How Many Steps
How Many Steps?
The stone walls that surround me have been here for a hundred and forty years. Once four separate little cottage dwellings the building stood derelict in the early nineteen seventies. Build mostly of sandstone it now stands as one detached dwelling.
Home to my family for the last thirty two years, it is a place I hope to see out my days in. Neighbours on either side have come and gone; each with their own, sometimes sad tale to tell. Other moments of joy and triumph make the row of houses a living tapestry of human life. Our house lies in the heart of the Gaunless Valley and was once part of an almost impoverished community trying to scratch coal and lead from the unforgiving seams that lie underground.
The village of Copley once boasted shops, pubs, a post office and a garage. The garage is all that is left of another time. The Village Hall still stands and struggles from year to year to survive (successfully so far) but the community is of a modern era. Most work in nearby towns. I myself travel thirty miles to teach in nearby Middlesbrough. Like many country dwellings the mark of the motor car is all too evident; with two and three cars per family jostling for space in the tiny street.
What we have here is relative peace and beautiful countryside. Gone are the smokey, grime-laden scars of a bygone industrial age and sheep safely graze in a field opposite that was once a collapsed mine shaft. Only transport is an issue. The buses are rarely used; partly because they are so infrequent and mostly because we are in the age of personal transport.
The steps in the photo are on the side of our house and were the original inspiration for this piece. They have been there since the cottages were built. Just at the top is a modern concrete flat roof that plays host to our oil tank, but beneath is an old pantry where a poacher hung his game. The steps lead to the upper part of the left side of the cottage. A lintel, just out of sight shows the first floor entrance. On the other side of the house the steps were removed when the derelict building was restored in the late nineteen seventies. I stood and stared at the worn steps and wondered…just how many journeys the have borne? How many tales of birth, marriage and death do the hold? Perhaps dark secrets lay within. No televisions to anesthetise the inhabitants, no telephones laden with junk calls, no gas (not even now) or even electric to warm or cook with. All that remains are the sandstone walls near two feet thick and a modern house within.
I come here with a million memories and my life has been colourful to say the least. Much laughter and some tears within. What a living tales could be told by those steps alone. Many we will never know, but maybe I can take steps to imagine and write some more…