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Dave Griffin


In Eastbourne, in winter,
Pinched ladies hum under their breath
In charity shops
That smell of ironing boards and musty suits,
Belonging to men recently buried.
The promenade, set with magnolia-washed hotels,
Is too cold, dear, for an afternoon stroll,
But carers pushing wheelchairs, three abreast,
Heavy with their silent, sullen,
Ungrateful charges,
From the Autumn Leaves nursing home,
Cheerfully defy the east wind,
And look for: 'Somewhere That's Open -
Where we can get a cup of tea'.

Eastbourne in winter.
It's grand buildings stand as rigid,
As bustled great-aunts at an Edwardian wedding.
The town awaits springtime church-outing coachloads,
Who will fill the Nelson tea-rooms,
And elegant graffiti-free sea front shelters,
With nattering Methodist wives.
They are of a fellowship.
They know about net curtains, pleats and hat pins,
And remember the war.

On Wednesdays, the Eastbourne Rotary Club meets,
And there is a matinee of Arsenic and Old Lace,
At the Pier Theatre,
As well as a coffee afternoon at St. Peter's.
All are welcome, invites the fluorescent,
Happing notice outside.

Eastbourne in winter,
A town where men wear ties on their day off,
Adding a V-necked pullover in retirement.
The warm library reading room is full.
Walking sticks hang over the backs of chairs.
A pensioner with a magnifying glass,
Studies tonight's Hackney form,
And another pours tea, surreptitiously,
From an ancient Thermos.
She offers a sip to her friend, who declines,
With a disapproving shake of her head,
And ponders how much it would cost
To heat the flat all day in this weather

The floral clock is being dressed for summer.
Its hands painted by young men,
In an old folks' town.
The wrought iron street lamps,
Thickened with another coat of corporation gloss,
And inside peeling terraces,
Old men polish their medals,
And press their trousers,
For tonight's reunion at the grand Hotel.
They will observe a minute's silence,
To their fallen comrades.
Each year they are fewer in number,
In Eastbourne, in winter,
The saviours of the world drive Invacars.
Instead of tanks.