Nobody alive remembers this, The White Pipe, a landmark in Jarrow for schoolboys ‘Playing The Wag’, was a mere exposed sewer, shortly to bury under the A19 trunk road. The open fields King George V Playing Fields really did have a ‘Pointless Gate’. The world, round here filled up. The wooded Primrose Dene of wild spring daffodils and bluebells, were already privatised when on flanking gentle hillsides, council estates were laid out.
From Boldon Hill, the scene in 1644 of an English Civil War skirmish, northwards, and golden cornfields stretched from Primrose via Simonside, along The Rekendyke to Laygate, Boldon Colliery in the middle distance. From the vantage point of Down Hill, a disused coal mineral railway line below from Tyne Dock, mimicked a diagonal roman road to Chester-le-Street. In 1964, Sunderland and Newcastle (both city centres visible with a single turn of the head from Down Hill) clashed again as new council houses lapped Hylton Castle. North East Durham was thus ravaged. The Spirit, soaring ever higher, the scars fading.
Leaving Jarrow to soar abroad, but it’s impossible to leave, The Undiscovered Country of Jarrow.
In Pale Thought, the carnal body does not hover, but walks somewhere between Jarrow and Primrose, to a plateau of flesh feeding foliage. Halfway to somewhere, The Spirit hovers here as if looking for a home. Inside Primrose Cemetery, the Imagined Spirit floats, to visit already dead parts of me (Uncles and Aunts) and they were indeed there, albeit lying down, invisible and saying nothing. After all this was our first meeting mostly. All Josephine had left me was a message in stone, saying she lay here since a particular date.
My Uncle wasn’t joking anymore, his black headstone lined up with the rest, his name arched in golden words, and that was it.
‘All Must Die‘, but within the hallowed ground perimeter are inscriptions on Dead Children’s Graves, who, like buntings and finches, lived only briefly, their spirit’s even more faint, claim existence with their tiny names. Who was little Phoebe? Was there anyone still alive to remember why, the tiny mite was hidden away from the rest?
The world was then The World Outside, with the walled burial ground within. Clearly, nature in the form of landscape had already been defiled, the stench of the black creek near assailing the clear slopes save for a constant refreshing breeze which somehow kept out foul vapours.
In a sunder land, a plot exposed on three sides to the carnal world outside, on a slightly elevated platform like a plinth. (Yet who is more carnal than The Recently Dead?) I am privileged and safe here, at least for now. It’s three in the afternoon when The Neon Is Out. A time of day Of Fire before cooling. The ruddy face of the gravedigger, dressed in black corduroy, like The Hireling Shepherd. The Crowd Gathered Before Us, and for a moment his gaze lands on mine, mine on his. This done, standing on his own ground, he holds his gaze on me, ‘putting me down’. I stand alone yet, as a Trespasser. At last I am lucky, implausibly, a visitor to my own funeral.