Dear Muddy River
You’ve been on my mind for quite a few days now, since the idea of writing to you was suggested. To be honest, I’ve kept finding excuses to put off writing to you, unsure I suppose of what to write, or maybe a bit fearful of what I will write, but here goes.
As I said in my letter to Newport, despite your muddiness, you are the landmark that we all look out for as we travel home. You run alongside the train track for the last few miles and we cross you a couple of times. I often wonder in advance whether the tide will be in or out – how much mud will I see? Is there a chance that the tide will be high, the sun shining, your surface with its eddies, reflecting a blue sky or will you disappoint me again? Will I just see mud?
But I realise that even if you are at your muddiest worst, there is of course such fondness there too. Your muddiness is so familiar and welcoming in its own way. “Muddy river!” we all cry with the eager anticipation of our imminent arrival, calling out as we might call to an old friend, one that would always welcome us with a warm embrace.
I know though, that even in our delighted cry I am mocking you. I’m angry with you I suppose, a bit embarrassed to be assoicated with you. You run through the heart of my home town, but you are such a disappointment. Why couldn’t you be nicer?
I want to create some distance between me and you. I’m better than your muddiness. I don’t live on your banks anymore. I love seeing you again (I wanted to write I love you, but couldn’t quite), but you have in part come to represent the things about Newport that would stop me from ever returning there to live – the sense that there is a sadness, a depression, attempts to brighten the place up and celebrate its attributes, but to me you seem to have so many of the aspects of being a city that are downsides with few or none of the upsides.
But you are part of lots of memories that are happy and your are part of new memories being laid down. I used to cross you every day on my journey to primary school. Dad took us to see you when you flooded, enjoying the spectacle of your burst banks. We would look down on you through the wooden floor and metal grills of the Transporter Bridge (I feel the pride and can’t quite help myself from bragging that you, muddy river have one of only 2 transporter bridges in the country). Dad would take us on the journey across you and back. We would cry “mud” when looking down, as the carriage reached the other side, we would see the water stop and the mud begin. We threw sticks and stones into your muddy squelchiness. We went with Dad to explore your docks, I suppose not really linking them directly with you, just enjoying seeing the big boats, the tugs, the containers, clambering over huge ropes and piles of planks of wood. And then Newport decided to celebrate you and make more of you – they built a riverside walk way and built a theatre on your banks. I remember thinking it a bit pitiful, of all the places to choose, a theatre overlooking your ugly brown-greyness. But through that, you have become part of new memories – now my Dad’s treat to me and my family, the Christmas panto on your shores, one year even emerging magically to snow falling into your swirling waters. We still keep the photo of you taken from the theatre on our wall, although not in pride of place I’m afraid. In fact, I couldn’t quite remember where the photo was hung, so I went on a hunt for it and found you half obscured behind the toy shelves in my son’s bedroom – still on the wall, but half obscured, a bit forgotten and neglected.
So before I finish off, I suppose what I want to say is thank you and sorry.