History, poetry. What more could one wish for?
Gogwit is pleased to share a new piece of original verse.
Actually, several pieces of verse combined into one, continuing my theme of places in my home city set slightly apart from time, from a viewpoint upon which all matters temporal converge.
When, if, the section “The Up Line” is read, it may be helpful to understand that Witton and Aston stations are still in use; Vauxhall and Duddeston station still has two platforms in use and is now called Duddeston. The Vauxhall platforms long abandoned, left derelict and buried below diverse weeds, flowers, shrubs and the fauna they support.
Nechells and Bloomsbury opened and closed in Victorian times and, look as I might, I have never satisfactorily seen trace of it.
Lawley Street was a later Victorian commuter station for a town – the city of 1000 trades – which grew voraciously enough to require the infrastructures of a city, which it eventually became in 1889. Lawley Street station is long, long since gone.
Curzon Street station, Banbury Street Ticket Platform and the Southern Approaches bear witness to the grand boom years of Victorian railway expansion. Of Curzon Street and Banbury Street all that remains is the elegant Booking Hall, due to receive a new lease of life when the HS2 high speed line runs there in the 2020s.
The Southern Approaches had narrow platforms set like refuges, between the insanely complex track and track junction pathways into the main station; all travellers into Birmingham New Street, formerly Grand Central Station, will have rattled, squealed, screeched, lurched and rattled over a million sets of points, between brick arches, walls and pillars, through pitch-black tunnels: The lasting legacy of the Southern Approaches.
Grand Central lives on as the name of the shopping and leisure mall built atop the main station recently, replacing the 60s concrete version. Now trains arrive and depart Birmingham New Street; up at street level the trams arrive and depart Grand Central.
That was the history lesson. Here is the verse.
Place and Time.
A38(M) – Aston Expressway.
I looked out from the highway
To the distance, on the right,
For a place, a school,
Where I had used to work.
Where was it now,
Where had it used to be?
Along the railway line –
Follow the railway line, of course.
Composite cladded steel obscured my view,
Yet a little further onward found
The building which I sought
Where it had always been
Since the beginning of its time.
Yew Tree Road, Witton B6.
In the playground of the school –
That school, where I had been
So happy in the dappled light filled
Grounds beneath the trees,
I looked out across the open fields
And Victorian terrace houses
To the place where was being built,
In concrete and in steel,
The elevated highway from horizon to horizon.
And In that instant locking eyes,
Over rooftops, distance, time;
Intuition left no doubt
That the eye beams were both mine.
Aston Railway Junction.
Between that school and the stilted concrete ribbon,
Beyond the Victorian terrace houses and the rails;
The weathered, time-stained rails of the railway line,
That railway line – which had always to be followed.
Radius curve merged with main line track of the up line,
Which ran always into Town, into Birmingham.
The Up Line.
Vauxhall and Duddeston,
Bloomsbury and Nechells, Lawley Street;
Curzon Street, Banbury Street, Southern Approaches,
Grand Central Station – All change! Alight here!
Change please at New Street for all onbound journeys.”
Birmingham, New Street Station.
Change here for everywhere, any place and any time –
For every destination that will take you far from here;
Board the express, or the stopping train, to promised time and place:
The remainder of your season until you return to clay.
Here, Now, Always.
But I digress; forgive the musings of mortal man
Who has looked across the rooftops, space and time
And locked gazes with
His younger self,
His older self;
Both time past and time future, perpetually now.
Ben A Harvey,
31 May 2018.
(C) Gogwit’s Blog (Ben A Harvey), 2018 – all rights reserved.
The image of Birmingham’s LNWR station, 1 June 1854, reproduced from The Illustrated London News of 3 June 1854 and is public domain, used here with gratitude.
In great appreciation of TS Eliot.
With great love to ….