Back in Leeds after three months away in the East Riding it’s taken me some time to settle back into the city I’ve lived in for nearly 50 years. I have felt restless and unsettled, have missed the sea and the open countryside. When I’m cycling around I seem to still be wearing my observant country spectacles, and am seeing things with a fresh clarity.
Yesterday I pedalled into Leeds to pay some cash into my account, local branches of banks have disappeared and we all have to travel a bit to actually pay some money in. It was my first time in the city centre since the end of Match and compared to the usual bustle it was very quiet. Ghost buses with few passengers seemed to compose the bulk of the traffic. It made me wonder what the future of cities as the focus of entertainment [ cinemas, theatres, cafes, bars and shopping] might be and I felt very sad.
In the afternoon I struggled up the hill to Kirkstall to look at the wonderful abbey, glorious in its ruins, and circled the graveyard of St. Stephen’s Church, and noticed for the first time a drooping stone figure [pictured] by the wall around the church. I found it profoundly touching and beautiful. The Victorians knew much loss. Illness was frightening, sudden and mysterious, and they battled mortality [as we still do] and raised wonderful memorials to the dead.
It occurred to me later that the brick and stone city of Leeds, the shattered beauty of Kirkstall Abbey and the statues in our graveyards are all memorials to past ways of life. They will provide inspiration for my next poems.