Ghosts Of The Kilburn High Road

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The ferns turn to gold and it feels warm for the time of year as we climb to the first view point at Creag Meagaidh. Pearl growls at the man already there and I call her back to put her on the lead. “Don’t yer worry about that my dear,” he says, “I’m twice divorced and used to getting growled at.”

A waft of alcohol flows by and the man’s accent takes me straight to Kilburn in North West London. A place where we make friends for life and enjoy the good things this city has to offer. The place where we sleep light on Friday night, alert to the dreaded roar of men who want to kill when the night clubs empty. Our many phonecalls to the police and the relief when another life has been saved. The despair when after the silence we here the sirens and the yellow triangle appears on the pavement appealing for witnesses to the latest murder. It is this dark side of the city that drives us towards the last frontier. We are grateful to be here and as we look down over the loch embraced by mountains in the autumn light we say a prayer for those who brave the city life.

At first light on a Kilburn morning
they are already sharing beer
sitting on the steps, eyes haunted
humming ‘It’s a long long way from Clare to here.

© Xenia Tran

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Photographs by Xenia Tran, unedited.

Camera: Lumix Panasonic FZ38, setting: iA.

In response to dVerse Poets Pub Haibun Monday #23 – Contemporary Cityscape
(this week’s prompt for prose followed by a short poem was open to poetic interpretation and did not have to be a haibun or contain a haiku)

Author: whippetwisdom

The stories, poems and photographs on this blog are the original creative work of Xenia Tran. Inspired by life in the Scottish Highlands and in awe of nature she gives voice to the wisdom of her two rescue whippets Eivor and Pearl.

36 thoughts on “Ghosts Of The Kilburn High Road”

  1. I had to smile at the man’s response to Pearl’s growl 😀 But, my goodness, Kilburn doesn’t sound great. I’d choose where you are now, too – much nicer…and safer. I love the sky in the photo and what a great idea to record sightings of wildlife, I’d love to see a Golden Eagle. Hope your week is good so far xxx

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    1. Thank you Cathy! Kilburn had a strong Irish community when we lived there and especially around the time of the IRA bombing campaigns, NF supporters would organise coach trips to Kilburn to beat up the Irish. It was a different place in daylight hours and the local people were very warm and kind. Björn asked us to write about the city’s underbelly in his prompt and create a strong juxtaposition, which is why I created such a strong contrast with where we are now. We are having a good week and the weather is still mild here, hope it is the same your way :o) Much love to you all xxx

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  2. I didn’t think I could read one more haibun of this theme, but I am glad I came and read yours. Your piece deeply affected me. You definitely understand this complex situation. And I love the old man growled at…but dog and ex wives! LOL! When you write of the time the bars empty, you really got me there. The violence of these things are constant, and little difference from the random street violence we see in Atlanta. We have few bars here in this area, and that is good. However, something has happened to people over the years. There is little regard for life….human or animal. The prompt was powerful but I don’t want to do this again. For some of us, it’s too close to the bone. We are poets to try and escape the reality outside our doors.

    bless you, Xenia. you really understand.

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    1. Thank you Jane I totally understand and I really appreciate you reading my ‘haibun’ when it is so close to the bone. Thank you also for your email and I am so glad your comment has come through this time. It is lovely when we can talk here. Big hugs and much love to you xxx

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  3. I so love how you give us a glimpse of the underside of city life, viewed from the beauty of the countryside. Liked also the character of the old man and his little remark about being growled at, and of course, the snippet of the whippet!

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  4. I so much love how you can use the drunkard’s breath to draw you back to brawls and worse of inner-city places… such contrast, yet an immediate bridge.. somehow I felt like you landed softly in your paradise… like the way you used the scottish names creating atmosphere.

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    1. Thank you Björn, smell is such a powerful anchor of memories and creates an immediate bridge. Paradise here is the natural beauty around us and we respect it so much, calling each mountain by his gaelic name. Thank you for providing us with such a thought-provoking prompt :o)

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  5. I felt transported so swiftly but smoothly to your memories of Kilburn from that scent of liquor in the air. That was seamless. The grit and grime of the city really stood out against the peacefulness of your countryside. Mission accomplished with the prompt! 🙂

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