We take a wrong turn and are suddenly

in narrow, pot-holed streets, crammed with neglected,

industrial revolution terraces

built when the town was a thriving port.

Paint peels, curtains hang off rails, litter gathers –

in one of the most deprived wards in England.

In walking distance are blue chip companies.

Right to be here, by chance, on this 2012

Budget Day with its economics

of division, mendacity and greed.


Since it is also the first day of spring,

we cross the peninsula to visit

a botanical garden and its tea room.

After a lavender scone and a tiffin,

we stroll to the rock garden and sit

on our favourite bench. Coal Tits are nesting

in a sandstone wall. Some mortar has crumbled,

making a small, triangular aperture.

They perch on a nearby larch and then,

when all is well, both still and silent,

fly quickly in with a leaf or a feather,

and then out again, over and over.


Like flowers, we turn our faces to the sun.

We are the plump and sassy elderly.

In those or other wretched streets, some,

this winter just gone, have died of the cold.





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  1. #1 by Howard Gardener - April 26th, 2012 at 10:51

    This reminds me of the first time I went to buy stained glass supplies in Liverpool and chanced upon (possibly) the area you describe. Last week, on my way to book tickets at one of those cosy little theatres which have started springing up, I noticed that all the free parking spaces around Jamaica Street had been changed to 2 hour slots. The process of gentrification continues.

    Meanwhile, all those beautiful (and functional) houses around Granby Street are still slowly falling down. (What exactly did the ‘Year of Culture’ do for them?) Plus ca change…

  2. #2 by Clive Watkins - April 28th, 2012 at 18:33

    The botanical garden at Ness, perhaps? I remember it, just down the road from where we once lived – oh, thirty-two years ago this autumn. I agree with you on the “economics | of division, mendacity and greed”. I liked, as well, your “plump and sassy elderly” and am trying to imagine you in that role. For myself, I am travelling, I think, more towards the lean and slippered pantaloon – though not, at the moment at least, faster than I would wish!

  3. #3 by John Huddart - May 14th, 2012 at 12:21

    How easily one slips into this poem’s clothes – and how good to see a place of former youth, vigour and purpose mirrored with ironic self-deprecation. Sassy you may both be, but plump only in the sense of full of fruity wisdom and joy!

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