A Shire

I will tell you a story about a shire. The terraced houses clustered tutting over the fag ends in the street below. The pubs spewing out crowds who shout at each other in slurred accents that carry the illusion of a memory of wealth. The shrugged shoulders of green hills holding silent traces of a first night, skirts hitched up, eyes filled with stars, a discarded condom anonymous graffiti to a moment in time. The honourable great house, sold now to a Russian to pay for a string of fast cars and a decade or two of dilapidation. The kids sloping through the quiet streets in aimless pale imitation of their urban counterparts.

Pretty little houses standing empty five days in seven, the teenagers not staying in to admire the Aga, but drawn to the council estate where a father cooks up a massive round of bacon sarnies dripping with butter and ketchup and serves it to the group giggling over the hyper-violence of the latest triple-A. Libraries are shed like leaves, curling into ash and swept away by a cold wind from the South. Old men, faces lined with years of regret, stare silently into the frothy pint from a dingy little bar in a side road that few remember. History curdles in the middle of the day, polite words drift against the buildings in sloughed off heaps of pleases and just fine thanks and you?

Fragments of pottery dug up every planting season, a school stuffed to the seams and decked out with sharp-toothed railings. Worried eyes flicking to the BBC news, and pausing every now and then to follow the birds as they swoop ecstatically against the sky and shriek warnings to any who will listen.

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