Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Bordeaux Bay by Guernsey-based artist Tony Taylor

Friday, 2 December 2016


A long overdue memorial stone to one of our greatest poets, Philip Larkin, will be unveiled in Westminster Abbey today, 2 December, the 31st anniversary of his death.

Philip Larkin and John Betjeman

I have long been an admirer of Philip Larkin’s work and mention him often in this blog.
I’d be hard pressed to choose my favourite Larkin poem, but Mr Bleaney is surely one of them. It’s about a man who rents a shabby room and muses on the life of the previous occupant. It shows Larkin’s excellent use of syntax: the last two stanzas constitute one long sentence, culminating in a simple three-word statement.  I rather like the image of the speaker stuffing cotton-wool in his ears to drown out the sound of his landlady’s television set in the living room below.


'This was Mr Bleaney's room. He stayed 
The whole time he was at the Bodies, till

They moved him.’ Flowered curtains, thin and frayed,

Fall to within five inches of the sill,

Whose window shows a strip of building land,

Tussocky, littered. ‘Mr Bleaney took

My bit of garden properly in hand.’

Bed, upright chair, sixty-watt bulb, no hook

Behind the door, no room for books or bags —

‘I’ll take it.’ So it happens that I lie

Where Mr Bleaney lay, and stub my fags

On the same saucer-souvenir, and try

Stuffing my ears with cotton-wool, to drown

The jabbering set he egged her on to buy.

I know his habits — what time he came down,

His preference for sauce to gravy, why

He kept on plugging at the four aways —

Likewise their yearly frame: the Frinton folk

Who put him up for summer holidays,

And Christmas at his sister’s house in Stoke.

But if he stood and watched the frigid wind

Tousling the clouds, lay on the fusty bed

Telling himself that this was home, and grinned,

And shivered, without shaking off the dread

That how we live measures our own nature,

And at his age having no more to show

Than one hired box should make him pretty sure

He warranted no better, I don’t know.

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