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London by Peter Steward

London 1960

Arriving at 10.30 a.m
Spewed forth from smoke into smoke,
The seemingly endless walk down Villiers Street
Gateway to a thousand hopes,
Death row of a thousand dreams.

The dirty station buffet
The lazy coloured cleaner
The images of the rich
Mingling with the realities of the poor

London in the sixties,
London of my youth,
London of a starry eyed eight year old.

Guest house rooms with wash basins.
Do I really have to eat the mushrooms?
Can we go to Trafalgar Square today
Or shall we leave it until tomorrow?

Battersea Pleasure Beach
A short boat trip across the Thames
A coke and a packet of crisps
At the end of a long and happy day.

Images of lovers embracing on a bridge,
My first images of death.
Death to an eight year old
Is sinister but so real

Dark balmy end of August nights
Which lead into tomorrow.
Can we go to Trafalgar Square today
Or shall we leave it until next year?

London 1990

Thirty years on
And I bring my own sons to the capital.
Villiers Street is being developed
And I still have indigestion from the congestion.

The station buffet is spotless
But characterless in its cleanliness.
There are no cleaners
They come out at night

Yesterday there was a bomb alert,
Today just suspicion and mistrust.
The images of the rich
Are destroyed by the realities of the poor.

London in the nineties
London of my children's youth
London of starry eyed eight year olds.

They eat the mushrooms without questioning
They still ask for Trafalgar Square,
I prefer the National Gallery.

Battersea Pleasure Beach has been destroyed,
A dream driven into the sea,
No big dipper, no water splash.

The lovers no longer embrace.
Now in their fifties
They sit and bicker
Saddened and made cynical by life and each other.

Light, balmy end of June nights
Cutting through the filth and squalor.
Can we go to Trafalgar Square today
It might not be there next year.

London 2020


Peter Steward 2000