This morning I read a prompt from Oloriel at ‘We Drink Because We’re Poets’. It’s about remembering a place from your past and she said
‘This week I would like you to share with me a poem about a place – a place that was dear to you, but is no longer there. It can be a bar, a museum, a library, bookstore, your old school – anything. I invite you to tell me what changed, what got replaced and how did it make you feel. Form, length, rhyme, all is optional.’
Me, being me, read the prompt entirely wrong. Why I would read a prompt on a poetry blog and not catch on that I was supposed to write a poem I don’t now, but I’ve only just caught on. I’m posting anyway because the little memories were special for me.
Sparkling white art deco instead of grubby cream. Now the future homes of well-heeled, aspiring middle class, first time buyers. Curved windows that will forever be a problem to curtain well, high ceilings that will keep the fuel bills high. I used to peep through those windows to see who was sitting on the curved seats inside them, all the time wondering what it would be like to sit there. By the time I was old enough to sit there, it was the last place I wanted to sit, not trendy enough for me, filled with old men and Laners have a night in the posh one instead of the Flying Horse. Me, I preferred the club scene, even if a Babycham was twice the price.
I wonder what happened to Ross, Mr Whitaker. He always had a soft spot for me and watched me grow from a toddler to an eighteen year old, who thought she was sophisticated. In the beginning it was Spangles, Maltesers or if I got lucky a big bar of Dairy Milk. Crisps were Smiths, and the salt came in a little blue paper twist, that you had to reach to the bottom of the bag to find. It was never enough to make the whole packet salty! I loved the salted peanuts as well, until a connection was made between eating them, and waking up an hour after bedtime with vomit in my hair.
The entrance was on the side, in, turn left, no dawdling to see what was up the corridor – barrels, boxes and a pay phone and then a choice of two doors side by side. I was only allowed in the first, the second was for adults. It was years before I was tall enough to lean on the tiny counter to ask for my own sweeties or bottle of fizzy pop. At weekends it was rowdy and when I stopped being a little girl, I’d get yelled at by the blokes who could see me from the other side, the dark side.
Years later I learnt that Ross and his wife had moved back to London. I felt sorry for him, she was a miserable old boot. I rarely went that way and when I did it had deteriorated badly, windows and doors boarded up and generally going to wrack and ruin. Rumours were that it was going to be demolished. Then last year, I was stuck in traffic at the bottom of the road, craning my neck I saw the dazzling white paint. The St Loyes had been converted into apartments. I wonder if there is any trace of the art deco left inside. I wonder if the beery, cidery, smoky smell has ever left the pub and if the Off Licence is someone’s bedroom.
If you’d like to check out the prompt and use it properly, it’s here.