A Young Person’s Guide to Benjamin’s Britain
by Neil Leadbeater

Friday afternoons
we’d gather round Miss West
who would sing us through the solfège syllables
‘repeat after me’

Me and Ben fooling around on a holiday high
the way those Variations
began in earnest
at the end of term
when the brass would follow the woodwinds
and then the strings and harp.

Ben’s Britain was Aldeburgh
a place where the wind at Storm Force 10
would invite him down to the sea
presto con fuoco.

He’d take long walks out on the marsh
listen to a reed shaken by the wind
the shriek of gulls circling smacks
sea that was all around him
but most of all he’d listen out
for what he called his special sound—
that slow slither made by shingle
when it leaves the wave that has washed it in
and shucks it off with ease
the kind of churn you make with your feet
when you stride across pebbles
on a stretch of beach:

he liked that best of all.

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