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THE DEVIL'S PARADISE by JIM BARTON

"Lancashire... My Lancashire...". The opening words of Lancashire's own anthem.

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 in care.

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 me..."

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 content...


Story 2002 . Please contact the writer if you wish to use this story for publication.

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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 in 1996.

"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."

The Devil's Paradise © 2002 Jim Barton

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