Redcastle Furze by Julia Webb

The teenage years are those where you spend most of your free time outdoors. Having spent the first twelve of them corralled in parental protection, you are finally allowed out with your friends. And what does society have to offer you? Well, not very much. You can’t go to the pub (not until you’re at least five foot ten with a fake I.D.), the gym isn’t exactly welcoming or cheap, and having been in school for the day, ‘organised’ activity has limited attraction.

teenager walking 1

image by amanda tipton*

This is why teenage children have always been great walkers. With nowhere to go they end up wandering aimlessly into town, looking furtively at other girls and boys, going into the shops and not being interested in very much. Then when that gets boring they go further afield; into other areas where they find ‘secret’ places – a disused shed in a wood or allotment, deserted school playground, or a house party on the other side of town, where they finally get to experiment with all the things they are not meant to, both human and chemical. Before facing the long bedraggled walk home to that porch light which they hope signals their parents are asleep and not waiting on the sofa in the dark.

julia webJulia Webb’s poem Redcastle Furze is a wonderful evocation of one those journeys; on this mini travelogue you will mix the urban with the rural, “down St Martin’s Way/under the crags/and/overhangs/of the industrial estate/to the place where yoghurt pots/spill their raspberry guts across warm black tarmac.” You will encounter waste alongside nature, “past the tip/spewing doorless fridges foetid carpets/then on down the hill/past/the Edkins/the Snows/and the Tockers    /and into the woods    /through the thick smush of lilac.” And not forgetting the famous landmarks, “spy hill where only the bravest climb,” “helicopter tree corner,” “Witchy Waghorns,” past “the old police house.” As is often said in another context, ‘you couldn’t make it up’. The detail is magical and clearly unforgettable.

Julia Webb is a graduate of UEA’s poetry MA. In 2011 she won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition and in 2014 she was shortlisted for the Poetry School/Pighog pamphlet prize. She is a poetry editor for Lighthouse Literary Journal. She lives in Norwich where she teaches creative writing in the community. Her first collection Bird Sisters will be published by Nine Arches Press in 2016.


Redcastle Furze

down St Martin’s Way
……………………………….under the crags
………………………………………………………and
………………………………………………………overhangs
…………of the industrial estate

………to the place where yoghurt pots

……………spill their raspberry guts               across                   warm  black  tarmac

behind the towering weave

of a wire fence

designed to keep us out

but let us be observed

……………along the gypsy track     that runs

…………………………………………………………………………….weeping weeds and rubbish

behind the backs of the private houses

along the river-wide road to

…………….The Butts

past the tip
…………..spewing doorless fridges              foetid carpets

then on down the hill

past
the Edkins
the Snows
and the Tockers

and into the woods
……………..through the thick smush of lilac

the sandy tangle of pine-roots
midges                                 blackberry-snaggle
sweet-grass                      nettle-sting pathways

on past secret-place
hidey-hole                          spy-hill

where only the bravest climb

den-mere
…………….bush-house
……………………………..tangle-root
………………………………………………squirrel-nest

……..and back out into heady-hot sunshine

up McKenzie Road

with its baking pavements

the flat-topped house                   the pond full of goldfish

round helicopter-tree-corner
…………………………………………….and on past Witchy Waghorns’

avoiding the cracks
…………………………………..by the old police house

down the back alley

over the gate

through the back door
…………………………………..kick off your shoes

………………………………………………………………….skid down the hall

………………………………………………………………………………………………..and into the kitchen.

[Image by Amanda Tipton, https://www.flickr.com/photos/demandaj/]

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