Southend Victoria/Southend Central :: The Next Station is…

A lot of the borough is built around stations: it’s a reasonable rarity that you get two (different) main lines running through the same town, but that’s how special we are. There’s a reason: one’s always been overground and the other, amazingly, was an Underground line. Now they both run into the centre of town, covering locations both north and south of the town’s main roads.

Basically, we’re a transportation smorgasbord. Whichever way you come from London, you’ll end up falling onto the High Street eventually. Watch out for the buskers under the bridges, and don’t feed the seagulls. Seriously, you’re just asking for trouble…

Southend Victoria :: taken June 18th 2019
Exits!

The Next Station is…

Next station, end of the line.

Button, bias backed, done up a treat
both ways to get here; worlds away
from London Town, their great escape.
Next station’s holiday, lie low
Sweeney chasing bad ‘uns here
Eastenders noshing, Jamie’s shack.
Beware, our seagulls do attack.

Grey shift, house shrink, blurred way
transport lives that could be yours:
stay well within their lines, escape.
White fed morsels freed on rails,
weekend tails, dancing to own songs
in time with poles: Karl, he knows.
Rhythm of travel, unopposed.

Two ways to meet an end, aligned
step towards lads’ weekend, planned
ice-creamed doughnut slots, escape.
Destination’s golden, miles
accountable no longer, smile: don’t care
now Friday’s here, direction’s clear.
Southend’s mine; another beer.

Next station, start fresh; good time.

Leigh Broadway :: Worst Place in the World

This road… ah, this space. This is the happiest place to live in the country, according to an estate agent, who is presumably coining it in around these parts looking at current property prices. Once upon a time, there was a lot more grit and grime up the Broadway, but now the landscape is populated by bars, restaurants and designer outlets. There’s one of the first packaging-free food outlets in the county though, so it’s not all bad.

Leigh is a metaphor for a lot of things, contradiction when set against the poorest parts of the borough, of which there are many. You can pretend your aspirational, Instagram-coloured world is the only thing that matters, but it’s a lie, especially when it will only need sea levels to rise a few meters and all of this is effectively underwater. Do shoppers consider the planet when they’re buying an artisanal ice cream?

Leigh Broadway : taken May 13th, 2019
The Grill Survives…

I like my backdrops authentic and not whitewashed…


Worst Place in the World

8.49am; sanitising cashpoints, wiping chairs:
that hardware store sells fashion now, restaurants
dividing rapidly reducing local colour, fading fast;
designer hipster tropes absorb tradition, hopes and dreams
ancient, eats modern, discomfort juxtaposing…
I do not now belong here any more.

11.45am looks far more comfortable, relaxed
fluffy mules and paper bags, wrapped up
against Estuary’s unrelenting breeze, despite
bright sunshine, road is always cold, reserved
waiting timed in strict two hour bursts;
move on, that welcome’s long outstayed.

3.45pm reminds, hey, place is aspiration
they’ve never tried to park here, for a start:
there’s only so much boutique, artisanal devotion
its possible to cram into one boom before it busts…
God bless charity outlets, superb Kebab Shop;
Mr Simms Emporium, best place in the world.

Then sun goes down, shakes history’s reminder
happiness is more than just your stuff, however
eco-friendly in production, world’s answer’s not
accumulating wealth; before our time runs out
stop, recall what brought us all to here: highlighting
worst place in the world, consumption without thought.

Southend University Hospital :: Triage

University Hospital : taken 22nd June, 2019
A&E on a Saturday…

Nobody wants to go to Hospital, let’s be honest, but I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the last few years at the A&E: both kids have been diagnosed with allergies, I needed scans for gallbladder surgery… and there’s been the odd unscheduled trip either late night or early morning. Both kids were also born here: one by emergency C-Section, one traditionally. Oh, and there’s been a stay here for me when they thought I had TB, which turned out to be pneumonia…

I’m a massive fan of the NHS. Don’t knock your health services, they deserve nothing less than your 100% support. Also, think about giving blood. It’s an hour of your life, every 10-12 weeks depending on your sex, and you potentially save three lives in the process. The Blood and Donation Service is always on the lookout for donors, especially those from ethnic backgrounds. Go on, do a great thing today.

University Hospital : taken 22nd June, 2019
The Maternity Ward’s on the other side…

Needless to say, this was always going to be a stop on my journey.


Triage

Twice, I came here
bled for humanity
lower body scarred:
casualty of mind
not ever ready;
motherhood wounds.

