Hastings Station at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning…

Written back in the 1980s,
when I was a dedicated teacher of English to Foreigners,
and loved my students, I surprised myself one day
to realise that I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by too many
on an early morning train to London…

Hastings Station at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning.

The newly-refurbished in flame-coloured plastic
Electronically  motorised doors glide aside
On a languorous blond-headed swarm of blue denim
Strewn on all surfaces:
– surrogate sofas in
Saccharine sugar-free tangerine Perspex
Ergonomically ordered
To cling to your body and stick to your thighs;
Round the concrete containers new-crowded with cyclamen,
Trailing lobelia and silver-tongued ferns;
The Florentine flooring in marble-chip marquetry
Scorch-marked and littered and grimy with ash;
Squatting on shoulder-bags, sprouting from window-sills,
Vibrant with chatter and frenzied with youth…

No wonder the down-at-heel sullen-eyed residents
Eye them with phobia:
They’re living, they’re breathing, they’re Taking Up Room,
They talk to each other, they talk in loud voices,
They talk all at once and they talk all the time!
They laugh and they shout in peculiar languages,
They haven’t yet learnt to be silent as stone.

Behind their glass shields the unblinking attendants
Unbothered, unheeding, impervious to Time
With the slow-burning rage of low job-satisfaction
Perform their dull dance at the ticket machine,

While one mild-mannered, gentle, campaigning idealist
Relieved to observe no more queue at the window
And two or three minutes to reach platform four,
Despite all her well-meaning warmth towards foreigners
Admits to a guilty: ‘Please, not on my train…’

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