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Pendle Chronicles: Be positive!

Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 14:01 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010

It was still snowing heavily when my producer, Elise Wicker, and I arrived in Pendle, Lancashire, by train. It was my second visit, you can read about my first here.

We found a minicab station and our driver said: "I'll get you as far as I can, but you'll have to walk the rest of the way".

He drove us almost to the gates of our bed and breakfast on the outskirts of town.

In the silence of the early darkness, in the fresh air, the serenity of the surrounding pastures covered by Siberian-like snow were awesome.

The following morning we quickly understood that beauty of this kind comes with a price-tag. The taxi we had booked was lost among impassable roads and a small car we hired slid back on the first hill.

Some of the businesses and offices we had come to investigate were closed because staff couldn't get in.

We had come to Pendle to see how the wide-scale spending cuts, introduced by Britain's coalition government, have affected businesses and the lives of ordinary people.

Talking to people in various businesses, I could draw a parallel between them and the snow: Each is refreshing and beautiful on the surface, but both carry many underlying problems.

It seems that nobody is blaming the new government yet, but many talked about the hardships that are creeping into their lives.

Alain from the car rental company says that now they are not working for profit - they keep going just to sustain business and pay salaries. Pub owner Andrew is concerned about the forthcoming raise in VAT (value added tax, that is put on some goods at the point of sale) he thinks it will dramatically reduce his clientele.

On the other hand, Mike, a proprietor of a café, argues that he hadn't noticed big changes when VAT was decreased and then increased once again last year. What he's worried about is the period after Christmas, when people have less money to spend.

However the mood of the town is to just get on with it. People are demonstrating their resilience. When Higherford Mill Trust - where an art gallery and artists workshops can be found - faced severe cuts, they all decided to work a four-day week rather than making some people redundant, The local hairdresser, Dale, has frozen his prices and decreased the profit margin to attract new customers.

Speaking metaphorically, everyone is finding their own way through these snowy fields and roads.

Listening to my crunchy steps on the snow on my way back to our bed and breakfast, I remembered what the owner of the shop "Witches Galore", Maureen, said: "One should be positive". She added with a mysterious sparkle in her eye: "Like a white wise witch".

She spoke in the fast-falling darkness and her words rang true through the white snow.


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