(a personal reflection)

England England England
falling away
like a stone from a cliff

taking the plunge, 1969
at 22, in late August
seasons of mists already started
making the rounds, family and friends
before the ‘Galileo’ departure
and the leaving

Gran saying goodbye forever
and lasting many more years

Good-bye to...

Kunzle cakes, Corona, Tizer
Lyons individual fruit pies
a world of only Marmite
and jumble sales

Good-bye to village life, village people

across the common through the oaks
the child sweetshop beeline
to sherbert lemons, pear drops
nine-pence a quarter
top shelf chocolate éclairs
a rarity at one-shilling and a penny-halfpenny

and sugar mice, sweet cigarettes
wine gums, spangles and gobstoppers
the mouth watering changing of the colors

foreign coins in the vending machine
the guilty feeling lingering
long after the chocolate pleasure

the weekly bath
and leaving the bath water for others
cleaning shoes on the coal bunker
waiting for Mr. Baxter to cut hair
reading ‘Beano’

visiting relatives on Sunday afternoons
the interminable waiting
knowing every piece of china
the too familiar pictures

listening, listening, listening
to all the old stories

and the bowl of fruit not to be touched
but real afternoon teas
selecting from the cake stand
home made brandy snaps
cream from the dairy
jam spooned from silver

The Grove family, Dixson of Dock Green
The London Palladium, Desert Island Disks
Top of the Pops, Sunday papers
The News of the World

the family roast, Yorkshire pudding
thumb-print apple pie
white elephant pastry support
home made meringues, bomb Alaska
lard cakes, and suet
dripping and the dig for gravy
tinned peaches from Australia

set meal times, cooked meals
Monday mince, Tuesday chops
the rice pudding blanket
feeding the dog under the table

collecting cigarette cards
car numbers, football programs
even golliwogs from marmalade
bird’s eggs, blowing eggs
Auntie Len’s impressive collection

conkers and conker fights
combat with council estate kids
they running away shouting
we won the fight - we won the F I T E
elocution lessons

day excursions, stopping at the pub
a pint of best bitter please
beer-gardens and Babycham
Smiths crisps with the blue knot inside
pickled onions
pickled people back in the bus

the family week holiday
Budliegh Salterton, Devon red soil
sitting on flat pebbles, getting changed
avoiding the deck chair attendant
not getting tar on your clothes

taking the dog around the field
hazelnuts and crabapples
exploring hedgerows, pressed flowers
Father tying his scarlet runners

playing in the hay
the run-in with the farmer
the threatening pitchfork
Chris wetting his pants twice!

death in the village
drawing the curtains with the sun shining
the slow car procession
up the hill to the old church

Mother’s Wokingham pilgrimage
Grandpa and Grandma’s grave
pumping fresh water, flower replacement
reading names of new arrivals

inside the church quiet
through the heavy wood door, thick stone
disturbing the enclosed musty air
distilled through centuries

pub life at the ‘The Cricketers’
meeting place to village youth
watching local cricket
commentaries by John Arlott

playing with kids on the green
while darts and crib
Watneys red label, lager and lime
brightened the background twilight

accidents on the A30
the road that cut the village
a challenge to cross in summer
the constant London coastal push

the great danger of owning a motorbike

squirrels and wood pigeons
shuffling through leaves
fogs, bonfire night, jumping jacks
rugging up, defrosting hands
the welcome fireplace
roasting chestnuts

making decorations
gathering holly, the preparation
the expectation

in the evening the family gathering
with Uncle Norman on Violin
Molly at piano and all trying to sing
while Denis orchestrated
the festive joviality with his words

and then the snow falling
falling across the village
falling across fields and homes
watching the flakes, massing together
slowly entrapping, changing the world
the first thick fall of Winter

... then stepping out
to a new world
before the yellow and the slush

England England England
falling away
like a stone from a cliff . . .
and never reaching the bottom

Richard Scutter 12 April 2006

The Cricketers and Cricket Ground - Hartley Wintney - Hampshire


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