Today I walked Jarrow streets

and it is a real shock seeing my great-grandfather and Irish pals speaking in Gaelic on a bench across the road from Saint Bede’s church in Chapel Road. Next my Granny appears beside ‘The Albion’ bar, clumping in highly polished black sensible shoes, telling me what she always wanted to say, words sticking in her throat, just the one stuttering sentence, ‘He kissed me,’ ringing so loud I cover my ears and imagine a golden past that never was. Her dream of being loved never-ending. I am half-dragged to Saint Bede’s church, telling me what I know that she was married there. The church is open for a Requiem Mass and I fall in love again with the church’s wonderous light.

In a moment we are at 48 Stanhope Road where Granny and Granda lived, near the flat-faced-Co-op shop. I had forgotten about Granny reading tea leaves in the cracked cup. She half-smiles, ‘There is something good on the way. You will see’. When there was danger, a cold breeze ran across her face, ‘Be careful is all I can say’. She straightened her pinny before putting the always worn headscarf at an odd angle as if trying to ward off danger. I was left staring at the distorted mirror above the fireplace seeing years fleeing by.

I am back in the centre of Jarrow where cinemas became bingo halls, before they died or were demolished. A few working men’s clubs hang on as I have a pint in ‘The Alberta,’ club  nestling beside the Metro. Shipyards are well and truly dead and two-car families squeeze down the no longer cobbled back lanes.

Tom Kelly