The lib’ries of my childhood mind Were dark and ancient rooms, Where vaults of pages whispered In their literary tombs, And candlelights cast shadows In the labyrinth of glooms, As the monks, all dressed in brown, Chained their precious volumes down.
The lib’ries of my childhood days Were dull and grimly quaint, Where silence wasn’t reverence But boredom and restraint, With long, prosaic rows of spines With no allure or taint, As the staff, all dressed in beige, Locked away each racy page.
The lib’ries of my adulthood Are not as deeply hewn – They aren’t a gothic paradise Or brutalist cocoon, But just an easy place to spend A rainy afternoon, With a book about the secret lore Behind the bookshelves’ hidden door.
My folks were full of the fear of God, And full of His holy gravity. Music, and dancing, were frivolous wastes And bywords for depravity. And birthdays passed with nary a mention So’s not to lead our thoughts astray – But I was still the lucky one, For I was born on Christmas Day.
I was born in the dark of Winter, In the midst of an Almighty freeze Too far North for much of sunlight, Too bleak for that many trees. But ev’ry year, the town would string up lights As if to lead my way, And hope that it might snow for me – For I was born on Christmas Day.
Ev’rybody wore a smile, And nobody wore grey – Ev’rything was done with style, Right through to Hogmanay ! And my fav’rite animal, the deer, Were ev’rywhere, with a sleigh ! How much I loved this time of year, To be born on Christmas Day !
I was born in ignorance, And thought all this must be for me – The whole of the town would celebrate That time I changed from two to three, They cheered some more when I turned four, At five and six, they cried hooray – My parents couldn’t stop it all, For I was born on Christmas Day.
They may not have given me presents, But they gave me the greatest gift on Earth – I used to think how lucky Jesus was To coincide with my birth. And piously, I’d thank the Lord For far more joy than words can say. And so I grew up loving life – For I was born on Christmas Day
The choirs would sing, The bands would play, The bells would ring, The shops display, And all the world felt good and near, In one long cabaret – How much I love this time of year, To be born on Christmas Day !
The sudden shriek of a seagull Takes me back to the ozone, back to the seaside – To those Summers of sand and Ninety-Nines, Where the fish is fresh and the Sun still shines. From ever since I was knee-high, Be it Bournemouth, Paignton or Ryde. The seagulls were my holiday guide.
But these days, the seagulls are ev’rywhere, Yes, even in Winter, even in the bleak – When gloomy days in gloomy suburbs See dozens pecking kebabs from the kerbs, With ev’ry beak in a mocking shriek. Well, go ahead, gulls – for a second there I was back on the prom without a care.
Quick, down here ! Over there ! Are they near ? They’re ev’rywhere ! You take one way, I’ll go this – Meet you Monday, Hit-or-miss. Best not dally, Shake your feet – Up the alley, ’Cross the street – Don’t stop now ! Pick up the pace – I’ll see you, somehow, Usual place.
I live in the suburbs In a box made of ticky-tacky – It’s small and it’s samey, And won no award. It’s not to conform, And it’s not to be strange or wacky, I live here because here Is all I can afford.
I grew up around here, Then I went to the university And I came out with a large debt And I found my first job. And it paid not a lot, Except for in uncertainty, So I tried for a mortgage For a key on a fob.
There’s a Barratt, there’s a Redrow There’s a Wimpey, there’s a Jubilee. Where’s the woodland, where’s the meadow ? Oh, please don’t ask me.
But all they would give me Was a box made of ticky-tacky, But it’s dry and it’s plumbed-in, If no pleasure-dome. I raised up my children And worked as a gopher-lacky, Trying to get by And make it a home.
So spare me your distaste How I went to the university – And spare me your prejudice Of me and my peers. I don’t have your millions Or a co-operative nursery, Yet I struggled and I made it Despite all your sneers.
Blame the council, blame the builder, Blame the bubble, blame the rising-sea. If it all seems out of kilter, Then please don’t blame me.
This is a response to the song Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds.
Street trees, lining suburban streets From Wandsworth to Walthamstow. Planes, of course, and sycamores, Wherever the middle-class grow. Full of rustles, full of tweets, From Hackney to Acton Town, To shade the cars and the corner stores Till the council trim them down.
Street trees, lining suburban streets From Kidbrooke to Cricklewood With tear-off strips and missing cats In a vertical neighbourhood. Full of squirrels and parakeets From Hampton to Harringay Then shed their leaves on the garden flats Till the council sweep them away.
Ship rat, far from sea, Beached upon the pavement. You do not twitch, you do not flee, So why do you sit still for me ? You’re not too fat, you’re not too thin, You’re not held in enslavement – And yet you crouch beside the bin, And gently tremble in your skin.
Brown rat, are you asleep ? You chose an awkward bed, friend. Have you nowhere else to creep Than on the tarmac in a heap ? Fox or cat will find you prone, And that will surely be your end. Perhaps you’re dying, all alone, Just waiting for your final groan.
In Spring, I can sniff-out the sap as it rises, And comes overshooting the branches and twigs Of the cherries and lindens and suburban figs – A streets full of pollen – my nose recognises That Spring has returned to the gardens again, In the asphalted forests of wychelm and plane. My hay-fevered neighbours are rather less happy, But I scent the chestnuts, the sweet and the horse, And the avenues of the acacias, of course ! Municipal headiness leaves me quite sappy – The syrups of sycamores, weepings of willows, That’s wafted by birdsong in sugary billows.
Trudy Trusses loves the buses Which she rides to town – Urban-trekkers, double-deckers, Ones that bend around. Some are old and brightly bold, And red or green in colour – Some are new and grey right through, And others even duller.
Trudy Trusses makes such fusses Over diff’rent routes – The stops and times, the sprints and climbs, The stats and attributes. She watches who is in the queue, And who is getting off – The chef, the nun, the doctor’s son, The teacher and the toff.
Trudy Trusses swiftly susses Someone has to drive – The 12, the 3, the 7B, The weekdays 55. When she grows big, she wants that gig !, She wants to sit in front – To swoosh the doors of 24s And make their engines grunt !
Trudy Trusses sees the plusses In a job that moves. There’s folks to meet on ev’ry street, From pensioners to youths. You need a ride ? Then come inside ! There’s plenty room up top. Then home again through wind and rain, Just ring the bell to stop.
This poem isn’t necessarily set in Bournemouth, but I thought they deserved praise for one of the few places outside of London which still insist on the colour of their fleet.