Here is one of my favourite sections told from the perspective of the central character Alan Holmes – an eulogy to his childhood friend Wayne. The gist of the story is this: Alan escaped a murder scene when he was ten-years-old, but has no recollections of the event.
For a few moments, I’m a boy again, trekking along the muddy trail with Gordon Day and Wayne Winters, the three of us building dens near the tyre swing in the woods,Wayne trying to teach us one of those silly rhyming songs he’d just made up. Then, the vision fades, and I stand by a wooden bus shelter near the village pub, peering at fields and rolling hills and tall chimney-like structures.
I suddenly remember the significance of today’s date. The first day of October. How could I have forgotten? Today is Wayne Winter’s birthday. If he’d lived, he would have been my age, Gordon’s age. Thirty-five. And how different all our lives would have been if I hadn’t suggested the bike race to Whaley Hill when we were boys of ten.
Nearby, in the village, the church bells are ringing, their sounds soft and mournful. They evoke images of the horse-led funeral procession along bleak northern roads twenty-six-years ago as people came out of their homes to watch in silence, heads bowed. Images of the Pennines skyline cloudy in the distance. Images of the small coffin draped in a Manchester United scarf, decorated with flowers. The groups of sobbing adults and children following in the cold and the wet to pay their final respects, their footsteps slow like a funeral march, matching the tempo of the horses’ hooves.