HELLO, it’s a pleasure to see you here!
      Let’s take a break—from clients and deadlines, vendors and peddlers—and journey to County Durham, Northern England, where I once worked. Come along!

      The chill is damp and familiar. The Winter sun is low, casting long, intense shadows.
      We hop on the bus ten minutes to town and step off near the Cathedral. A soft cool mist touches our skin. Wrapped in cozy coats we walk briskly by the Castle and down the steep hill and narrow sidewalks, squeezing around message boards propped outside ancient pubs advertising the specials of the day in white chalk. The smell of old wood, beer and pipe smoke tickle our consciousness.
      We reach Market Square where pigeons loiter for handouts. The singular scent of the chip shop and a baby’s cry waft in unison through the air.
      There’s no place we need to be, no agenda to keep. Cell phones are silenced. Let’s go this way and cross the street over there.
      We turn down muddy footpaths, amble across bridges, stare downriver...
      Strolling into Town Centre, between TopShop and a coffee shop, we spot a lonely grey-cobbled passage from here to, where?
      Sheltered between high windowless walls, wide shallow steps, sunken and worn, lead upward. Delicate mauve-blossomed weeds thrive in cracks, hanging to soil that’s barely dust, dancing indifferent to the breeze. It’s quiet but for the shuffle of paper cups and glossy wrappers grazing the cobbled joints, zigzagging in reckless abandon.
      We’re in a place ill-matched to Durham pristine. Concrete walls and rusty back doors host layers of cryptic artwork—bulbous word shapes outlined in black, airbrushed in vivid fluorescent shades. Signatures scrawled in lavish curves—first names, dates and faraway places; initials crammed in distorted hearts; a rustic arrow, a radical quote. Expressions of love, insolence, slander in permanent pen and ink and paint.
      Time-lapsed throngs color the walls in dizzying fast-forward. Days and nights scroll through this space, forgotten memorials in a graveyard of bold impassioned words abandoned one atop another in slow-sinking daylight under sky and open air.
      We venerate the moment in a long, respectful silence...
      High up the hill Cathedral bells begin to peal the evensong toll—two mournful notes, a circadian cycle, hang over centuries of Time itself.

      •   •   •

      Like walking though Narnia's wardrobe we step onto the bus and find in our hands the list of familiar tasks, and snapshots. The afternoon's artistry has captured my camera. Among the sunlit chaos, a mysterious message. It’s a sign.

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