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Archive for April, 2020


The situation as it stands
Is stay at home and wash your hands;
Shop only for essential needs
And exercise with dogs on leads;
Keep your distance, at least six feet,
And make no plans with friends to meet;
Do those jobs you have left for long,
Practice new skills or write a song;
Home school the children, if you can,
Sit in the garden, get a tan;
Spend more time in your living room,
Watch a film or connect on Zoom;
Do what works for you all the while,
But through this anxious time, still smile.

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With resident white mallard
On a seasonal sabbatical,
A newly arrived black cormorant
Struts and preens on the central island
Of Radnor Park’s fishing lake,
While ravenous pigeons wrestle
Over scarce, illicit bread stocks.

No more anglers cast silent floats
On the teeming duck infested waters;
No rods and bait filled baskets
Bestrew the narrow concrete path,
Forcing me to trudge through
The muddied grassy verge
As a pair of greedy gulls stamp
Feet to tantalise tender worms.

A limpid sun shines apologetically
Above the mock Tudor tea rooms;
Nurses from near minor injury unit
Snatch fag breaks on the corner
Where discarded dog ends,
And twigs from overhanging trees,
Entice the ducks into mistaking
Them for a flavoursome breakfast,
(The fags and twigs, not the nurses).

After a day when few people pass
To witness the birdlife bedlam,
Dusk descends on a noiseless scene,
And a serene moon declines
Over Cheriton Road rooftops;
And in the littered concrete shelter,
Where youths habitually congregate
To drink and smoke and lark about,
There is neither light nor sound,
No need here for an enforced curfew.

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As the dread death toll still rises,
The public debate turns to when
We can come out of this crisis,
Be granted to walk free again.

Experts speak of apex and curve,
Reaching one, flattening the other,
Before we even have the nerve
To our former world uncover.

If we relax restrictive rules
Of business law and social life,
Is it a recipe for fools
To circulate more viral strife?

Might social distance still be right
To minimise exchange of breath?
Will my plain croissant and flat white
Be worth the price of pain and death?

We must think carefully what’s best,
Heed the need for work and wealth,
Saunter in the summer sun blessed,
Only hand in hand with good health.

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When this is over,
Will we still display humility,
And value the simple things
We have, rather than strive
Aimlessly, shamelessly for more?

We can,
But will we?

When this is over,
Will we still show the respect,
Gratitude and appreciation
For those once unregarded folk
Who keep us safe and healthy?

We can,
But will we?

When this is over,
Will we still show empathy,
Tolerance and compassion,
Qualities mislaid in recent years,
For those less fortunate?

We can,
But will we?

When this is over,
Will we still relish nature’s gifts?
Listen to the thrilling birdsong,
Smell the spring blossom,
And nurture our fragile planet?

We can,
But will we?

When this is over,
Will we still view the world afresh,
And accept our true place in it,
As mutual partners, not masters,
And, by doing so, secure our future?

We can,
But will we?

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Even the gulls are taking a morning off
As I drift around the deserted harbour;
The tide is out, the sky deep blue,
And the beach warm and yielding
Under my inappropriate footwear.

Amidst this light brown desert,
Brief rivulets of muddy water
Command me to take a run
And leap to reach the
Next patch of firm dry sand.

The railway viaduct now fenced off,
The Grand Burstin and Rocksalt
Both dark and sad and empty;
And the metal gates to the Harbour Arm,
Anticipated host to thousands
Over this warm Easter weekend,
Are firmly closed.

On a morning as delicious as this,
It would have been perfect
To stroll its two concrete tiers;
But the only tears today
Are for the sick and fearful
Imprisoned in homes and hospitals
Across an anxious but resolute land.

Bob’s seafood stall and Folkestone Trawlers
Plough lone furrows on the deserted Stade,
While a pair of deep wrinkled fishermen
Lean against the chain railing and reminisce
When fish was plentiful and the ferries full.

I bound another murky stream
And lean against the pink house;
Planted in self-isolation,
Its former lustre lost too,
With peeling paintwork and ponder the fate
Of the next Triennial, triumphantly announced
Barely a month, but another lifetime, ago.

I turn the corner of the East Head
Under the rock perched orange house,
That, unlike its pink neighbour,
Has had a reviving lick of paint;
Two young girls lift their skirts,
And paddle in the gentle, shallow waves
On the incessant, incoming tide;
I cannot avoid the uncharitable suspicion –
A sign of these strange and fretful times –
That, as they giggle and jostle each other,
They may not be from the same household.

I could stay here for hours yet,
Till the water washes over my shoes,
But an insistent call of nature,
Prosaic and not infrequent visitor
To this man of a certain age,
Summons me to return swiftly
To my home by the park.

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Time, that skittish mistress,
Is playing her tricks on me again.

Two weeks now since lockdown,
(At least that’s what I’ve been told);
Disorientation swamps my senses,
My relationship to time
Is completely out of whack.

What day of the week is it?
Groundhog Day of course!
All the normal indicators
That would help me compute,
Like football on a Saturday,
Are no longer available to me.
Every day now is Sunday
And Wednesday
And Friday.

