Thursday, 5 June 2008

A new commissioned poem on Leamington Spa Station

God’s Wonderful Railway
thundering through the Chilterns
from the big smoke
to the cool of the Spa.

Below is a poem recently commissioned by Chiltern Railways to commemorate the official opening of the renovated Ticket Office at Leamington Spa Station.

The work was undertaken to improve security at the entrance to the station and also partially to restore the original look of the ticket office area, first built in 1938 in the elegant Art Deco style. Later changes to the station entrance hall had sadly concealed the original granite plinth and Art Deco tiles; these have now been uncovered and restored, with other renovations planned for the near future.

I went along to the station on May 24th 2008 to read the poem out at the grand opening ceremony, which featured many prominent guests such as the Mayor and Mayoress of Leamington Spa, the Coventry-born record producer Pete Waterman, and a whole swathe of train enthusiasts, railway executives and Friends of Leamington Spa Station.

The actual reading proved a little challenging, since although I had been assured that no trains were due for several minutes, as soon as I started to read the poem, a train naturally enough began to enter the station. Fortunately, I have a loud voice, being accustomed to yelling at my children, so I'm fairly certain the poem was heard by most people on the platform!

I would like to thank my next-door neighbour, Bernie, who is a train enthusiast himself and whose help in the loaning of research material was invaluable. Grateful thanks are also due to the various staff at Leamington Station who answered my lengthy questions with great patience, even though they were trying to work at the same time. And to Seona Shuttleworth (Chiltern Railways) who was kind enough to commission this poem from me in the first place.

After all the help I received with my research, I hope even the most hardened train enthusiast will find something to enjoy in this poem!


On the Renovations at Leamington Spa Station, 2008

Art Deco portal, waystation
in stainless steel
and granite plinth, its ticket office
elegant as a scene
from Brief Encounter;
to step into that waiting room
or order coffee
at polished mahogany
is to dip oneself
into a distant age, to hurry past
its potted palms
in pearls and tweed
or trilby and two-tone brogues,
running for the 8.23
from Leamington to Marylebone
or the sleek blue ghost
of the Birmingham Pullman, waitor
in stiff whites
threading those aisles,
silver salver
steady on his palm, serving high tea
with Havana cigars
from Georgian facades to Paddington,
passing red hot pokers
in the station garden, delphiniums
and Michaelmas daisies
opposite this Deco bench
where GWR
is what the legend says:
God’s Wonderful Railway
thundering through the Chilterns
from the big smoke
to the cool of the Spa.


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