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Saturday, 8 September 2007

The view east from Democracy Street

Lin took this view from the balcony last night. She has paint in her hair and I'm exhausted watching her at work. Ferries, one bound for Corfu Port - the ship on the right - and and another for Igoumenitsa, on the mainland a few miles further to the south, are travelling slowly through the Corfu Channel, to avoid causing damage in small harbours on either shore with their wash.
Far off like floating seeds the ships Diverge on urgent voluntary errands; And the full view Indeed may enter And move in memory as now these clouds do, That pass the harbour mirror And all the summer through the water saunter.
W.H.Auden 1937 Seascape
Long before having an thoughts of spending time at sea I loved this poem - probably because I had a bad experience with it. When I was 15 there was a competition in College Hall at Westminster (where in term time we ate breakfast and supper off wooden tables and sat at benches made up, so I was told, with 370 year old deck planks salvaged from wrecked galleons of the Invincible Armada, almost certainly not true but I believed it at the time). I recited Seascape, thinking I'd done well - articulate, emotive and in every way an exemplary rendering. Awaiting an encomium I was instead slated by our excellent and subversive English teacher, for being inaudible, 'which was probably fortunate'. A Spanish ghost had stymied my best effort, absorbing my oration into the once salty creaking grain of thick polished beams witness to centuries of raucous schoolboy babble over a million school meals, spilt tea, burned toast and porridge. I can be callously amused - with many other viewers - these days when seeing on the X-factor a candidate suffering the consequence of a similar chasm between their self-opinion and the judges'.

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Simon Baddeley