. . . And Then There Were Four

London, Victoria Embankment, late 19th Century … Pen & Wash – WHB – 2014

Late autumn evening
treading wet leaves
on the broad embankment
 beside the dark river;
starry sky
and the pavement spotted
with lights
dark pools between
those balustrade sentries
the eighty year old
yablochkov candles
(the country’s very first

electric street lights)
still throwing the trees’ shadows
across the road
to Victoria’s gardens.

Perhaps memory twists my tale;
mike, dave, wally, ray,
with me five of us,
fresh lads
freshers too
up from the far country
to study
to see the big city
to re-start a life
men now
together
soliciting knowledge
tempting experience.

Interned for a Chelsea month,
then the anticipated incursion,
our first excursion
into the great city
set for new challenges
no plan
just exploration;
for the moment
nothing cerebral
just life in the moment
awaiting a happening
neophytic
greenhorns.

Walking where Victoria walked,
or did she ever really
enjoy her gardens by the river?
thrilling evening
walking that promenade,
drinking the sights
eating the sounds
devouring the smells and tastes
soaking up the river
and the beer,
Victoria’s Embankment Gardens.

We didn’t know it then
nor did any of us suspect
it was to be ray’s swan song
sweet Thames run softly
and be his swan song.

Turned up Villiers Street,
Kipling’s and Evelyn’s street,
tumbled into The Trafalgar,
seedy then,
well, rare student prices,
waitress in black and white
I remember
the white cap with lace
and black band
the tiny white apron
on black dress
alluringly short
wiping her hands
by rubbing them seductively
on her aproned thighs,
“what can I get you lads?”
… ribaldry …
ray “what time do you finish?”
… her answer
no more than a half-smile;

After the spam fritters
and the glorious knickerbockers
and more small pink hands
attentive hands
rubbed clean
on lacy white apron,
ray’s eyes never taken off them
then drinks
nothing heavy.

Ray fell
must have done
from a great height
smitten I would say
to his adam’s apple core,
eyes only for a pretty face
and those lacy edges.

Conversation ricocheted
across the tables
voices spurted out their verbiage
as those yablochkov candles
expended their light,
more raucous than uncouth.

Then the attempt to close
to dispense with customers
we head for the street
ray stays in his seat
“’bye chaps, I’ll see you.”

… But he never did.

Nor we him.
Ever again.

The Thames Embankment is a work of 19th Century civil engineering which reclaimed marshy land next to the River Thames in central London.  It follows the North Bank of the river from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge.

The Victoria Embankment Gardens , built also in the latter part of the 19th Century, separate the embankment and the road running alongside from the buildings on the south side of Whitehall, Trafalgar Square and The Strand.

Villiers Street is a short connecting thoroughfare, now mainly pedestrianised, running from the Thames Embankment and Charing Cross underground Station uphill to the Strand, Charing Cross Mainline Railway Station  and Trafalgar Square.  It contains many restaurants and eating establishments.  
The Trafalgar Cafe, however, can no longer be found there.

Poem by WHB and re-published in memory of Dave and Mike – now passed on to where all memories are filed and all mysteries are resolved.

AS SHADOWS COME AND GO

as more mute shadows come and go
so
my life does ebb and flow
clinging
disturbingly
with my every motion
not prepared to let me go
until at some time
not yet determined
in the day’s misty murkiness
I will merge with the darkness
along with life’s shrouded meaning
to await that time
which surely will arrive
for the putting out of the light
and the beginning
of death’s adventure

His Life In Books

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His Life In Books

His books were loved
as he loved his life
for they and he were one
each volume held a world
within its covers
a seed already grown
a life already lived
both beginning and end
alongside the life between
where the living
the dead
and the dreamt-of
coexist
in pages of printed passion
grey words and purple passages
telling of love
adventure
the commonplace and the rare
of depression and elation
delight and despair
but always
under the bright stars
of expectancy and hope

Escape From Lockdown

Escape From Lockdown

Where shall I go?
I await inspiration.
Don’t fancy The Broads,
Try a brand new location.

The Weald is too flat,
The Highlands too high,
The Lowlands too low,
I’ll put them on standby.

The Gower is too near,
The Wirral too far,
The Pennines too high,
And too hard on my car.

I like the Welsh Marches,
But they don’t like me;
Of the Wolds and the Marshes
I’m no devotee.

But I do need a break,
An escape from this lockdown.
I’ve a yen for new vistas –
Corfe, Pwllheli or Plockton.

Coast, country or town,
I won’t be prescriptive;
Just find me a bolt-hole
And I’ll get descriptive.

