My lover’s father whisked her off
To Tenby by the sea;
She’d slipped a note inside my coat
To tell me where they’d be —
But what were miles to me?
I’d hitch and hike my way to Wales,
Though not for Wales to see,
My love waxed hot — who cared a jot
For sun or sand or sea?
And what was Wales to me?
From Northwood Hills I rode to Slough
Where Betjeman made his plea,
Then lost the thread at Maidenhead
And slept at Newbury —
Though what was sleep to me?
I climbed the Horse at Uffington,
(My map had lost its key),
My compass gone, I struggled on
And made for Malmsbury —
For what were maps to me?
I stowed aboard an early train
To ease my odyssey,
But then I slept and could have wept
To wake up in Torquay —
Yet what were trains to me?
Two long and weary nights I trudged,
(It rained incessantly),
Nights full of howls, the screech of owls,
And eyes in every tree —
But what were eyes to me?
At last I breasted Offa’s Dyke
A half-mad refugee,
I’d gone astray at Colwyn Bay
By way of Tetbury —
Though what were hills to me?
I crossed a ford in flood, barefoot,
Barbed wire had cut my knee,
I slipped and fell and in the swell,
A shoe swept out to sea —
But what were shoes to me?
A rat-faced farmer packed me off,
(And not in charity):
“Oi’ll fix yer hash, yer tinker trash.
Oi’ll set me dogs on thee!”—
But what were threats to me?
Upon a crutch, in blood-stiff rags,
Nigh on an amputee,
I staggered down to Tenby town
My lovely Jane to see —
For what were wounds to me?
Her father laughed, her mother smirked,
They fed me cakes and tea:
“Jane’s got engaged!” I wept and raged
And cursed the powers that be —
For what was life to me?
He drove me back to Northwood Hills,
Shook hands: “Goodbye,” says he;
Her letter sat upon the mat,
She wrote most courteously —
But what were words to me?
Well, it’s a true (if somewhat embellished) saga, except that Jane did not marry her fiancee and we went on seeing each other for some time afterwards. I believe she was flattered at the effort despite my total balls-up of a simple 200 mile trip. The bleeding feet probably helped! I must say her father was a decent stick. That was a long drive for him in the middle of a family vacation and the first ride I ever had in a posh car — a Mercedes with a speedometer that rose and fell like a thermometer. Odd, the things that stick in the memory.