Ballad of Burton Road... Under Parrs Wood original

Under Parr’s Wood

A Poem inspired by Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, as read by Richard Burton, and set on Burton Road in Didsbury…


To begin at the beginning…or the end of the road, which is a kind of a beginning.

It is Spring, and the mosque stands guard, though few burqas promenade its street or frequent its bars. Its spire punctures the sky, echoes of the old Methodist Chapel, and guides the way down Burton Road.


It is night, moonlit night and we blink in the light, blind as moles, starless and bible… or Quran… black.  As fairies light the bars and stars and cars which cruise to peruse the high life, my life, the suit and tie executive life of another night of possibilities on Totty Alley. 


Listen.  You can hear the click of stilettos, look out for white miniskirted, leopard skin wraps and slit skirts, strap tops, halter tops, non stop, give us a twirl, party girls out for a night.. or a fight or… I just might… out on the town.  Not town, but local, no taxi home, not out out but out… for a few, a bubbly or two, some prinks and pranks, another drink thanks…. on gone for a Burton Road. Arm in arm with the girls, Metropolitan bound, giggles and jokes, vodka and cokes, no coats, might get soaked, but living in hope.  This could be the night, to meet the one, have some fun, a fling is flung, stagger home at one, mascara run, but stories to tell.. bloody hell, gave me a bell, fit as well… all over twitter, insta too, oh well, Always another one.  Or two.


Listen.  Only you can hear the whoops, see the gaggles grab the bar side rails with café chairs where the Didsbury set have always met.  It is night.  Funky bars with designer beers; Brewdog, Brew Republic, brewer’s droop, Wiper and True… cost a bob or two, and the Great Khatmandu, the Station bar.


Burton Road.  The nest of the best, where kenzo, Gucci, D and G are plain to see.. what austerity?  New i-phone sets the tone, moisturised and spray tanned, Metrosexuals at play, drink all day, guffaw and scope the bar in the hope of meeting an eye, one too shy to resist the fly, wine and dine lines of the chancer, flyboy chats to the bouncer, but inside dying, crying out for one to share his room, loft apartment, off road parking, gone off sharking, charming.  In banking, insurance or IT, that’s Didsbury.


And look again.  Only your eyes can see that the Metropolitan is buzzing tonight, salsa sounds, salsa dips, bubbly to lips and in the car park bob up and down the Audi, Beamer, VW Jeep, moored in the bay, skippers at play.

In twenty paces, you can go from Vietnam to Canada, Jasmine rice to khatmandu, two wedding shops for the blushing brides, passing bamboo bars and beauty spas, and another 200 yards the Old House which is … no longer at home.  Rustik Folk can sip and Proove that Wendy really is crazy.. and not forgetting JT Blaggs, bike on the roof, Phoenix on the wall, and inside… all the nuts, screws and washers you could need


Look.  At the metro steps come the wet shave, razor scrape, sculpted lines of the Turkish barbers…turn at the Railway (though no trains will run on its rails), past the shiitake starters and quinoa parcels,  and a right again… by the tank (yes, the tank!) and Egyptian statues and down Old Lansdowne Road. Walk past the black sign, keep in line, past the old van with ladders and buckets of paint and rusted doors…

Then the blanket of pristine, like a dream, rarely seen green of the bowling scene, like the theatre of dreams, up steps or ramp pass the hamper of food at the door of The Albert. Founded 1874, come in for a tour.  Cue for some snooker, anyone for tennis and bowling me over…

A warm welcome and warm beer, sunny terrace days as children play –stay all day, drinks on a tray.

Look.  There’s Adam the strings, hunched up in his puffer jacket, eyes darting, checking the shots of the tots as he dreams of Centre Court, footy with the boys and beers at the bar… he never goes far.  And the parakeets soar over court four and the pigeons coo beside court two. 

And at the bar, the pork pies, pretty eyes, heavy sighs, always oblige of the “Have you got your card?”, have a laugh bar staff. For the money – not the beer – is off, and the craic is good. On TV screens the footie is seen or matches and catches of racquets and bat, watch this and that, have a good chat, flick the beer mat…

And look. There’s Boz the burger in his ketchup stained apron, slap up food, God it’s good, mayo and fries, loads of supplies…

Hush.  The chink of the balls on the baize and cues for the blues and greens and the reds, what’s that you said, good shot or tap the table top as they show their love of the kiss and the cannon, now watch this…

And upstairs the rhythmic tap of the ping and the pong, will you be long, I’ve almost won, got shorts on, not playing for fun, real competition.

Come closer now. So here’s to the Albert, its fete better than death, the Sci Bar, the Quiz Night, games or takeaways and of course the open Mic, run by Guitar George, he knows all the chords, he does want to make it cry or sing, as his guitar gently weeps… as do the crowd, sometimes loud, then melodic and soft, next one.. you’ll know it and here comes… a poet?!

Listen.  Time passes. Only you can hear the laughter and music carried off in the air, past houses, cafes and bistros asleep, from the Pauper’s Wood to Parr’s Wood, from West to East and The Village, a warm glow of sun and fun, only begun as the hushed and sleepy bars of Didsbury are closing now.

And Burton Road snores before opening its doors to another bright Manchester day…


◄ Ballad of Bearded Chorlton

Tupperware ►


<Deleted User> (33000)

Mon 4th Apr 2022 15:38

PPS-hi again Mike, forgot to ask you if you have seen the DVD of Under Milkwood starring Liz Taylor, Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole?

If not it is well worth buying! and I did have some photos of me and the Mrs on our visit to Dylan's boathouse and one of myself stood in front of his workshop and one in the nearby cemetery kneeling next to his grave, but as per they have gone for a walk somewhere-grrr! but I will dig them out asap!

and one day we will get to go to Fishguard where the filming took place-yeah right! thing is, its quite a distance to travel unless we ever see a coach trip going there.

Cheers Mike, thanks again for a GREAT read!

<Deleted User> (33000)

Sun 3rd Apr 2022 21:11

PS-just a couple of additions to my previous comments and that is that I am more than familiar with Burton road since in my teenage workshy pot smoking and excessive red wine consuming days I used to collect my weekly Giro from the office there ( tut tut )

and t'uther thing is how very very surprised I was when I went to see his ( Dylans ) grave only to find that there wasn't a much deserved monumental headstone but just a simple white wooden cross!

RIP top man!

<Deleted User> (33000)

Sun 3rd Apr 2022 20:05

Blown away almost as I am every time I hear the Mr Treacle-toned oration of it by Mr Burton reading the real thing which I first heard on radio four set to an audible background of choral voices and if I told you that that combination made the hairs on the back of my unworthy neck stand on end it is the biggest understatement I will have ever have made.

I take it as being highly likely that you will have visited his workshop cum boat-house Mike? All I know is that when I went inside the house itself I could definitely feel his beautiful presence.

But all that said, you win when it comes down to cleverness with your modern fly-boy slant on this most enjoyable piece-thank you sir!

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