Towards the north of the town centre sits an architectural disaster known as the Seven Sorrows of Stockdale.
A series of cheap housing, built during the late seventies when everybody was smoking the drugs, these seven behemoths stoop over the landscape like omens of doom.
It is said that the labourers who worked on their construction never smiled or laughed once the job was completed. Their souls were bereft of any hope.
As for the residents of the Sorrows…. They know deep within in, that they are all cursed to spend eternity living within the shadows of each of the 24 storey high coups.
It is important to note that the day after the sorrows opened it doors to the citizens of Stockdale, the lifts broke. Each tower had one main elevator and each one stopped working at the exact same time.
A local engineer had been called to try and fix the problem. He walked up to the fourth floor, where the lifts had stopped and ventured with in the deep forbidding heart of the first tower.
A good 30 minutes had passed before he returned unsuccessful and declared that he “needed a special part” and “It had to be ordered by head office” before declaring that he “wont be able to come back until… oh, at least next Wednesday.”
The echo’s of that statement still ring through the stairs wells of each tower block 36 years later.
This disruption (for which the council are very sorry for the inconvenience caused) has resulted in the higher floors of each block becoming separated from the world below.
The thought of walking up and down 24 flights of stairs with heavy bags of shopping, furniture and appliances gave those who lived in the “lofts” cause to rethink their lives and how they lived.
It didn’t take long before these upper floors found new ways to live.
The roof spaces were turned into gardens, water was collected from the air and everybody learnt the important lessons of Mend and Make Do.
A rudimentary barter system was set up in the mid 1980’s when somebody had the idea of linking the uppers floors of each block.
A trained pigeon (well, one tied to a half brick with some rope on the end) was sent over to the next block. Instructions enclosed on how to link up with others and within weeks a whole network of communication and trade lines were set up.
The people prospered for a while and times were good.
New traditions were formed with friendships and trade and before the advent of the 90’s an unofficial religion had formed between the different peoples of the Sorrows.
One of those traditions was about to be performed today.
In Lenny Henry Towers (each tower was named after a successful TV personality including Jimmy Saville, Stuart Hall, Rolf Harris, Bernard Manning and Rod Hull) a small band of figures huddled around a door way on the roof.
The thick heavy cloud that always lived above Stockdale sat in silence, as if watching this coming of age ceremony, and a fat seagull burped for no reason.
“Now is the time…” boomed a robed elder to the congregation.
“Destiny must be fulfilled!” the elder raised a bony hand toward a sign on the door and everyone ‘ooh-ed’ and ‘aah-ed’.
“Come forward Chub” The elder demanded.
A tall, thin child pushed slowly through the group and stood in front of the elder and the door.
“This child has been chosen to journey out and down into the heathen world below. To mix amongst the rutting beasts below. Only when she has collected the items of lore shall she be allowed to return and NOT BEFORE!” the elder stared deeply into Chubs eyes and thrust a folded piece of paper into her hand.
Chub grasped the paper tightly and looked toward the door.
Deep and meaningful chants were chanted and gestures were gestured before Chub was allowed to step forward and into the green light of the sign of destiny and nothing says “Here is the start of your long and arduous trip into the unknown – I hope you brought spare underpants” than a large green box that reads FIRE EXIT.
Chub hid a nervous gulp. She waved goodbye to her mother, father, younger brother, elder sister, Aunties and Uncles and cousins and Grandparents all the way along her family tree to her great great great … well, there were lots of people and Chub had to go.
The thing about Dogmatic traditions and the like, is that they are always made with the powerful in mind. Be it prayer, posturing or just handing over your goods. Those in charge make the rules, and in Lenny Henry House, those that make the rules were fed up to the back teeth of Chub and her trouble making.
From a small child she always running around and asking questions. The sort of questions the elders didn’t know or dare not answer.
"Why are we here?” and “Why don’t we just go outside for a bit?” followed by “What do numbers taste like?” and “What DID happen at the orphanage?” and things of that nature.
There are some questions that should never be answered and so it was decided that Chub should venture out and find the answers she needs for herself.
“Off you pop then.” Chirped the elder, rather less officially and more like somebody who wanted to finish off that bit of cake, and Chub walked through the door.
It slammed with some force and from the other side – her home – Chub was sure she heard a muffled cheer.
Having never heard a cheer before she could not be sure. She shrugged and set off down the stair well toward the distant ground and wondered what adventures awaited her...
to be continued....