Proper porlocked, that’s what I am

Friday November 26, 2004

Up and at ’em early today, to take a parcel of eBay sales to a buyer who seemed local enough for me to enjoy a spell as delivery man. Not a wise thought, and I’ll not do this again.

The first sign that all might not be well with my venture was when I encountered a ‘road closed’ sign just the other side of Alford, between me and my destination. A diversion was signed but even so my heart sank, because what little I know of the roads over there led me to think this was going to be a long diversion.

It was. Very long. After a while I found myself driving along the sea road somewhere between Maplethorpe and Sutton-on-Sea. It’s a pleasant drive normally, winding through good old traditional small British seaside towns, and I enjoy the sight, sound and smell of closed holiday attractions, all dark and subdued, with only the sound of hoardings flapping in the wind to liven the scene. And, normally, I’d pull over, get out of the car and walk the short distance to the shoreline, to take the air and hold my face up to wide-open skies.

Not today, though. I was running short on time, and needed to get to my destination.

Then, when I got there, there was no-one home. It transpired later in the day that my email hadn’t reached the buyer. I didn’t know that at the time, though, and, momentarily, I felt jaundiced and let down. I stood, indecisive in the damp air. What to do? A beautiful black cat regarded me from a window, its fathomless green eyes indifferent to my plight. A medium-sized dog leapt at inside the glazed door, informing me, loudly, that any kind of entry would be most ill-advised. I tried the buyer’s mobile phone. Voice mail.

Oh well, I thought, I’ll do it the country way. So I walked round the side of the house, through a ‘please close me’ gate, and left the package by the back door. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel wrong. Just uncomfortable.

Driving home, the rain set in. I passed along the sea road once more, but this time it didn’t register. A melancholic feeling of irritation had settled over me, lowering my spirits more than somewhat.

Later in the day I had a confirmatory email saying the goods had been received safely, and with much appreciation, and that helped.

Altogether, foolishly, I allowed it to become a burdensome morning, and I didn’t really recover until after a carbohydrate binge for lunch and a long, long afternoon nap. Then I settled down to write a poem about it all. That way, so I feel, I recovered something from the day that is worth having:


The way to Withern
On the way to Withern
there was no time to stop,
     pay my respects to the sea
     savour the wave-washed air.
Returning, unhappy, porlocked,
feeling time lost and wasted,
     I passed along the sea road
     not thinking of the sea.
Out across the surf, free,
an albatross may have flown.
     A good thought, though my burden
     was too heavy for me to think it.
John Bailey
November 2004, Lincolnshire


Turning my thoughts back to Boston, with its tiny, intriguingly-named alleyways and narrow back streets, I came to realise that it’s not likely I shall have time to research the history behind the names or even much of the half-buried walkways themselves before we move home. It doesn’t matter too much to me—I rejoice in the cast adrift feeling of mystery in the vast areas of my unknowns—but I do hope that someone will research and document these things before they disappear entirely. If they haven’t done so already.

I don’t feel too sad about it for myself. I have the prospect of diving once more into the back streets and alleyways of inner London to sustain me. Not so much London Below as London Off-to-the-Side. Ye gods and burned buns but I am looking forward to that.


Boston, Nov,'04
Where you least expect to find Him
pencam photo



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