A special message just for Canvey Archive

written by the Novelist and Poet Bernard Durrant

Bernard Durrant who lived on Canvey for a while in the 20/30’s, is a Novelist and Poet in his 90s. I asked him if he would write something to add to the Archive and this is what he sent. You can read some of Bernards book ‘The Dark Mirror, a word cycle’, which contains memories of Canvey here. Bernard died in 2013 and is buried in Southend.

How can magic be put into words!
But wait – here are some memories of Canvey from early 1920s.
You want me to share them with you?
Well certainly.
Wild, unspoilt. No gas or electricity, so no bills for my parents who owned a white bungalow, on stilts, with duckboards leading to the road at the Haystack.  And winter raging over the sea wall, until spring came to suck out the mud everywhere.  Hurricane lamps hung back on ceiling hooks, wicks trimmed, brasses polished in all their glory.  No sewerage system, of course, and I spent many a cool moment peeing in the wind.  All manner of beasts lurked in my childhood dreams.  And always the high adventure of being taken to the mainland -that other world – at Benfleet.  Especially in winter on the wooden ferry for the five-minute ‘voyage’, when my father would whisper in my freezing ear, ‘Well, son, we could be drifting towards Samoan breakers that are not six cables’ lengths away from disaster, perhaps with all souls lost!’
But not all news froze my heart into fragments of despair.
Are you still there?
From the sea wall my mind’s eye picked out the Golden Hinde returning from the Spanish Main laden with treasure, with the captain shouting across the water to me “Come lad, sign on at Greenwich or Erith, free rum galore!”
I often thought to hear a mermaid, on a dolphin’s back, in some wine-dark sea; enough, enough… what magic there was has long since floated away in a bottle to tall-masted horizons of a boy’s imagination.
Oh well.
A childhood without magic.  It would be like a home without books.


Comments about this page

  • The beauty of language. Thank you Mr. Durrant. Perchance I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my earliest days, though they were placed well inland. The days of childhood are unique to everyone and precious in our memory. It’s a time for imagination before life scuppers our illusions and hardship is no hindrance to that. In fact, reading some of the memories even on this website, hardship has been the catalyst to some great writing. Everyone is a poet when it comes to memories, the way we distill them is important. It is evident from Bernard Durrant’s father’s words how the young Bernard was encouraged to think and imagine. That spark that ignites a child’s mind does not flourish in everyone, though I believe we all have it. Would that more such fathers could set their sons – or daughters – on a life journey on the ‘Samoan breakers’. We might all become poets…

    By Robert Hallmann (21/01/2009)

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