No longer can I put my
Absentmindedness
Down to a senior moment.

Time appears to stand still
And drags its feet,
But then appears to sprint away,
So fast I cannot keep up.

I am still half expecting to
Step into a coffee shop
Whenever the impulse takes me.

Yet, at other times, it is hard
To remember the time
Before our lives changed.
“Back in the day” no longer means
Decades, but just three weeks ago.

But then there is another,
More positive, aspect to this;
Those of us not engaged
In essential work,
Suddenly, confined to our homes,
Find ourselves with time on our hands.

A time for breathing,
A time for thinking,
A time for cleaning –
Our homes and our minds,
A time for learning new skills,
A time for gratitude,
A time for caring
For each other.

Soon enough I suspect,
That time will be gone,
When we may again be the slaves,
Rather than the masters, of time.

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On Thursday evenings all over the nation,
A spontaneous movement of appreciation
Has engulfed the people, young and old,
With rich and poor it has taken hold.
In every city, town and village on our map
People stand outside their homes and clap.

From houses, blocks of flats, even ships at sea,
From police and fire stations, from you and from me,
Hospitals, care homes and from all who isolate,
The sounds of cheers and horns reverberate.
A lost spirit of community once more unleashed
A mutual pride, support and respect released.

From work or play it’s a mere momentary pause
To join our families and neighbours in applause,
To demonstrate we have the needed attitude,
And proclaim our heartfelt thanks and gratitude
For those who heal and those who care,
For those who serve us everywhere,
For those whose sacrifice inspires,
Who teach our kids and fight our fires,
Who empty our bins and feed our poor,
Who help rough sleepers sat in shop door,
Who stack the shelves and deliver food,
And all those whose deeds lighten our mood.

In our homes we might on our settees sit,
But by doing nothing we are doing our bit.
Whatever else we can, or cannot afford,
We can all join in two minutes to applaud;
It takes so little time, yet means much more,
To those who risk their lives we are in awe.

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In this unsettling moment
In our recent history,
When the privilege of
Rambling anywhere,
And for as long as I like
Is no more afforded me,
Where on earth might make
This torture tolerable?

Perhaps San Francisco,
Epicentre of my cultural cosmos,
And beloved second home
For a quarter of a century,
Would be where I yearn to be?
But with Shelter-in-Place
Shutting the shining city down,
Its renowned allure is lost.

Or would I feel more at home
Ambling through the narrow streets
Of Sorrento, Taormina or Naples,
Climbing the Campanile in Florence
Or canal hopping in Venice?
But it breaks my heart to see
Mia cara Italia cosi malata,
And I cannot be there either.

But I account myself so blessed
That I am just where I should be,
Where the thrilling, restless waves,
Expansive skies and rolling hills,
Make that strict daily exercise
So satisfying yet too short;
Folkestone has everything I need
Till from our present horror we are freed.

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Waking from a sound night’s slumber,
I reach gingerly for my mobile phone
To check the overnight death toll,
Only to hear voices outside in the street.

Not the customary cacophony of
Gulls, ducks and jackdaws,
But real voices,
Human voices.

As rare on days like this
As trading stores on the high street;
At least two voices, both female,
Swear words in odious evidence.

Was this an illicit assembly
Of more than two people,
Or might they just be members
Of the same household?

In less than a fortnight,
With life never more fragile,
We have become so sensitive,
So easily offended by others’ actions.

So my thoughts turn instantly
To resentment and anger
At the perceived thoughtlessness
Of my unwelcome morning alarm.

Bu then, as I rise to rebuke,
A girl emerges from behind the tree,
Switching off her phone
After a loudspeaker conversation.

Just one girl, alone and guilty only
Of raising her voice in public at 6am;
Leaving my ears assailed by birdlife again
As I fill the kettle for the day’s first cuppa.

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Fancy a coffee?
Plenty of establishments
To choose from,
All over town they are,
Where you can sit and savour
Your black americano
Or caramel latte,
Even sneak a slice
Of millionaire’s shortbread.

Sorry………closed.

Run out of underwear,
Looking for a new dress,
Or, like me, you need
To get your cowboy boots heeled?
There’s plenty of shops
For you to browse and buy in.

Sorry……….closed.

Need some peace and quiet,
To rest your weary feet?
Pop in the library
And enjoy its warm embrace
As you scan the shelves
Or browse the events flyers.

Sorry………closed.

Is your hair getting too long
Or your nails are cracked?
The hairdresser or beautician
Will see you right in no time.

Sorry……….closed.

Caught short while out and about?
Drop by the town hall,
Asda, Sainsbury’s,
Or any of the aforementioned cafes,
Or Pleydell Gardens
Or Radnor Park.

Sorry………closed.

Arrange to meet a friend
And take a stroll along the prom?
Hug, hold hands
Or just walk side by side,
That costs nothing, surely?

Sorry……….not allowed.

All simple, everyday pleasures
We readily take for granted,
Now temporarily withdrawn.

An inconvenience, an irritation,
A jolt to our comfortable routine.

But a small price for our safety,
And the opportunity
To appreciate them again.

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