Where I am from
I am from crammed bookshelves,
from Ready Brek, Marmite and Club biscuits.
I am from the warm, ham-stone manor house on a hill,
transformed into a school,
the sound of a hundred pairs of feet in long corridors,
in the holidays just my own echoing quietly,
from climbing over the roofs and carving my name in the lead,
and deep yew hedges to hide in with a book.
I am from the beech woods dropping golden, coppery coins in autumn,
gleaming new conkers, blackberries and sweet chestnuts,
from the snowdrops and primroses heralding spring,
from blossom and daffodils, buttercups and daisies.
I am from blazing log fires and huge Christmas trees in the hall,
Mullens, Hoares, Freres and Wachers gathered together,
the carol concert from King’s College, Cambridge resonating along corridors,
from treasure hunts and the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
I am from the car packed up and ready to go half an hour early for holidays,
from reading maps and planning routes, avoiding crowds and busy roads.
From simmer down, there’ll be tears before bedtime
and switch the light on to read by or you’ll strain your eyes.
I am from an old Norman church every Sunday,
grassy graveyard with ancient tombstones and a massive yew tree.
I'm from Somerset, roast beef and crispy roast potatoes,
trifle, apple crumble and apricot ambrosia,
from weighing out ingredients for baking
on huge old-fashioned balance scales
and scooping flour from an enormous bin,
from an old bunch of housekeepers keys to unlock the larders,
the irresistible, illicit taste of dried fruit mix purloined.
I am from Flanders and Swann, Gilbert and Sullivan
and classical music on the gramophone to send us to sleep.
From the one grandmother awe inspiring,
creating perfect English country gardens,
other Grandpa playing pontoon with us,
mischievously betting four shells or none,
and Granny shopping in a Morris Minor,
spoiling us with home-made ice-cream and Golden Nuggets.
I am from family photo albums
and boxes of pre-war slides of holidays driving around France,
studio portraits posed and retouched,
standing framed on the chest of drawers,
a reminder that all these ancestors
were young once too.