Friday, 10 February 2012

Hillside Avenue


When I think of Hillside Avenue
I remember the green
where all us kids would play
how some stayed late
while I watched
from my bedroom window;
they saw me peeping
laughed back -- pointed.

and I remember
the huge bonfires we built
each Guy Fawkes'
how once the remnants of a rocket
fell on my head
and singed a patch of hair.

When I think of Hillside Avenue
I remember the steam trains
on the goods line
that carried black dust
from the colliery
where my father worked
to power stations which created,
I was told,
light and power for our nation.

and I remember
wagons that tipped
a pile of nutty slack
outside each miner’s gate
how I helped to shovel it
into wheelbarrows
to store in the "coil-ole"
by the back door.

When I think of Hillside Avenue
I remember the odour of Brylcream
on the hair of my brother the teddy-boy
on the hair of my sister’s boyfriends
she who was “Miss England”
until the day she married

and I remember
the stench of urine
as each day my mother
tested grandma’s water;
I learnt of diabetes
and never again
took sugar
in my tea.

* * *

the green is a concrete carpark;
bonfires are banned,
but from October to November
load bangs disturb night air.
Council houses have been bought
by sitting tenants;
windows are double-glazed;
the coal-hole stores a boiler
that runs the central heating.
Collieries have long since closed.
The railway line is a footpath
to a small-business industrial estate.
My hair is grey.
Still I do not take sugar
in my tea.

© Gerald England

Composed: Gee Cross, 6th May 2003

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