Turning The Tide by Tony Gadd

Proud men of Hendon, Pallion and Panns, ‘short time workers’ of dying shipyards
Scavengers of fuel, the Sherpas of the north, sea coalers beating a different path
Suited, booted, flat cap too, winter an added donkey jacket and scarf, for the human mule
Expeditions on his Elswick bike, his pit pony, his workhorse, just a different type
Five mile ride to Noses Point… en-route… Hall Bends…watching coppers gulp at pints of milk
Observing the sunrise out to sea and talking loudly of the nights events
Harbour dock top, real fishermen stand atop wooden crates, selling their catch of the day
Black wagons from the Nack Pit, roll down the line, depositing their goods, into waiting ships
Dawdon Pit pond, a Roman amphitheatre, a heated spa, just way ahead of its day
Black Path, steep and winding, descending into the depths of hell
Ahead ‘Chemical Beach’ and ‘The Blast’, a monochrome world, brought alive in fluorescent orange pools, with mysterious clouds of sulphur rising, the playground of the coalies
Grey skies, black sands, skeletal conveyor monsters – vomit mine waste into the oppressive greasy sea, waves spew back compacted slag and slurry, forming an encrusted minestone scab
Creating hellish moonscapes, with the coalies, aliens upon that land
Industrial gypsies, collecting the spoil, fuelled with bread, drippin”, and a flask of sweet tea
Preparation for ascension to life again, climbing that mountain, like in some far flung place
Journey home, pushing his mule, with four bags of coal on crank, pedal, and one atop the saddle
Every step now considered… Pitmans’ Cathedral, stop….. a nod and doff of the cap…
An act of remembrance for the brave souls, lost in the black tide of mining for coal
Seaham Hall, boarded up, Byron long gone, grounds that play host to family picnic days,
With bat and ball, buttercup, daisy chains and an elusive search for the four leafed clover
Ryhope, comes and goes, end nearly in sight, surging forward, looking for welcome faces
Banks of the Wear, familiar sights, graveyard ship births, empty and devoid of life
Finally home, fires burning again, hot bath eases pains, erases stains, food in belly to kill those groans, sleep nourishes the soul, strengthening the body for the same again the morra!
Forty years on…soundscape of steam sirens, engine whistles and winding gear, give way to warblers, pipits and yellowhammers, who sing their songs from verdant scrub bushes
Sea, sand and sky, return to their natural state, wildflower meadows emerge, bottle-works glass, gives gifts from the sea of ultramarine, amber and ruby gems
Chaldron wagon wheels, a sign of what stood before, rusted, encrusted with barnacle, mussel and kelp, plodgin’ and looking out to sea, remembering their service and of what used to be…
Heritage gone, pits morph into factories, no hustle or bustle, just automated and constipated
Memorabilia of the past, an act of remembrance, of the Great War and Tommy too
Hipsters ride the coalies’ bikes, laden with artisanal bread, olives and a some vintage cheese
Queues form at chippies serving food caught in huge nets from nearer Arctic than the Wear
And all delivered by a white van man, all the way from Hull
But what tide have we turned, as the natural order of things is restored
So now too, coastal erosion gathers a pace, from that picked and erased minestone scab!
Out of darkness comes light, we all just have a different view, in turning back the tide…..

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Tony Gadd, born Seaham 1962, by anyone’s standards has had an interesting, challenging and varied career. Now a Poet he revisits his experiences, thoughts and feelings on the stuff of everyday existence. A new voice, with a unique perspective, he’s open, honest and not afraid to say what others avoid…” Soon to launch a new Spoken Word Night in Durham ‘Wabi Sabi Gong Fu Poets’

Photo by Mike Ridley

 

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