Up North

by Louise Wilford

We went to Huddersfield, a town of stone
settled like a wasp-nest on the hills.
Broad streets preened their glossy trees.
The ring-road clambered up the hill’s backbone.
 
We strode the empty streets, their pavements worn
by wry-faced Yorkshiremen; admired the railway
station, pillared like a palace; saw the
George Hotel where Rugby League was born.
 
I felt exposed, surrounded by those hills –
the Tops, all Bronte-esque in green and gold.
So strange to find the north all sky and space;
remember it as dust and soot, steel-mills,
 
coal mines, my village ringed by council flats,
beer bottles rattling, fag ends underfoot;
Steel Peach and Tozer glowing in the dusk;
bedraggled trees; park benches missing slats.
 
I never fitted in. There seemed no space.
I was a cuckoo, changeling, book brought-up;
could never see the green and gold behind
the weary lines on every weary face.
 
The sky grew overcast, the sun lacked will.
We sipped a cheerless pint – and yet I knew
it would have been as grim in Greenwich,
air Thames-thick and slick with traffic spill.
 
I wondered at the strength of my belief
that here was stepping back, regress, retreat,
when moods are shaped by colours in the clouds
or how the sun can glitter on a leaf.