Thursday, 4 November 2010

Wordy Thursday: Sidelined

Another example of work I did for my MA in Creative & Critical Writing at Chester Uni. We had to write a piece of reportage about where we lived. This is an extract about where I lived at the time.

For forty-two years, Alice Thomas has lived in the same little house in Llong, the last in a row of red brick cottages built in the 1860s for workers on the railway line along which, for twenty of those years, goods or passengers were ferried six yards from her door. Six times a day, trains from Chester would call at Bretton, Broughton, Penyffordd and Padeswood, then Llong, before continuing to Mold and on to Denbigh or the coast. Six times a day they would rush or trundle past in the opposite direction.

For two decades Alice lived her life to the rhythm of passing trains: more than 87,000 of them over the years (if we calculate twelve trains every day with the exception of Christmas and New Year). They rumbled comfortably in the background, conforming to a timetable she had not set but which she welcomed as a framework for her day. At 8.35am she would wave a friendly duster to the children on their way to school; at 4.10pm, she would wave an oven-glove as they passed back. At 3pm everything stopped, not for tea, but for the quarry train. On its way to the cement works at Padeswood, a diesel engine would grind past, pulling gargantuan wagons laden with blocks of limestone. The vibrations would rattle her windows, her false teeth and the ornaments she had placed for safety in the sink.

Twenty-two years ago, the line was decommissioned and taken up. The station was closed and Llong shunted into obscurity. The familiar rhythm regulating Alice’s day has now been replaced by a continual, arrhythmic drone of cars. The hamlet is bisected by a lane which too conveniently links a trunk road with a quick route to the A55. Despite being narrow and full of twists and turns, it has become a rat-run.

Thanks to this constant passing through without stopping, Llong seems a transient place, lacking in identity. This ephemeral character is underscored by its history. No more than a dozen or so people have lived in Llong at any one time, but many more have gathered, temporarily, in order to go on to other places. The station and its neighbouring inn thronged with life, but only periodically, according to the railway timetable. In those days Llong had a purpose.
Today all it is able to boast is an ex-this and a former that. Alice and her three neighbours live in former railway workers’ cottages; the disused railway line and level crossing are just outside their door; the ex-railway station, now the grand but poorly maintained home of 80-year-old George Lloyd, is over the road; and behind it is the former Railway Inn, now a more upmarket private residence owned by a commuting couple with matching 4x4s.

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