Between the concrete and glass of the city centre office developments, down side streets and alleys, the remnants of a bygone age remain, part hidden, glimpsed in passing but unremarked. Look up! Above the shop front facades, the bright lights that draw consumers like moths to the flame, burning them as surely as the moth is burned. Above the glass fronts and the bright lights lives a World of brickwork and architraves, gargoyles and wrought iron balconies, the secret in plain sight if only we used our eyes.
The styles a dizzying array, Palladian, Neo-Gothic, Georgian, Edwardian, Victorian building styles when solidity and quality were not yet dirty words, when craftsmen toiled by hand to wring a structure from its bare components. Repurposed now, these former homes of the wealthy elite, the industrial giants who made this city great. the merchants and financiers who fuelled a boom and built an empire. Almost lost now in a sea of post-modern mediocrity but still there for those who care enough to see….
I look like you, dress like you,
Sound like you, walk like you,
Talk like you, but I don’t think
The thoughts locked in my head
The dark visions, the rage
The heart-wrenching pain, the
secrets that I lock inside
These are the things that
make us different that keep
Us separated by a gulf that
Is impossible to bridge
No matter how I try I can never
Be you, too broken, too damaged
To integrate fully into your World
To be one of you
So I hide my non-conformity behind
A veil, a mask, shadowed
And walk amongst you, a vision of deception
But my time will come
The rain, soft yet insistent, continued without abatement for days, weeks, the ground becoming saturated, the structure of the soil waterlogged as the water table rose. Across the region the streams and rivers draining the vast catchment areas of the moors were swollen as the downpour, with nowhere else to go, poured into fast flowing torrents. As the rate of flow increased so did the speed of erosion, dirt, mud, gravel, stones washed down with the tempestuous water, banks undercut, tree roots undermined as the beds of the rivers began to clog.
“It was inevitable” the news reports said, hiding the years of mis-management and underinvestment, the failure to dredge the lower river channels, to keep the upper courses clear. The memories of the disasters of the 1950’s, the flash floods that destroyed communities, the lessons that were never learned. The banks burst, unable to control the surge, the high street inundated, lives ruined by the tide of sludge and slurry, the repercussions devastating…
banners unfurl in the cold, grey light of dawn, the slogans freshly painted but echoing the sentiments displayed a hundred, a thousand times before on the unforgiving streets. A call for peace, a call for equal rights, a call for liberty, the details may change as society moves on but at the core, unchanging, eternal is the sense of injustice, the sense that the game is rigged somehow, that the strongest prosper only on the broken backs of the weak.
If only there were some way that we could work together, re-distribute the wealth that we generate fairly and equitably. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” the surplus being saved against tighter times. A safety net for all who need it, allowing those who can to soar without fear, whilst those who struggle steel feel able to contribute and that their contribution has validity and worth….
….and so the protest goes on…
The gunmetal grey of the corrugated roofing sheets contrast sharply with the deep burnt umber of the old brickwork, the mortar barely noticeable as its once bright colour has darkened with age. The plaque on the wall above the large double doors gives a date of 1841 and the 170 plus years of weather, pollution, grime sit heavy on the shoulders of a building once considered at the cutting edge of industrial design. A monument to a largely forgotten past, just as the grand neo-gothic churches of the same period are monuments to a belief that is no longer the driving force of a nation.
The parallel decline of faith and industry, too many idle hands that are never told they are the devils playthings. What drives us? What motivates us when fear of eternal damnation no longer stalks our waking moments? What happens to the protestant work ethic when the protestants are gone? The great industrialists that built both factory and church are gone, consigned to elaborate crypts, their names mere echoes, blue plaques on walls, a collection of syllables with no attachment to their deeds, and maybe that is what is missing? A sense of attachment, of belonging….
More effective than any steel barred, concrete and stone edifice. More closely monitored than the most intensely scrutinised exercise yard. No need for watch towers or barbed wire, no need for guards or patrols, the control excerpted by the psyche absolute. The terror of self imposed solitary confinement, self enforced isolation, the dark walls of a mind closed in on itself, shut down by years of neglect, of loneliness, of constantly questioning motive, drive, reason.
And yet a single word, a moment of compassion, a smile at the right time, some gentle, barely perceptible external stimulus, some moment of discrete kindness could shatter this prison, this fortress of broken promises, of scars that can not heal more effectively than any wrecking ball wielding demolition crew. Will you be the one to set the walls of my prison mind tumbling?
What gives you the right
To tell me who I am, what I am, where I’m at?
Do you know me, what I’ve seen, where I’ve been?
Do you even know how I think, how I react, what drives me?
I didn’t think so, you know my label and think
that gives you some right, some insight
into what makes me tick, what makes me work
Am I my label? Does it define me to you?
Well I’m here to show you I am more than any label
More than anything your boxed off mind can comprehend
I am your worst nightmare, a demon figure that haunts your darkness
And worst of all…,
…..I have a voice
My world, crashing down, falling, broken
Inside the heart torn, bleeding beneath the skin
Fires extinguished, passions dimmed to embers,
Strength gone, the drive to rise, the will to power…..
Been here before but each time feels
So much worse, so destructive, terminal
each time brings me one step closer
One heartbeat from the edge of reason….
No recourse, no way back, the only option
To fight when all hope is gone, when fighting is futile
The greatest battles the ones you can not win
But chose to fight anyway, the battles that are already….