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Poetry Pleases: Childhood

Early Fifties summer cricket in dirt back garden or lampost street...cars with running boards, doors opening backwwards... Mike Holding's poem presents a vivid portrait of a bygone Britain, with it snobbery and class-consciousness.

Scruffy ruffians gliding down the Hornsey hill
As a frightened toddler,
A three wheeled dodger,
Peddles hard from their pram-wheeled toil
Foot-steered round in pursuit of the kill.

Forties London; ration books and cod-liver oil.
Nose-bagged milk floats
Leave manured roads.
Shovels, sacks, to remove soft heat.
Emptied then on the city soil.

Early fifties summer cricket in dirt back garden or lampost street.
Cars with running boards,
Doors opening backwards,
Rarely compete with the hurrying pool
Of eager fielders keen to copy their idols’ feats.

Friends left behind in fifty-three. They’ve gone to a secondary modern school.
I passed the eleven plus
Without much fuss.
Managed to gain one of those grammar school places.
Safe from the bullies far away from the fools.

But both were still there in different guises.
Middle class morons,
Jumped up put ons.
How I hated their superior faces.
Alone and harried,
No insult parried,
I wouldn’t win any speech day prizes.
But my sons might get the last laugh on them still.


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