Ramblings of a Displaced Cockney April 2019 


as published by St Andrew's Church in the Gorleston Community Magazine


The Joy of Learning Poems

When you get to a certain age you start to worry about your memory not being what it once was. For me it tends to be names of people and things, which elude me from time to time and then, after thinking about something else, they surface spontaneously from some dark recess of my brain
A comedian at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe got this off to a T. His story went like this: “At my age I seem to be forever forgetting names. So I went to my doctor and he said that in fact it’s a well-known medical condition. Apparently it’s called . . . um . . . . . . it’s called . . . um . . . . . .“
The other characteristic of a certain age is going upstairs or into the garage to fetch something and then, when you are there, you have no idea at all what you had gone for, so frustrating! So you go back to where you came from and look in vain for clues about what you were after
Anyway, to try to stave off the worst effects of this syndrome, I have been learning some poems off-by-heart. These cover a wide range from my life and interests, from Andrew Marvell, Shakespearean sonnets and Elizabeth Barrett Browning through to Liverpool Beat poet Adrian Henri and my all-time favourite, Jim Burns, the down-to-earth poet from Preston. It’s quite therapeutic in quiet moments to recite out loud to oneself some cherished poetic memory
The interesting thing about this is that I was at a fun quiz night at the King William IV in Gorleston with friends and I asked the English teacher for some more suggestions of poems. This immediately set my friend Andrew off into an extended run through all of the heroic poems that he had learnt at school in Yarmouth, many years ago. There they all were, tumbling out as if he had just memorised them!
I was stunned by this, as the concept of learning poems by heart seemed to have completely bypassed my school days in London. What a shame it is that this skill, which I am now struggling to learn, was not shared with me in those far off days. I wonder if today’s schoolchildren get the opportunity that was denied to me