EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: Walking just to be alive again

I JUST needed to breathe again. It felt like I had forgotten how to and the life was being slowly sapped away from me,.
EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: Walking to breathe againEDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: Walking to breathe again
EDITOR'S PERSPECTIVE: Walking to breathe again

The sickness had lasted three days now and its poison was spreading from my body to my mind.

I sucked in the cold air, the wind battering my face, and stared at the clouds racing across the hills, less threatening than the ones that had soaked the valley just minutes ago.

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It was meant to be a brief walk inbetween the spiteful showers, a chance to allow the elements to awaken senses dulled by a prolonged period of weakness and inner turmoil, but it didn’t turn out that way.

On I marched, barely a soul to nod at or exchange a brief greeting with, past the primary school I went to, pubs I used to drink in, cricket grounds I played on and headed two villages away, looking up at the moor on which my grandad used to take my brother and myself and on which, for decades, the quarryside displayed a swastika painted in red. Maybe it still does.

I went by where he lived, where my brother lived until recently and down the lane on which my mother was attacked by a man she is almost certain was Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, in 1970, before he started killing. For some reason I took a picture of the exact spot and shuddered.

Just yards away was the house in which my earliest days were spent. It looked much the same as I remembered, but then I was only three when we left.

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On I went to the mill in which my dad worked for 46 years until barely two weeks before his death 20 years ago. The factory gates and the building itself seemed less foreboding than when he occasionally used to let me in to hear the constant clattering of the looms, which induced his partial deafness.

My breathing became deeper.

I carried on up to a pub I hadn’t been in for years and turned back to the railway track, stopping for a moment to remember the time I was made to walk along the bridge above it as my initiation to a gang that never existed. The wall was higher and narrower than I recalled and I wondered how I hadn’t fallen onto the line and died.

Running up this hill was never a problem and I knew that I still could, but heading up the next one, steeper, I realised I would no longer be able to do so. As the years pass by our options are reduced.

The posh houses overlooking the valley to the opposite side from where I had been 90 minutes ago guided me into the park, where I sat on a swing for a few minutes and took in a view largely unchanged over five decades.

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It occurred to me that I had seen no-one I knew or at least recognised and then I did; a lad from secondary school I had never liked much. We had a good chat. He was nice. Good things had happened to him. And bad.

A new bar in the village where the newsagents used to be was packed, but there was just one bloke smoking on the steps outside the old social club where I spent many a Christmas morning and where my father drank every night. I wondered who drank there now. Probably no-one I knew.

The house in which we lived for 40 years now belongs to someone else – what did it look like inside?

It had started raining again and as I headed down the road to my mum’s house I thought again of the walks my grandad and sometimes – less so – my dad would go on with me, and I understand now the reasoning behind their relating of countless stories of the past and explanations as to what had changed and how.

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If a place isn’t London, Liverpool or Leeds its history is often never written and its past is only kept alive by storytelling, in the same manner as folk music only by people who can’t sing or play an instrument. If it wasn’t for that, well, who would know such little dots on the map – sometimes not even that – ever existed?

It struck me that everything had changed yet everything was the same. I knew that I liked that and I felt alive again.

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