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Archive for the ‘Folkestone’ Category


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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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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It breaks my heart to see the town
I made my home four years ago,
Be to its knees brought cruelly down,
By an unforeseen foe, laid low.

Lines of listless people straggle
The erstwhile bustling shopping street,
Six feet apart, no speech or gaggle,
Silent, patient, shuffling their feet.

Some wait to get cash from machines,
For stores that will only take cards;
Some with trolleys in third world scenes,
Praying that shortages are past.

Coffee houses, bars, and restaurants closed,
Some may not reopen their doors;
Dark, empty shopfronts lie exposed,
Bleak images of a town floored.

The day cannot come soon enough
When we’ll be free to hug again,
Laugh and chat over coffee cups
And joy will overcome the pain.

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Walking on the Leas has the same appeal
As ever it did when Alice Keppel strolled
Its green sward with her philandering king.

But this morning, there’s an unfamiliar feel,
The world has changed, grown frail and dull and cold,
Though the blue sky screams out the start of Spring.

The peace along the path seems so surreal,
People keeping their distance, young and old,
As waves crash beneath and the small birds sing.

Nature mocks mankind’s poor attempts to heal,
Bright sunshine sends the wind and rain on hold,
Our latest disobedience our last fling.

Enjoy the sun, stay as long as you can,
You may get ill, but also get a tan.

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Woke up this morning,
Got the Folkestone lockdown blues;
Woke up this morning,
Got the Folkestone lockdown blues;
Craving a full English breakfast
But no place left for me to choose.

Went strolling along the Leas,
For my approved exercise;
Went strolling along the Leas,
For my approved exercise;
Looking for my ten o’clock coffee fix,
But no place open, I tell no lies. .

Went shopping for a toilet roll,
Just one would do for now, no more;
Went shopping for a toilet roll,
Just one would do for now, no more;
Searching high and low around the town,
But not a single sheet in any store.

So I think I’d better stay home now,
As the politicians instruct me to;
So I think I’d better stay home now,
As the politicians instruct me to;
I’ve got eggs, bacon and coffee there,
But for toilet rolls I’ll just make do.

Woke up this morning,
Got the Folkestone lockdown blues;
Woke up this morning,
Got the Folkestone lockdown blues;
Craving a full English breakfast
But no place left for me to choose.

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“We love local”, the menu discreetly declares,
And be it full English, vegan, porridge or toast,
There is no other brunch venue in town compares,
For welcome and fresh fare make this no idle boast.

Hallowed hippie hangout half a century before,
Deafening juke box blasting in Archie’s coffee bar,
Reefer smoke swirling round the dim, crowded top floor;
Once the Acropolis, now Folkestone’s dining star.

My name quaintly spelt out in wooden Scrabble tiles
Beckons me to my customary window seat;
I taste my cappuccino while returning passing smiles,
No better spot from which to watch the winding street.

Among the mounted shelves and dried hops tree lights glint,
Local art and thank you cards adorn grey green walls;
I settle down to check my current poem print
And order food before the lunchtime menu calls.

My Kentish sausage breakfast bap arrives in time,
With two poached eggs sharing its king sized sourdough bed;
To not eat every single scrap would be a crime,
Or of pomegranate seed salad leave a shred.

But how do I contrive to eat this luscious beast
While maintaining my natural elegance and poise?
Here the humble breakfast is a flavoursome feast;
I glance again upon the street towards Big Boys.

Strange how the enduring romance of the scene below
Recedes when rain stained stone slabs no longer glisten,
But sitting here in the corner by this window,
Between the houseplants to cultured chat I listen.

 

 

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A fearless chick loiters with intent
By Bob’s whitewashed seafood stall,
Affecting to ignore the cartons of
Whelks and cockles and lobster tails
Dispensed a few short steps away,
But pouncing on any edible debris
Unwittingly or deliberately dropped
By thoughtless human passers by.

By Pent’s red brick sluice gate
They luxuriate in a bracing shower
In muddy, minute puddles left behind
By gone, at least for now, high water;
With half an eye in the direction
Of Chummy’s charitable staff who
Discard empty shells on stony ground.

Teetering on bare, oarless rowing boats,
Or perched on piles of greying wood
Wedged deep into the hardening mud,
They pass the interminable time
Till the small crafts stir and sway again
And the sun glints on the wind blown water.

A fretful throng starts to assemble
At the end of sloping Rocksalt jetty,
Squabbling over the best viewing spot
To wait in line for the painfully slow
Incoming tide to reappear;
In the meantime, scavenging for scraps
On the Stade’s concrete harbour floor,
Disdainfully dropping bottle tops,
Dog ends and paper coffee cups.

