(in an area where my ancestors lived)
‘What is this life
If full of care
We have no time
To stand and stare.’
Thwarted. Today I missed the bus. Literally. Despite the cloudless sky and Indian summer temperature there’d be no walk along ’t’ tops for me this morning. So a change of plan was called for – a walk along’t’ bottoms. I got the bus into Tod intending to walk back along the tow-path. I alighted at Lidl’s and tried several streets to access the canal towpath. But, horror or horrors, the towpath is still closed. ‘No access, towpath closed’ read the sign. Thwarted again I found myself in a no man’s land of half ruined manufactories, spectres of the industrial revolution where broken off chimneys stand like sentinels over modern metal warehouses. A bike factory has pedaled its way into a derelict factory site. There’s even a wasp factory. No kidding.
The houses are still wedged tightly between these remnants of a bygone age and the streets are huddled together as if for protection from the grime and whirring of monster machines. Streets cower under the heavy burden of surrounding hills whose ancient mass weighs down onto the frailty of humanity. The houses here are snail shells where the sun never penetrates their exoskeleton, and from where the people venture out only to return quickly, recede, seek shelter and close the curtains on the outside world. Houses where the gentle, healing sunlight never penetrates, where Helios can never stroke his warming hand to soothe the savage breast, the bent and broken limbs of weavers, old before their time. Here where back to back houses with serried ranks of wheelie bins and bicycles cover their eight foot frontage there’s not enough room to swing a cat, and there are plenty of felines available, slinking around doorsteps that, once weekly proudly polished with donkey stones from the rag and bone man now rest, worn, grit ridden, cloudy with algae. One family have sought to bright things up a little! (see photo).
You take your life in your hands as you walk the back street in danger of being garroted by a dozen neon plastic washing lines perfectly positioned at neck height. Many of them display next week’s attire dancing in the breeze like a tormented ballerina on hot coals. I reach the last street, blinking for a moment as I emerge into the sunlight.
I find myself confronted with a tiny bridge over a small stream. As gaggle of geese shoo me over the bridge. From my elevated vantage point I look back at the back-to-back streets and think What a tip! In front of me, leaving the geese to waddle down to the water, a wooded pathway leads to a playground. A rotting piece of paper tacked to a notice board exhorts me to look out for Water figwort, Knapweed, and purple loosestrife. It’s only then I notice the name of the park: Tipside Park. For real? But of course. They don’t mince words in this neck of the woods!