Alan Bennett on the relic that will be coal

Barry White

Alan Bennett’s yearly diary (2021) which chronicles his life, was published just before Christmas by the London Review of Books (for the 6 January edition). Writing about buying coal for his home in Clapham Alan records:

“14 November. Sometime before lockdown, and with no thought of swearing off fossil fuels, I ordered some coal from Mr Redhead, our coal merchant in Ingleton. The coal shed halfway down the garden must once have been the earth closet, a change of use I rather regret, as when we were evacuated to Byril Farm in Nidderdale on the outbreak of war, they were still using an earth closet. It was idyllically situated in the orchard and though as a five-year-old I fear I thought it disgusting, in retrospect sojourns here with the door open and Tommy the horse grazing in the orchard seem idyllic. Our ex-earth closet now the coal shed must once again be facing a change of use, though still full of the unused coal from before lockdown. ‘This is coal,’ I imagine my descendants being told. ‘It used to be fuel.’ Now it’s – what? A relic? One can only hope so.”

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