I Remember, I Remember by Philip Larkin (read by Tom O'Bedlam)





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Published on Mar 8, 2012

The pictures of Coventry station, the first in 1952, the last in 2006.

"Men with number plates" - Coventry is a town that builds motor cars, which are driven by men to various garages around the country on "Trade Plates", temporary number plates to make the unregistered vehicle "street legal".

"hols" are holidays or vacations, usually an annual trip to the seaside: they usually went to Devon or Cornwall.

The poem is a rueful list of things that didn't happen to him, things that he wishes had happened to make his childhood more meaningful. All this happened before WW2 - he left Coventry when war broke out.

"Spoken to by an old hat" could be a reference to Joseph Smith, who translated the Book or Mormon, who talked to an old hat in childhood.

The "splendid family" must be a literary reference, something like Swallows and Amazons or maybe Waltons-like from the pioneering west, or an early movie. I can't place it exactly. His favourite writer at the time was D H Lawrence.

Larkin said "I had grown up to regard sexual recreation as a remote thing, like baccarat or clog-dancing, and nothing happened to alter this view"

I made this reading, edited it, found the pictures and created the slide show in a total of 48 minutes.

Some sound editing was necessary because several vehicles passed my window during the recording. There were also a couple of fluffs and some sibilance to be edited out, which is nothing uncommon. The point I'm making is that it's not a huge task to read poetry on YouTube. The quality is - what it is. More time and effort wouldn't necessarily make it any better.

Coming up England by a different line
For once, early in the cold new year,
We stopped, and, watching men with number plates
Sprint down the platform to familiar gates,
'Why, Coventry!' I exclaimed. 'I was born here.'

I leant far out, and squinnied for a sign
That this was still the town that had been 'mine'
So long, but found I wasn't even clear
Which side was which. From where those cycle-crates
Were standing, had we annually departed

For all those family hols? . . . A whistle went:
Things moved. I sat back, staring at my boots.
'Was that,' my friend smiled, 'where you "have your roots"?'
No, only where my childhood was unspent,
I wanted to retort, just where I started:

By now I've got the whole place clearly charted.
Our garden, first: where I did not invent
Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits,
And wasn't spoken to by an old hat.
And here we have that splendid family

I never ran to when I got depressed,
The boys all biceps and the girls all chest,
Their comic Ford, their farm where I could be
'Really myself'. I'll show you, come to that,
The bracken where I never trembling sat,

Determined to go through with it; where she
Lay back, and 'all became a burning mist'.
And, in those offices, my doggerel
Was not set up in blunt ten-point, nor read
By a distinguished cousin of the mayor,

Who didn't call and tell my father, "There
Before us, had we the gift to see ahead -"
'You look as though you wished the place in Hell,'
My friend said, 'judging from your face.' 'Oh well,
I suppose it's not the place's fault,' I said.

'Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.'


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