. . . 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.

Father William

A Japanese ‘Father William’ …  Pen & Ink – WHB – 2014

Are Old, Father William” is a poem by Lewis Carroll that appears in his book  ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865).

You are Old, Father William

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think, at your age, it is right?

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door —
Pray, what is the reason for that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment — one shilling a box —
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak —
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose —
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father. “Don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs.”

By Lewis Carroll

Time’s Hold

Painting by George Frederic Watts . . . 1886

 TIME’S  HOLD

You are what might have been 
on that alternative path,
my abandoned way re-discovered.

But what is now is salient; 
you make me an offer,  
propose to me a future 
that will not arise  
unless hope turns to reality
before Time tires.

When life was fast dissolving,
when my world
 was being wrenched apart,
then, supporting your own cross, 
you came from nowhere
to reach out, to connect,
to take my hope
and cherish it.

What I am left with
is no longer despair, 
but the veiled thrill
of tomorrow’s augury.

You could resolve my need,
bring me that accord, 
of touch, of feel, of senses, 
of minds in tune. 

What you do – for me, now,
is to engender lust, 
that lust of my youth,
for life, for certitude,
which can repel my languor, 
now sequestered by age,
and bring a new intensity,
revivify that spark
which once embellished all.

No longer my past innocence, 
but a considered offering,
a last grasp at time’s hold on me.

SONG – My First Romance

Is there a hope that I can hold,
A hope that I can to me fold
You in my arms,
Die by your charms?

Is there a word that I can say,
A word that will in part repay
You for your trust?
Hold you I must.

Is there in this a single tie,
A knot, a bond, a little lie
To bind, to fix,
Buttress the mix?

Is there a part that I can play?
Can I be certain from today?
Give me the chance –
My first romance.

At Play – Then & Now

Photo: WHB – 2002 (manipulated)

Delight and joy
radiant-coloured youth
ignorant of innocence
and centred on life
with due delight
in present days
radiating their found-freedom
in carefree games amongst the summer trees


Unheeding days
unmelted moments
to be
segued in due time
into the concerns of age
until
at length and in their history’s dusk
appears that second coming
a new oblivion
second innocence


Now untainted
by the warts of knowledge
life-worn futures yet unknown
the pains of caring
hidden from their vibrant view
again sensing nature in its infancy
hell-bent
heaven sent
unfractured youth
presaging the oblivion of age
reflecting only the here
the now
present joy shielding
what once was caring
since faded from life’s reality
by-passing tensions
never now to be revealed



Hope For Glory Yet

‘An English Dawn’ … WHB – Pen&Wash- 2013

Once upon a sublime time
when daylight lingered long into night’s advance
shadows crept from silent space
wrapping themselves around the foothills of my youth
their clutch clinging to my burgeoning hopes
with silky snake embrace
promising to smother all ills
to suck the poison from my advance
and still the waves that beat upon my summer shore

But now with time progressed and prospects passed
with what avails me slipped away
that promised land
the unproven myth
shown for what it is
have I learnt nothing from my dreams
has expectation become ash
youth’s promise proven pallid
yet stubbornly remaining
to bolster what is left to me of life
and give me strength to persist
and hope for glory yet

On Being Cantankerous

Testy now, and truculent,
Jumping to conclusions,
I tend to speak before I’ve thought,
A source of some confusions.

When I was young and in my prime
I would have paused and pondered
Before I’d let my mouth run free;
My mind would not have wandered.

Now, grumpy and cantankerous,
I’ve no wish to be told,
Despite the fact the signs are there,
That I am growing old.

For age and life have brought to me
Such exasperation
That now I speak my forthright mind,
Inviting much vexation.

Now I’m content to be quite brusque,
To stir up some dissent.
My time of life has brought disdain,
I’ll say just what I meant.

With one foot in the waiting grave
Why pussyfoot around?
Just tell it as it is, my friend,
No comebacks underground.

On consideration of the Nature Of TIME

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

APHORISMS:  On consideration of the Nature Of TIME


When Yesterday’s dream
BecomesToday’s reality
All mystery is lost.

When life’s great passion
Turns to dust
Is life still worth the living?

When tomorrow’s goal
Is reached today
How empty becomes the future.

When life and love
are intertwined
Where does pleasure end?

When age has killed
youth’s certitude
What price is placed on doubt?

When yesterday’s promise
Turns into today’s disappointment
It becomes tomorrow’s regrets.

The Grass Above His Grave

PriivateHarvey1

 The end of World War I took effect on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.  The inscription on this war grave in the churchyard of St.Mary’s, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, commemorates the short life of Private F.J . Harvey of the Middlesex Regiment, who sadly died just 12 days before this.
He was 18 years of age.

The Grass Above His Grave

And the grasses sway above his grave,
Reminding me of what he gave,
Of hopes as his new life began,
No more a boy, nor yet a man.

*     *     *

The promises of a war, just ended,
Lay before him, starkly spread.
Tempting him to rejoice
In the swollen face of victory.

A life to live, a promise to keep,
Beckoned his youth to greater glory,
But time and life were not for him,
Nor was death a friend.

They conspired to rob him of
The future he had bought,
And, in victory, the fate of so many
Became his own fate too.

*     *     *

And the grasses sway above his grave
Reminding me of what he gave
Of hopes as his new life began
No more a boy, nor yet a man. 

 

Priivate Harvey1

Photos: WHB-2020  …  ©