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Poetry Pleases: Time And Tide

May Johnson lived in Whitstable during the flood of 1953. She died in 1995. Her poem is presented by her relatives Ian and Jennifer Johnson as a memorial to a beloved aunt.

May Johnson lived in Whitstable during the flood of 1953. She died in 1995. Her poem is presented by her relatives Ian and Jennifer Johnson as a memorial to a beloved aunt.

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Time and Tide by May Johnson (1908 - 1995)

"How lovely to live by the seaside",
So often was this said to me;
A remark that is usual in summer
When zephyrs waft in from the sea.

How different the mood in the winter
When gales toss the sea like a bull,
'Til in fury it thrashes the seashore
As it did in my home - Whitstable.

0n my afternoon's walk by the seashore
White horses were prancing with glee
And as darkness came down like a curtain
My thoughts were of perils at sea.

With the wind growing stronger and fiercer,
Warm bed was a comforting thought,
Not for long was this comfort allowed me.
Shouts, and knocks on the door cut it short.

For a second, I could not believe it,
But persistent knocks shattered for me
All thoughts of a peaceful night's dreaming.
In my home there was peril of sea.

First of all there were just a few inches,
Two a.m. was high tide; that was soon.
But although this cruel tide was receding,
It swept through my home, room by room.

No time to move lino or carpets.
They were quite overwhelmed by the sea.
And as I glanced out of a window
A shiver of fear ran through me.

The morning revealed my Town flooded,
A pitiful, heartbreaking sight;
Shadowed eyes and pale cheeks of its people
Told stories of that tragic night.

The sea, no respecter of persons,
Had swept over cottage and store,
Flinging high all the flotsam and jetsam
As it rushed through the Town from the shore.

We were anxious for news of some others.
They were equally anxious, so we took a boat
and went sculling to seek them
Round the roads now engulfed by the sea.

Once again night came down like a curtain
At Whitstable down by the sea,
With the flood waters still in possession,
A friend that had turned enemy.

As to thousands of other "seasiders"
The night had brought tragedy near.
The dates I shall always remember
When my town was invaded by fear.

Ian Johnson


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