Poems

WORK BY TONY QUARRINGTON

fullsizeoutput_2322

WHERE OLD GHOSTS MEET

A biting breeze and thin drizzle
Denote December’s arrival,
As twilight descends on the
Twisting, narrow street
Once one of Dickens’s daily haunts.

Many months have passed since
Crazy, cacophonous Charivari
Had snaked up that old thoroughfare;
And the ground had groaned
Beneath the weight of red-laced “Doc” Martens,
Worn by pilgrims strutting towards the
Grand Burstin or Gillespie’s
For an afternoon of Special Brew
To the sounds of The Selecter,
Prince Buster and The Specials.

I turn into that quiet, twinkling lane
And long for one last lingering look
At the dazzling, daily alchemy
Conjured up in Rowland’s Rock Shop.

The aroma of craft beer
Wafting from Kipps’
Cannot compete with the memory
Of the sickly sweet perfume
Pervading Rowland’s, where
Once I gaped in awe at the
Thick, long sticks of heaven being rolled,
A bag of broken bits
A highlight of my annual holiday.

It was often claimed that if it
Were to shut its doors for good,
Folkestone would die.
A prediction, thankfully,
Since proven dramatically wrong,

I stumble into Steep Street Coffee House
For flat white, cake, warmth and inspiration.
The self-styled Folkestone Poet
Has vacated his customary sales pitch
Across the way at Big Boys Burger,
His heavy overcoat and leather balaclava
No more a match for declining temperatures.

The bitter cold slices through my flimsy jacket
And hastens my progress down the hill,
But not without momentary glances
On either side at steepling steps
To ancient Bayle and modern Tontine Street.

I cross into the empty fish market,
Tiptoeing around the grimy puddles
That appear to assemble here
Whether it has rained or not.

A solitary gull plods apologetically past,
Pining for Spring and the reopening
Of Chummy’s, Bob’s and La’s,
When it can return to terrorising tourists
For fish and chips and tubs of whelks.

Back at the foot of the winding street,
Christmas lights flutter into action
As children huddle excitedly
Outside Blooms for tonight’s instalment
Of the Living Advent Calendar,
Jewel in the crown of
Folkestone’s festive year.

Apart from the echo of my boots
Upon the cobbles,
Silence is restored
As I drag my freezing bones
Back up the hill.

But………..
As I turn the corner
At the top
I stop.

Was that really
A childlike squeal I heard?
And did I just catch
A whiff of granulated sugar?

cropped-fullsizeoutput_239f-3.jpeg

OUR LADY OF THE HARBOUR

No fey fairy tale figure this Folkestone maid

But mature, full-bodied, strong and wise

Rooted firmly on the East Cliff rocks

Staring intently out on Channel skies.

Some try to clothe her in pity, some in fun

Hats, bikinis, scarves, have all adorned her form

But she is perfect as she is – broad, naked, deep

Impervious to pounding waves and winter storm.

Her hair forever drenched from tidal spray

Slicked back and sweeping down along her spine

Her lusty feet replace the mermaid’s tail

Resist and spurn the bitter lapping brine.

To the dogs released from summer servitude

On Sunny Sands she’s just another stone

Their ball might bounce upon from owner’s throw

Or where they can relieve themselves alone.

A bare six summers has she settled there

Yet it seems to have been so many more

As if she’d witnessed history’s changing tides

Declining fish trade and the road to war.

When packet steam trains trundled down the hill

Into the harbour station and France bound ships

When English tommy first tasted foreign food

Snails, mussels, garlic, frites instead of chips.

I trudge across still slippery lower rocks

To reach the stone she’s made her coastal home

And sit at her feet to see what she might see

While thwarting tourists with their camera phones.

Could she be looking to France or Belgium’s shore?

But rather her gaze looks upwards to the sky

As if in thanks this piece of Heaven should be

Where Cornelia Parker chose that she should lie.

Oblivious to the sights and sounds around

The squawk of seagulls or wave smashed shores

Mindless of games that gleeful children play

Upon the drying beach when tide withdraws.

Unheeding of the dirt and noise of building sites

Coronation Parade and Harbour Arm are now

She sits serene, majestic ‘midst the rush

A friend and confidant to all that vow.

Margate may have its Turner, Blackpool its Tower

Brighton its i360, St Ive’s its Tate

But none sing of the sea like our Folkestone girl

Stately and brave at England’s coastal gate.

I rise from the rocks with wave washed, creaking knees

While hers are as fresh and smooth as first she came

Two hours have passed since I joined her on that rock

A better use of time I could never dare to claim.

Two ferries cross each other in Dover’s strait

As the sun slides down over a silvery sea

Over her shoulder through darkening clouds

The coast of France gleams and bids bonne nuit.

