By Parson Thru
Walking back from Sowerby Bridge along the towpath. The soles of my feet are sore. I haven’t walked this far in ages. It’s further than I thought. Almost back at the junction.
Fish are taking nymphs
Openings between two worlds
Sky is heavy grey
Anonymous motel. Grey drizzle sky over crumbling settlements, enfolded under Pennine hills. Primal Scream piped through Roberts radio evokes time past. Argentinian Malbec evokes states of altered consciousness. I’m resting on a mattress of mythology, biography and poetry.
A woman fell a hundred feet from Hell Hole, Heptonstall. Not the joke I thought when I read the name on Google maps last night. The women in Saint Thomas a Becket were animated. It happened on Monday. She’d owned a holiday home a few doors up from one of them; the one whose cup I kicked over going to the toilet.
I stand before a headstone
My shoes were soaked. Trousers drenched to the knee. I felt like some deranged groupie. I’d been wading through wet grass in the churchyard, then spotted a gate along the lane. An overspill. Thirty minutes more searching in the drizzle through ranks, chronologically arranged.
Hebden furnished books and a bottle of Malbec. On the clean broad bed, Greek Myths and Euripides joined Hughes, Harrison and Plath, Whitman and Kerouac. An unauthorised biography lay open on Kindle. Guaranteed night’s sleep.
Sky becoming dark
Listen to the radio
Downstairs, the telephone voice. The money-making voice. One call after another. So many saucers spinning. Time is money. Money is money. Death is death.
Primal Scream. The tracks have skipped out of synch. How? No matter. I like mysteries. I like the laws of conservation, but I like mysteries, too.
The Halifax arm’s been amputated. Hacked clean off at Huddersfield Road. The Hebble makes the crossing alone. Technically, canal water comes through a culvert beneath the cyclepath to emerge as a dark disturbance in the basin, opposite the motel, just where a sign offers long-term moorings. No takers.
Many shades of green
Surface moving right to left
Millstone grit reflects
I walked under Huddersfield Road earlier, following the Hebble in its narrow gorge with some romantic notion of coming out at a city centre wharf. But it was after eight. Dark beneath the trees. Deserted. A couple of dog walkers gave me strange looks. Time to turn around.
Stagnant arm, surface scum, floating bottles and upturned tins. Like the canals of childhood. Emerge into daylight at Salterhebble Locks. Scribble at a lonely picnic table, smell of cut grass. A worn-out cruiser bumps against its mooring near the sluice.
I get it now.
Sense of place. Luddenden, then the Slab seen from a traffic jam in Mytholmroyd, scene of fraternal walks before the move to Mexborough. Another long fall, according to the lore. Hebden, Todmorden and Lydgate. Short streets of back-to-backs, the valley narrowing towards its head. Portsmouth. Broken, shuttered mills against the road. Calder.
Sound of passing cars
Lying on a bed of books
Whiskey in a glass
I get it now. Half past two in the morning in a clean motel bed.
An ordinary gravestone, a few pebbles on top and a dry wipe pen. Married surname scratched off. The biographer said they’d stopped doing that. Blue biro a spur of the moment thing.
Rainclouds scraped the tower. I’d left the car in the social club car park, beside the fire engines. The epitaph is short and unmemorable. Afficionados will hiss at me. So, too, objectivists.
Chair sitting empty
Sky is painted by Magritte
A wasp eats an ant
Garden, greenhouse, lovely as they are, all I really need is peace and a feeling of security. Like this. A small room with a window overlooking the canal and a locked door. Breakfast is a short walk up the car park. I check out in an hour and a half. The stress is here already. The knot. It’s knowing I’ll have to be detached again. PPE. Corrosive substance. The urge to scream, or at least cry, is building. It was there last night. I tried in the early hours but nothing came. For all the poetry and tragedy, the room lacks pathos.
So much has changed. Me. I’ve changed. Maybe it’s the way that I respond. No more conspiracies. No more “one of us”. I’ve been to the top of the fell and looked into the next bit. Everything they told me about it was untrue. There are no foreigners, and no one “takes the Mickey”.
The fox curls its lip
Bares a row of yellow teeth
Something in that look
No need of dirty secrets. We are what we are, and that’s ok. Curiosity. Openness. Respect. No one’s shouting at me or wanting to knock my head off. Sometimes, maybe always, the best thing you can do is leave. But in the real world, there are times when there’s no option but to go back.
How they fly.