Going up into the loft is always a bit like time travel, I think; the further into the dusty recesses, the further back in time. And I’m up here today as the smallest in the family, it’s still my job, despite the fact that I’m 22. I don’t mind this chore and someone’s gotta bring down the lights for the Christmas tree!
I can see my breath as I negotiate my limbs around the wooden frames and I remember that it’s the insulation I’m walking on that’s keeping the rest of the house toasty warm. I still remember revising that for my end-of-school exams. And that [monotone] district heating heats homes from a central plant via a series of pipes, blah blah blah.
I see an old box. It’s made out of what my mum calls ‘cardboard’, so it’s gotta be dead old. Inside I see it’s our family history collection, the one Grandad put together *ages* ago. Time travel, here we go! I open the box and am drawn to one book called The Pits. I smirk as I open it up and take a look; these are old photographs, printed. I don’t even think they’re digital. And everyone is black with dirt. They’re wearing what looks like the transition uniform, but they’re filthy. The whites of their eyes shine bright, though, like their teeth. I turn over. John’s written a helpful (possibly patronising) note to the future on the top left-hand corner; it reads: ‘This is a newspaper clipping, newspapers were the way news was shared before the internet.’ (*Thanks John…*)
It’s dated 1920s. Wow, that is old. It’s so faded. But I can still make out the title: ‘South Tyneside mine floods, killing 30’.
This story is family legend; everyone knows great-great-great-uncle Jim was killed by this accident. It’s weird to think that the tragedy of the flooded coal mine would turn out to be a saving grace 100 years later when humans had to hot tail us out of disaster and find another way to generate heat. I’m studying the 2020s in history at the moment – man, did they dice with fire. I think it was 2022 when a researcher went back down that mine Uncle Jim died in and realised they could use it as the central plant to heat our homes. Our professor says, ‘History is not without its irony.’ I look back at the first photo of all those smiling men. I guess they didn’t know how quickly the world would get addicted to coal.
I’m brought shrilly back to the present with two precious words from two floors down, “Dinner’s ready!”
Sophia Cheng With a decade of communications experience across the for profit and nonprofit sectors, agency and in-house, Sophia has made a habit of making ‘the hard stuff’ more accessible. Since 2018, she has reorientated her life around the climate crisis. She has forged her decade of communications experience into offering workshops, mentoring, blogging, and more, on the biggest issues of our time. View all posts