GHOST LETTER 47

Chris R-1-147 Image by Christine Renney

I have abandoned the route and my meandering has now moved onto a new level. I am exploring a vast area that was once a thriving centre of industry but is now deserted.
I walk between the buildings and the sky above is reduced to narrow strips of grey. I am unsettled by this place and find it difficult to navigate. Whenever I reach a door, one that isn’t locked or boarded, I step inside. Or if there is a hole, and there are a lot of them, where the bricks have crumbled and fallen away, places where I can climb in or crawl through and this I now do, down on my hands and knees, pulling and kicking at the earth until I am standing on the factory floor.
At the outer edges people are holding on and still finding ways to be useful but here almost everything of value has been taken and these buildings, the factories and the warehouses, have been stripped bare and are merely husks.
I look down at the tiles beneath my feet; they are grimy but in the dusty half-light they glint and they gleam

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GHOST LETTER 46

Chris R-1-127 Image by Christine Renney

I have begun to recognise the others that I pass on my route. Their faces have become familiar; men and women, mostly making their way either to or from work. They are visitors. They stay for their shift and then leave, going back to their homes and families, to their lives beyond this place. But, just fleetingly before they disappear into their places of employment they and I collide.
I watch them as they trek toward the smaller units of the industrial estates, built in the Sixties and left to wither. I watch as they shuffle toward the larger factories and warehouses, those that have survived. They seem small and inadequate and I wonder how can they maintain these scarred and decrepit structures. How can so few of them possibly serve these ageing monoliths.

GHOST LETTER 45

Chris R-1-125 Image by Christine Renney

I have been walking this route for weeks now, making my way around again and again. I am not ready to stop, not quite yet, but I have managed to slow down and I am able to loiter and linger and meander, wandering from the road and exploring my surroundings, venturing a little further each time, moving either away from the City or closer to it, but always coming back to here, to this path I am still forging.

I start across the waste ground to my right. The grass beneath my feet is short and scruffy and it is strewn with rubble. I kick my way through it and I feel as if I am breaking the rules, especially this early in the morning when there is no-one else around. I feel as though I am trespassing.

GHOST LETTER 44

Chris R-1-116 Image by Christine Renney

It isn’t as deserted here on the outskirts as I had at first believed. This tract of wasteland circles the City and I have been walking it for almost a week. Gradually I have become aware of the life here, that despite the degradation there are pockets of industry. And despite the broken and boarded windows and the cracked pavements that people are clinging on here and are determined not to leave, not to abandon this place.
This shop at the centre of the parade up ahead for instance; it is the only one still open, flourishing amidst the flotsam and the debris. When it is dark and I spot its windows alight from a distance I know where I am and it has become an important marker on my route.
Each time I pass I glance across at the shop. Sometimes there are children hanging around with sweets or old men with their cigarettes. But today there is no-one, it is deserted and there is an air of abandonment. But the lights are on and the door is wedged open. I realise I have stopped and suddenly I find myself contemplating going in and buying something, anything. A chocolate bar perhaps or a newspaper. But what would I do then? What might I learn?
Looking down I realise that I am walking again and that I won’t be going into the shop or sitting and reading a newspaper. At least, not this time around.

GHOST LETTER 43

Chris R-1-105 Image by Christine Renney

Can a ghost be used like this? Trapped in a maze, looked down upon from above, one of many, oblivious of the others, a specimen in a jar, a rat – no a mouse, turning the wheel? Constantly failing at reaching the cheese?

I am walking again. Not in order to reach somewhere – my objective is not to arrive. But I am not ready to abandon this place, not quite yet. I am walking in the way that I did when it began and I realise that this is how I have managed to remain out here, to stay gone.
I keep to the outer edges of the City and I have been here before, walking on the periphery, relentlessly pushing myself forward. But this time it feels different and it is. I am not slowly edging closer to the centre and readying to make my way down into the labyrinth.
I have a few belongings stuffed into an old rucksack, an anorak and a blanket, a scarf and gloves. I have money; some coins collected in one of those little plastic bags. And despite the fact that whilst in the City I couldn’t stop counting them, I am not sure how much or how many I have.
I feel as if I have completed the circle and I don’t know now where I can or should go next.

THE PLAINS

Chris R-1-70 Image by Christine Renney

Davis missed the road. More accurately, he missed the discipline it had provided. He no longer expected it to re-appear. Davis wasn’t searching for the road. In fact, he believed that if he was to find the centre then it was necessary to leave the road behind, abandon it and this hadn’t proved difficult. No roads had survived on the plains.
But the evidence that they had once been prevalent was everywhere. Much of it was unused and un-useable and Davis realised that, in order to take what they need, he and the others had to keep coming back, to sift through it.
The roads were redundant and the idea of starting in one place and making for another, of heading toward a destination, was futile. Grudgingly Davis had to admit it was fitting the roads hadn’t survived out on the plains. That they were no longer a part of this landscape, that the landscape had changed. It was even flatter than before, and even more barren, apart from the debris of course. And yet Davis still missed the road. He considered creating one of his own by using the now useless or unnecessary things. He could build a kerb or a bank or even a wall, building on either side of him as he walked.

GHOST LETTER 42

Chris R-2-6 Image by Christine Renney

I awake in the grounds of the Cathedral. Hands in the short and wiry grass, I push myself up and gaze down at the City. I try to pick out the place from which I set out, the one to which I keep on making my way back. But it is so vast, a dense and cubist scrawl. For months now I have been walking further and further from this particular part of the City in order to find an off-licence with an unfamiliar face across the counter. Someone who won’t recognise me as I purchase the bottles and the cans I need. And this time I didn’t turn myself around. I kept on walking for longer than was necessary and eventually I settled down.

Glancing up at the Cathedral I shudder to think that I have slept here in the grass; in this carefully tended, this perfectly and painstakingly manicured graveyard and, that as I did, someone tidied around me, removing the strewn cans, even prizing the almost empty bottle from my hand. Taking it and the last few drops I hadn’t quite managed to drain.