Back in March I wrote of my experience in South Yorkshire during the miners' strike; I didn't then identify the village I wrote about, but it was Edlington, and it was the men who worked in the Yorkshire Main 3,000 feet below our quarry, some of whom I came to know, who were on strike.
I've never been back, but in a strongly-argued piece in today's Times Janice Turner invites us to visit that place. I can see in my mind's eye exactly the place that Janice describes, though the men I knew 25 years ago may now be dead or decrepit, such is the difference in life expectancies between poor ex-miners and comfortably affluent London professionals. Back then, drugs were a few shared spliffies - giggly grass, or some crumbly hashish, and then with moderation; eight hours between bottle and throttle was a good rule when you were operating machinery that could kill your mates.
The Dude is quite right in terming me a drugs Puritan, for I truly loathe both hard drugs and Skunk, a version of cannabis so auto-nihilistic that like Absinthe it's a quick path to insanity. And it's the drugs in Edlington that Turner blames for the recent horrors there.
Save your pity for Edlington, though. It's not pity its people need, but power in their own community; power to drive-out the druggies, power to deal with their delinquent kids. The people of these pit villages have Localism in their DNA, and their voluntary collectivism will manifest itself in brass bands and fiercely tribal village football teams. And those skills long learned from the NCB and passed from father to son are not yet dead; skills that can strip and rebuild an engine, fabricate and engineer pretty much anything from scrap, improvise and contrive. Garden shed ingenuity is alive and well in Edlington. The potential of these people is so much more than a catalogue goods distribution warehouse. Give them power and pride will follow.