John McCullagh November 17, 2006
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These ships of which we have recently written were all coasters.

The Coasters of John Hewitt are of a different ilk!

You coasted along

To larger houses, gadgets, more machines

To golf and weekend bungalows,

Caravans when the children were small,

the Mediterranean, with the wife.


You did not go to Church often,

Weddings were special;

But you kept your name on the books

Against eventualities;

And the parson called, or the curate.


You showed a sense of responsibility,

With subscriptions to worthwhile causes

And service in voluntary organisations;

And, anyhow, this did the business no harm,

No harm at all.

Relations were improving. A good

useful life. You coasted along.
 

You even had a friend of two of the other sort,

Coasting too: your ways ran parallel.

Their children and yours seldom met, though,

Being at different schools.

You visited each other, decent folk with a sense

Of humour. Introduced, even, to

One of their clergy. And then you smiled

In the looking-glass, admiring, a

Little moved by, your broadmindedness.

Your father would never have known

One of them. Come to think of it,

When you were young, your own home was never

Visited by one of the other sort.

 

Relations were improving. The annual processions

began to look rather like folk-festivals.

When that noisy preacher started,

he seemed old-fashioned, a survival.

Later you remarked on his vehemence,

a bit on the rough side.

But you said, admit, you said in the club,

‘You know, there’s something in what he says’.


And you who seldom had time to read a book,

what with reports and the colour-supplements,

denounced censorship.

And you who never had an adventurous thought

were positive that the church of the other sort

vetoes thought.

And you who simply put up with marriage

for the children’s sake, deplored

the attitude of the other sort

to divorce.

You coasted along.

And all the time, though you never noticed,

The old lies festered;

the ignorant became more thoroughly infected;

there were gains, of course;

you never saw any go barefoot.

 

The government permanent, sustained

by the regular plebiscites of loyalty.

You always voted but never

put a sticker on your car;

a card in the window

would not have been seen from the street.

Faces changed on posters, names too, often,

but the same families, the same class of people.

A Minister once called you by your first name.

You coasted along

and the sores supperated and spread.
 

Now the fever is high and raging;

Who would have guessed it, coasting along?

The ignorant-sick thresh about in delirium

And tear at the scabs with dirty finger-nails.

The cloud of infection hangs over the city,

A quick change of wind and it

Might spill over the leafy suburbs.

You coasted along.

 


1969

 


 

We all know what happened after!

And that noisy preacher is soon to be our First Minister.

Have we learned anything?

Could it be that, more than ever, we are content simply to ‘coast along’ ?

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