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THE DEVIL'S PARADISE by JIM BARTON
"Lancashire... My Lancashire...". The opening words of Lancashire's
Alas, Lancashire has a guilty secret; a cross to bear and a shame to
hide. The City of Lancaster belongs to them.
The men of Lancaster were once describes as,"Scotsmen wi' brains kicked
in"... though not within hearing distance of either Scotsmen or Lancastrians,
unless the speaker had a death wish. Nothing has since been discovered
to refute the accusation and many believe it to be an astute observation.
To the itinerant traveller, Lancaster is a quaint market-town with its
fair share of castles, museums and places of historic interest but there's
something rather odd about its inhabitants. Legend has it that, in the
middle-ages when they hanged the last of the Pendle Witches, those evil
creatures left a curse on the city and its inhabitants. Legend does
not say what the curse was, but it certainly worked. The results are
there to be seen to this date.
There is an alternative theory... the 1947 Mental Health Act released,
upon an unsuspecting nation, thousands of people who should have remained
Those poor lost souls, knowing no better, settled in the immediate vicinity
of where they had been held. Subject to the natural laws of nature they
reproduced. their children had children with the result that their mental
stability grew stranger and stranger as the generations passed.
Lancaster in the 1980s was one such place; described by a local wag
of grat repute as one large Mental Institution. One half of the population
was in it and the other half, waiting to get in.
An innocent traveller chanced upon that city. He wanted to know what
it felt like to be transported, in chains, to Australia in days long-gone.
He came-upon a city of two populations. By day, it was a city of beauty
with a famous market, a good business and shopping centre... a place
for normal people to visit and work in. Unfortunately, as the sun fell
in the sky and darkness came its character changed. The idiots and all
of mankinds cast-offs came out to play. It became THE DEVIL'S PARADISE.
Any of the younger generation who reached the age of 20 without acquiring
at least two criminal convictions was considered soft and shunned by
the majority. To have a proper job that paid legitimate wages was almost
unheard-of. They had all achieved degree-standard in benefit fiddling.
"I just don't know what to do with myself..."
They did... drink. From the age of 14, alcohol provided the answers
to all of life's problems. Public Houses and Off Licences abounded in
the city centre.
Alcohol consumption figures doubled the national average.
Only those over the age of 80 or with permanent walking disabilities
ever spent a full evening drinking in one pub. The remainder spent the
evenings drifting from one pub to another, drinking a pint in each,
then carrying on until total alcoholic incapacity prevented them from
staggering any further. Then they set off to complete their evening
in style... a fight with the first person they set eyes upon. If it
was a really good night, a mass brawl was the ultimate sensation. No
evening was complete without, at least, one scrap.
"Billy! ...don't be a hero..."
The Police and all the local landlords followed this theme. It was more
than their life was worth to be a hero.
There was the local idiot, known to one and all, as, "Kick me... Kick
After his tenth pint of Witch's Brew he was virtually on another planet.
At that point, he lay down on the pavement, demanding of all passers-by
"Kick me...Kick me...!"
After they had duly complied with his wishes and kicked him senseless.
he staggered home... a happy man.
Dress-sense was almost non-existent. They were raised or dragged-up
with an inborn desire to never wear clothes of their size or were, in
any way, in-fashion. Oxfam and other charity shops were the main clothes
suppliers. Half the female population, giving them the benefit of the
doubt, were wearing creations for a dare or a bet.
Yet, amidst the fighting faction, there was a strange kind of morality.
Once a member of either sex was spoken for then rampant, green-eyed
jealousy reared its ugly head. Woe betide anyone who tried to chat-up
or even smile at someone who was spoken for. This resulted in more fighting
and brawling, with both sexes giving as good as they got.
Just some of the fond memories of that itinerant traveller. The remainder
would fill a book the length of War & Peace and be similar in
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jim Barton was born in 1944 and educated in the North Riding
of Yorkshire. "I left at 17 yrs of age to carve a career in
the Hospitality Industry," he writes, "I worked throughout the
British Isles and in France and Spain.
"I arrived in Blackpool in the mid-1970s and have been there
on-and-off ever since. I spent 1980-1986 as Manager of the Royal
Kings Arms... through good times and bad times. Regards to all
the friends I made in Lancaster.
I was forced through ill-health (M.S. and a stroke) to retire
"I have been taking Computer Studies Courses and Creative Writing
Courses at Bispham College, Blackpool and Lancaster University
(Certificate in Creative Writing).
"I have had a reasonable amount of success with publishing,
competitions, performing verse as Al Justavarf and various Art
Ventures. I receive some Grants from Wyre Borough Council for
Live Performance Events. I also help individuals and groups
with learning difficulties and physical disabilities... using
Creative Writing to give them self-confidence."