For John Huddart
Whichever way you approach the town of Fflint,
on the coast road east or west, down Halkyn
Mountain, from the Dee Estuary, you see
the towers first – Richard, Bolingbroke and Castle
Heights, three 1960s, multi-storey
social housing blocks – not the castle.
Richard Plantagenet, Richard of Bordeaux,
King of England, surrendered to his cousin
and childhood friend, Henry of Bolingbroke,
in the inner bailey of the castle,
nearly seven hundred years ago.
Richard’s great grandfather had it built –
by engineers, carpenters, charcoal burners,
diggers, dykers, masons, smiths, woodmen
from the counties of Chester, Lancaster,
Leicester, Lincoln, Salop, Stafford, Warwick –
based on a French model. Logistically –
being merely a day’s ride from Chester
and having the estuary lap its walls –
it was well placed to punish the Welsh.
In the ‘70s, as well as the Heights,
Courtaulds dominated the town, its mills
employing ten thousand. Now there is
MacDonalds, Sainsbury’s, a Polski Sklep.
The castle ruins have been preserved, of course,
made accessible, and its setting landscaped.
Across the wide river are the white houses
of Parkgate, where the packets to Ireland
would moor offshore in the roads.
Canalising the Dee to keep Chester
a port for sea-going fly boats and cutters
silted that side of the estuary,
transformed Liverpool and the Mersey.
A purpose-made barge passes, Afon
Dyfrdwy, taking an A380 wing
from Airbus at Broughton to the port
at Mostyn, some twenty miles, for shipment,
by purpose-made ferries, to Bordeaux.
As if on cue, a Beluga, an Airbus
Super Transporter, its nose like the fish’s
head, banks south east for Airbus at Toulouse.
The castle was closed for a time because of
vandalism and under age drinking.
Two teenage youths, wielding a six-pack each
of Sainsbury’s St Cervois lager, pass
beneath the curtain wall. Laughing,
they offer the cans to two elderly
anglers returning from the river,
who decline, embarrassed, and move on. It is
one o’clock on a weekday. The two lads,
both opening a can and showering
each other, run towards the shore, cursing.