Where Once I Stood As A Child

Dec 7, 2015.    Re-written May, 2020

Where once I stood as a child waiting for my father, I stand again, on the hump of the sandstone bridge built over the railway line. But now the railway is gone, replaced by a cycle way. Where I, aged six on my blue and red bike, would peddle hard up the slope of the bridge, others now peddle below, where the trains crunched heavily under my feet. I would watch with eager anticipation for the figure of my father to appear at the bend, down by the church. Soon and always on time, dropped off by a colleague from John Summers steel works, he would appear. With a high and sweeping wave he would signal his happiness to see me. And I him. Our relationship was innocent then, in a summer of skylarks bubbling up from the nearby football field. Our turmoils would come in later years, when the skylarks had stopped singing.

Fifty five years onwards I see on the walk to here some structures and fields that remain the same, but other things have gone. So I have been treading through the shards in my memory of once complete pottery, that I cannot mend. The old Saughall station is gone and an up-market housing development has filled the spaces; the railway workers’ cottages engulfed and gentrified. So I can only observe as though newly arrived; new layers on old.

Earlier on the walk I had passed a field full of people with metal detectors. These fields of loam were once the bed of the river until it was poured into a channel by eighteenth century ambition. The intense and focused prospectors seek down through the silt layers for the shards and coins of other stories, cast into the stream.  On the hill beyond them lies Bluebell Woods where I had played as a child, and which sometimes appears in my dreams. You can feel ghosts in those woods. I glance back to the bend in the road, wistfully seeking a raincoat-carrying wraith.

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