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A Shout From The Attic: Back Streets

...There is little in life better than a rummage through someone’s cast-outs and to discover the very essence of joy in some broken thing...

Ronnie Bray tells of the boyhood joy of exploring the back streets of his home town.

To read earlier chapters of Ronnie's life story plerase click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

The back streets running between rows of houses I found fascinating and walked them unchallenged, drinking in their delights. Backs of things are remarkable because fronts are doctored for show. The backs always reveal the insides of the people who live in the houses. Backs streets also held the dustbins, each one a potential bran tub filled to the brim with the unmistakable odour that signified the presence of treasure and unpleasantness.

There is little in life better than a rummage through someone’s cast-outs and to discover the very essence of joy in some broken thing whose majesty nonetheless lives on in the eyes of a bright Aladdin with a dustbin lid in one hand, serendipitously discovered trove in the other, and a smile on his unwashed face to brighten the blackout on a moonless night.

I liked the untrodden ways for their unpredictability and frequent surprises, even if that amounted to no more than an unexpected clump of bright red poppies against a smoke-stained garden wall, or an enclosed yard in which the tiny dwellings of people long since passed to glory showed where they had clattered over the cobbles to shut the door behind them and close out a world to face, hopefully, a cheering fire, a pleasant mate, a good meal, a warm and comfortable bed, and no rain dripping through the roof.

Broken down outhouses showed where they took their small hour walks over footworn cobbles to sit and shiver on frosty nights by the light of a candle in a jar or a small glass-bowled paraffin lamp to keep the frost from freezing up the lead plumbing, but too dim for serious reading.

Hand-forged hooks driven into the hard mortar of the soft stone walls told where washing lines had hung and dried the tub-possed weekly wash cleansed with flakes of soap cut from a block with the grater and shirts beaten nigh to death on a scrubbing board with bristles stiff enough to pierce the skin of a pig and mixed with water from the Yorkshire Range’s side boiler, carefully ladled out with a piggin into the zinc plated barrel-shaped iron dolly tub.


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