Dimly lit windows in the darkness before dawn were a common feature in the morning. It’s easy to forget in Australia just how dark it can get in the UK, and being an early riser meant I was up in the wee small hours.
My bedroom looked out over several terraced and semidetached Victorian-era homes. They were well made, with red bricks darkened by time and probably soot from the old coal days. It was a quiet neighbourhood, little indication of the bustling noise to come, as the various denizens would go to work.
Before all that hustle, I would look at these dimly lit windows, small flecks of light in the dark. I’d wonder who these people were, what they were doing. Were they like me, early risers? Or had they been up all night, and dawn signified bed time?
I miss those crisp and cold mornings, the kind of sharpness of the air that makes the body seem more distinct. I miss the dim light of the dawn, and the sulphur illuminated streets. I love the quiet, and these moments were just so peaceful.
When I first moved to Preston in 1990, the docks area was pretty much wasteland. There was very little there. Over time it became built up, with new flats and housing. There was a cinema we used to go to a lot.
At school I remember we were set work in technology classes based on the docks development. I had this idea of an underwater section, with domes to see in the water. No one told me about the algae problem the water has, and I shudder to think what people might see at the bottom these days.
Back in the day, the water in the docks could get high. One of my earliest memories in Preston is a windy day, waves were high, and a gust nearly blew me in! There was no barrier back then.
It could get busy. There was a Morrison’s supermarket that a lot of people used. There wasn’t much else to do. My folks thought it would benefit from some restaurants. I agreed, but wondered if there was enough demand in Preston to make it work. Lowest common denominator won out I guess, and so we got McDonalds instead.
I’m sure it was all very fancy when first built, but it just faded and became dull. It was safe at least, but then so was most of Preston. When I campaigned there for local councillor in 2004, I saw how the paint on the doors had lost their colour, as though no one had painted them in 15 years. We never got many votes there and it wasn’t really worth campaigning.
There’s a lot of history in the docks, and the nearby terraced houses. I saw an old photo, from Victorian times I think, with all the industry at the dock lands, and big chimneys in the distance. I could even see St Walburge’s church in the photo.
The last time I was there was night. It was quiet and still, probably how I remember it best. It never seemed to have the energy to be more.