The Gullet

Since the virus came, everywhere and everything is quieter, these times, I can sit back, take in the sounds that have been suppressed for so long. Growing up on a country road we were so aware of our surrounding environment. In particular I have vivid memory of bird song and the ever present sound of water flowing.
Across the road from our house a drain met with the roadside, the drain was full of water. It created a shallow pool before disappearing beneath the roadway to reappear on the other side, much to our childhood wonderment. The water always ran at good force and at one time Jim next door placed a section of downpipe in the drain pitched at a slight angle on some flagstones, creating a gushing spout.
Throughout our schooldays there was an ever present symphony, created by the ever spilling and thrashing of the water. Jim often placed two large white enamel buckets there to fill, sometimes the water stopped if a stone rolled into the drain or a clump of leaves built up after frost. Jim had left a brush handle by the side, handy to free up any blockage, I loved to watch the gulping and plopping dirty brown swill appear and wait until the colour eventually rinsed out and the beautiful clear water flowed again. We called this place the gullet, sometimes a spout, but nearly always, the Gullet. It was the centre of our universe as children where lollipop sticks became battleships, rocky outcrops became islands and armies of minnows scurrying about became a shark colony. Once, my brother Nick decided that one of my sandals would make an ideal cruise-liner ship. I watched it float away, gliding on the sunlit ripples, he said it was bound for Nantucket, we raced across the road to see it reappear, alas it had sunk shortly after leaving the dock. I never got my sandal back.
In those innocent days, we spent hours, playing with jam jars, watching them slowly fill to the brim and eventually sink. We didn’t know where the water came from or where it went after it disappeared through a break in the ditch on the other side. A wall of thistles, nestles and briars stood between us curious children and that other world, and so the fantasy grew, down there was Australia, maybe even Africa. Jim said the Bawman lived down there, so that kept us away.
When I was older, and Jim had passed away, I cleaned up the roadside and cut the grass alongside the Gullet, over the years the water flow had reduced to a trickle. The flagstones had long since disappeared. The width across the Gullet was no more than my shoe size. I couldn’t imagine how we had ever sat and played there, the sound of the water was muted by the constant traffic passing. Heavy wheels had flattened the verge and road widening had narrowed our channel port to accommodate no more than a six inch pipe. Our waterside world had been undone by progress. I wait for a breeze to shake the grass, or scatter my fingers to make a splash. I make pretend sounds to imitate cargo ships and I see Jim carrying two full buckets, each in turn splashing and soaking his trousers because of his unsteady steps. Each splash is like a silk scarf swirling, spooning out the water leaving black patches along the grey road.
In my mind a stream flows, a symphony plays a tune from a long lost world.