Stanzas 9-15

Worrying gets the boy nowhere:

...the bus will let us down in another country...

It is as if he has no control and can’t do anything to stop it. The metaphor another country implies a foreign place that is unfamiliar to the speaker. This image signifies the poem’s transition into a metaphorical world.

This strangeness is continued in Stanza 10. He looks out onto the wrong streets. Again his ideas sound childish. The subsequent transferred epithet in streets that suddenly forget their names intensifies this sense of the surreal. It is as if the external is in control of the boys.

Stanza 11 opening with and shows that Paterson is using the technique of anaphora - with the word repeated at the beginning of each verse to the end of the poem. This creates pace and an increasing sense of drama and panic. A lack of punctuation compounds the feeling that the boy has lost control of his situation and his speech is running away from him.

Along with the boys, the reader enters an almost dreamlike state where reality has morphed into nightmare. Paterson lists the elements that should appear in the boys' planned day - the man in the sweet shop, the boys’ surroundings and the bus. But each feature turns against them:

  • the man doesn’t know the sweets they ask for and is aggressive
  • the man calls for his wife, as if to mock the boys
  • the bus the boys travelled on becomes a charred wreck

Does this image of destruction suggest the bus is damaged by its journey through time? It could imply that what is secure and familiar is destroyed by change.

Returning to change

Like the children who visit Narnia or Marty McFly in Back to the Future, the boys return at the point they left off. But now they and their own world have been altered. Paterson describes how all the houses are gone. This conveys a strange futuristic landscape.

...and the rain tastes like kelly and black waves fold in...

Again there is surrealism in the rain having the taste of kelly – the Dundonian word for sherbet. Ordinary rain has been made sweet, fizzy and unnatural.

The fact that the black waves fold in suggests that the sea is a solid fabric or covering - something with the potential to smother, just like a nightmare.

The boys themselves have also changed:

...our voices sound funny...

This implies that the boys have grown up - have their voices broken? The use of sound funny, which is again childish, tells us that they don’t understand what is happening to them.

The whole purpose of these stanzas could be to convey the confusion and trauma that surrounds growing up – the loss of innocence and security.

The final stanza juxtaposes two alarming images - the black sea encroaching very slowly on the familiar Macalpine Road and the loss of nurturing figures:

...our sisters and mothers are fifty years dead.

The sea could represent change itself, ever-present, working slowly, so that you wake up one day to realise you are suddenly on your own. The fifty years emphasises how quickly time can pass, which jars with the slow process of change.

Life is elusive and bewildering: one minute everything is familiar and secure; the next you are facing a charred wreck of what was. Paterson seems to suggest that all the while you are not in control: you are picked up and set down in new territories frequently – that is what it is to be an adult.