D. H. Lawrence (1919)
There is in the North a single-line system of tramcars which boldly leaves the county town and plunges off into the black,
industrial countryside, up hill and down dale, through the long, ugly villages of workmen's houses, over canals and railways,
past churches perched high and nobly over the smoke and shadows, through dark, grimy, cold little market-places, tilting away
in a rush past cinemas and shops down to the hollow where the collieries are, then up again, past a little rural church under the
ash-trees, on in a bolt to the terminus, the last little ugly place of industry, the cold little town that shivers on the edge of the
wild, gloomy country beyond. There the blue and creamy coloured tramcar seems to pause and purr with curious satisfaction.
But in a few minutes—the clock on the turret of the Co-operative Wholesale Society's shops gives the time—away it starts
once more on the adventure. Again there are the reckless swoops downhill, bouncing the loops; again the chilly wait in the hill-
top market-place: again the breathless slithering round the precipitous drop under the church: again the patient halts at the
loops, waiting for the outcoming car: so on and on, for two long hours, till at last the city looms beyond, the fat gasworks, the
narrow factories draw near, we are in the sordid streets of the great town, once more we sidle to a standstill at our terminus,
abashed by the great crimson and cream-coloured city cars, but still jerky, jaunty, somewhat daredevil, pert as a blue-tit out of
a black colliery garden.
To ride on these cars is always an adventure. The drivers are often men unfit for active service: cripples and hunchbacks.
So they have the spirit of the devil in them. The ride becomes a steeplechase. Hurrah! we have leapt in a clean jump over the
canal bridges—now for the four-lane corner! With a shriek and a trail of sparks we are clear again. To be sure a tram often
leaps the rails—but what matter! It sits in a ditch till other trams come to haul it out. It is quite common for a car, packed with
one solid mass of living people, to come to a dead halt in the midst of unbroken blackness, the heart of nowhere on a dark
night, and for the driver and the girl-conductor to call: 'All get off—car's on fire.' Instead of rushing out in a panic, the
passengers stolidly reply: 'Get on—get on. We're not coming out. We're stopping where we are. Push on, George.' So till
flames actually appear.
The reason for this reluctance to dismount is that the nights are howlingly cold, black and windswept, and a car is a haven
of refuge. From village to village the miners travel, for a change of cinema, of girl, of pub. The trams are desperately packed.
Who is going to risk himself in the black gulf outside, to wait perhaps an hour for another tram, then to see the forlorn notice