Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

Swansea Bay

08/07/2017

Night, and the Devon coast has faded
After sunset made opening closing windows
Flash gold across the miles
Across the border,
Across the sea.
A neon night, headlamps searchlight
All along the Mumbles road,
That wind sweeps sand
Where trams and trains used to go.
A neon night, clouds throb orange,
A blast furnace mirror over the bay,
Volcanic pulses counterpointing
The lighthouse flashes on their rock.
Night, and here the dark
A coat that snugly hugs,
One I once knew well, then put aside,
Now rescued
From the back of the wardrobe and
Gladly worn again.
Beyond traffic, waves roll,
Wash sand seaweed and oyster shells,
Like the one I found last time
And keep on the window ledge,
That even through dust
Carries a whiff of salt
Fifty miles inland.

Raining Again

05/06/2017

It’s raining again, and raining hard,
Late August, and for once the building’s quiet.
I sit beside the open window,
Listen to rain pattering plastic windowsills
And imagine I’m back at Grandma’s house,
In a comfy chair by the picture window
Looking out at the wet green garden.

In winter, the fruit trees bare,
Rattling bones on each other,
Spring, wind blown blossoms
Snow confetti round the greenhouse,
Summer, the borders awash with colours
Brighter than a child’s painting,
Autumn, the leaf litter swirling,
Crunching underfoot.

All the effort they put in
Mowing, planting, pruning, weeding
(How did they ever have time to go to work?)
Worth every ache and pain
To create this small city Eden.

So I drink deeply of the rain soaked air and
Remember, remember that house, that garden
Of long childhood summers
That were never quite long enough,
A house forever more home than home,
A house that always comes to mind
Whenever rain tap taps on PVC.

2006

Crossing The Usk

05/06/2016

Crossing the Usk, a slow flow of mud,
Water rippling in the rain,
I’m going home, the train engine
Roars louder as it climbs through Caerleon.
Is it home? It feels alien now,
Familiar, but not home,
Not that cosy, sad, untidy place
Of long known stuff and clutter
To return to in stormy weather.
Sure, the room’s the same,
The stuff the same, even the clutter,
But somehow home no longer.
Have the recent storms blown it down?
When did it cease to be safe?
I cannot answer that, and
Should the train stop
And retrace its route,
I would not be sorry
(Though what would I tell the boss
When I didn’t show up for work tomorrow?)
Return to a place that, as a youngster,
I couldn’t wait to flee.
Nantyderry, and the sky clears,
A hint of rainbow
Between grey cumulus.
The old dears opposite crack open the wine,
Hey, pour me a glass, perhaps
That will clear the fog,
Light the way to answers.
Fix headphones
(They don’t like it up ‘em you know)
Shut out the boring conversations,
Thud of music, annoying ringtones.
Abergavenny, and rain returns
With renewed roaring violence
As more miles are eaten up,
Forever closer to the cluttered room
– Perhaps I should call it my cell –
Something to be avoided,
A reason to be discovered
But all I can see are question marks,
Thick, black and growing fatter by the minute,
Smiling the rictus grin of a madman.
Llanvihangel, the summit of the line,
And down the train races, faster
And faster, clouds smoking
Round the mountainsides,
I’d like to be among those empty hills.
Fields of yellow stubble
Catch the odd sunbeam to escape
Clouds’ grey grip, and briefly glow,
A field of gold, light that bathes me too.
Today and yesterday, to see again
Places known from years ago,
I felt happy (yes, happy, there
Of all places), no pain now,
The reason I was so quick to flee
Can’t hurt me any more.
And though I head back to certainty –
The flat, the clutter and daily routine –
It’s no longer cosy certainty.
I want that cosiness back,
Want the firm door slam
That shuts out the world –
No, just fuck off –
Dinmore, and at last the sun is free,
Glittering lake so bright
My eyes hurt, a sudden floodlight
Into a long shuttered room.
Let me keep this, all of it,
The rain, the clouds and muddy Usk,
Even the dead oak alone
In the field near Craven Arms,
Brittle fingers reaching skyward.
Let me reach skyward too, keep
This bright-gentle light around me,
Warm me when back amongst the clutter
And dust, that would dull the blade.
You can never leave yourself behind, but
This journey will still be here, and
I can make it whenever I want,
Without leaving the flat.

Written on a Cardiff – Crewe train, July 2006

More Heritage Please

28/02/2015

I recently made a trip over the Churnet Valley Railway. It’s a  preserved line close to where I live and runs through some attractive scenery. The only thing that let it down was the use of the public address, both at Froghall station and on the train. Both were used as if on the main railway, including the annoying “please mind the gap between the train and the platform.”

