Sad Old Letchworth


Letchworth Feb 2013There is an old family story: Many years ago, at around the turn of the last century, my grandparents travelled in a pony and trap to look at two houses in the middle of a field. Everyone laughed at funny little man with a pointed beard, not only because he was a Quaker but because of his vision of a ‘Garden City’. The concept was revolutionary: Every house would have a big-enough garden to feed the family, an industrial area and shopping centre would be separate from homes to add value to the quality of home life and there were to be no pubs. Against all odds Ebenezer Howard’s vision became Letchworth Garden City and thrived. Yesterday I returned for the first time in many years to the shopping centre, it was a melancholy visit…

Letchworth was empty,
like the child’s paddling-pool in winter.
One or two walked the streets
huddled against the cold
to look in shop windows at
stuff they didn’t want
couldn’t afford
or just didn’t interest them.
Empty shops held no attraction
and there seemed to be
plenty of them.
The only shop I found
that attracted the pound in my pocket
was an old-fashioned sweet shop
but that’s not surprising
I have a sweet tooth.
Where were the shops I used
to know and use?
Dead, gone, vanished.
It was as if
the First Garden City
was sitting in a high-backed chair
and quietly weeping as it
wondered where
it all went wrong.

© Baldock Bard 2013
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