I was raised in a verdant place where roads consisted of a single lane, and lanes were carpeted with tyre-marked grass.
Hypnotised by feeble lure of tainted, small town tinsel which seemed glamorous to this country girl, I turned from the trees and trotted to urban pastures, where a Mars Bar was only a minute’s walk away, and the night was exciting to one who had never spent time in a town after sundown.
Frowzy bars wafted billows of booze-tinted nicotine and noise into the street, where kids dropped vinegary chip shop wrappings that were lifted by the wind, to ripple and drift past my shins.
Teens nattered and swore, cat-calling high-heeled hopefuls out on the pull.
Drunks staggered backwards into bushes, sideways into clumsy fights, forwards toward a lock that didn’t match the key, dribbling piss and spittle as they spun erratically into muttering oblivion.
British bikes spluttered and roared, leather clad bikers uttered curses that spat on the paving beside a backstreet cafe where spilt coffee left dingy rings on scratched formica, and filter-tipped ciggie butts were stamped out on a greasy floor.
Cars that had seen better days splashed muddy rain onto complaining passers by.
The strains of Petula’s sixties song echoed in my head:
“When you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go down-town,
down-town.” she said.
It took me a while to admit she wasn’t describing this ditch-water town, but the city.
Soon, my soul ached with an unspecified hunger.
My shoes leaked. I was used to sopping feet, but my socks reeked of chemical pollution.
Mulch-strewn liquid dripped and gushed from blocked gutters, making slim rivers where slithery algae collected, eager to trick careless feet.
Tired stars glimmered with little lustre, too listless to compete with jaundiced streetlights that advertised pools of rain on the road.
Shrubs were artlessly arranged by human hands. Wild rebel seeds – should they have the audacity to shoot, were uprooted and sentenced to death without trial.
Parks were designed for mild childhood behaviour. Swings and slides were made with safety in mind. No-one climbed trees.
Two Mormons knocked on my door, proselytising,
looking for a neophyte.
They found it in this hollowed-out soul who greedily supped from their biblical cup, as yet too blind to recognise my plight:
I was missing my God of the wild.
©Jane Paterson Basil