Once, scanned item
unexpected stones
in organ area:
emergency triage
one month later;
private checkout.

Always, parking
worse than injury
walk instead:
stand in line
number’s up;
ring that bell.

Never, dull moment
grateful service
blood, donated:
keep on healing
teaching, learning
free for all.

 

 

Garon Park :: Going Left

This area (including a ground used by Essex County Cricket Club and a large municipal sports ground and swimming pool) are named after the Garon family of Southend who were major retailers in the town for several generations: Norman Garon donated the land to the town in 1885. The Garons opened a chain of shops, cinemas and banqueting suites at a time when rail travel to the town had started to bring in tourists from London. One member of the family, Percy Garon, was decorated for his efforts in World War 1 and awarded the George Medal during World War 2 for fighting fires across Essex. He became chairman of Southend Lifeboat Service and is remembered today by one of the services main boats being named after him.

From Wikipedia

Garon Park : taken 22nd June, 2019
This clock is wrong…

I don’t play golf, but my husband does, plus many of his mates across the years have enjoyed a round (and presumably still do.) That means we came here in 1994 when the course opened, and have returned ever since. This location is included here as the event described in my piece was possibly one of the most significant personal revelations I’d had in my twenties.

It’s amazing where this stuff hits you, on reflection.


Going Left

On the ninth tee: rain,
driving wind, poor form
inconspicuous
ultimate indignity:
stung in October
angry wasp, fairway
disturbance contrives;
only excitement
on an Estuary birthday.

This relationship,
going left, out of bounds
eventually lost to
irreconcilable drives;
emotional irons
sand stuck shots:
cliché appropriate
sporting metaphor
face it: you failed.

On the fairway: all
once forgotten, back
nine times equality
equals cards, unmarked
pristine grass, then
it all makes sense:
problem, not yours
ignorance mine:
finish this game.

Belfairs Woods :: In Loving Memory

This poem vanished for a few days, and then inexplicably reappeared, as if it had been off to take a quick wander around the woods. Belfairs is a glorious place, whatever the time of year: site of many a post-Christmas dinner walk, takeaway from the restaurant or a sneaky wood fired pizza from the van which parks outside a few times a week. Honestly, it’s the centre of so many things.

It’s also a reminder of how we celebrate lives: whether it be our new World War One soldier, permanent reminder of how lucky we all are to be here or the benches scattered across the site. Take a moment to consider how much has changed, then go nip to the lovely new Woodland Centre for a sit down and a natter. They hold dog shows there too, you know, gonna do outdoor theatre this year too. It’s all happening here.

Belfairs Woods : taken 13th May, 2019
Remembered…

In Loving Memory

 

Here lies a life, recalled
brass plaque synopsis cast, slow cooled
first placed within
the bench that views
last tee;
one history.

Loving memory, forever held
regarding vistas solace, grants
insight of others’ loves:
sight named
last resting spot;
never forgot.

Lest we observe, others left
conspicuous remains, rain
waters dead bouquets,
tongue tied days
last chance;
futures advance.

Do not remember me
as bench memorial, instead
hold tight our memories:
wood knots fail
joy’s hope;
never mope.

SHSG & WHSB :: Hatches, Matches and Dispatches

Right, first off let’s de-mystify the acronyms: Southend High School for Girls, Westcliff High School for Boys. Two grammar schools that score highly in national league tables, which both of my kids managed to enter on merit. As one of them remains in secondary education, this is not the place for a discussion of that concept. Once that situation changes, I suspect there will be a remarkable amount to say.

SHSG : taken 22nd May, 2019
A bridge to learning…

For now, I’m going to let this poem do the talking for me.


Hatches, Matches and Dispatches

To proud parents, delivered
years worry, postcode lottery’s
unlucky numbers. Our best start,
should we move six feet left
vain hope grass will perk up;
bettering other kid’s chances
two leg fixture, undecided.

To lucky parents, announced
attainment average enough
three years coaching congratulates…
Best school, their right, polled
choice, bright future steeped with
budget cuts, begging letters
discretionary donations.

To distraught parents, despair
education, ultimately fails:
same mistakes made. Skin
scarred, alcohol; teaching
relevance will not reform
only enlightenment, grasping
future, theirs to change.

 

Thorpe Hall Avenue :: Sine Nobilitate

Thorpe Bay : taken 21st May, 2019
Join our Club, membership restrictions apply.

