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The Incomplete Cacophony

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Where Brick Fields Lay

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Behind the Noise

Where Brick Fields Lay
Words & music by Ed Hooke, January 2011
(except line 11 & first half of line 12 - by John Lennon 1967)
  Ed Hooke 2011
(except line 11 & first half of line 12 Lennon/McCartney 1967)

 

 

Between Copsewood Road and Dimond Road in Bitterne Park, Southampton, England, in the 1960s and early 1970s, lay an area of waste ground, the size of maybe 8 football pitches.  Presumably a brick factory had previously occupied all or part of it, since it was known as "The Brick Fields". When brick production ceased there, I know not. In my childhood, it was overgrown, the only evidence of its industrial past being a couple of so-called "bombed buildings", colllections of large concrete blocks (possibly factory/kiln remnants?) and a tapering asphalted track from Dimond Road towards one of them.  That track was the site of the local community's bonfire every 5th November ( a date, celebrated as "Guy Fawkes' Night" in the UK).  The gorse bushes, the "bombed buildings", the glades of trees, the beaten paths, the soggy marshy areas, the stinging nettles, the overgrowth & undergrowth, the clearings and the steep slope up towards the secondary school  formed a natural adventure playground - punctuated occasionally, it's true, with broken glass.  With sheets of discarded corrugated iron and bits of carpet we built our secret dens,  amongst the willow trees and the bushes.  We roamed, we played, we injured ourselves, we survived, we grew.  Then the school claimed the area.  The diggers moved in, uprooting the trees, clearing away the bushes and the concrete, churning up dunes of soil before the land was eventually flattened to form a barren, characterless and rather stony  sports playing field.  Fences were erected to keep people out. We grew up, we moved on, we parted

Light the sky. Forget the hour.

 


Gorses and grasses and grazes and glasses
Discards of carpet, iron, secret abode
Willow-tree wasteland we wandered with wonder
November firelight.  We watched it explode.

Light the sky.
Forget the hour.
Fireworks shower.
A year goes by.

Working wild words with a wish to weave wisdom
Scribbling songs about sunlight and dregs
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstyle
- the girl with the short skirt and silky brown legs.

Melted heart
but frozen tongue.
Song unsung.
Shy shame.  We part.

Decades dispose dusty deincarnations
Meaningless memories, Mungo & Midge.
 Carelessly clocking the quickening countdown.
Tomorrow's waters downstream from the bridge.

Frayed away
Fate's future face.
Erased the place
where brick fields lay.

Light the sky.
Forget the hour.
Fireworks shower.
A year goes by.
 

I am indebted to Guy and the Bitterne Park website and its readers & contributors for filling in some of the gaps in my knowledge about the Brickfields.

Terry Grant, who lived at 107 Ashtree Road in the 1940s & 1950s, remembers the Brickfields before the school was built.  He tells of the 150-200 foot chimney that stood in the middle and the various aeroplanes which flew over "almost constantly" on their way to the airport at Eastleigh, including the Silver City Bristol freighters, Dakotas, De Havilland Rapides and Auster monoplanes.  "The Bristol freighters came in so low that we were able to hit them with 'pug' from our pug sticks", pug being the blue clay found in abundance on the small cliffs.  "We would hit the low flying plances and cycle like mad to the airport and onto the runway, where there was absolutely no security, and admire our handiwork on the fuselage."

From the chimney, a railway track crossed to the base of the small cliffs, where metal coal-mine type bogeys that had formerly run along the track were left abandoned.  Every year sand martins came to burrow and nest in the "big cliffs".  About 30 years up Dimond Road from Ashtree Road was the entrance into the fields of the builders yard of Bratcher's the Builders.  The builder's family lived just opposite Terry's home.  Jazz trumpeter, bandleader, vocalist & mellophonist Nat Gonella lived in Copsweood Road, while Southampton footballer Frank Dudley was another Ashtree Road resident.

Robert Bailey, a few years my junior, remembers the last days of the Brickfields.  "I think I was about 8 years old when the Brickies was flattened, and all I really remember about it was we (Chris Hammerton, Keith Busson, Eric Stone, Gary White, and all the other local kids) had a den at the base of a tree" which was just behind my parents' house.   He has vivid memories of climbing over the bulldozers & spoil heaps with along with the other local kids, during the course of the works.

I am grateful to both Terry & Robert for sharing their memories


   

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