Not foreign this time,
The risk is too great.
To be locked in on return
Is something I’d hate.

So let it be England,
‘The home of the free’,
Though where we get that from
Is a mystery to me.

I haven’t felt FREE
Since restricted in Spring.
I must get away,
Break my bonds, have a fling.

I could try the Dales,
The Downs or The Lakes,
The Peaks or the Fens,
I’ve got just what it takes.

For adventure, for risk,
I’m up for them all
So just hide my face mask
I’m no more in its thrall.

Yes, I’m off to Bognor,
That ‘Bugger’ of a town,
The best place to be
To end my lockdown. 

“Bugger Bognor!” were the alleged last words of King George V in 1936, in response to being told that he would soon be well enough to visit the seaside resort Bognor Regis on the south coast of England.

 

Icons of my Past

KaPow

Icons of my Past

My era has passed and gone,
And with it all my heroes,
But memory lingers long,
Of giants, saints and weirdos.

These I have loved and known,
They made me who I am,
Imbibed while I have grown,
Since I lived in a pram.

How they have coloured my life,
These heroes, these comic bygones,
But through victory and strife,
They’ve ever been my icons.

How many do you remember,
Who live and colour your dreams?
Valiant or tender,
Feeding both laughter and screams.

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These are the ones which live on in my own memory . .  .

Just William:  ‘Just William’ is the first book of children’s short stories about the young school boy, William Brown, written by Richmal Crompton, and published in 1922. William Brown is an eleven-year-old boy, eternally scruffy and frowning. He and his friends, Ginger, Henry, and Douglas, call themselves the Outlaws.  Also appearing in the books is Violet Elizabeth Bott, who is renowned for crying out “I’ll thcream and thcream ’till I’m thick”.  The stories were also used in numerous television, film and radio adaptations of the books.

Roy of the RoversA British comic strip about the life and times of a fictional footballer and later manager named Roy Race, who played for Melchester Rovers.

Biggles & his sidekick, Algernon (‘Algy’) Lacey:  James Bigglesworth, nicknamed “Biggles”, is a fictional pilot and adventurer, the title character and hero of the Biggles series of adventure books, written for young readers by W. E. Johns. There are  almost 100 Biggles books published between 1932 and 1968.

Wilson of the Wizard – The Wonder Athlete illustrated stories first published in 1943 as a comic strip, in the British illustrated story paper ’The Wizard’, written by Gilbert Lawford Dalton and drawn by Jack Glass.

Garth – action-adventure hero, created by Steve Dowling, in a comic strip published in the British newspaper ‘Daily Mirror’ from 1943 to 1997.

Rupert Bear — (with friends, Bill Badger, Edward Trunk and Algy Pug) – comic strip character created by English artist Mary Tourtel and first appearing in 1920 in the Daily Express newspaper.

Desperate Dan was a wild west character in the now-defunct British comic magazine The Dandy.

Dennis the Menace:  a long-running comic strip in the British children’s comic The Beano.

Billy Bunter is a fictional schoolboy created by Charles Hamilton using the pen name Frank Richards. He features in stories set at Greyfriars School, originally published in the boys’ weekly story paper ’The Magnet’ from 1908 to 1940. 

P. C.49 was created for radio by Alan Stranks. PC 49 (Police Constable Archibald Berkeley-Willoughby) was an ordinary bobby on the beat, solving crime in the late 40s and early 50s.

Flash Gordon is the hero of a space opera adventure comic strip created by and originally drawn by Alex Raymond. It was first published in 1934.

Superman is a fictional superhero, created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. He first appeared in the comic book Action Comics #1 in 1938.

Dan Dare is a British science fiction comic hero, created by illustrator Frank Hampson who also wrote the first stories.  Dare appeared in the Eaglecomic stories from 1950 to 1967. It was also dramatised seven times a week on Radio Luxembourg from 1951to 1956.

Captain Marvel, also known as Shazam, is a fictional American comic superhero, created by artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker 1939 appearing in American comics originally published by Fawcett Comics. He is the alter ego of Billy Batson, a boy who, by speaking the magic word “SHAZAM!” (acronym of six “immortal elders”: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury), can transform himself into a costumed adult with the powers of superhuman strength, speed, flight and other abilities. Based on comic book sales, the character was the most popular superhero of the 1940s, outselling even Superman.


TheSaint

Simon Templar, The SaintSimon Templar, a Robin Hood-like figure, known as the Saint, the protagonist of a book series by Leslie Charteris and subsequent adaptations on TV., a Robin Hood-like figure, known as the Saint, the protagonist of a book series by Leslie Charteris and subsequent adaptations on TV.

 

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