“As well as on recent 50p coins, Britannia used to appear on the old British pennies. The influence of society’s, and the state’s, demands on individual identity is something that has troubled me for many years.”
Careful not to soil her dainty Ferragamos,
the grand piano moves discreetly through the herbaceous border,
a sheaf of cuttings in her handbag:
a cardinal, the Queen’s gynaecologist, a dozen QCs.
She has come for the music, of course,
but the atmosphere’s lovely, such elegant lampshades.
There is always some Government in the garden
where the sheep are kept in their rightful place
safely grazing beyond the haha.
There are twenty-two minutes before curtain up.
The wind is cold, there’s a whimper of rain
but the picnic must go on and be such fun:
an open window serves coloratura with paté de foie gras.
Everyone has a rug for their knees, and she reminds us
again of her night at the Albert Hall,
the swallowing blue of a million delphiniums.
We can almost believe in her cloak-pin and shield.
It’s not what it was, she says: the vulgar new building,
every year the path to the lily pond more overgrown –
a negotiation of unripened blackberries and birtwistle.
Hemlines are rising; already accountants wash up on the lawn.
Even today, out at sea with Johnny Foreigner,
I hear her triumphant arpeggios over the waves,
the Broadwood’s fin patrolling round the violins.
‘Britannia’ is published in The Men from Praga
(Salt Publishing, 2009).
Read more about Anne and The Men from Praga here.
Visit Anne’s blog here.