Poems

Folkestone’s Golden Summers: III 1963 – The Poet as a Small Boy Visits the Town

Life was never better
Than in Nineteen Sixty Three
Between the end of the snowbound winter
And Freddie’s You Were Made For Me.

On a cool August morning in Foord Road
A blue Vauxhall Victor groans to a stop,
Disgorging two pairs of flustered parents
And three kids chock full of crisps and pop.

No sooner the guest book’s been signed
The kids clamour to go to East Cliff Sands;
With the tide far out the beach is ripe
For making castles and handstands.

But it’s for cricket the boy yearns the most,
Pitching stumps and bails he scans the beach
For willing, smaller boys to do the fielding
While he smashed the ball out of their reach.

As sand recedes beneath insistent waves,
Cricket gives way to crazy golf with slides,
To amusement arcade and boating lake,
Rollercoasters and Rotunda rides.

He plays for plastic racing cars
And pinball machine high scores,
While parents play bingo for household goods
They could buy much cheaper in the stores.

And then there’s that first trip abroad
On a ferry bound for Boulogne-Sur-Mer,
The boy spends his time bent overboard,
In bitter tears and silent prayer.

But he brightens at promise of fish and chips,
White bread and butter, mugs of tea;
And climbing the crooked, sloping street
To Rock Shop’s window wide and free.

Life was never better
Than in Nineteen Sixty Three
Between the end of the snowbound winter
And Freddie’s You Were Made For Me.

By Tony Quarrington
Poems

Folkestone’s Golden Summers: II – 1903 The Grand Gentlemen’s Mansions Opens

Perambulators and parasols parade
On new mown and manicured lawn
Designed by Decimus Burton,
From polo field and pasture hewn.

“Finest marine promenade in the world”,
The guidebook effusively lays claim;
Hard to argue on this glorious morn
When sea and sky look just the same.

The guests arrive by lift and carriage,
Depending on their wealth and style
To acclaim a marvel of the modern age,
A red brick vision to make them smile.

Crowds congregate on Madeira Walk,
Path forged from latest cliff slide,
While builder Baker, spurned by Metropole
Admires his handiwork with rightful pride.

The band plays a medley of popular tunes,
From jazz, music hall and ragtime,
Like When We Were Two Little Boys,
And In the Good Old Summertime.

Albert Burvill, in new blue uniform,
Sends packing gatecrashers from the town,
Craving a peek at the rich folk’s party,
Now turned away by copper’s frown.

But they will get their chance another day
To press their noses to the Monkey Cage,
And watch their King among his court
Feast and roar on this most public stage.

Metropole management looks on
At the rival Radnor vowed not to build,
Contemplating legal action
Against violation of its private field.

Pavilion, Burlington, Majestic,
Metropole and now the Grand,
Fashionable Folkestone is all the rage
At harbour and on cliff top land.

By Tony Quarrington
Poems

Folkestone’s Golden Summers: I -1843 The Water Witch Sets Sail

From centuries of slog and slime,
From Pent and Channel battered,
A sleepy, careworn fishing village
Today becomes a town that matters.

Herring, mackerel, crabs and sole
Now make their way to Billingsgate,
And fetch a price not seen before
The railway raised flat Folkestone’s fate.

Sun, with constant bedfellow, breeze,
Smiles on the arrival of the first class fares,
While locals rush to harbour viewing points
From auction sheds that plied their wares.

The first wave of “down from Londoners”
Steps from gleaming horse drawn coach
That brought them from a makeshift station
In lieu of soon to be rail track approach.

A boisterous band blares out the latest hits
Of Wagner, Chopin, Strauss and Liszt,
As crinolined ladies, with handbags and fans,
Tease gentlemen whose advances they resist.

Steam powered Water Witch, focal point
Of this auspicious day, adjoins the quay,
And nervous passengers clamber aboard
In clothes unsuited for a swelling sea.

But the water’s calm and the crossing smooth
As guns and flags bid travellers adieu,
In three hours, on Boulogne’s teeming dock,
An even louder band greets guests and crew.

Now, La Marsellaise and God save the Queen
Salute the excited but exhausted crowd,
A necessary triumph for entente cordiale,
Two towns so far, but now so near, made proud.

In Folkestone, normal service is resumed,
Men mend nets and women cook and clean,
Habitual chores for o’er a thousand years,
Yet a smaller, faster, world can now be seen.

