It is midnight the Milk train pulls into Darnall station
no ordinary passengers here for this is shutdown week.
The furnace has released its grip on blue collar man.
Steelworkers with their families are on holiday,
loaded with fishing rods and wicker baskets
The Fossdyke navigation in Lincolnshire their destination,
the fare, half a crown for happiness.
The long walk in the dark
a stairway to heaven in my memory.
Dawn on the Fossdyke and a cup of tea,
fever in the blood, the first eel of the day.
Our cane rods lovingly handed down from father to son.
The call of pheasants looking for mates
shrieking their songs of love,
swans begging for scraps
their majestic white necks nodding,
greeting us into their kingdom.
The mist off the water revealing
families being together, laughing, enjoying what was free,
for tomorrow the grime returns.
A conversation with a stranger then out of a bag,
the rabbits, sometimes hare, sometimes pheasant.
Onions and carrots shortly follow,
the smell forever linked with summer,
the scent of childhood.
Summers were hotter then
at times I drank the Foss, for I was nature’s child
being clean was never a priority.
Catching fish was, never killed always returned,
our covenant with nature
for it is the sport that we honour.
Dawn Breaks once more
and a small unassuming man closes the door,
off to the Steelworks,
Dad must have been a demon in bed to have fathered seven kids,
or perhaps walks with his wife and a cig under the moon
was really where I was conceived?
My mother wakes us,
four in a double bed and one bed wetter
off to school, mother off to clean other people’s windows, a pioneer of her time.
In school another show and tell day
the repetitive stories of day trips to Skegness and fun in the arcade
always good for top marks.
Then there was me,
still in my wellington boots, in the height of summer
explaining my Fossdyke saga.
Laughs from the teacher, laughs from the kids
half a crown cooky on the bank side,
but eyes of teacher cannot lie
and arrogance of class made me Dickensian,
Oliver in his mind.
Council house steelworkers were
a world away from teacher’s culture.
Cheese and wine, the detached house
double glazing and the three R’,
teacher’s heaven but an alien life to me.
But time moves on
I still go fishing, only this time in competition
Now the audience hangs on every word I say
Hoping to discover my secrets,
But my gift came from the dawns of childhood,
their dawns lost in hot dogs and sea side arcades.
Poor I may have been, my education neglected
but I have a doctorate in nature, for I have seen the sun rise,
away from the factories, where the pheasant runs free.
I have shared the light where swan reins king.
My childhood was part of them and they are part of me.
It was here I learned what family was,
to share my last drink of pop with my neighbour,
a simple life maybe, but priceless to me.
For I have seen what Constable painted
Lived every word that Wordsworth wrote
understood the Fragrance of the Flowers
and revelled in the poets dream.
I loved every colour, every sound, every scent,
and every fish I ever caught.
Father and mother are gone now,
never complained about their station in life,
For they found paradise on the Fossdyke.
They left me the seeds to their heaven
and the key to my happiness.
A key forged in a man’s’ worth,
to open my soul to the beauty
that surrounds us all.
Dawn on the Foss, was my church
my soul was cleansed here
and my heart was shaped here.
My memories kept safe
within another kind of Jerusalem,
cherished among the spirit of God’s creatures
And though age has clouded the mind
the thought of the Fossdyke
still brings fever to me,
For here lies a truth beyond man’s ambition
a truth that only a child can see.
I will die on some river bank, one day,
rod in hand, and I will be content,
and that is enough for any life.