500 Words pieces

Two Petrol Pumps
David H Bridges

Little-shopped and unhorrored
Angie Cairns

Seedy river had fun
Lynn Breeze

Hebden Bridge Snapshot
Fenella Berry

The Bridge Parties
Brian Wells

Changing the world
Chris Reason

The Bridge Lanes community of yesterday
Leah Coneron

Ruth Robson-King

Hebden Bridge My Tūrangawaewae
Jo Collinge

Communing with angels in the heart of the UK
June Smith

500 years this bridge has stood
Emma Timewell

Jake takes Billy for a walk
- Jason Elliott

Where there's brown rice, there's brass
- Daily Telegraph

4th funkiest town in the world
- highlife

500 Words pieces

Hebden: a Bridge between Worlds
Sarah L. Long

My spiritual home
Gill Smith

Star Reborn
Adrian Lord

Take it to the Bridge
Mike Barrett

"I want two queues!"
David Binns

The Long Haul
Rachel Pickering

The Bridge
Alastair Graham

Walking with History
Graham Ramsden

A pin in the map
Andi Butterworth

Extracts from a Tudor time travellerís letter
Frances Platt

Her Diverse Fun Day
Lynn Breeze

William Darney (maverick preacher)
Glyn Hughes

Breakfasting on the Bridge
Graham Barker

Hermetic Hebden

Take it to the Bridge
- Leeds Guide









Breakfasting on the Bridge

1982 started well. I’d just bought a house in Eton Street that was completely knackered, but it was dirt cheap and I fell in love with the location. My plan was to improve it slowly at weekends and during breaks from a comfortably dull job as a further education lecturer in Birmingham. Ultimately, maybe, I’d up sticks, get back to my West Riding roots and become in some vague and leisurely way reborn.

Then 1982 turned nasty. Back home in Leeds, my father began behaving oddly, was diagnosed with a brain tumour and in five ghastly months was dead. Three days later, my mother had a stroke. She recovered, but as a permanent invalid.

All change. I chucked up my job and my Birmingham maisonette and moved full time into Eton Street, to be closer to my mother. The house was still a wreck, and I now faced several months of gutting and renovating it with no money left or coming in and all my possessions in one spectacular heap in the (only) downstairs room. I was single so could rough it, but this was medically hazardous roughing it. A stranger to physical work, I had to get seriously stuck in before my lungs clapped out from old plaster and soot, and the reek of the dog pee that had rotted the attic floorboards.

I was also a stranger to depression, but felt it creeping in my direction. In Leeds my mother’s recuperation was a struggle, while in Hebden Bridge no amount of hard graft seemed to be making my new home any more habitable.  

The Old Bridge kept me from cracking up. I got into the habit of breakfasting first on bacon butties and mugs of tea at Barker’s Restaurant, overlooking Bridge Gate. For my second course I would sit on the river wall, relax and swallow whole the bridge and all its centuries. I’d wonder how generations of brassed off, weary blokes like me coped with a three steps forward, two steps back existence. I concluded that they just got on with it, even though many of them had far worse to deal with than would ever come my way. And for an investment of about fifteen minutes each morning, it did the job. It blew away all the dark stuff and fired me up for the rest of the day.

In time I could organise my own breakfast, so spent less time at the bridge. But one day as I crossed it, an epiphany - it dawned that I now had the life I wanted, in a new home town I’d only leave in a box. Many years and three children later, that feeling shows no sign of going away.

And when old friends started passing through, I’d take them in the evening down to the river. We’d sit on that wall, with a pint from the White Swan, and look at that bridge. I’d say, ‘This is what it’s been about.’ And they all got it. 

Graham Barker