The Destruction of Woking

Or “Did you have a nice day at the office, darling?”

Well today dear, I decided
not to bother with the office
as I thought it more productive
to tear down a hideous suburb
with some friends I met this morning
sitting in the railway carriage.

We all recognised each other
when we suddenly began to
take our ties off, all together.
Some of them I’ve seen each morning
on the 7.10 to London,
but we never had occasion
to begin a conversation.

It turns out they’re good chaps, darling,
all of them, with one exception,
who remained still in his corner,
working on the Cryptic Crossword
quite determind to ignore us
all the talking and the laughter
that began to well and bubble.
He was still there when I left it
in West Byfleet. I could see him
peering through the carriage window
rather puzzled, and quite worried
when he saw the platform piled up
with the neatly folded jackets
and the ranks of rolled umbrellas.

I’m afraid I swapped my briefcase,
when I went to get the crowbars,
for this shiny yellow hard-hat.
Yes, I know you gave it to me
with the gold initials on it
but I didn’t really need it
any longer, all those minutes
all those meetings were just wasted
didn’t matter, not important
all my work was inside boxes
where I couldn’t make a difference.

So, I helped to raze a suburb
and I’ll do the same tomorrow
sorting chairs out in the car-park
setting up the piles for mulching
working hard for my home county
it’s a task requiring doing
bringing me job satisfaction.

Maybe later there’ll be something
I can do that will be real;
several projects have been mentioned
that were really quite exciting,
we were making plans and talking
as we rewound wire from fences.
New ideas for education
using freedom of computers,
and the chalk downs on the golfcourse
cutting out a white horse up there,
or I’d like to do some baking,
have a cake shop in the city.
or one girl I met was saying
that she’d like to learn some cobbling
making proper shoes for women
and we talked a lot of spaceflight
I believe we ought to try it.

How was your day? Oh, the garden,
yes I like it – trees, how splendid
and the creeper looks effective
though the ruins will need clearing
shall I do it now or later?
I don’t think we’ll miss the neighbours.

I was wondering if tomorrow
you might like to come and help me,
with the others, tear down Woking
and begin to build it better.
Would be nice to work together
there’s no real need for you to
go from home to get your hair done,
dieting and feeling lonely
we could find another hard-hat
it’s quite fun to rend and smash things
I feel sure that you’ll enjoy it.

There is a such a great potential
for new stories, new beginnings
if we clear away the clutter
we can make a space for dreaming
roll our sleeves up, work together
be responsible and joyful.
In this world there might be giants
striding boldly through the cities
we could build a three-legged beanstalk
stretching up to space above us.
If we dare to get things started
if we live while we are living
if we walk with eyes wide open
if we choose to build in beauty
if we’re open with each other
and take off our ties together.

Summer 1996, Lancaster