Sunday, 13 June 2010

Surbiton enters literature

At last: Surbiton (my current home town) appears in a real book, Autumn Journal by Louis MacNeice, 1939, stanza i. He’s on a train from Hampshire (‘where close-clipped yew / Insulates the lives of retired generals and admirals’) into London:

Surbiton, and a woman gets in, painted

With dyed hair but a ladder in her stocking and eyes

Patient beneath the calculated lashes,

Inured for ever to surprise;

And the train's rhythm becomes the ad nauseam repetition

Of every tired aubade and maudlin madrigal,

The faded airs of sexual attraction

Wandering like dead leaves along a warehouse wall:

'I loved my love with a platform ticket,

A jazz song,

A handbag, a pair of stockings of Paris Sand -

I loved her long.

I loved her between the lines and against the clock,

Not until death

But till life did us part I loved her with paper money

And with whisky on the breath.

I loved her with peacock's eyes and the wares of Carthage,

With glass and gloves and gold and a powder puff

With blasphemy, camaraderie, and bravado

And lots of other stuff.

I loved my love with the wings of angels

Dipped in henna, unearthly red,

With my office hours, with flowers and sirens,

With my budget, my latchkey, and my daily bread.'

And so to London and down the ever-moving Stairs

Where a warm wind blows the bodies of men together

And blows apart their complexes and cares.

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