Burmantofts

A Leeds Seen

Transform High Res-33
Images Joe Stenson
Words Steph Webb

I’m going to be cremated. I decided that once on the way home. I’d been kicking a can about through the leaves that had fallen by the sides of the path back to the flats. Most of the leaves just pile up behind the fences on either side of the pavement but some escape underneath, bits of newspaper and empty packaging caught among them.

The path starts not far after you come over the bridge from town. At the start, you can still hear the traffic from the loop road but the further you go, the quieter it gets. Once you get properly under the trees, you might forget that there’s a city just down the hill at all. The trees are behind both fences. They reach out towards each other over the top of the railings and the spirals of barbed wire but don’t quite meet. In winter when there’s no greenery, and if the sun’s out, the branches make spindly shadows on the ground. They look like a whole load of arms reaching out. Some of them creep up the metal railings. I tend to run my fingers along the railings as I’m walking. The paintwork is peeling and rusting so it’s rough against your skin and leaves faint dusty dirt marks on your hands like newsprint. The other fence is one of those made out of a net of wire stretched between metal uprights. The kind that sags backwards when you put your weight against it.

At the start of the path, there are these gravestones. Two or three flat headstones just set into the ground, not far along once you’re over the bridge. I guess there was a whole graveyard there once upon a time. They’ve been partly tarmac-ed over so only the top halves are left. Like someone only realised late into the job that they maybe shouldn’t be covering them up. I walked over them every day for months, bringing shopping back from the city.

That day, I was on the way home and the handles of my carrier bags had got all twisted and were cutting into my fingers, which by then had red lines etched into them. I put the bags down on the ground, catching one with my foot as it slumped so that everything didn’t fall out all the over the place. I flexed my fingers, opening and closing them, and circled my wrists, shaking my hands out. While I was stopped, I tried to read the names on the graves. They’re carved into the stone in fancy writing. Old fashioned looking. All worn down from where they’ve been trampled over. Between that and the swirly writing, I couldn’t make much out. So God knows who the poor sods were.

I picked a bag up in each hand. Spread the weight out. There was an empty can on the floor and I kicked it towards the other side of the path and dragged it through the leaves. I dribbled with the can using both my feet the whole length of the path. At the end of the fence where the way opens out onto the street and the flats come into view, a big black bugger of a bird landed on top of the railings. It scarpered pretty sharpish when the can hit the bottom of the metal. It flew right up into the sky and over the towers. I watched until I couldn’t make it out anymore. And I thought, when I die, they can scatter my ashes from the top of the block. I always have liked looking out over the city from up there. And that’s got to be better than ending up under a pavement. I’m not having anyone putting their shopping down on me. Or kicking bits of rubbish across my grave. Not over my dead body.

So yes, I’m going to be cremated. And until then, I’ll think twice about where I put my feet.