Monthly Archives: September 2018

Sea Cat

Sea Cat

My first weeks at college, I was most puzzled that

everyone seemed to talk about a “sea cat”.

 

Weathered by abuse of sea and sky;

accustomed to pain; patch over one eye.

Hissing, spitting, a tendency to maul;

one leg torn off by a cannonball.

Steeped in the climate of tropical zones;

sailing under the skull and crossbones.

His liking for grog, aka rum,

was infectious; all just part of the fun.

 

This was the image I had in my head;

where my foolish fancies had led.

A pirate’s cat; an old sea hand,

straight from the pages of “Treasure Island”.

 

Sea Cat gave me the best three years of my life,

and the single most surreal moment of my life:

when I was told I was likely to be

the only one, that year, to get a first-class degree.

(This prediction proved erroneous, ultimately;

only one person did get a first-class degree,

but a student with more brainpower than me,

who went on to lecture in Sociology.)

 

Being a slow northerner, from Barnsley,

twenty-six years old, just starting a degree;

it took weeks before it finally dawned on me,

weeks to come to terms with my stupidity.

How was it I completely failed to see

that “Sea Cat” was derived from “CCAT”:

Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology?

Regular followers of this blog will probably be aware of the fact that I have previously posted a number of autobiographical poems about my student days in Cambridge, 1976-79.  This is the latest in the series.  The college I attended has undergone many metamorphoses since I was there, and is currently known as Anglia Ruskin University. 

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The Follower

The Follower

Flashback in time: the eighteen-year-old me,

muddling my way through my teens, in Barnsley.

Walking home, after a night at The Fitz;

five pints of Bitter, greasy fish and chips.

 

Darkness, silence; when it gets this late,

no-one’s around, save the odd reprobate.

I settle into a comfortable pace;

fifteen minutes from home, and I’m in no race.

 

Or am I? For I begin to hear

footsteps behind me; distant, but clear.

They sound mechanised, almost robotic;

relentless, implacable, metronomic.

At first, I ignore them; they’re in no hurry;

it’s just one person, so no need to worry.

 

But they soon get louder, resonant, echoing;

and, as they approach, something rises within.

Not fear, exactly, more that I resent

the arrogance these footsteps represent;

the assumption this unknown person makes,

that he will, effortlessly, overtake.

 

Stubborn defiance bristles within me:

so that’s what he thinks, well, well, let’s just see!

I increase my pace; put my foot on the pedal,

like an athlete, aspiring to grasp a medal.

 

It has no impact; the footsteps plough on, robotic,

relentless, implacable, metronomic.

Teeth clenched, veins pumping, I put on a burst.

Let’s see what you’re made of; come on, do your worst!

 

Still no impact; the footsteps keep coming, robotic,

relentless, implacable, metronomic.

My blood-pressure peaking, my pulse-beat raging;

the footsteps behind me, in sync, never-changing.

 

This is now getting crazy, it just isn’t on;

whoever’s behind is an automaton.

No more fooling around, I’m going flat-out;

I’ll leave him for dead, in my wake, there’s no doubt.

 

Still no impact; the footsteps still there, robotic,

relentless, implacable, metronomic.

I now think, what I’m doing is inane;

there’s no way this person’s involved in my game.

It’s purely fictitious, all in my head;

if I slow down, he’ll walk straight past, nothing said.

 

My pace is now frenzied; I’m virtually running.

I see red mists; hear a high-pitched humming.

Still no impact; the footsteps rhythm robotic,

relentless, implacable, metronomic.

 

He’s now at my shoulder, has finally arrived.

I stagger, exhausted; more dead than alive.

He strides past; I feel a chill blast of air.

Is he man or machine? I am now beyond care.

 

A tall, lanky figure, clad all in black;

he surges away, then glances back.

Unmistakeably local, the blunt dialect;

the words he uttered I still recollect.

Teeth bared in a leer; a grinning death’s head.

“I thought I’d never get past thee!” he said.

Like the poem The Working Men’s Club, which appeared in this blog a few weeks ago, The Follower is another memory from my dim, distant youth, in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.  Although it seems a fairly ludicrous incident, it made an impact upon me at the time, and I’ve always intended to try to write a poem about it.

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