Bricks • Mortar • Imagination • Words

The Texts - Julia Copus

Local Residents Frank and Daisy


FRANK: When we saw it going up -

DAISY: Or rising,

rather, like some steel-boned dinosaur.

FRANK: -a skeleton of girders getting grafted

onto the unspoilt downs - well?

DAISY: Mother was fractious,

banging her hard little fists on the living room table.

FRANK: This happened around the time of the Munich crisis.

DAISY: She never was one for change. She loved those downs.

And anything new-fangled? to tell you the truth,

I think it scared her.

FRANK: Every time you turned

the wireless on there'd be some news of it -

disputes, negotiations, this and that.

And Chamberlain: How horrible, fantastic,

incredible it is - do you remember? -

that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks?

DAISY: 'Course, I was still at school then.

FRANK: Yes, we both were.

DAISY: And in those days, I used to take the dog out

eightish every morning by the coast road

and there they'd be, hard at it with their picks

and shovels?

FRANK: Wrecking bars and rammers.

DAISY: There are some

who say it's a thing of beauty but back then -

Oh yes, back then was different. Everything was.

So then we watched them flesh it out - footings

and posts -

DAISY: Frank was a builder, see?

FRANK: Not yet

I wasn't. - Placing the ironwork, pouring the concrete,

knocking the nails in, working into dusk.

DAISY: By the time I took the dog again at five,

that? din they made had blown clean onto the beach.

So I'd walk with the sea in my left ear, them in the right,

making the most of their drudgery - banging and scraping.

FRANK: Studs and joists and girders. Anchor bolts.

DAISY: At last the glass went up - hundreds of eyes -

each one looking in the same direction,

out to sea, and then to France beyond.

FRANK: But still there was work to be done. Scratch-coat and skim.

DAISY: At night I dreamed of them - you couldn't help it -

up there on the hilltop, lifting and carrying.

FRANK: Braces, trusses, frames, roof-sheathing, lookouts?

DAISY: The soft, dark underbelly of the sky

above, around, behind, and them still digging,

ducking their heads to their work as the thing went up.

I can't have been more than ten, but the things I remember -

Frank will tell you.

FRANK: Well, you get that don't you?

In every couple, one of you's the dreamer,

and one's the doer.

DAISY: There was this one dream - [Daisy's Dream]

I shan't forget it - it was night again,

the men were at their chores, fresh crops of stars

had bloomed in every corner of the sky,

and in the midst of them a socket of moon

was trying to draw the dark inside itself

with little sucking sounds, as if bereft

of whatever it was that had belonged to it -

an eye or tooth or bone. Then one of the men,

the one in charge - an architect, I think -

looked slowly up at it; a film of brick-dust

coloured his eyelids red, and as he stood,

unbuckling his spine to look at the moon,

a bigger heap of dust exactly equal

to the weight of a soul collected on his heart.

That's what I've done, he thought; I've put my heart

into a pile of stones. I've buried it.

His bones grew cold inside his skin, the moon

looked back at him, blinked once, and then went out.

[slight pause]

FRANK: 'Course, when the residents came it was different again

That gave it a purpose, see? By then the war

was more than half way through, and there can't be a soul

from Rottingdean to Stanmer who doesn't remember

those first boys arriving, the bus that came.

DAISY: Swimming up the street like some old fish -

FRANK: After we'd waited an hour.

DAISY: - with its windows

glinting and you couldn't see the faces.

Not at first you couldn't. Full of the wounded

prisoners of war.

FRANK: They'd got sent back

from an army hospital in Kloster Haina.

And Daisy here and I were two of the children

DAISY: Chosen! Yes. To march from the school in pairs.

FRANK: Some of the younger ones had flags to wave.

DAISY: A band was playing on the Palace Pier. [now Brighton Pier, renamed in 2000]

It's Only A Paper Moon?

FRANK: And when the bus

sidled into view -

DAISY: The noise we made!

FRANK: Till somebody -

DAISY: one of the teachers

FRANK: - raised a hand.

DAISY: They might've been swearing an oath.

FRANK: And slowly the voices

fell away and everybody hushed.

DAISY: As if the wind had dropped.

FRANK: The flags went limp.

DAISY: [softly] And there they were, their faces at the windows:

some bandaged, some in trilbies, some of them

with bits and pieces missing, all of them blind.

FRANK: To varying degrees.

DAISY: That's how it started.

These days it's different: these days they come from all over.

FRANK: There's always a bloody war some place or another.

Korea, Malaya, Palestine, Aden,

Cyprus, the Falklands, Iraq, Northern Ireland?

[fade out voices]


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