There are many desirable areas in the Borough: however, Thorpe Bay’s always been slightly exclusive, for as long as I can remember. Sure, I could point at particular roads in town, or postcodes that add value to your property, but this is where it’s so quiet during the week you just know that you’re in the presence of significant amounts of wealth. 

There’s no cinema, or theatre, or anything really cultural. It’s all clubs, all the time. The first road signs on the Avenue strictly prohibit coaches and commercial vehicles parking: it’s almost as if they don’t want the riff-raff about, in case we start making the place look scruffy. I can understand that. I know my place, guv’nor.

Yes, I really did fail my driving test here the first time. I passed on the second try.


Sine Nobilitate

Sent down the posh end,
I failed first driving test:
couldn’t stop when asked,
embarrassed self instead.
Inhabitants have no need to
write Land R on shoes,
they’ll have employed a driver
sensible thing to do.
Empty weekday entrances;
thousand gravel variants
revolving door of services
from gardening to pools.
Yet no-one here enjoying
weekday Estuary sunshine
the money’s up in London,
trophy homes will wait.
Occasionally someone’s
driving past the Golf Course
normally with top down
no matter if it rains.
Sent down the ghost road
memories of silence
nobility conspicuously
absent, somewhere else.
The signs tell you no stopping
we don’t want your kind here
yet nobody exists right now
except these birds and me.

Adventure Island :: In Search of Peter Pan

When you come to the Seafront, and slots won’t do, there’s always Adventure Island. It is the modern update of what used to be Peter Pan’s Playground, a far more pedestrian version of what is now quite a high-octane experience. As I was doing the photography for this part of the journey, the site was shut and the new Axis ride was being installed. As the summer goes on, I’ll go back and take some new pictures.

For now, here is the place the kids still love to visit when given the opportunity, and this poem’s for them, plus legions of long-suffering parents who get dragged into the experience. Down here for their entertainment, sometimes the constant adrenaline and sugar rush can be too much for the most hardy of souls…

Adventure Island : taken May 15th, 2019
Is there anything he can’t do?

In Search of Peter Pan


Are you tired, child?

Yes, but one more dodgem ride, thirty-six times down the slide
this sugar overdose won’t cure itself:
to spin in teacups ‘til we hurl, colour vomit rainbow hues
doubled up, concession; stands.

Are you having fun, child?

No, but let me sulk, soaked thirteen times in log-flume spray
my brother is a total nerd, a million tickets for that plushy bird:
instead let’s scream on everything, including
bench that hasn’t moved since row began.

Shall we go home, child?

Can I stay mum, adventure’s far more fun, Peter Pan
understands; growing up’s your deal, mug’s game:
let wristband work for currency, intent clear
we’re never ever EVER leaving here…

Southchurch Road :: Add Astra

This part of town was my first home as an adult, after college. My husband had secured a graduate placement at a bank in Southend proper, and we needed somewhere that wasn’t living with my parents. That house was almost an end of terrace railway cottage, third bedroom only recently made into a bathroom, still with the space for an outside toilet. It was decorated by college mates over several years.

Southchurch is typical I suspect of many places: an accurate barometer of how life changes for ordinary people, day to day. It’s seen the rapid rise of the ‘flats on top, business below’ housing expansion that is prevalent around the rest of the Borough. It still has more churches per square mile than anywhere else: you fall over these places, incongruous but always welcoming, inviting.

Southchurch Road : taken May 21st, 2019
Find Salvation

This place will always be fondly remembered, and often revisited. For the record, the Red Astra that inspired this piece was finally written off after a six car pile up on the A127, that all happened behind me. The insurance payout was enough to purchase a new laptop. It’s amazing how you remember these things…


Add Astra

Chase dreams, young woman, knocking down
earmarked landmarks, development’s
opportunity stocks, bond guilt-edged future last:
your plot, begins.

Reach for the starts, add red Astra, daily knocks
to and from old line’s arse end,
into grief then back again, reminded almost daily;
your world, screwed up.

Wasted days, warm weather fronts, instead
enlightenment erupts through Blockbuster,
late Sainsburys, rental meals bind Devil’s deals:
a plot can change.

Existence, single road, marked ends, all life
stacked flat-packed in-between, billion crosses
each square mile, churches open doors, then smile;
now help yourself.

That day, annoyed with everything, both
drove away to somewhere else, space race,
face relocated west, where life remains, retained;
their plot, advanced.