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Posts Tagged ‘Folkestone’


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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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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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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Muffled footsteps on grey cracked pavements,
Whispered voices, even in vigorous debate;
Motorway noise reduced to a dull murmur,
A spectral stillness permeates the air.
The sun is shining but the children’s playground,
Slides, swings and climbing frames all,
Is empty, except for puzzled pigeons
Pottering around for particles of food.
Meanwhile, a mere half a mile away,
Shoppers scream and scuffle over
The last half dozen carton of eggs
And a pack of four quilted toilet rolls.

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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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The birds they still sing,
The flowers still bloom,
It is almost Spring,
It can’t all be doom.

The bars are still full,
The children still play,
If this is to change
This is not the day.

That day will still come,
Later or in weeks,
For now, don’t succumb
To fears when it peaks.

Maybe our last chance,
A time of calm peace,
This inaudible dance
Will soon enough cease.

The birds they still sing,
The flowers still bloom,
It is almost Spring,
It can’t all be doom.

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Consigned to cold cobbles and
An orange plastic table and chair,
I wait for the coveted inside spot;
Anything will do – armchair, table with chalks,
It need not even be my favourite window seat,
I can work my way towards that
If I stay here long enough;
Watching for the slightest movement inside,
Indicating an imminent departure,
I must still keep my eyes peeled for
Later arrivals spying my space,
I am comforted, however, in the knowledge
That the staff have my back in this.

I kill the time in earnest debate
With a passing trader over whether
He should shave his beard off or not,
Twin enemies of bare patch and grey
Are sowing doubt in his anguished mind.

At least the unremitting building work
On the winding street the non-PC Dickens
Dubbed the “crippled ladder”,
Is quelled for a short blissful spell;
And I can hear the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye
Providing a soulful accompaniment
To the constant musical chairs inside.

My small cappuccino emerges in time
To warm my gloveless hands and heart,
And fend prospective boarders off at the pass
Before they dare to claim my appointed place,
Wedged between counter and disabled loo;

A large family hovers and dithers with door ajar
Over whether to wait their turn, or seek out
Alternative, but never better, coffee shops;
An impassioned argument ensues on whether
The apple crumble cake with plum compote
Is sufficient enticement to make them stay.

It is.

Errol Brown croons of his belief in miracles,
And following my brief captivity on the street,
I am now inclined to agree with him.

Another stand of lemon, almond and polenta cake,
Today’s obligatory and luscious vegan option,
Is borne on high from the kitchen downstairs,
Like a triumphant Roman emperor,
Before the plebeian hordes salivating below.

A small, blonde girl in blue denim dungarees
Sits transfixed by Peppa Pig on her iPad,
While mum ransacks more than her rightful share
Of chocolate orange cake meant for her daughter;
And a chihuahua named Molly plants itself
On the only available chair.

But then, suddenly and with no warning,
The once overcrowded interior
Thins out mysteriously;
I can only speculate that the departing hordes
Are all rushing for the Love Train
That the joyous O’Jays now sing about
Above the diminishing chatter.

But a new batch of shivering hordes
Are soon shuffling through the half open door
To take their places in the lengthening queue.
The warm, cozy, civilised atmosphere,
Delays my planned perambulation
Of the gloomy, abandoned harbour.
So I order a second small cappuccino
And that last slice of…………
Blueberry and walnut cake!

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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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