Today's Weather for Cliftonville

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Margate 1940 (John Betjeman)

Found it! Rarely anthologised I think, but Betjeman in his element - concerned with small-town England, English society, English quirkiness and the seaside. At the same time he addresses the fear of the time; that all this was in jeopardy.


Sir John Betjeman

From out The Queen's Highcliffe for weeks at a stretch
I watched how the mower evaded the vetch,
So that over the putting-course rashes were seen
Of pink and of yellow among the burnt green.

How restful to putt, when the strains of a band
Announced a thé dansant was on at The Grand,
While over the privet, comminglingly clear,
I heard lesser Co-Optimists down by the pier.

How lightly municipal, meltingly tarr'd,
Were the walks through the lawns by the Queen's Promenade
As soft over Cliftonville languished the light
Down Harold Road, Norfolk Road, into the night.

Oh! then what a pleasure to see the ground floor
With tables for two laid as tables for four,
And bottles of sauce and Kia-Ora and squash
Awaiting their owners who'd gone up to wash -

Who had gone up to wash the ozone from their skins
The sand from their legs and the rock from their chins,
To prepare for an evening of dancing and cards
And forget the sea-breeze on the dry promenades.

From third floor and fourth floor the children looked down
Upon ribbons of light in the salt-scented town;
And drowning the trams roared the sound of the sea
As it washed in the shingle the scraps of their tea.

Beside The Queen's Highcliffe now rank grows the vetch,
Now dark is the terrace, a storm-battered stretch;
And I think, as the fairy-lit sights I recall,
It is those we are fighting for, foremost of all.

The Queen's Highcliffe Hotel and The Queen's Promenade in around 1918

1 comment:

The Comical Commuter said...

Thank you for Betjeman's Margate 1940. I visit Cliftonville with fondness.

Thank you also for highlighting it, when it lies in the shadow of Margate.

Anything on Frank Richards, the creator of Billy Bunter? As you might know, he lived in neighbouring Kingsgate.