I am standing underneath the Viaduct in Folkestone….
A Victorian citadel looming tall below the ridge of Hills that enfold Folkestone. I have always admired industrial Victorian Architecture, and the Railways and the Trains that heralded a new age of steam and travel. Folkestone Harbour viaduct was built in 1843. It crosses the harbour with 13 arches and is the world’s highest arched brick viaduct, Grade II Listed status given 1975.
Voice 1 & Voice 2 Narrator & Ghost.
…. I am standing underneath the Viaduct in Folkestone.
Shssssss – Hello.
A reedy whisper, barely audible?
(A rustling is stirring the air, a chilly wind?)
I do like facts. I don’t like a chill wind. So here are some facts. Buildings were being made in red clay bricks in southern Turkey and Jericho around 7000BC.
( Am I hearing voices?)
I am a little bit rustled myself. More facts. Bricks, useful and beautiful. Industrial work places. Hearth and home. Magnificent Arches made from the humble brick.
On the edges of my eye? A faint presence? It is only a few moments away from dusk and my eyes are not that good these days. ‘One eyed Lil,’ I call myself.
‘I am up here.’
‘Inside the bricks.’
Bricks! Inside the bricks? There are millions of bricks.
‘Yes, I am aware of that. I was on the building work. Some of the clay came from the rubbish dump. Look up!’
The Rubbish dump is Kings North Gardens now. I have always loved a Viaduct, tall, elegant and mighty, be – striding Countryside, Town, City and Hamlet, where ever the Railway needed to travel… people moving….
‘Look up, into the arch, look up.’
….constantly moving. Where are they all going to ?
Yea right, there are many arches.
Who are you? What are you? I’m scared now. I’m going home.
‘Where in the Hell are you?’
‘In Hell. How did you know where I am?’
I whirled around, my head was spinning, a kaleidoscope of bricks and time.
‘My grave has been inside this Viaduct since 1843. 176 long and lonely years.’
Oh, I am very sorry.
(But, where are the apparitions? The ethereal robes of dusty grey?)
‘I have been up here with steam trains thundering over my head, shaking my bones. What teeth I had still in my mouth, have been jiggered out of my jaw.‘
(The sour smell of the long ago deceased?)
‘A Spitfire flew through one of these Arches. Mad! Would have taken my head off, if I still had a head.’
Spitfires? Steam trains?
‘Then those high speed trains. 186 mph? Who needs to travel at that speed? Hurry, hurry. The world is in such a hurry.‘
(Where are the swirling mists, the ice in my bones? The cries of the forlorn and forgotten dead?)
(Come on … Gird your loins woman.)
Think about the facts. In January 1844 The railway Viaduct was completed,100 years before my / birth.
‘Good view though. I can see for miles. I can see France. I can hear the Guns.’
I am not about to look for invisible voices. Run more like it. No, that could be dangerous and paranoid. Walk calmly and purposefully away. He, for it is a male voice, is still talking.
‘I keep a watch over The Harbour: ships travelling away to exotic places. Then, the troops off to Flanders. Ferries to France. Goods shipping through the English Channel, around the Bay of Biscay.The Cape of Good Hope… out to The British Empire… all built … on the backs.. of people like me.’
The voice seems to trail away…sensations of movement, a melancholy shadow? The Arches are growing in stature, reaching up and up into the darkening sky. Scraping and scaring the clouds. British Empire?
‘Me? I’m stuck here. Bricked up for eternity, and more. If the whole viaduct tumbles, what happens to me? My dust, my remains?’
‘Hang on, War? First World War ?’
‘Nineteen Arches you know. Tallest in the World. William Cubitt built it. His brother was there too, he bought into development. Where there is money? Family connections. Wealth and control. Nothing has changed. Unlucky for some, unlucky for me!‘
Now… It dawns on me: Yes, I am talking to a ghostly spirit. Dwelling in the supernatural? Moving slowly away from underneath the arches, shivering in my shoes. Facts, not Phantoms, pull your self together.
‘Yes, we all shoved, shifted, shunted and chivvied, pushed and pulled. Millions of bricks you know? Hard and heavy work.‘
I feel my eyes misting…tears or fears?
‘My horse died. They couldn’t get us out. You could say, with truth, that we were abandoned, bricked up for ever more. Left behind and forgotten.’
Where are the sounds of the clinking and dragging of old rusty chains? The chains of restraint, the chains of the working class?
‘I don’t know where I’m going. Hells fire or heavenly clouds of choirs and Angels! Or a nothingness, a void? What year are we in?’
‘I’m looking for God.’
‘Did you find him?’
‘No. But I need to be saved or forgiven, preferably both. And I am? Dust. A mere puff could blow me into infinity.’
The more I look for the owner of the voice, the more he is not there. The cloak of invisibility shrouds his very existence. Does he even exist? If he does, how do we know that he is a he, a man? A human?
‘Murdered Mary is a’wandering in her white dress, around the Royal Pavilion, Now…The Burstin …. and The Anglia, she’s going down.‘
His voice is becoming fainter, as if he is talking to himself.
(Where is the Ectoplasm and the opaque grey mists?)
‘So many dead are down there among the rocks with Old Davey’s Locker. Lying on the sea bed, bones picked clean.’
Poor man. Lying in his grave inside a Viaduct for all those long and lonely years, with no one to talk to.
(Where are the ghostly howls and wails?)
‘Whit Sunday, fire. The Pier is burning… 1943, War still waging. I heard the Bombs, felt the tremors, I heard the screams.They built a Tunnel. Underneath the Channel. That was an upheaval. Always in a hurry. Disturbing the watery graves of those who were drowned in War or disaster. ‘
The stench of death?
‘Goodbye, don’t forget…me..’
All I hear is my own breath.
A grey cloud slides sinuously across a waxing Silver Moon. Something moves, as if penetrating mortal flesh and bone. My flesh and bone.
There is no- body waving goodbye.