Where Are They Now?
They say that when we die we live
In the minds of those we’ve left behind,
And it’s true—my mind is full of folk I knew.
Here they are as odd as ever,
‘Round Again’ and ‘Fitty’ Eric,
Snowy Hall and Loony Lenny,
Hairy Old Twagger and little Miss Nellie.
Round Again was a German spy,
He pushed a little pram about.
From time to time, you’d hear him shout
“Round again, round again”
To let you know he was about
Collecting rags and tins for scrap.
Within the pram we children knew
A radio transmitter hid
Tuned to the German High Command.
And when Round Again was seen no more
We guessed he’d been arrested.
Just down the road in Pighill Lane
You’d see Old Twagger on his bike,
An ancient cove with whiskered face.
He turned the pedals oh so slowly
Moving at a measured pace.
Tied to the bike by a length of string,
His Old English Sheepdog padded beside him,
Slow, old, and hairy just like him.
The pair of them made a slow progression
Plodding along and all alone
While the world spun round on its axis.
Miss Nellie was the licensee
Of the old White Horse in Hengate.
She and her sister ruled within
As strict as Queen Victoria.
Miss Dorothy was tall and stately,
Her sister small and stooping.
Miss Nellie was quick like a little bird.
She wore black boots and often sniffed,
And her skirts came down to her ankles.
With his mother, Mrs. Taylor,
Poor ‘Fitty’ Eric lived. He was
Quite the fattest man I’d ever seen.
In World War Two such folk were few
And far between. He once had a fit
In Pighill Lane and lay across the road
Until some kind Samaritan came
And covered him with a tarpaulin.
By a passer-by he was mistaken
For a horse, deceased and awaiting
The collection cart of the knacker man.
Old Joey Brown down Manor Road
Kept donkeys, chickens, pigs and geese.
He was a former travelling man
But now he’d settled for a life of peace.
He drove about on a pony and cart
Followed by dogs, and children too
All begging to ride behind the pony.
Loony Lenny roamed the town,
Picking flowers from people’s gardens
To put in his lapel or funny hat.
Shopkeepers gave him lots of sweets—
For free, as long as he would leave the shop!
Sometimes he wore a sandwich board
That advertised the films to come
At the Marble Arch or Playhouse.
I don’t know what became of him
But I do recall his sunny smile.
On Hengate corner was Snowy Hall,
A former jockey who’d had a fall
Some time before and broken his back.
His shop had a curious window display:
In pride of place was a sparrowhawk
Carefully stuffed and in a glass case
With a label that named it a cuckoo.
Close by unpriced three volumes stood,
In letters gold their title read:
“The Horse in Sickness and in Health”.
And next to them a fading snap
Portrayed a local football team,
The players all, moustaches drooping,
Wore shorts that came below their knees.
“Where are they now? ” the label said.
Where are they now? —these long-gone folk
Who’d never seen a mobile phone
Or surfed the Web or watched TV?
Where are they now, these folk long dead?
I’ll tell you where! They’re in my head!