Doing February like Tom Eliot

South Kensington is white washed against February sky. We step outside as if we had done it before – this is our street for three days.

Sun kisses our hats.

The mews stretch into cosy distance where window plants dance in morning shadows.   ‘I could see myself live here’, you say and I say ‘ the bin men are more frequent than in Birmingham.

Our sons walk shoulder to shoulder.

St Stephen’s Church appears in the corner like a turtle with a medieval shield. There’s the backdoor Tom Eliot used to escape from his wife and there’s the key hole through which she spied on him.

Sun touches railings of the basement flats.

Tom Eliot was a church warden. Keys in his pocket, he visited Virgin Mary when no one was watching: ‘Please forgive me that I had left Vivien in mental asylum. Please forgive me I hadn’t been to see her for ten years. Now that she is dead, give me strength to carry on writing great poems’.

Sun flickers through the robes of saints on the stained glass windows. It did so in the times of Tom Eliot.  It does so now. At this exact moment, the  homeless guy sitting by the abandoned phone box smiles at us. You look away.

We carry on…clop, clop…. down the Gloucester Road. I think everybody must be either rich or a cleaner. I can’t tell the difference.

‘Vivien, despite her madness, always looked good in a fascist beret’, Tom Eliot thought. One or two locks casually fell away when she was listening to my talk. I always knew precisely where she sat in the audience. She once said, ‘Tommy, your voice doesn’t suit your poetry. You are like a ghost searching for flesh in the bottom of other peoples’ souls’.

Sun dances in its haziness all the way down the Queen’s Gate. Your son is excited to see the great blue whale – aren’t all the whales blue…?

A masonry restoration van stops before us: ‘These guys will be fixing the gargoyles’, but what I really wanted to say is ‘it’s been a while since I had fancied someone on a Thursday morning’.

February is the cruellest month. It lures the birds to pastel trees to sing themselves into warmth.