I think it most when I am stationary, maybe sitting in a car at traffic lights, or pausing while walking a footpath that runs alongside a light industrial unit.
“What on earth has this place done to deserve this?”
Looking at the acres of concrete, prefabricated buildings, sodium lights and metal gantries, I’m compelled to look beyond this man-made horror and imagine what lies beneath. What was once here? A field? A wood? I can now imagine someone walking across this very spot, flat cap, roll-up stuck in the corner of his mouth, on the way home after a day’s work. There is the row of cottages of which one he calls home. A mile from town, but still well served by a couple of pubs and several homesteads that sell fresh produce. The earth roads this way see little traffic, they’re more like tracks and see just a few horses each day, and certainly no wandering stranger. Our ‘ghost’ was born in the very same house that he is now walking to, he was christened in the church that we can still see on the nearby hill, was married there twenty years later and buried yards from where he walked out with his bride - close to the ancient yew - a further forty years on from then.
When he was lowered into the ground the church yard was surrounded by meadows and hedges. The tallest buildings nearby were the three church spires that dominated all around. If, by some miracle, we could awaken him now and bring him to the surface, what would he make of it all? He would recognise the Yew, that has hardly changed in the 150 years that he has been ‘at rest’, but as for the rest... the noise, so much glass, shiny metal, great walls of dull cladding, and what on earth are these strange contraptions that dash by with people in them? Where are the fields that he looked over from his front door? Where, indeed IS his front door? Gone. Demolished to make way for houses that were needed to home the town overspill and they, in turn, demolished to make way for warehousing and factories. The hedges grubbed up. The lone trees felled. The fields levelled. The pubs shut. The people moved on.
So I look down at the concrete, the fencing, the litter, the bright lights and the ugly simplicity of kit-form construction and think of the Grey Partridges that once formed coveys here, the Yellowhammers that sang from the Hawthorn, the speedwell and pimpernel flowering along the field edge, and ‘our’ man, who couldn’t have imagined what was to become of his little world.
Just what did this place do to deserve this?