John Wesley called it Wicked Wigan but it’s Wonderful Wigan to me.
I just never thought it was wonderful when I lived there. Somehow, in this little northern English town, the skies always seemed grey, the winters long, the sunshine sparse, and the opportunities bleak.
But it’s strange how I have grown to cherish a place I once couldn’t wait to leave; how on a sunny Monday morning when my lovely sister and nieces are playing in the brass band, their notes can make me cry for days long gone, and family time that slipped through my fingers.
This is what I think as I stand, listening to them play. Dressed in their smart black suits with white shirt and striped tie, they sit under the red canopy, their hair blowing in the wind. We gather nearby to listen – my sister and brother, my nephews, and nieces. I video the girls as they play. Later on we will walk by the lovely canal that weaves its way like a secret through the streets of industrial Wigan, and my nephew, Jake, will run ahead of us and back again, like I used to do when I was a little girl.
Fifty long years ago, those were my feet, that ran back and forth on this same tow path, laughing with my dad and my brothers and sisters as we fed the ducks and ate our cream cheese and spring onion sandwiches.
Once, when it rained, we sheltered under one of the little stone bridges that arch their way over the water and watched as the raindrops made ripples that spread from bank to bank. I didn’t know it then, but I was a lucky girl to have been born in this little town, and to be part of such a wonderful family.
But I know it now.
And this is what I think about as the notes of All Through the Night are carried on the breeze and through the streets of Wigan… the far-away town where I was born.
And sometimes, even though I am four thousand long miles away, I imagine I can still hear them.