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'East End Girl, Dancing The Lambeth Walk' Photo by Bill Brandt


He’s set it up, of course. Or, rather, framed it.

There’d be no feigning this young woman’s delight

in being ‘free and easy’ and doing

‘as you darn well pleasy’. She’s got her best blouse on,

with shoulder puffs, her sister’s shoes, which fit her now,

black ankle socks and shoulder length, unpermed hair

freshly washed – and waved, probably with Kirby grips.

Doin’ the walk, she lifts the hem of her skirt,

revealing her slip – and smiles coquettishly.

Beside her is a line, a queue almost of

female acolytes. (The only boy looks away).

They’re pre-pubescent, excited, nervous at what they see:

grown up clothes, shapely legs, unimaginable bust,

a sensuousness that, unwilled, will be theirs.

Down the street of terraced houses, symmetrical

as barracks, a woman strides, her back turned

on this miracle: a girl who knows

she will never grow old – ‘Any ev’ning,

any day…Doin’ the Lambeth Walk.’ Oi!




© Copyright David Selzer
6 Responses
  • Ashen Venema
    March 17, 2013

    So well caught. The girl’s smile dazzles, brighting the scene. And only a weathered and wise traveller would spot the woman walking her way at the edge of the frame 🙂 It’s become an iconic image.

  • kittyb78
    March 17, 2013

    Well phrased. 🙂

  • Maureen Clifford
    March 18, 2013

    Love it, Dave. I grew up in the UK post war and my Dad came from the north of England so this photo and your words instantly transported me back in time.

    Laughed at –

    being ‘free and easy’ and doing
    ‘as you darn well pleasy’.

    A good write and much enjoyed. Thank you



  • Trevor Maynard
    March 18, 2013

    This is not a passive picture. It is an inter-reaction with the camera, and the photographer, of a song that is a performance, so there are many layers to explore, and then enhanced again, another layer, the poet’s interaction, and another and the reader’s experience of the song, of similar photographs of forebears, all of which makes it timeless. I have often had a sense of longing when I look at my parents’ wedding photographs, not because they are now old (but don’t tell them that), but because I would have liked to have been young when they were young, and to have celebrated with them. I’m sure there is a word for that feeling, and it is probably German.

  • David Selzer
    March 19, 2013

    Your comment is just right – and there is no more to say other than that the ‘word for that feeling’ may well be Portuguese: ‘saudade’ – Please also see:

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