Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Postscript - old fires

For sixty years the postbag lay undiscovered in the corner of a barn beside a track that skirts the Llwchwr Estuary, abandoned by a wartime postman who had other things on his mind than finishing his round, undisturbed by the high tides that flood the road in winter, indifferent to driving rain off the Irish Sea, to boundary changes, to social transformation, to time as it moved on from one century and one millennium to the next.

Builders renovating the farm for its new owners uncovered the sack, releasing its dusty messages and dead voices: “29th May, My Darling Wife …”. Addressed in carefully pencilled script to his new bride back home in Elba Cottage, a young airman’s hopes and dreams for the future and the dull routines of war filled twenty thin ruled pages still bound together with glue from the writing pad. Elba Cottage was gone, demolished more than thirty years before along with the steelworks it was named for. Ffos felin, the yellow ditch on which it had stood, returned briefly to marshland, then other streets and houses with different names reconfigured the landscape. While the postbag kept its secrets still, the airman was demobbed, had daughters and then grandchildren, died, and was buried just across the windswept common. The wife took a new name, a new husband, moved to a new home. Then one unremarkable autumn night a stranger knocked at her door holding the letter out to her and turned time back for a moment.
"Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes ..."

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