Edge out of the mist shawling Moel Famau, the car crabwalks down the round-shouldered mountain, then your peering eye is suddenly rain-shot and the castled Clwyd valley rolls out bulging damp trees, blossom, trodden-in petals, spread like the carpet of an old Welsh woman’s cottage. The town lies comfortable, an old sheepdog resting in retirement, snuffling, snoring, with an ear cocked and an eye blinking back into a past life as the coals spit and shuffle in the grate.
You can reach out and touch the mist crawling around the rising land across the valley, but for now, go where you have not been before. Let the sheeting rain wash away the metal skeletons of industrial sheds and the bleak semis, the sterile roundabouts and the creeping cars; stand on Denbigh road and invite into your mind the misty hills, the drenched hanging hands of horse chestnut leaves and the crouching farmhouses hunched on the hillsides, feathers of smoke drifting from their chimneys, acid in your nose.
Prop yourself up on the wetstone wall of the village school, lichen sponge-seeping into your shirt and stare across the road. Patter the road with feet, let the air laugh with voices, watch the boys scramble and push. Someone drop-kicks a ball from the school playground. Baying and shouting, the boys are surging over the road through the gates into the long grass of the hall. They scrum on the puddle grass, roll in the mud, a pack of playful joyful dogs.
A strident voice: Are You In This?
and the rough tumble of lads straightens up, brushing the grass from their clothes, spitting on damp hands to straighten their hair and forms a line to sign their names. Someone picks up the ball, kicks it back again to childhood and the laughter blasts fresh into the air.
Till they get home. Then, alone, sober, chilled, they think what they have done and they shiver. And their mam gulps down the nausea of terror, cold inside, cold as the mud-wet-blood-wet heaps of torn clothes that the frightened boy-terriers will die in. And her edgy peace is burned alive in the bitter smoke of the coals seized from the arteries of the heavy mountains of Wrecsam, stolen early for their moment in the destroying flames.
A oes heddwch? Is there peace?
The grey hall is as still as a squat coffin, sealed tight, awaiting interment. There is a low cornerstone; its words have been sandblasted by scratching wind and now it is a flaking, inarticulate gravestone to a bunch of rolling tumbling dogs of boys.
If there is peace, I cannot feel it.