Never Pass That Way Again

A simple inscription carved in stone, there for eternity. Young boys destined to be craftsmen, chiseling, and working soft stone. Hours of toil, Jack brought the hammer, George the chisel. Slow laborious work for the unskilled hand and poorly trained eye.

The warmth of a summer’s evening. That little street of poor hard-working people, some away fighting, the others resting before a week of toil ahead. Quiet as you can, the neighbours might not want their path carving up. Just one more adventure in a long hot summer littered with many mad capers. The very best of friends, all their young lives in this tight-knit area of tiny back to back houses, row upon row, street upon street. Three long years of war. Families apart, rationing and air raids. Children growing up still managing to  having fun and adventures. Long days out on bicycles, the coast and hills never too far away.

Two hours hammering, chiseling, the flagstone half way up the street just by the toilet block. ‘George and Jack were here, Sunday 12th July 1942.’

Job done, serious trouble to come. In time, the street forgot about the boys impromptu carving. Their little memorial to youth would remain forever. At least, until 1974. The houses were demolished, mass destruction. Far worse than anything the war did. Just one more move on the giant political chess board.

I’d heard the story so often that I had to have a look. I found where the street had been coming back from school. A patchwork of cobbled roads and sandstone paths. The houses had been raised to the ground in the name of progress.

There it was, a true story all along. Leaning forward I touched the well-worn characters, for just a second I was back with two young friends on that warm summers evening filled with adolescent hopes and laughter. I’m soon back in the here and now. Just another cold December day, wandering among this broken wasteland of stone and brick. Not a place to be caught by our school bullies, time to go quickly home.

The stone would have been crushed no doubt by some giant machine. I wish I’d had the bottle of those young lads and nicked it. Anyhow it’s gone now and I never passed that way again.

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