Thursday, 2 February 2012

London Wall



I was sat on a bench outside Tower Hill tube station yesterday afternoon admiring the London Wall while sipping out of my flask and trying to get inspired to write something new. Occasionally I looked sideways towards the Tower of London. But it was only occasionally.
          I’m not sure how long I had been sat there – not long enough for me to have written one word: that was a fact – when I was approached by a bearded drunk. He had grabbed my attention by shouting. At me. As he stumbled closer I chanced another look and witnessed a scorched face of pain. He was still growling as he grew ever nearer.
          This person was no bigger in build than me so I felt no immediate threat. All the same, I didn’t know whether to bury my head into my note pad and pretend to be writing something new or to stand and face him with small clenched fists.
          He stopped some ten feet way and surprised me.
          “I thought it was you,” he said. “You’re Joe England.”
          Eventually I nodded.
          “You wrote a poem in your book Millwall Away On Valentine’s Day claiming that the Nine Mile Ride in Berkshire was road-planned and constructed by the Romans.”
          I nodded again and then said this:
          “You must mean my popular poem, Colosseum.”
          The sun must have then shone directly into his eyes: he screwed his face into a ball.
          “Yeah, that’s the one I’m referring to,” he said, still squinting. “Well let me tell you something. You fucked up there son didn’t you. I have family who live out that way. And I have spoken to them and they confirmed this: that that particular road is not Roman but absolutely British. It was built during the time of King George III. And it isn’t as you also stated, nine miles long. It’s a mile or two shorter. So take a small tip so called writer. Check your fucking facts before trying to pass yourself off as an artist.”
          I thought about this for a moment and then responded.         
          “I guess I must have gotten confused with a stretch of Roman Road commonly referred to as The Devil’s Highway that runs from the old Roman town at Silchester all the way east into London and passes on route into the heart of Crowthorne, which is pretty close to the Nine Mile Ride.”
          “You must mean the Roman Road from Calleva to Londinium?”
          Before I could agree we both became aware that the scene had attracted a small crowd of onlookers; no doubt coming out of the tube station and on route to the Tower. Feeling all smug with himself the man bowed to the crowd and then left me. I watched him stagger the few feet towards the London Wall where he soon began urinating up against it.
          I went home while he was mid-piss and when I got in I polished up on some research and revised my poem, Colosseum. The original and new amended fact-checked versions appear here:


Colosseum (original version)

Went to Rome recently
wandered up and down
and wondered about 
the Roman road planners
who wrote the plan
to construct such a
long straight road
in Berkshire

The Nine Mile Ride
is nine miles long
in Rome though
found impatient motorists
in frustrated roadways
hating everything
about being
on the road
so many miles less that nine

At the colosseum
made me think how
I wanted to see them
drive into this arena
in front of us all

Beep yourselves to death
we would cheer
fucking demand
then get the lions
to feed on half-dead motorists
impaled on wiper blades

Colosseum (2012 version)

Went to Rome recently
wandered up and down
and wondered if it
was the Romans
who wrote the plan
to construct such a
long straight road
in Berkshire

The Nine Mile Ride
is not nine miles long
and not to be confused
with The Devils Highway
which is part of
the Roman Road
that runs from Calleva
to Londinium

In Rome though
found impatient motorists
in frustrated roadways
hating everything
about being
on the road
so many miles less that nine

At the colosseum
made me think how
I wanted to see them
drive into this arena
in front of us all
 
Beep yourselves to death
we would cheer
fucking demand
then get the lions
to feed on half-dead motorists
impaled on wiper blades

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