I had a feeling I could be right about this, and to prove it, I went out that rainy evening, at dusk, crossed the bridge, and went to look for Irish Street. I knew where it was, it’s a street name on the map of the town – but I was looking for a sign of it. I crossed the river, the bridge, to the dock side, a kind of foreshore world on the edge of the Irish Sea, and went down the length of the street to see – if there really wasn’t any sign of Irish Street by the Irish Sea.
As if this was Where the streets have no name! Speaking of some hidden things! All the other streets have name-signs. Hutton Place before it is advertised in big letters on the old impressive, imposing building itself. A building that stood to the history of the place, this old new town: constructed as a New Town way back in the eighteenth century. Here, at the dockside, this is Maryport, in coastal Cumbria across from Ireland, Northern Ireland and, before that the Isle of Man, but keeping quiet. The unsigned street duly received its name in the coal trade, when this town was built, and the docks were big, and the coal trade connected this town with Ireland. There was coal, and there was the sea. Coastal coal trade connecting the town with the other side of the sea. From one sea-side to another, shipping went and trading forecast: fair, good, then become variable. Somewhere down the line and down the Irish Sea in time relation-shipping forecast turned and tumbled. I, foreigner made of different parts, feel this – foreigner who lived in London, with a German childhood, remembering border issues, Berlin Walls, borderline cases and inverse catharses. I who have lived by different sea-sides, crossed from sea to sea: North to Irish: Northsea, Irish Sea, backing northwesterly.
Seeing, in the sea, issues in need of redress, thinking of Seamus Heaney, walking along, looking for sign. A street sign. A sign, as such. Finding nothing and therefore finding that a gaping hole had developed, a blind spot, an absence that is so taboo that few will care to remember, few will know. Irish Street, it’s the street by the docks, before the docks, the long street that goes from the bridge to the edge of the town, and to its end, too – or the beginning! A street that has touched a border before.
Signs and symbols coalesce in their absence, keeping silence, keeping secrets, behind no sign.
Difficulty pronouncing that which sounds of the other side, spell it out, why don’t you? That this is the Irish Sea, you would not know, they rather call it the Solway Firth. As if the two are not related, connected, sharing a common space! The only sign of the existence of the street with no name, where once the coal-trade thrived, is at the car park. There you’ll find it written down: Irish Street Car Park’.
The street, The Road. The cars, the park. The sea, the industry beneath it, the secrets hidden within, the taboos kept around the low-tide mark: at the sea’s lowest intertidal ebb they come to the surface, o not very often – but now the tides have changed, the tide-line eroded, feelings exposed.
Little post-industrial port-town on the Cumbrian coast – the English coastline that is closest to Ireland. Here we are neighbours across the water, and here I am, foreigner still, witnessing this, in the age of the big brexit brawl. A big bang to bring better relations to the brink, ghosts come back to haunt hitherto hidden, forbidden paths.
The street between me and the sea. Here we could walk, talk – at least we could!!
How they try to divide our stories and our existence, and how they think ‘border’ when there is a sea, and how therefore the street is just like the sea, the ocean where waters run to deep to mention, and where the memory of water is repressed beyond all times, and tides, in waves, waving at us.
Surrounded by secrets now, I live by this sea, and love to pronounce its name: speaking as a political act? I border on the sea, not the sea is my border! To think so would be to cross a line. Where is fluidity now, how can we go with the flow, with a hard order? Hard times!
I make a collage of this harbour town and cut out the outlines of its coastline. I cut the dock out, to encapsulate it on my page – am I cutting a wound open, or a veil that tries to hide a memory of togetherness?
Silence prevails in all sorts of ways: it’s as if the empire must continue in secret, and that dangerous desire creates yet other taboos, directed against us. Massive tide of subconscious raging and rising in so many different ways. Sea-side-lined. Edgeland! Psycho-geography! I am just one sea away from salvation. I will cross this ocean when I have to!
Sea as a mirror we cannot see. On the other hand, an end. Our hands are full.
Bring our house in order? Arrest our houses within a border? How can we implement our togetherness? I go back to the dockside, the dark side, the not-so-sunny side of the street. Looking for the secrets. Finding that what looks like absence is a deeply hidden presence. My red lines are to uncover this conundrum-on-sea and on-pavement. On Site: right here write here. On Sea: I’d like to go around it, look for writers all around the Irish Sea in their respective countries, and have a conversation of the water between us. Ways of Sea-ing. On Street: Put the story of the pavement, the ground we stand on, on the page. Then stage the street. Then put a sign on it. Then look to your left and sing: “Have you ever crossed the sea..”
(c) Ursula Troche
Ursula’s blog is https://colourcirclesite.wordpress.com/