Enfield

 My home of litter and potholes, crowded roads.
It’s where consumption found Keats working as an apothecary
and Charles brought poor mad Mary to get away from London.
Now we are London, people come because they want to.
Lamb’s still here, his tomb near Keats’s shop.

Stevie Smith observed cats in nearby Broomfield Park,
there’s a blue plaque on her house.
I was there when the Poet Laureate unveiled it, made a speech,
and the crowd blocked the road, enjoying her memory.

Boris Karloff went to my school, when he was William Pratt,
wearing a cap, scarf and blazer as I did when
I was taught physics by Cliff Richard’s uncle
and my wife was taught English by Jill Paton-Walsh –
Miss Bliss as she was.
Miss Bliss, a name to fall into.

This white, shiplap building, inconvenient as the GP’s surgery,
opposite Disraeli’s father’s home, is where Whitaker started his Almanac,
a distillation of England, I read throughout the year.
Enfield of a million trees, hunting ground of kings.
West Lodge, Chase Ridings, Chase Green with its plague pit,
Chase Side where I lived with the eponymous cottages
on the site of Raleigh’s old home not so far from Elsynge Manor
where Henry VIII planned the dissolution,
or Waltham Abbey, the last monastery to be emptied of monks;
King Harold’s buried there.

We are just a suburb of North London but
by Chas and Dave’s local, a small pub
locked between giant bakery and warehouse,
Ambrose Fleming created the diode valve
enabling all forms of electronic communication,
and Dewar conceived the Thermos flask.
All this from a vacuum trapped in glass.

Even this poem will run through diodes,
leave shadows in chip and disc.
Babbage went to school in Victorian Enfield.
His difference engine of beautiful, precise levers,
serrated discs of steel and brass,
was the first computer.

Underground, carrying away disease, material we want to forget,
are London’s sewers, beautiful brick arches we never see.
Miles of design and craftsmanship of such skill and vision
they still flow after one hundred and fifty years.
Enfield’s Bazelgette did this.

There’s no mark at all of the hut where
Belling wound the first radiant electric fire –
I had one in my front garden plugged
into a dummy socket in the wall –
Enfield council tore it down;
even his great factory in Southbury Road is gone.
Like the Legions that were once here, there’s nothing left.

I can visit the plaque covering the hole-in-the-wall
of the limestone bank by the market chartered by James I.
It’s where the first machine dispensing cash was trialled
but that’s not in Enfield now:
the Smithsonian has it.

There is much, much more
but a poem cannot tell everything.

© Anthony Fisher July 2007

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