I’ve written elsewhere on this blog of my hatred for these announcements, being both insulting and intrusive. They are bad enough on the main railway, but completely inappropriate for a “heritage” line. The whole point of these is to get a flavour of what rail travel used to be like, not to get a pale reminder of the modern system. Please stop it. It ruins the experience.

My Grandparents’ House

27/09/2014

Such attics cleared of me! Such absences! Philip Larkin

The last time I went to the house
Was the day we cleared it.
I arrived, as I always had:
Train then car, renewing my familiarity
With the happy highways that led here:
The Runcorn Bridge, dual carriageways
Suburbs, the streets
Narrowing after each turn,
Until finally, parked outside,
I could have been a child again as
Another school holiday begins.
No. Closed too long, the house was musty.
Men with scythes and saws
Were chopping back the jungle
The garden had become. I choked then,
Their pride and joy, recalled the hours
Lavished on it, mowing, weeding,
Seeding, picking, a feast of flowers and fruit,
I used to wonder how
They ever had time to go to work.
As we moved from room to room,
I expected them to walk in, and ask
What the hell we thought we were doing.
I looked in my old room:
Single bed, wardrobe screwed to the wall
And Grandma’s sewing machine
Folded into a table.
I sat on the bed, breathed
Deep and slow the air of that room,
Remembered the first night’s sleep
Of any holiday, the excitement
Of being here again
With all the days or weeks ahead.
Of days out, days in the garden,
Of Test Match Special,
And bowls on the lawn.
Now it feels like I was never here,
Just another stale space to be cleared
With all the others:
Wardrobes, cupboards, closets
Emptied now of all but memory.
If the bricks could talk,
What conversations we could have.

A Bonfire (2014 revision)

24/09/2014

Flames caress the letters
As I feed them in,
One by one, words crumbling.

I watch them lick the photograph,
Hers, taken that last day
Before I caught the train.

I can’t find it later
When I rake over still warm ash,
Blacker than her hair.

Memories smouldering into suburban sky,
A few shovelfuls of soot,
Smoke in my clothes.

A Bonfire

24/09/2014

This is one from the archives, written in 1995. I’ve never been entirely satisfied with it as it’s a bit too tell not show. Here’s the original, the next post has the revised version.

Flames lap-up the letters
As I feed them in,
One by one, words crumbling.

I watch them lick the photograph,
Hers, taken that last day
Before I caught the train,

Bubbles and hiss, it flakes,
Burns a part of me off.
I can’t find it later

When I rake over the still warm ash,
Blacker than her hair,
Smouldering into the suburban sky

Above the greenhouses,
Mown lawns and
Neatly pruned shrubberies.

Memories compressed into
A few shovelfuls of soot,
Smoke in my clothes.

On Nostalgia, Into My Heart an Air that Kills, A.E. Housman

23/10/2013

This short poem is from A Shropshire Lad, first published in 1896. Its two stanzas of four lines each form a dialogue on the nature of nostalgia. In the first, the poet asks a question, prompted by a sudden, painful remembrance: “an air that kills” has blown straight into his heart from some “far country”. The recollection takes the form of an idealised pastoral scene of “blue remembered hills” with church spires and farms nearby. Just what is this place? the poet asks.

He answers his rhetorical question in the second stanza. He sees his past, a time when he was happy: “the land of lost content”. Clear and close, yet he knows he can never get it back, never return to “the happy highways where I went”. This is, I imagine, a common experience: it’s certainly one I often feel. Yet it’s surely the mark of a great poem where the poet can describe such an experience so originally and effectively, with some truly memorable language: “blue remembered hills”, “the land of lost content”, “the happy highways”. And he describes it so concisely, capturing in eight lines both the power of memory and its ultimate futility. Futile it may be, but it’s a very human impulse which this beautiful short poem captures to perfection.

from A Shropshire Lad

XL.

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

How Foreign is the Past?

17/02/2013

Heading rapidly towards midnight on another Saturday, with Tears for Fears “Songs from the Big Chair” on the ipod. I was 16 when that album came out, and yet it seems like yesterday. As soon as the opening song “Shout” started, I was back there in 1985, my mind a flood of images from then. So long ago, how can that be? The power of music to do that never ceases to amaze me, never ceases to render me speechless and wordless to describe it. It doesn’t matter what type of music it is, some pieces have this transportive power. I see my 16 year old self, so different; was it really me? If he saw me, what would he say? And if I met him, I don’t doubt I would be surprised at the things I had forgotten. And yet, if we did meet, I think we would have a lot to talk about. Assuming we could understand each other.
The past really is a foreign country, one for which you will never get a visa, let alone revisit.


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