21 June 2005

Strangers in London

I scribbled this several months ago and some will already have seen it. I was inspired by the sights and sounds of a recent long day out in London. Always impressive yet still good to get home...

Pitch black lark calls, buttered toast with blackest coffee
Drying roads and pale blue skies call strangers to the smoke
Limo ditched at regal Kew and silver tube to town
Riding grey steel rails we are ticket-holding folk.

Vaulted halls hold timeless works of brush and oil
A nation’s treasures staring back with tired eyes
Guards of ancient age asleep by priceless charge
Room by giant room we mark them off, each prize.

Heavy surge of grey and green slides under famous bridge
Bobbing craft ply upstream against its mighty weight
Then turn and race the homeward leg with ease
Pavements mirror skies as dark as grey wet slate.

A pin-stripe holds his lunch in tiny carrier bags
Power-dressing blonde clicks by in tall black heels
White beard tinged with yellow smoke stares as
Rider swoops through red lights, locks his wheels.

Canary Wharf recalls the days of cutters hauling loads
Of ginger spice from islands never seen
No dockers carry barrels now but still the traders profit
Their wares remain unseen except on screen.

Isle of Dogs now glitters, a city of glass and steel
Half a million souls at work from fifty storeys high
Peering over Limehouse Reach or gazing over Greenwich
So far over London that I think a man could fly.

Eyes smarting from the wind, feet numb tired and sore
So Hampshire seems a better place to spend the evening hours
Say farewell to crowded roads and streets of shabby style
A shire boy has had enough today of spires and towers.

"London calling at the top of the dial,
After all this won't you give me a smile?"
The Clash - London Calling


JJ said...


doughgirl said...

I always love this one Pefect..Someday you will put the end on there right? or did I miss it already, the journey is not alone this I am sure of...

Luv ya

transience said...

the imagery is just so vivid. well done!

Kimberly said...


It gives the most imaginative picture in my mind :)

Perfect Virgo said...

JJ - glad you like it, thank you.

Doughirl - what comes next could be the subject of another poem. Theme - 'why I prefer the peace and calm of home to the hustle and bustle of the big city.' The ending is just me heading out of London back to the countryside where I live.

I think you could compare the whole thing with the 'Journey of Life' where we all prefer to retreat to the safety and comfort of familiar surroundings.

Transience - poetry is a tough medium, yes? Maybe I should try to be more cryptic, that way no one would know if I was making sense or not! It's a good exercise though, to try and force an image onto the page in as few words as possible.

Expect I'll try again before long.

Kimberly - I know you have visited the Midlands but I wonder if London has ever been on your itinerary? Like all big cities it's great in small-ish doses for me. I don't think I could live or work there. Not that the lifestyle would be entirely disagreeable, just I have never experienced it... I do return regularly for the music scene.

Kimberly said...

I have only been to the Gatwick airport in London, and through the tube and onto the train,thats it.

I have seen London through the glass in the car window as well, while my friends drove me north to their home. All I got to see is not much of anything, but whatever it is you see in most cities, well with the exception of double decker buses which you don't see anywhere else :-)

I'd rather go to where locals are....When I go anywhere I don't want to be among tonnes of tourists. Whats the point in going anywhere where there's a shit load of people like yourself? Wanting to snap pictures at every sight and sound when they could do this at home......

The way I see it, if you want to be around the people of England, then leave the city, coz all thats there are tourists...blech..:-)

Kimberly said...

And yes, I have been to the Midlands of England, the Peak District to be exact, it's the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life...Birmingham is ok, spent 2 days there....again, too many tourists, especially in the Palisades.

Derby, Sheffield and Staffordshire are my main places of visit and also Hereford over near Wales...It's where all my friends live :-)

Perfect Virgo said...

Kimberly - it's about a 2 hour drive when I go to London. I visit 3 or 4 times a year for rock concerts and spend the day with my camera.

Quite right, you need to get off the beaten track and seek out the real city. Forget the tourist attractions, you will only find tourists there...

Double deckers are a great way to see the landmarks in comfort and at virtually no cost.

You have certainly seen some of our very best rural beauty in the Midlands and the North. The Peak District is fantastic. Birmingham is not on my list of favourites I have to say. The Palisades is probably repeated in many other urban sprawls - we have something similar here in Southanpton.

The Flea said...

Marvellous piece Virgo.

The contrasts between corporate high-flyers and the dockers of old are great. Even the comparisons between the greedy traders who once supported so much of England to the modern equivalent who only seem to cut more jobs.

The strange thing with this piece is while you may not say things directly, it prompots the imagination into feelings of nostalgia, sadness and an eerie pleasure in days gone by. Almost like a morning of the "Great English Empire".

Or at least that's what it does for me.

Perfect Virgo said...

Flea - excellent comments! Thanks for reading so closely, I am always struck by the contrast between old and new when I visit the capital.

I love the Thames and its many bridges, they are constants across the generations. The workers are still trading the same commodities just using modern methods. I wonder what the dockers of 150 years ago would make of today...