was young, the repainting was done from a precarious wooden box winched up with a pulley and chain. I rode in it once and scared myself stiff as it swung this way and that...




I'm not sure when the sails were taken down. All I ever remember is a Ruston Hornsby diesel engine powering the machinery. (Ruston used to be the main employer in Lincoln. It's now part of Siemens - whose gas turbines are used all over the world.)

This diesel engine was my father's pride and joy. He was forever checking the dials, polishing the dark green casing, oiling the camshafts and repairing the drive belts. As a young child I entered the engine house with a mixture of fear and awe. Inside lay a noisy, chugging, wondrous machine, a masterpiece of mechanical engineering, with its rods and pistons - and huge flywheel dominating everything. It always felt rather dangerous and intimidating, especially if you were in there alone with the door shut.

Of course in the end I got to understand a little how it worked, how all the bits fitted together. I learnt how to grease it, start it up, close it down. Once a workman's hand got caught in some part of the machinery - a corn grinder I think it was - and my dad, half-way across a neighbouring field at the time, could tell from the sound and pitch of the engine that something was wrong - so in touch was he with this sleek, oily, powerful beast.

The farmers, who farmed the open fields all around, came with their grain to the mill - which my grandfather turned into flour, like an alchemist transforming base metal into gold. But the sails and grinding stones were finally removed, and in my father's day the mill produced high-grade animal feed out of ground corn and maizemeal, fishmeal, minerals and a host of other ingredients - all to a secret recipe.

This is one of the original mill stones, mounted in front of my father's house...


This is the windmill in 1907 (you can see my grandfather standing on the dray behind the 2 horses)...



... and this is it - minus cap, sails and fantail - in 1947...


To be continued...

6 comments:

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I've been reading your Ur-walk instalments with as much anticipation and pleasure as did any fan of Doyle following the latest Sherlockian chapters when they appeared in the old Strand Magazine.

What fascinates me is your boyhood's similarity to my own childhood. Not quite the era, as I think I'm a few years older, but the physical environs of the adventures—a great many of the thoughts and reflections, and I'd be willing to bet, emotions. All in a setting astonishingly more alike than different—in spite of different continents and slightly different cultures—from pathways through fields to trails in the woods, a fox den under a cliffy ledge, a railroad embankment and iron bridge…simply amazing.

I have no comparative touchstone with the old windmill—though such a windmill is featured in one of my favorite P.D. James tales of Adam Dalgliesh, and came immediately to mind when I saw your photos.

Still, each post regularly invokes a pervasive sense of déjà vu throughout. And one of the reasons I've not commented earlier has been a need to digest this, to understand what it stirs in me and my history—and to try and decide whether I want to make a similar pilgrimage to my old haunts, or to leave them embedded, in situ, in cherished, but possibly illusory, memory.

I can't decide whether I lack the courage or desire.

But I certainly enjoy your retracings. And look forward to all future posts. These are really fine.

am said...

Still following along. The mill stone looks as if it were carved by Carl Jung. Beautiful.

The Solitary Walker said...

I didn't know at the beginning of the walk what it was going to reveal. What's come out has just 'happened' - intuitively, spontaneously. I'm really enjoying the revisit - though I still don't know whether the blacker and more painful aspects to my childhood will (only hinted at so far) be probed. I'm so glad you're excited by the account - and that it means something personal to you. It's interesting how we may share similar early experiences and upbringings - despite what may be huge differences in geography, personality,later careers etc. I'm a firm believer that there are threads of connection between us all, even if it's simply our common humanity. And that's a big 'Simply'!

The Jungian connection sounds just right, am. Reading back, I see my Ur-posts seem to packed with symbols and Jungian archetypes: bridges, dark woods, mill towers, and so on.

gleaner said...

Okay I've just caught up with all your instalments and have absolutely enjoyed the journey. I hadn't thought about it but it is full of Jungian symbolism - or like a reading from the tarot, perhaps another reason why I enjoyed them.
How wonderful to have the history of the mill and the old photos.

Rita said...

Fantastic journey back in time. I love the old photos of your boyhood home.

jay said...

What a wonderful piece of family history! I love that he has a millstone at his house to remind himself and others who he is and where he came from!