Thank you for travelling with southeastern

This is another piece written for and performed at the 2016 Dickens Festival in Rochester.  It describes the view from the young Charles’s attick room in Ordnance Terrace, Chatham.  That was of course before a railway line was placed there. . .

Welcome to southeastern.
This is your 1817 service to London
calling at frowning walls, tottering arches,
dark nooks, and crumbling staircases.
We apologise for the delay to your service
caused by objects on the line between Gillingham and Strood.
I have a report from the Ordnance Terrace depot

of golden fields over the track;
of peace and abundance;
of Fort Pitt shouldering narrow attic rooms
into sheaved corn sidings;
of sightlines down to habitual Docks;
and Great Line secrets swift yards past;
of lawless, squalid brothel town’s
ragged sailors’ gallant blotto push;
of compost-scent cathedral city,
its nave the throat of time;
of mystery corners, brooding clocks;
of blushing red-brick steps;
of cautious bells;
of spirited men;
observant boys.

We apologise for this delay to your journey
and any inconvenience caused.
Thank you for travelling with southeastern
and please remember to take all your personal longings
when leaving the train.