I’m posting this one to demonstrate that Wendy Cope can sometimes write a serious poem. I like the sound of Yalding – the name (together with the poem) suggests rural idyll, pre-war end-of-the-age-of-innocence and all that. I also have a familial interest as my aunt Mary came from there. Once, a few years ago, the Guardian “profiled” East Farleigh in a similar vein. So a year or two ago I took a train from Paddock Wood to Strood to see what these places were like – but all I could see was a huge factory …

On Finding an Old Photograph
 
Yalding, 1912. My father
in an apple orchard, sunlight
patching his stylish bags;
 
three women dressed in soft,
white blouses, skirts that brush the grass;
a child with curly hair.
 
If they were strangers
it would calm me – half-drugged
by the atmosphere – but it does more –
 
eases a burden
made of all his sadness
and the things I didn’t give him.

There he is, happy, and I am unborn.
 
Wendy Cope (from Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, 1986)

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