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September 2008, vol 4 no 3

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Ken Jones



The Inkermans

Come for a stroll through the Inkermans. They're old enough to have developed a bit of character, and take an interest in the passer-by. Not like the new brick boxes, poor things, which don't have much to say even to those who live in them.

INKERMAN STREET is forlorn and unloved. All multi-occupancy and buy-to-let. Mid Victorian triumphalism gone to seed, the futile Crimean battle long forgotten. Lifted off their hinges, front gates rust behind unkempt hedges. The ruins of outbuildings are bright with rosebay willow herb.

Flats 1 to 5
to every life
its grubby bell push

Plodding uphill, Inkerman Street becomes the long scowl of INKERMAN DRIVE.

Hot black tar
front gardens
trouble free at last!

Instead of dandelions, four wheel drives with chrome bull bars. Lawson's cypress conceals the patio heaters and on the larch lap: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Gratefully I turn the corner into INKERMAN CRESCENT, past the embossed GVIR letter box—that shy, stammering royal philatelist.

Semi-detached—
the sharp line of paint
where two colours meet

Starched gentility now. STRICTLY PRIVATE and NO TURNING. Peeping over the privet 'Fox & Hare Estate Agents & Valuers'. In the upstairs bay windows, ladies' dressing table mirrors turn their dull backs on the world. But in the corner garden is a posse of busy, rubicund gnomes, winding up a non-existent well, and pushing a stationary, flower-filled barrow. However, THESE GNOMES ARE ALARMED. A passing dog walker explains: "They get kidnapped and ransomed, y' know—like in Iraq."

Escape from the Crescent is by a sunny passageway past the tennis courts. In place of surveillance cameras, COMMIT NO NUISANCE in rusty iron. And along a wall top, instead of razor wire, shards of Edwardian lemonade bottles set in cement. Out into INKERMAN CLOSE cul-de-sac, barge boarded, slated, and ivy-clad. ELGAR VILLAS in warm moulded brick, with borders of marigolds, nasturtiums and lupins, pipe tobacco on the air, and the click of shears. And always, framed in the last house:

Grave old cat
his penetrating gaze
all that needs saying

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