On my route home I pass an ageing building long abandoned. The type of building that was wood clad to look more permanent, nature challenging that now, with some measure of success. Once square, solid walls now bow at an unbelievable angle as if the roof has become a monstrous load on elderly legs no longer able to support it. Dark wood turned green with mold and windows retained in wooden frames more by luck than structure. This is an old man of a building, the walls his arthritic legs, the mold the liver spots and wrinkles and the windows the once sparkling teeth. Thousands of people pass this structure every day, silently ignoring its anonymous decline in the irrepressible face of nature. Like an old man in a home it’s left to decay, to buckle under what were once negligible loads. No longer able to resist the intrusion of natures forces it slowly sinks waiting for the death knell of a heavy storm to end its days.
Like that old man though this building has a history, a story and figures in so many lives. This was a training facility in it’s day. A proud bastion of standards that intimidated the young and inexperienced. A place of learning that watched hundreds of men develop and go out into the harsh world, to fight nature’s erosion of the system. This was where Bob would tear into any man that disturbed his cup. John would not start his day without a ‘BR standard’* and Arthur tended the gardens for no pay other than company of his fellow man, having retired many years previously to the solitude of old age alone. Collections for retirements, birthdays and new arrivals were held within these walls. Grandchildren and new wives had sneaky visits here, their purposes different but neither fully authorised. Careers were started, progressed and ended here, lives forever changed by the experiences imparted within the walls. On those most hellish of nights when nature fought to beat back man, the doors were opened to provide desperately needed shelter to drenched, frozen and exhausted men.
For years, indeed for generations, this building was the stable rock known as ‘work’. This was the place to escape family or drama but also the place that funded the life outside of its walls for many. Protected by high fences and strongly worded signs this building was a key part of an organisation, needed and essential. Nobody tends the building now as it sits forlornly waiting its inevitable fate, nobody remembers. It’s passing won’t be marked, there will be no collection. This is a railway building, it is no longer needed and has been abandoned like so many others. I cannot remember the names of all of the people but I remember the characters, from when I was one of the young men intimidated by its contents, I remember the carpet and can still recollect the scents.
I don’t share this story out of love for an inanimate object although as a working man I mourn the passing of days of higher employment. I share this story because this old building is one of many and the analogy with old men is poignantly accurate. I have said before that I am creating now the stories that I will recount when I am older and I hope that I won’t be muttering them alone as Ms Nature has her victory. That is one of the reasons that I never pass an opportunity to listen to my peers, we all have a history after all.
* Tea, strong, milk, two sugars aka builders/British standard