I dug this up the other day, it won a runner up prize at BBC Radio Northampton in 2007. i got to record it at the BBC, butnever got to hear it. Ho hum. The piece was set out as a prologue for a longer piece of work that may happen in the future. After 3 years of being locked out of their workplace, the strike at the Penrhyn slate quarry in Bethesda has collapsed and the men return to work. It was a terrible chapter of history in the region, one that ruined a community and its people. On that day, many people tried to stand tall above the ruins, but many were dying inside.
It’s a crisp morning, there’s dew on the grass already and my breath steams in the air as I slip out of the house. No lamps, I don’t want to be seen, let alone caught by those who would do me harm. I don’t need light where I’m going anyhow, I’ve trod that path for so many years I could do it blind.
Was that a noise? I stop to listen to the rustle in a bush. Then the sound of padded feet, claws clicking on the road ahead. A fox more than likely, looking for scraps. He’ll have a hard time, there’s not much spare around these days.
Must move on, get there in time. It’s bad enough hiding from your former friends, but without your own son knowing, that hurts. Not that he’ll notice much, he’s not spoken to me since I took that cursed sovereign. All for nothing in the end, more fool I.
Have to be careful now, there’s always police on the prowl these days. There to protect me, I’m told, but we’re all Welsh scum to them anyhow.
The mountain draws me. I need to climb above the quarry. Then I’ll be ready, where they can all see me and be happy with it. Shame those who have brought us to this misery won’t be there, but they wouldn’t dare come within a mile on a day such as this.
They won’t bother me now. Too stupid not to think that someone would go this way.
Thought I had a problem at first, the moon came out and the town was all awash with silver light. I had to move fast to find the shadows but I saw no-one, heard no-one. Doesn’t matter, I’m away from them all now.
It’s a steep path to take and my body is working hard. Even though I could afford more than bread and tea, my body is weak and I am desperate to cough out the muck from my lungs. I breathe through my nose, short sharp breaths. The urge gets stronger and I move fast, hand over mouth. Finally, I reach a quiet spot and spit out. I crouch there for ages waiting, there’s still no noise.
I’m up the hill now and over the fence, no-one knows this way in. I reach my spot and I lie there waiting. The grass is damp, the ground cold, but it feels good. I catch a sob in my throat, God made this earth so beautiful and all we can do back is to tear it apart, tearing ourselves in two in the bargain.
I’ve been up here before, many times in fact. Always to catch the morning and watch the sun break as it lights up the land in a golden glow. The light begins to brighten and I can make out the grey clouds in the morning sky, it matches our lives. I raise my head and look, resting my hands under my chin. I want to see this day begin, I want to see this one morning more than ever before. The sun breaks through the clouds, bringing the valley to life. What a picture! Tears fall down my face, for it’s so beautiful. I wish Mair was with me to see it, but there it is. Wishes don’t pay your bills.
I watch as the day gets brighter and the quarry opens. I see the gates open and the men slowly trudge in, weak from the years of strike. They prepare once more to face the hardships of this damned hole. All the while, the light grows brighter and the land around unlocks its beauty in the sunshine. A group of men are singing a hymn. The music faintly reaches me, though I cannot make out the words. Some are obviously trying to raise the spirits of their brethren, to try and fill their hearts with hope for the future and make light of such a stark defeat, for defeat it is. Three years, three long years of suffering, of turning the town into a den of hatred. For what, I ask you? What was gained? Nothing! What was lost? Everything!
The sun’s warmth on my back makes me feel sleepy. I could doze here in the glow, with the faint breeze caressing my head, but I know its not possible. I’m here for a reason, I need to put an end to all that’s happened. It feels like hours that I lie there for, but finally I sit up.
There’s a shout, perhaps someone has seen me? Better if they do, then they’ll know. I left the sign in the window as I left the house. Nid oes BRADWYR yn y ty hwn. No traitors in this house. There won’t be, because I’m not going back. The boy’s better off without me and well, there’s no-one else to worry about.
I stand close to the edge, it’s a fair drop, perhaps I should take a run at it. Perhaps I would drop further down the galleries that way? No, here is fine. There’s a shout, I can’t hear the words, but it may as well be ‘jump, you bastard!’. That’s what they feel after all and I agree with them. It’s gone on far too long, now’s the time to have an end to it.
I look across the land once more, the green fields beyond Bethesda. So beautiful they are. Why do I have to leave them? Why does it have to end this way? What the hell did I do to get here in the first place? I take a deep breath and my mouth tightens. My throat is dry and my heart races. I can hear it beating in my ears.
Then I realise, there are footsteps behind me, soft but rapid ones. I feel the breath on my back and the hand on my shoulder. I feel the pressure making my body lurch forward and I begin to fall…