WELWYN GARDEN CITY
I cannot think of anywhere less apt
to set – say – a ghost story or fable
of regeneration. But it haunts me
now, the boulevards billowing absurd
cherry blossom, or the constant poplars,
gardens then allotments, and lone horses
in fields nobody owned (though somebody
did). We don't know if everywhere from
childhood does this; I only have the one.
Imagine if Wordsworth had grown up here.
Some daft sister, avowed book devourer,
who chronicled his conkers and fainted –
her stolen bike; his lost virginity!
It's useless. The place was an escape zone
from Orwell's 'rotting nineteenth-century
houses' – my grandparents', in Shepherd’s Hill,
with rickety stairs and views to Archway.
Teachers' faces, quiet optimism.
I grew up to fight with idealism,
middle class deceit over origins.
None of which matters now, at all, to me.
I also don't know if the violence
which meandered, natural as the Mimram,
was some thawing relic, or new death pains
from our vanishing culture of content.
On how many home-county Sundays
did my father drive us to some stately pile,
plonked on emerald parkland, tramping
endless overheated rooms?
Let's face it, this was the 1970s,
before suburban housing filled
with numerous foreigners. I've long
kept secret – Winston Smith like –
my shameful nicknames for them.
Cut to hatchet-faced anger.
My grandparents were
mothball-reeking Greeks –
wops or greaseballs. They
lived in Highgate then
Muswell Hill, terrifying
enclosing leaf mulch
concealing serial killers.
Our estate was unique:
everyone was an idiot.
Some fools opening
their houses to visitors,
claiming 'dinner parties'.
Even now, our rentier class –
shipwrecked, washed up –
continues this brutal charade.
Who can eat in someone
else's house? Insane to
ask, but I'm a veteran of
I now never do so.
And who cares where we
all live. It's enough to bask
and brew strong tea, wait
for the future to do what
it's always wanted to do.
Copyright © Paul Sutton, 2021