The river runs through and away from the town. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you’re running to, just that you’re running.
It’s fucking freezing, biting my fingers.
The trail walks along the river. Stop here. Look there. Think about this.
Mist hangs in funeral wreaths over the river. In the water a fluorescent jacket clings to a rock, covered in long strands of stringy weed. Bright eyes in a gaunt face. Carling, Bulmer’s, Stella; their detritus hides in the undergrowth on the banks. Interlopers, all. A phrase from a movie pops into my head: “Never shit where you eat.”
Here, in the mist and drizzle, tracksuits clutching Home Bargains carrier bags, baseball caps skipping college, minimum wage zero hours, zero opportunities, zero reasons to stay, is anybody hungry?
Fifteen feet of mosaic forms a mural. Trams. An industrial past, the skeletons of which are still in the valley’s carcass. Miners. Happy, smiling miners, hardworking men of the pits, industrious men, hard hats, a pickaxe over one shoulder, smiling, not coughing, not desperate for breath, not post-industrial destitute, not dying of lung disease and COPD before they can enjoy their pension, not leaving widows in terraced cottages as cold a tombs.
Black and grey spray paint, the cheapest, nastiest graffiti of meaningless slogans, names, crudely-drawn bollocks, cover the flat-capped chappie on the Penny Farthing, obliterates the tram and the generation-to-generation shops, and the exciting high-rise housing of the nineteen-sixties, a flash new scrapheap for those left behind.
Not art. A dirty spray-can Fuck You to the sanitised, gentrified, tourist history.
It’s glorious. And I wonder if India, if Hong-Kong, if Cairo or Sierra Leone or St Helena or Ireland are told what their heritage should be.