Wednesday, 8 August 2012


The land is a well-kept secret. From the row of houses lining the main road of the village the fields tumble greenly down to the river and then shoot back up to the top of the valley - a wide, world-shunning vista. Plantations of pines clumped against dry stone walls. Moors on the periphery, pillars of smoke in the distance. The train track follows the curve of the river as it severs the dale's green swathe gently in two, winding through the old station empty since they stopped digging limestone decades ago. Quarries hide in the woods on the hillsides, their last-hewn stones wound round with grass; conifers and craters where men once crowded to work.

A long, blank summer. I buried myself in the car panel warehouse, working 8 til 7, endless weeks, raw calves, hauling sumps, windscreens, bonnets. Black Monday mornings wilting in the sunless heat, pocketing small change, pointlessly stoic. Bowman, the village cartoon, fat cigar-smoking capitalist, would wander down from his boss's layer, a tumoured warren: conservatories, protuberances, a gothic folly of the eighties. When he stooped behind us the air greyed over with greed, magnetised our last filaments of strength, his charcoal laugh the true sound of a century in which the old villainy is occulted but stoked, unabated.

At break time we sat in the corner of an oil-grimed hut. Jordan's breasts smiled at us from a faded poster, a sun-worn diptych of the nineties. Those men hated that job, but they sat there for each other, trying to make jokes ring, finding ways to overlap, mostly agreeing. It was here that I saw paradise for the first time: in the arrangement of people, hatred of the residual cartoons, the proximity of minds. I think about the warehouse every day, though I rarely go back to the village, and some say it doesn't exist.

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