Bill ate his meal in silence,almost as if the weight of the whole world rested upon his shoulders.It had been a very long day,a very long day indeed,with the new seam throwing up a nasty surprise deep underground.He was sure that the problem could be fixed,but his foreman,Vernon Penpraise just wasn’t himself.In fact,as he asked around among the men,their reticence to communicate with him about Vernon alarmed him even more.
Normally,Vernon was the man who would always encourage the men when difficult excavationproblems developed,but today Vernon looked and acted like a defeated man.From his discreet enquiries among the men,he had gleaned one nugget of information though and that was that Vernon must have made his own crib today.His food for the shift was a chunk of cheese and a piece of dried bread with no cake or even a drink.His men had remarked too that Vernon seemed tired,and had ignored the knocker up leaving Bill Tamblin to throw shade me gravel against his front dorm to wake him up.Vernon hadn’t explained why,and when he gave you that look,you just knew not to push it.Vernon was known as the strongest man in the village,a former Cornish wrestler and alas,a man with a very short fuse when roused.
As Bill tried to digest this,he knew that as the mine manager,he had a duty to ensure that production was always at its optimum levels,and having Vernon like this was a threat to the Production of the whole mine.But what could he do?He had known that since Vernon and Morwena came for tea,Vernon had kept his distance from him.Because of the costs,non of Vernon’s proposals regarding the safety of the miners had been acted on,in fact,short cuts were being taken and the atmosphere deep underground was now compromised.Now mining accidents sadly in the early part of the 20th were part and parcel of life in Cornwall,but memories of previ Us disasters,with their casualties ranging from one or two fatalities,to those in their 30s to 60s deaths or even more.This environment meant that the overall spirits of the miners was one of caution to say the least.Today,Vernon,his taciturn foreman had uttered two words to Bill :”Remember Botallack”.Those words rang in Bills ears,as this had been the worse Tin mining disaster for decades and had been caused by over production of an u familiar seem.Bill knew not to press Vernon,but his paymaster,Lord Falmouth wasn’t a man to be appeased.Bill needed to keep the Lord on his side as his Political aspirations would surely be damaged terminally if he decided to withdraw his support for Bill’s desire to sit on the local council.
As Bill ruminated on these pressing matters,Gwen,his wife,looked into his eyes and saw a darkness in them.She wondered if her inability to conceive a child was contributing to Bills depression of late.She desperately tried to make sure that Bill had everything that he needed,so much so ,that she had decided to keep to herself the fact that she planned to travel to Penzance to see the Women marchers as they set off for London.
Gwen struggled with her role as a subservient wife on the one hand,and her profound need to be involved in the women’s movement.She knew that Bill provided her with so many comforts and security,but it didn’t entirely reflect the person that she was.Gwen had thoughts of her own too,yes,hidden behaviour Jed the veil of respectability and social station,but her desire to see changes for women was,indeed,a genuine one.
That moment of silence,with Bill quandary about the mine,and his ambitions one hand,and aspirations for public service on the other in many ways mirrored Gwen’s stress too.You see,they were both victims of the expectations of the life that had been foisted upon them,They were,on the surface ,in a very enviable position .They appeared to have everything,but that would be to judge them incorrectly.You see,people indeed have depths to them,but you can’t have emotional depths without surfaces,and you have to accept the whole person for what they are dealing with in their life.
Both Bill and Gwen now looked up from their dinner,both forced a smile,both glanced up to the painting of Newlyn harbour but they weee each thinking of their own dreams,their own desires.In that unity of opposites there can often be a bizarre harmony,and sometimes live together with problems that might appear to be bizarre to others,but convention ,or security,or just habit keeps them together.This was the state of Bill and Gwen now,but little did they know that down Pengelly hill,Vernon was in a mental state that was to potentially change the whole lives of so many in this account that I have been writing about.