How jolly it is still on Wembury beach
To see bright waters lit with sun,
And proud parents shine with glee,
Watching their noisy offsprings run,
And chased, splash with shrieks
Into the frothy, slippy sloppy sea.
Many were the timeless, childhood summers spent
At Sherford Road, from where on Sundays we went,
Packed in Uncle’s Alfred’s Ford Consul, two by two
And driven sedately down to the blue,
Blue remembered summer sea,
Phillipa, Andy, Peter and Me.
We drive past Wembury Post Office and local shop,
Where we stopped once, I remember
To buy a bottle of pop,
And I saw hanging there, three or four
Brightly coloured Beach Balls,
In a net beside the door.
And outside the shop, dangling from overhead brackets,
Cricket bats and tennis racquets
In many colours; made from plastic
And attached to a ball by a length of elastic.
Can I have an ice-lol, or a penny bar of choc?
Aunty Miriam says I must be careful;
I’ve only brought one frock.
Ahead the wavy ribbon lane uncoils,
Falling steeply, as Uncle’s car bounces bumpily down
The narrow lanes, with hedges, wild grown and Devon high
Stretching gnarled fingers towards a blue, blue summer sky;
Hiding, from our young eyes the sight
Of the moors on the left, or the sea on the right.
Not seeing perhaps, but knowing still, where we were soon to be,
Dancing excitedly on the rock-strewn sands,
Beside the frothy, slippy sloppy sea.
Down, down towards a sheltered half-moon bay,
Past the stone built lime washed cottages,
Now shuttered fast against the storms.
Down, down to little Wembury Church,
Shepherding the silhouetted forms
Of fishing boats on the beach below, which stand
Embedded in a ring of tidal sand.
Unsighted, upturned hulls point towards the sky;
A sand encrusted starry-gazey pie.
And always, the wretched anguished cry of the gulls
Swirling high above the fishing boat hulls.
High above the bay’s rocky shore
Where we look out and see once more
The Mewstone, bathed by a languid, sun speckled sea.
And below on the beach, children playing, just as we,
In the wet gritty rock strewn sand
Beside the frothy, slippy sloppy sea;
Phillipa, Andy, Peter and Me.
Poem Notes: -
‘How jolly it is’ are the opening words of this verse, and an old fashioned expression chosen deliberately to reflect an older way of life in the 1950’s, a time of simple childhood pleasures as then untouched and unsullied by the advent of today’s modern technology.
For those unfamiliar with England’s geography, the village of Wembury is near to Elburton, a suburb of Plymouth and very close to the south coast of Devon, and where my wife Carol spent many happy summers with her cousins at their house in Sherford Road. This poem is written for Carol and her cousins.
Revisiting recently, it is wonderfully reassuring to see that so little of the landscape has changed in this tiny corner of the world, and that the same simple pleasures exist for the children playing on the sands, and for their proud parents that ‘shine with glee’.
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