A brush with death on the street
Springtime in Sowerby Bridge! Crocusses are now starting to appear on roadside verges, and under the Ryburn Bridge in Station road the local wildfowl population is bellowing for its breakfast. I lean over the parapet and throw them a half loaf I found in one of the litter bins. They paddle around greedily, squawking over the crumbs. One of the geese is missing. Last time I saw him was just before Christmas - looks like free market economics have struck again. It must be perishing being a duck on a cold spring morning. Still at least they get their fuel oil vat free - you can see it, polluting the river.
On Town Hall Street there is a dirty litter bin. Now you might think that all litter bins are dirty, but it's really a matter of degree. When I say 'dirty' I mean 'absolutely disgusting'! The tray underneath the liner is full of foul smelling feculent water, and the stink defies description. I hate emptying it. Get the stuff on your clothes and you smell like a bad drain for a week. Someone, somewhere, occasionally comes round and disinfects them, but no-one's dealt with this one. Maybe they've been down with cholera!
There has been a suggestion in the local rag of late that we ought to re-introduce the stocks in Calderdale for juvenile offenders. I'm all in favour of the idea, not because I am some sort of Thatcherite Serbo-Nazi who wants to get 'back to basics' but because it might stop local greengrocers from fouling up my litterbins with carrots, cabbage leaves, rotten fruit and other bio-degradable trade waste. For all I care the world can go on the rampage- provided they don't leave any mess!
Thank God! The last bin! As I clamber into my wagon, desperately trying to dodge an endless stream of traffic intent on impaling me on its wing mirrors, the radio crackles raucously into life, nearly giving me heart failure in the process.
"Echo six-six? You there Jim Jarratt?
A large hairy paw grabs the fat hand mike.
"Receiving Nick. Go ahead."
"Right Jim. Can you pick me up a dead cat at hiss, skrawk, crackle, fizzle, pop, bleep bleep etc. etc."
"You there Nick? Over?"
No reponse. This is the trouble with working in Calderdale. There's always this slight impediment to radio communication. It's called 'the Pennines'. I'm at the bottom of a steep sided valley and the depot is over the hill in Halifax. Radio waves don't seem to like ruddy great hills in between.
"Are you still receiving Nick? Over? Is there anybody there?"
Still no response. God! I must sound like a ruddy medium! Knock three times if you can hear! Up at the depot we have no such problem. They're all psychic. Sid had a prang with his vehicle last week, and as soon as it hit the grapevine the whole depot knew within five minutes! I've not seen Sid since. I think he's lying low to avoid the ribbing. Sometimes I think that if there was a nuclear strike from Russia Calderdale Cleansing would know before Bill Clinton!
"You there Jim?" It's Daz. He's been listening in. (I rest my case!)
"I can hear base OK Jim. Want me to relay the message?"
"OK Daz. Go ahead.
So, thanks to the sheer ingenuity of men in orange overalls I finally receive the historic message, although somewhat without that sense of exhilaration that Marconi must have felt.
'Dead cat. 'Lorelei'. Back Lane. Ripponden. Urgent.'
Urgent. I don't know why he said that, I hardly suspect its going anywhere. Still, at least I get a change of scenery.
Of course when I get to Ripponden I can't find the ruddy place! From the Rochdale Road I negotiate a narrow lane, avoiding drystone walls before having to reverse all the way back to the main road again to let through one of the yuppie 4WD set, who rewards my consideration by sticking two fingers out at me! Charming! I Try again, and soon find myself by a row of bungalows adjacent to open moorland.
I scan the hastily scrawled message. 'Lorelei' Back Lane. The postman's walking past, so I wind down the window and ask directions. Unusual that. In my job people usually ask me!
"It's down that way.... half a mile, fifth or sixth house on the right. You can't miss it."
Oh yeah? Five minutes later and not a house in sight it occurs to me that I must have overshot and turned onto the wrong road! I turn back, and then, by a bungalow gate a small, still furry shape comes into view by the roadside. Bingo! I clamber out, buffetted by the raw wind which howls mournfully through telephone wires and bare, stunted trees. 'Lorelei'- the name's on the gate.This bleak pennine upland is slightly less like the Rhineland than the canals of Mars! Perhaps its a retreat for some retired nazi war criminal. Who knows? Perhaps somewhere in Germany, among