We are sitting on a bench in a peaceful
place popular even on a winter’s day
now lockdown has been eased. This tree-lined
terraced embankment beside the river –
with a bandstand and moorings for pleasure boats –
was commissioned by one of the city’s
Victorian worthies at his own expense
to match the elegant pedestrian
suspension bridge built by a developer.
If we sit here long enough with our take-out
hot chocolates and toasted sandwiches –
counting the passersby wearing masks –
someone we know may saunter past with their dog.
Here there used to be a whiteness of swans,
but a flock of panhandling black-headed gulls,
squawkily scrambling for the odd dry crust,
has, as it were, elbowed out the large mute birds.
When the Roman mercenaries built the camp
on the sandstone bluff behind us, when barques
from Anjou docked downstream with cargoes
of wine and spices, the air, like now,
was multi-lingual. We can hear snatches
of French and Polish, Greek and Arabic.
If we sit here long enough late winter’s
high tide may rise, as now, over the weir,
and begin to cover the embankment’s steps,
propelling various bosky flotsam
upstream at a proverbial rate of knots,
with a couple of mallards and a moorhen
floating past on a wizened trunk the size
of an alligator from the bayous.AnjouArabicblack-headed gullChesterFrenchGreeklockdownmallardmoorhenPolishriver DeeRoman mercenariessuspension bridgeswanThe Groves