Shades of William Blake's "Dark satanic mills".

A small factory instantly evokes thoughts of Blake's "dark satanic mills"

One of the main reasons that I don't do too many organised tours, in spite of the fact that they are often a lot cheaper than going independently, is the fact that many times they just don't allow anything like enough time to see the places, let alone to sit down and to really absorb the atmosphere.

Dark satanic mills - A pen and ink, with watercolour pencil sketch done inside a small weaving factory near Dalat in Vietnam.

Kitted out for motor bike travel in Vietnam
Dark satanic mills - Not about to rob a service station, just normal clobber on the hazy highways of Vietnam

I was having a day on the back of a motor bike seeing the sights around the pleasant central highlands town of Dalat.
I had previously seen a mushroom farm (under someones rear verandah) and been dragged around a silk shop by an extremely determined matronly woman who only gave up on me when (thankfully), a group of other tourists came in.
The silk shop was typical of many retail outfits in Vietnam, they are selling machine made products but try to convey the impression of hand craftsmanship.
In this case it was a couple of small token hand looms that were unattended when I strolled in, but the girls leaped into action as soon as they saw the arrival of a walking wallet or potential customer.

So imagine my surprise when I strolled into this small silk factory. My M/C driver was was trying his best in broken English to explain the process but I asked him to leave me alone and waved him away.

Having been born and bred in Lancashire at a time when we still had a cotton industry I knew far more about the processes that were on show there than my amatuer guide.
No doubt about it, this was the real deal. There were two rows of spinning machines with about six girls looking after them. The silk cocoons were in a water bath in front of the machines and the women had to be constantly alert, joining up breaks and fitting on new cocoons.

silk weaving loom Dalat Vietnam
Dark satanic mills - The main frames of the machines were hardwood timber and the basic design probably 120 years old.

I borrowed a chair from another room and settled in front of a row of four weaving looms. The place was hot and smelled of machine oil. It was dark and noisy, like HEAD BANGER NOISY. Somehow the loud pounding, rhythmic noise of the machines didn't worry me. In fact it was quite pleasant. The two girls on the machines kept glancing back at me and then first one and then the other hopped over the short barrier wall separating us to see what I was doing.
I like to think that their smiles and attempts at conversation with me somehow helped to give them a break from what is undoubtably an appaling job. They certainly made my day.

During the three quarters of an hour that I was sat there that famous line from the artist, print maker and poet, William Blake kept running through my head.

Blake never made it to Lancashire let alone Vietnam, but he would have been quite at home in this Mill, you may have guessed, so was I.
Take away the fluorescent lights and we could have been back in the early days of the industrial revolution.

The New Jerusalem
William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my charriot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

"The art of drawing which is of more real importance to the human race than that of writing... should be taught to every child just as writing is... " John Ruskin 1819-1900

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