The sharper-eyed amongst you may recognise the picture attached to this month’s poem. It’s the cover picture [by the enormously talented Jacky Fleming] from my latest collection, and it’s here so you can imagine the scene from earlier this year when we climbed down to this very bench and found an old lady, on her own, playing a concertina as if to the waves. She was in ‘my’ seat but it was clearly ‘hers’ too. Something about the glorious strangeness of the encounter caught me, and this poem is the result.


I heard its wheezy leather lung, the jig

It played as I took the steps carefully,

Knees stiff with early morning and old age,

To reach the little bay, the navy sea.

An old woman sat and her fingers flew,

Like knitting a ganzie with cunning hand.

She played her squeeze-box shanties, made them new

The busy sea waiting at her command.

For we were the only human creatures there,

And again, how swiftly those fingers played.

When she turned and talked, we began to share

Our city tales, the seaside lives we’ve made.

I hear still if the tide runs high and strong

Thin echoes of her concertina song.

Listen to the audio here -

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