By Parson Thru
Driving back from my aunt's, up the motorway in the rain, invites communion with the past.
I detour via Leeds – that problematic setting – turning off the radio, better to follow signs through the urban knot of lanes. A61/A58.
A lot of history here.
Disorientated. Been a while. It’s dark now. The screen is misted and cars are overtaking, left and right.
Viaduct. Under the railway line and up to the junction. Headrow to the left. Playhouse. A61/A58 straight ahead. York Road/A64, right.
Emerging into Sheepscar. I lived above here somewhere to the left – the tower blocks on the hill, six of them. Lovells to the left, Oatlands right. Pass the TA centre, swing left and up for Meanwood Road. I can’t resist a look.
Lit windows stare down from their place in the sky. Crazy days.
I get that same feeling. What was it? A buzz. Nerves, maybe. They’ve refurbished the Oatlands.
Crazy days, indeed.
Swing back round through Sheepscar and half left this time up Scot Hall Road, climbing. We used to come on the train, pre car. Maybe my uncle drove us up. Council houses bordering the carriageway sink into the hill. Just as they did back then.
Feels further. Over roundabouts. Stainbeck Road. Sharp left at the garage. Is it still Esso? Or did I imagine it?
Right there. Third house. Half hidden behind the hedge. I slow. Those leaded windows. All the Christmases, games in the garden, hours of Monopoly. The blackened bathroom. Immersion heater fire. It still disturbs me. The bay is narrower than I remember. Different door. But that’s it.
On down the hill. Stainbeck Lane, Potternewton Lane. I can’t be certain. Left at the lights. They’re red. Wait. Look around. Farm Hill. Could be any of these. There’s a hill to my left. It’s all hills. Turn up a street. Leeds houses – West Riding. They remind me of Unionists on television.
The street names are all wrong. It’ll have to wait. I’m tired, and I’d better be getting back to York. I’ve been away hours. Old jealousies and sadnesses. We don’t need that.
Back onto Scot Hall Road. Pass the garage, forgetting to look. Roundabout, Harrogate Road. Right onto the Ring Road. God, the ghosts around here.
I pull over. Google Maps. Farm Hill North. Streetview.
It’s a summer’s day. Just as I remember. I drag my finger down the screen. This is it. Something strange happens. I'm there. Nearly fifty years. The walk up the street, up the hill. The facing houses higher. Their's set back and falling. I see it. Absolutely no doubt. Third pair along, split level roof.
I drag my finger slowly. Turn. That’s it. Where I scrambled down the steps from the path. Where the tiny garage used to be. The Hillman estate no one drove. The tailgate being swung open. The porch. The windows. DanAir Britannias coasting into Yeadon. The silver painted tree at Christmas. Walking the poodle out the garden gate and down the backies to the crossroads shops. The radio in the kitchen.
Then I think of what they did. Slip the phone away. The rain's almost stopped.
Indicate. Check the mirror.
It’s always like this.