Spitfires, Swifts and Scimitars


My father worked at Vickers Armstrong.
Cycled each day, Beech Avenue to South Marston.
3 miles, taking 18 minutes.
Bottle green Raleigh, Sturmey Archer three speed,
Dynamo for lighting, rubbing on the tyre.


On pay day he brought home sweets,
Hidden in his pocket.
We pulled chairs to the window,
Waiting the weekly treat.
Spangles, Fruit polos or Refreshers.


Sometimes he went to Boscombe Down,
Dressed in his best sports coat and flannels.
Trials of the Supermarine Swift.
Blueprints of circuit diagrams
Spread in front of the fire, tracing faults.


Christmas time Sports & Social club treats.
A trip to see an Ice Show.
Blue badge with a white V.
Showing that we caught the train
Headed by an engine with a similarly badged headboard.


Perched high in the stadium
Watching minute figures whirl and dance
Didn’t capture my 9-year-old imagination.
I favoured a working-class Alf Tupper hero.
But things looked up on the homeward journey.


A wait on a London station.
In the dark I saw my first Southern Region loco.
An alien shape, more dinosaur than engine.
Clanking, menacingly through the dark.
An Ugly Duckling Frankenstein.


We had tea on the way home.
Tea! Tea on a train!
White tablecloths,
More plates than I knew how to use,
A steward to pour the tea.


Abandoning Alf Tupper I became posh.
Previous railway eating had been
Soggy tomato sandwiches and crumbly cream-crackers,
Conjured from my mother’s bag.
Leaving a trail on Brading station
No longer best kept station of the year.


Christmas time Sports & Social club treats.
A Christmas party.
Dad adding a year to my age
To get a better present.
Going solo for the first time.


Dad was a foreman, a position to uphold.
He warned me to mind my Ps and Qs.
Not knowing what this meant,
I sat still whilst being terrified by a clown.
Didn’t like the balloons much either.


Later turning this to advantage.
Answering pub quizzes.
Clowns - “Coulrophobia”, balloons - “Globophobia”.
The fear of not minding Ps and Qs?


Afraid of letting my father down
I sat silently discovering Orthophobia.
Ordeal over, picking me up he asked,
“Has he been any trouble?”
(Dad set the bar low for me).

“Hasn’t said a word. We thought there was something a matter with him.”

There was. I had Orthophobia.