Sunday, 8 November 2020

Just what did this place do to deserve this?

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?

6 comments:

Gibster said...

Reading this has brought up some strange emotions inside me, Steve. And I'm really not quite sure what to make of them just yet. Definitely one of your harder hitting posts. For me, anyway. One to mull over, methinks.

Ric said...

He'll be thinking the same thoughts of anyone who was born to toil in fields all their lives. An escape.
The countryside is a lovely place for those who can simply dip a toe in it for their curiosity and obsessive observations. But try surviving in it with nothing else.
Our man of that era would also be lucky to live to fifty years of age since he would have all the wonders and delights of diseases such as Cholera and Smallpox to deal with, let alone rabies which was endemic.
That and the expectation that a war was a given and that he would almost certainly be a slave to whosever land he occupied. No luxuries here.
Forget the prosy slush of rose tinted glasses. Life then was brutal, short and harsh.
He would have welcomed life in the world that looks like it does now.

Steve Gale said...

Seth - mull over my friend. Your final thoughts will be very interesting.

Ric - the prosy slush is from my viewpoint and not his. He is there to show the change. I am aware that life was hard, even brutal, for many of the working classes, although he is not identified as a worker of the fields, just one who lived by one. Your point is taken.

Stewart said...

God thats so depressing Steve. But yes I do it too, especially with new housing estates called Orchid Meadows or Fallowfield etc. One day our whole country will be covered in man made structures and tarmac...

Chris Janman said...

This put me in mind of a poem by Charles Causley called "Who?"very evocative.

Steve Gale said...

Stewart, we’ve just had a Brambling Close built near to us.

Chris, just looked it up and read it. Many thanks for the suggestion.