Every day I walk these streets I try to take them in. Every detail, the pall of smog from the incinerator smokestack separating the oily black of the night sky from the neon glow of the streetlights lining the A50 below. The football stadium stands like a citadel in the middle of the middle distance and the drone of the traffic rises up to meet me.
Chamberlain Avenue draws up from London road in a exponential steepness dragging its way upwards from the kebab shops and oatcake shops, broken windows and broken paving slabs. The discarded sweet wrappers, beer cans and broken glass are suddenly gone and fallen leaves take their place in piles of brown and gold. Council workers blow and sweep the leaves into the back of their pickup but they don’t pick up the rubbish in London Road. Chamberlain Avenue leads to Penkhull, London Road is Stoke. Stoke Town. One of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.
I take in these details, because one day when I have left here and find my peace, these things, these memories and sights and sounds will become words and stories and songs. But for now they weigh heavily and it is the best I can do to take them in at all.
January 2019 and these thoughts did distill into a song carrying the essence of some of my Stokie experiences:
Chamberlain Road – James Laurie / Pony Folk – Stoke-on-Trent version 2
Something is afoot at the top of Chamberlain Avenue, a rash of laminated notices appeared suddenly on all the lock-up garages.
Eviction. Eviction to complement the planning application notice.
Goodbye garages, hello houses. Not everyone received the news well though.
So, is this good news or bad news?
Good news for the social housing shortage, bad news for the trees and grass.
Who puts their car in a lock-up garage these days anyway?
Sometimes I don’t want to go outside, I don’t want to leave the quiet, calm sanctuary of our home, but needs must. The first task outside is always to pick up the rubbish from outside the house. I don’t know where it comes from, but it arrives in a tide washed and blown down the street. Rubbish on the pavement, rubbish in the gutter, rubbish on the oil-stained kerbstones.
Most of the time the street is chock full of cars, the rubbish strewn gutter hidden away under the hulks of metal.
Towards the top of the street is a green area. Nobody knows who it belongs to or what it is for. It never gets its grass cut and no-one uses it. It could be beautiful, it could be a community garden, an allotment or wildlife haven. Heaven forbid, it could also be used for parking, even that would be better than the rubbish dump it’s used for now.
We have a jitty through to Chamberlain Avenue from the top of the street, it’s great for pedestrians and the occasional fast-food delivery driver uses it too.
Some people like to use it to discard their unwanted rubbish.
Chamberlain Avenue is nice, they recently had their road and pavements resurfaced, block paving installed around the trees in the path and the drains were unblocked and cleaned.
There’s no rubbish on the street in Chamberlain Avenue. Once I have negotiated the carcasses of sofas, the pile of old flooring and the discarded sandwich I can but only envy the people of Chamberlain Avenue. At least for now….