Days of Poetry and Thunder (haibun)
I strolled along the newly-landscaped river Rea at Longbridge, Birmingham. It’s the site of the now-defunct Austin-Rover car factory, and this part of the river was actually underneath the complex for about 100 years. The redevelopment includes Bournville college, ‘high tec’ companies, offices and a large retail park. The factory used to employ over 20,000 people in its heyday… not sure how many work here these days. The college has about 12,000 students and runs courses on a myriad of different career options.
Back in the mid/late seventies, I worked at the plant when the famous (maybe infamous) trade union convenor, ‘Red Robbo’, was in full flight. I have memories of mass meetings in Cofton park where we’d strike for a few legitimate reasons and for many crazy reasons. I used to fit all sorts of miscellaneous fixings onto mini and allegro engines… eventually reaching the dizzy heights of both ‘floater’ and ‘rectifier’.
My workmates included some black country lads from Dudley who showed me how to cheat at ‘fives and threes’, and an Indian chap who taught me how to swear in Hindi. There was a nifty Irish fella who’d dash to the local bookie and put you a bet on if you promised him 10% of any winnings, another man who held bible classes during lunch breaks and a shady character who sold sausage and bacon from a suitcase at the end of the track.
over the city…
the ghost of summer past