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To Hear The Skylark's Song A Memoir by Huw Lewis Street Life Despite all, the spring came and then the summer, and our front door stood permanently open and our street came to life. Cottrell Street runs long and level, a single terrace, and we were the third house along from the end - even though we were number 2 - for reasons it didn't occur to me to ask about just then. Stone the Butcher's slaughterhouse stood right opposite us, taller than our house and showing us its blank side wall, blocking any view to the front of our house. It had been some while since it was actually used for slaughtering sheep and pigs, but it still housed the machine that made Stone's marvellous sausages. The butcher's shop itself was just five doors up, on our side of the street.

Next door to the slaughterhouse stood Rees the Undertakers, with old Mr Rees' coffin-making workshop alongside and its stone-cold cellar underneath. Bald as a billiard ball, taciturn, paleskinned and stick thin, Mr Rees appeared appropriately cadaverous given his choice of profession, even when he wasn't burying anyone. On funeral days he wore a shiny black top hat and a black tail coat. Rumour had it that Mrs Rees was as bald as her husband, but I couldn't tell for sure if it was a wig or not; if it was, I certainly never saw her without it. The local boys would drive the Reeses potty by kicking footballs against the wall of the slaughterhouse, producing a repetitive booming thud-thud, which brought out Mrs Rees to yell at them about her nerves. This inevitably spurred the boys on to attempts at comedy: 'Don't worry Mrs Rees, your customers will sleep right through.' And to even greater efforts with the ball: thud-thud. Next to Mr Rees' workshop was a small triangle of public land, just a few square yards of it. It was fenced off from the road and two public benches stood there on the pavement with the initials of every teenager in Aberfan carved into their wooden slatted seats. Inside the fence was a shallow stream and a couple of trees. These would be the first trees I would ever climb, and as I got to know them well, I could make it easily and quickly to the topmost branches. Often I'd perch there, hidden by the foliage and unseen, watching the world go by.

> To Hear The Skylark's Song A Memoir by Huw Lewis is published by Parthian, Library of Wales, at PS8.99 CONTINUES TOMORROW

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 16, 2017
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