By Tony Quarrington
Poems

A FOLKESTONE VALENTINE

Rare town of Radnor and Rotunda,
Rowland’s rock shop and remembrance;
Even on this cold February morning 
You have the power to enchant;
Strange Cargo’s Luckiest Place on Earth
Is not confined to the Central station.
Newly planted winter flowers, 
Primrose and snowdrop, cyclamen and crocus,
Defy the bitter wind and freezing hail
On stately Leas and Kingsnorth Gardens.


Mouldering Martello wall,
Bonaparte’s mighty adversary,
Squints out across the grey blue sea,
Searching for our Cap Griz Nezbour;
While the cliffs, slowly, surreptitiously
Slide into the stirring sea below,
Where foreign fossil hunters trip
Among the seaweed and precarious rocks,
Exposed by low tide’s obligatory return.


Opening Day still six weeks ahead, the
Harbour Arm remains a magical spot;
“Gormley” winks across the harbour entrance
At doughty mermaid on dog-filled Sunny Sands;
Cormorants, gulls and a solitary fisherman, 
Usurping the space where chairs and tables
For champagne drinkers will soon occupy,
Complete this noiseless, bracing scene. 


Pieces of art, products of a reimagined town,
Embellish our streets and promenades, 
Making honorary Folkestone folk of
Tuttofuoco, Coley and Tracey Emin,
Wallinger, Ruth Ewan and Yoko Ono.
The Living Advent Calendar and Pride,
TriennialCharivari and Book Festival,
All further proof of energy and wit
That far exceeds its scale and reputation.


Food town no less than Art town,
Bridge breakfasts, Brew freakshakes, 
And Beano’s griddled sandwiches
Tantalise my morning tastebuds;
While Marley’s and the Cliffe, Rocksalt and Shayda’s,
Bloom’s, Luben’s, El Diamante and Conchita’s,
To name but just a tempting few,
Contend for my evening custom.


More than half a century your admirer,
Even through the tired, toiling times;
Recently reunited in joy and wonder,
I feel blessed to account you now my lover.


By Tony Quarrington

Poems

CONTEMPLATE

 

As I sit and contemplate the days ahead

without you by my side,

I wonder how I can survive.

This time without you by my side

 

My mind rambles to and fro.

I shared my dreams and wishes,

with you and you alone.

 

You guided me in life and death

to be the best I can,

your love enfolded me and kept me from the rest.

You made me into someone who

could stand above the rest.

 

I miss you more and more each day

when will the hurting stop?

Are you with the stars up there

or glowing with the sun?

 

I know you are at peace right now

still looking down at me.

I try my best to contact you,

to hear you from afar

or see your smile once more

will be enough for me.

BY KAREN MARWOOD

WHAT A VIEW
Poems

UNA LETTERA D’AMORE PER VENEZIA

For all the people, the noise and the heat,

And some might claim, the smell,

La Serenissima never fails to enchant

In all her fading, crumbling majesty.

At dawn’s emerging light, vaporetti and traghetti 

Compete for space on crowded Canal Grande,

Past the bustling barges of bass and bream

Destined for slabs on Mercato di Rialto. 

After a lukewarm doppio espresso

And fistful of olive e uovo tramezzini,

Most fragile and delicate of sandwiches,

I resolve to lose myself and escape the 

Oppressive throng slouching towards me. 

Narrow, dark calli and sotoportegi 

Open into vast, vivacious campi

Where scruffy children chase footballs, 

Dreaming they are Messi or Ronaldo,

Or if their fathers coached them well,

Paolo Rossi or Roberto Baggio. 

Intervals of sweet, intense silence,

Splintered only by hurried footsteps,

Or the plash of a gondolieri’s oar,

Pervade the squares and alleyways 

Of Castello and Canareggio.

Down a deserted, soundless rio,

Far from the countless, careless hordes 

Spewed from colossal cruise ships

Docked at Baciano Della Stazione Marritima,

A charming pizzeria calls to me from

Beneath a washing line of “smalls” hung high.

At midnight the bands at Florian and Quadri

Are muffled by the mighty, mournful toll 

Of the Campanile di San Marco; 

And English tourists recluctantly drink up

Their gin and tonics and squint

Incredulously at the final bill. 

Mia cara Venezia, tu sei troppo bella

Ti amero sempre.

A POEM BY TONY QUARRINGTON

Poems

ACROSS THE ROOM BY MARY LEADBETTER

I hope these moments never die
When your gaze makes love to me
I glance back, a little shy
And wonder whether you are free.
Silently I urge you to speak
But you look away
I am bewitched but also meek
At what you might or might not say.
Quietly our fondness grew
Within the silence of our eyes
Imploring you to come to me
Until our gaze turn into sighs.
Too late now the moments have passed
Today has gone and tomorrow diminished
Somehow I knew it couldn’t last
Yet how will I know that it is finished?

A POEM BY MARY LEADBETTER