“They say that this place, where you’re standing now, used to be under the sea. Then the water receded and left the clay behind. A mountain of clay. And there were sandy marshes, with plants and trees. A park overlooking the valley. Now the sky is black and the smoke from the kilns covers everything. Millions of bricks take shape. A hundred years ago the kiln workers’ village grew up around the chimneys. This is Hell Valley. And this is my home.
Then, one by one, the chimneys stop smoking. Many people leave. And one day the Council bulldozers arrive. My father shouts, then he weeps while the houses of the village come down as if they’re being bombed. In their place they give us new flats to rent, in the Council blocks. Someone calls them ‘cardboard boxes’, as if a box could have twelve stories. But I still have a brick from the room I was born in.
Today a wisp of smoke still rises from the heart of the old village. A bakery makes dozens of loaves of warm crusty bread. But fresh bread, as we all know, quickly becomes hard and inedible.”
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