for Seaside Holidays in Lincolnshire

Poem written in Mablethorpe during the great flood 1953

A teddy bear, its owner crying, marked the reach of last night’s tide,
Muddy, water sodden, lying at the puddle pavement side,
Where a mile from battered sea walls, gale blown water came to town,
Wrecking locked up sea-side tea stalls, sweeping walls and railings down.

Lookouts late on Wednesday morning, in their Northern coast guards posts
Gave most urgently the warning- “Evening tides may pound our coasts.”
Telephones relay the message, not a moment’s time to lose.
North East winds which blew at gale force past the Humber’s gaping mouth.
Rushed to fill a deep depression over North Sea and further south.

While the earth in contrary motion spun, presenting stubborn face
Causing maritime commotion, met the tide’s relentless race,
Police cars with loud speakers blaring, told the people what might come
Employers human caring, sent their workers early home

Folk in lowest lying quarters, blocked up doors and air bricks first
Mothers, Fathers, sons and daughters, prepared quickly for the worst.
Every hand that could be mustered, working fast in groups and pairs
Apprehensive, frightened, flustered, carried furniture upstairs.

But the wind-surged waters beat them, as they rushed to clear ground floors.
Flowing down the streets to meet them, lapping at their bolted doors
Creeping, in through sand bagged doorways,
Floating carpets there once laid,
Seeping in and finding more ways up through floorboards
forcing many a way,

Cold salt water wind-excited, forming rivulets and flumes
Entirely rudely uninvited, upwards of a thousand homes
All the heartache and frustration, only one who’s suffered knows.

Shedding tears in consternation, as the water level rose.
In each home, each English castle, prized possessions soon afloat
Tragically beleaguered castles with now a communal swirling moat!

After evening’s hard fought battle, aching to their finger ends
Tired folk left home to paddle to relations or to friends
There to stay until the morning,
Knowing they could do no more than to accept come the dawning,
Life must go on as before.

Now the child reunited with her treasured teddy bear
Brightened, tear washed eyes, delighted, as she smoothed its muddy fur.
Parents’ heavy homeward paces splashed the puddle pavement side
Sunken eyes, in weary faces marked the reach of last night’s tide.

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