Shrieks and cries rise in intensity
As the prodigal, once truant waves
Flood through Folkestone’s golden gate,
Between the now closed off East Head
And war ravaged remnants of South Quay.

A frantic chick chases after its mother,
Letting out a constant stream of whistles,
Pleading for a morsel of fresh fish
Now washing over its grateful feet;
But the peevish parent pecks its bobbing head
And bids it bide its time a little longer.

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When the day trippers leave

When the tattoos are covered up
And unsightly bellies are put away

When the swearing stops outside the pubs
And childrens’ squeals at the fountains
Turn to grumpy ingratitude

When the car parks empty
And the trails of traffic cease

When weary families trudge back
Up the crooked Old High Street

When I can get a seat again at Steep Street.

When I don’t stumble over
Discarded chip boxes and plastic beer glasses

When the angry squawk of the gulls
Is reduced to a plaintive mew

When Harbour Arm food stalls are locked
And music and laughter have faded into silence

When the ghosts of Hengist and Horsa
And the Orient Express caress my memory

When the sun disappears and clouds return
And waves lash against the Copt Point rocks

When the day trippers leave

That is my time

That is my Folkestone.

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This is an adaptation, and considerable shortening, of a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.

 

Mermaid Beach at Dusk

On a night like this, the Cote d’Opale
Might as well be a thousand miles away.

It is a calm, quiet, otherworldly evening
After a dank, dreary December day;
Sky and sea present an ashen canvas.
Tonight it is impossible to tell
Where one ends and the other starts.

Despite slimy conditions underfoot,
I elect to descend from
The well-lit comfort of the Leas
To the chilly Channel seashore.

Barely a whisper from the surf tonight.
I cannot even hear Matthew Arnold’s
“Grating roar of pebbles
Which the waves draw back”,
So faint is nature’s melody this evening.

Across town, an artwork springs to mind,
Above Tontine Street’s old post office
Proclaims that heaven is a place
Where nothing ever happens.

Because nothing is happening tonight
In this desolate speck of paradise.

But then, everything is happening.

To the east, the lighthouse blinks
Through the thick, enfolding gloom;
A tuneless, abandoned church bell
Hangs silently suspended above
Where once stood rotunda, swimming pool,
Boating lake and fairground rides.

A dalmatian puppy snuffles among
The seaweed encrusted pebbles
On the dark shoreline, while its
Fretful owner punctures the peace
With impassioned and fruitless pleas
To follow her back across the beach,
To the refuge of her Range Rover.

A lone fisherman sets out his stall
For what appears a long night ahead,
Reminding me of all night sessions
With my teddy boy uncle fifty years ago,
On the shingle beach at Dungeness.

I wonder now why I ever went,
I was never interested in fishing!

Pastel hued beach chalets are now
Padlocked up for the winter,
Along with the Mermaids Cafe Bar,
Welcome pit stop on the promenade
From Folkestone to its upstart neighbours,
Sandgate, Seabrook and “posh” Hythe.

I defy anyone to assert that they
Do not like to be “beside the seaside”;
And I look forward to a first full summer
Season in my coastal home next year.

However, it is at moments like this,
With the cold, dark sea alone for company,
When enjoyment is such a feeble word
To evoke the effect of this magical place;
I can only equate it to a profound love,
Both infatuation and long term comfort.

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Life was never better
Than in Nineteen Sixty Three
Between the end of the snowbound winter
And Freddie’s You Were Made For Me.

On a cool August morning in Foord Road
A blue Vauxhall Victor groans to a stop,
Disgorging two pairs of flustered parents
And three kids chock full of crisps and pop.

No sooner the guest book’s been signed
The kids clamour to go to East Cliff Sands;
With the tide far out the beach is ripe
For making castles and handstands.

But it’s for cricket the boy yearns the most,
Pitching stumps and bails he scans the beach
For willing, smaller boys to do the fielding
While he smashed the ball out of their reach.

As sand recedes beneath insistent waves,
Cricket gives way to crazy golf with slides,
To amusement arcade and boating lake,
Rollercoasters and Rotunda rides.

He plays for plastic racing cars
And pinball machine high scores,
While parents play bingo for household goods
They could buy much cheaper in the stores.

And then there’s that first trip abroad
On a ferry bound for Boulogne-Sur-Mer,
The boy spends his time bent overboard,
In bitter tears and silent prayer.

But he brightens at promise of fish and chips,
White bread and butter, mugs of tea;
And climbing the crooked, sloping street
To Rock Shop’s window wide and free.

Life was never better
Than in Nineteen Sixty Three
Between the end of the snowbound winter
And Freddie’s You Were Made For Me.

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