Happy Easter: Running, Rabbits and Joy Division
Posted on April 8, 2012 | By Wendy Stewart
When I used to live in Macclesfield I used to go running. In the summer I would have a route that would leave Macclesfield, go out to Prestbury, then up Chelford Road and I was in the Cheshire countryside. I used to run between the villages. If I ran to the end of Mottram St. Andrew and back it was 10 miles. If I ran to Alderley Edge and back it was 16 miles. If I ran to Wilmslow and back it was 20 miles.
The countryside in that area was narrow winding roads lined with hedgerows, no sidewalks, I just ran along the road. Wildlife and farm animals- pheasants, sheep, owls, highland cattle, Clydesdales, rolling green fields and stone fences. On a clear day, I could see the haze of Stockport and then Manchester on the horizon.
I always found that Mottram St. Andrew had strange weather. It could be perfectly sunny everywhere, and then when I went to turn around to head back home, sometimes it would be pouring rain, or hailing, but it was a beautiful place, full of farms, cottages, gardens.
In the winter, I ran a winter route around Macclesfield, because it was too dark to run in the countryside, there weren’t any streetlights in most of it. I would run down Bond Street across Macclesfield and then turn left or right. Macclesfield streets in the center made me miss Vancouver. I found the houses too close to the street, there weren’t many trees in that area, it just felt very grey and colorless. I would sometimes run early in the morning, through some parts which seemed extremely bleak and dark. I can remember one part I used to run through that wasn’t lit, it was on a street between industrial buildings that must have been a couple of hundred years old, and I used to run very fast through there. I was always glad to get back running out in the country when it got light enough after work.
I had never planned on living in Macclesfield. It had just happened. And when I ran down Bond Street I was only about a block away from where Ian Curtis from Joy Division had lived and died. When I was younger, I had heard some Joy Division, but I don’t think I really understood the music at the time. Now I was in my late 30’s and I was listening to a lot of their music. I put it down to maybe my musical taste maturing, but also I think understanding the environment gave me a new perspective on music from the Cheshire or Manchester area. I listened to music on my mp3 player when I was running, and I put Joy Division songs on there, and I can remember listening to She’s Lost Control running down Bond Street. Every once in a while I would take a detour around to Barton Street to see Ian Curtis’ old house. I think it was for sale at the time when I was moving back to Canada.
But when it was light, in the summer, when I ran outside of Macclesfield Centre, in the countryside I would see rabbits around there, small ones. Sometimes I would see them in the fields, sometimes I saw them lying dead after they had been hit on the road. Once I saw a rabbit hopping along the green grass on the side of the road that had something wrong with it’s legs, they didn’t seem to be moving very well, all though externally I couldn’t see anything wrong. It could have been diseased. It hadn’t been hit or anything. It was trying to walk along the grass but was having some trouble. Not sure what to do, and afraid that it might be hit, I picked it up. It started to freak out, kicking it’s legs, extremely uncomfortable with the fact I was holding it. I wondered about where I could put it where it would be safer. I obviously couldn’t take it back to Macclesfield with me. I was five miles away from home, and I had trouble imagining me running 5 miles carrying a rabbit with legs that didn’t work.
So I called the vets in Macclesfield on my cell phone. I knew that their vets’ actually had a wildlife unit that would treat local wildlife if needed. I said that I would leave the rabbit in a safe place, and they said they would send someone out to try and find it, as there was a vet going to a farmers nearby. So I set the rabbit down on the grass in an area set back from the road, where it seemed to just freeze in fear. I don’t think it was very happy with me. Anyway, that was all I could do. And then I started my run back home.
When I lived in Macclesfield, occasionally there would be a conversation in a pub about Ian Curtis. Someone would say something like “ blah blah’s aunt was living in the house behind his kitchen at the time,” that type of thing. I preferred to think of the positive things he did, even if they were struggles, firstly of course his music. But also his work as a civil servant. Starting around 1978, Ian Curtis was still working in Macclesfield at the Job Centre, assisting people with special needs to find work, and to keep the jobs that found. The people he helped had special needs, either mental or physical. One of the reasons he changes jobs was so he didn’t have to make the arduous commute into Manchester, (one that I know well, and must have been even worse in those days).
Part of Ian’s training would have focused on specific types of disabilities, including epilepsy, looking at symptoms, causes, the stigma of it, it’s limitations and treatments. He would have seen the affects of epilepsy in his clients, and probably meant he was able to provide helpful advice to them as he suffered from the disease himself. He would have also had to convince employers to understand his client’s disabilities and capabilities, in a less forgiving time. His boss, who he worked closely with, was supportive of him, would have helped him, eventually, to make the decision to register as a disabled person himself.
This piece of writing required research and includes fact. It also includes some aspects of creative nonfiction; it contains no composite characters and no names have been changed. I have tried to recreate events, locales and conversations from my memories of them, but I have taken some storytelling liberties, due to my interpretation of events, fading memory, lack of time machine, and need to cherry-pick some memories over others in order to express my thoughts within the story. Any opinions expressed are that of my own and not my employer.