The Pier, The Gulls and The Penny Falls
The Pier, The Gulls and The Penny Falls
It was a summer of warmth and sadness,
Where the sun beat in cloudless skies.
While the wind reminded you that cold
Was ever present.
The Pier, wave washed and witness to
Children's happy shouts and lovers whispered walks.
A constant presence, a promontory of memories,
Weather resistant still.
The wooden boards held gaps, where the waves
Spumed against the stanchions, in a rush to shore
And I walked as I did years before,
Ignoring the bells and whistles from the arcade.
A seagull eyed me from the chipped-blue railing.
Wary, but unflinching gaze. Enquiring.
Perhaps he remembered me and wondered
Where the others were.
When I stood as a boy, flushed with youthful
Enthusiasm, counting the waves breaking over
Pebbles and counting my meagre winnings.
Before losing them again; Pride comes before Penny Falls
A leisurely Sunday walk, a bag of chips, a hot doughnut.
The smells ignite in my memory, as does Grandad's heady
Aftershave and Nana's floral notes - Lily of the Valley.
Smells of a shy childhood, but happy all the same.
I reach the end of the pier, where the Roxy used to pump
Nightclub beats into the neon darkness. Nana and Grandad have gone. That music was not for them.
I look at my childhood before me - wood and brick and pebble and waves.
Now the tide has turned, pulling back to reveal sands
And decades passed. No longer the boy.
I'm pushing a wheelchair. The air is warm again,
Warm with new children's laughter.
We pause and watch the waves and the gulls.
I tell my daughters tales of youth, when this
Was my summer town and happiness pulsed in waves,
Lit by souvenir-sun and memento-moon.
Gifts of childhood holidays, carried in the heart.
I feel the weight of the wheelchair, hear it bounce over
The wooden boards. Hear the demands for chips and doughnuts from my other daughter as she runs and plays.
This time I don't ignore the arcade.
Amusement. There has not been much since
Milla left us. Life's tide lost to permanent ebb.
Low and exposed and wind beaten.
The Pier soaks up my sadness and sprinkles it with
Sea salt, preserving it for another day. I feel the fresh wind
Carrying sea-motes, spraying me with happiness.
Because happiness returns, tide borne.
I close my eyes and smell the arcades cloying aroma,
Body odour, anticipation and disappointment, tinged with
The happy smiles of those too young to understand
That life pushes you. Sometimes the pennies fall. And you still lose.
I remember Milla and Louisa smiling at the machines and one arm bandits, musical robbers. Feeding the Penny Falls and willing the coins to drop. 25 10p pieces fed for 5 in return. But such joy from such miniscule return.
I picture us, a family of four, Milla smiling at the
Gulls, drinking in the sea smells. Alive and present.
Louisa, hand held in mine, curious and questioning,
Determinedly chasing gulls and pigeons.
But now we are three. And for every set of waves that crash beneath this stoic Pier, the fourth one is missing.
We have returned and stroll on the pier. Now we are three.
But the gulls watch and I hear them caw.
'We remember you,' they say.
‘We remember that boy with his brother,
Father and mother, his Nana and Grandad.
We remember you.’
‘We remember that beautiful little girl.
Sitting in her wheelchair, absorbing the love of her family
And the warmth of summer.
We remember her.’
‘And now you are here again. And look, your daughter is
alone, but how grown up she is. Has it been so long?
You wonder if we still remember your little girl,
Your Nana and Grandad. We do! We do!’
‘They are flying with us, above the Pier,
Carried on wings of memory and bobbing
Between the waves. We remember them.
And we will remember you too.’
The Pier in Eastbourne holds many memories for me. From childhood holidays staying with my Nana and Grandad and my brother Stuart, to family visits with my wife Rini and daughters Louisa and Milla.
Bit now Milla, my Nana and Grandad are together in Heaven. But they fly with us still. I know, the gulls told me.