This is a popular performance piece here in Hull as it details raw memories for the people of this much despised and derided city. It is in my book and has been revised following the first edition.
A rainy night heading home merry
From Nellie’s, Beverley
Back to Kingston upon Hull
Tramping Long Lane
Singing, “Pack up your Troubles”,
I did not have a care in the world.
Though I walked alone,
A jaunty choir behind a hedgerow
Joined me singing the chorus,
“…And smile, smile, smile.”
Broken by aircraft droning
And a baby mewling
Suckling at its mother’s breast
Discreet beneath a shawl
In the shelter of tall branches.
“Rock-a-bye baby on a tree top.”
She wore a brooch and a familiar locket.
Cherished family heirlooms.
I have them in a drawer, tissue-wrapped,
And a scrapbook with photographs,
Yellowing now, of her and Dad.
She kissed the baby’s head, whispering,
“No cradle will fall on you tonight,
Bonny bairn… sleep tight.”
Looking back anxiously
Towards her home in a
‘North East Coast Town’
Not deemed worthy of a name,
She stared through me.
That woman, she was my mother,
Her remains were picked from the rubble
Of our Hessle Road terrace sham four.
A ghost voice calls into the night,
“The bastids are braying Paull to buggery!”
And grim cheering and clapping
Attended the bombing and flattening
Of the dummy town,
Built and rebuilt and rebuilt again
Of tea chests, bike lamps,
Canvas and straw
To fool the Luftwaffe,
Protect the industry,
And, save the lives of some people of Hull.
Amid nighttime coughs and children whining
A chipper pair piped, “Kiss me goodnight, Sergeant Major,”
Till shut up by grunters’ cursing.
At day break
From hedgerow shelters,
And dry ditch hideaways
Ghostly chattels were gathered
For the sombre walk home – if ‘home’ remained,
In Wincolmlee, Stepney Lane or Boulevard.
And I joined the serried straggle of ghosts
With shawls about their shoulders and babes in arms
Humming, “I’m tired and I want to go to bed.”
Tramping green lanes, past farms,
Home to that ‘North East Coast Town’
Not considered worthy of a name.