The Balboa Steps

It was March 2016. As I drove through the bland town centre, my eye was caught by a big, bright, blousey banner, which was strung across the steps of the Art Gallery. It read  “…free poetry writing workshop…” and so I found myself one Saturday morning stood at the bottom of the Art Gallery’s imposing steps looking up.


My legs shook, doubt screamed, my nerve faltered. I ran up a few steps, I walked down a few steps. In a rush of courage I ran like Rocky to the top and thrust myself through the door, so fear couldn’t catch me and make me turn back.

I was directed up a highly ornate and elaborate winding stone staircase, that opened up into vaulted ceilings. Through a heavy oak door, a long room filled with framed works of art faced me. At one end of the room, a few tables and chairs had been arranged. Two ladies were unpacking stationery onto the table as I nervously approached.

I will never forget the warm smile and twinkling eyes of Linda, who greeted me and guided me to take a seat. Something in her manner, her words and her gentleness made me feel welcomed and safe.


I will never forget the amusement I found in watching more attendees arrive and unpack their poetry journals. Each book or pad that was produced was a little smaller than the preceding one. The last gentleman arrived with the smallest notepad, the stubbiest pencil and with the thickest rimmed glasses. 

I looked at my A4 pad. I need large paper, I’m a scrawler. My thoughts come thick and fast and I scrawl at speed to keep up with them. I remember how terrified I was. I hadn’t written poetry since school. Would I be able to write a single word today? Maybe I needed a smaller pad?

A year has now passed and I can happily say, I’m still attending a monthly poetry group in that same high vaulted gallery, only now I describe it as impressive, not oppressive. My poetry is still weaker than my prose, but I’m happy to learn at a steady pace. I’m hoping poetry will help improve my descriptive writing, only time will tell. In the meantime, I admit I’m no Shakespeare or Keats, but here’s a poem I wrote about my “Rocky” experience, which was delivered to Stockport’s Creative Sector Meeting last autumn.

The Steps

By Nicola Hulme

I stood at the bottom and looked up,

Willing my legs to move.

My dream was waiting, at the top of the steps,

There, the doorway to long lost love.


All I needed to do was walk up there.

Open the door and take a step in.

But my feet were glued to the pavement.

A cold sweat ran down my skin.


I gave myself a shaking.

“Come on girl, you’re almost there!”

I ran up five steps in a hurry,

Then paused, once again, on the stair.


“What am I doing?” The voice said

“Who do you think you are?”

“Are you clever enough to join them?”

“Quick! Get back into the car.”


I moved a painful step lower,

As doubt and fear crept in.

I could simply turn and leave now,

But I wanted so badly to go in.


A fiery burst of courage

Stopped the retreat in its tracks.

I ran all the way up to the top of the steps,

Never to ever look back.


What dream lay at the top of those stairs?

One of poetry, creativity and fun.

In a beautiful art gallery setting.

I am one of the lucky ones.


To be able to meet here monthly,

To read and discuss our lines.

To share our ideas and creations,

Amongst those of a similar mind.


If you ever want to experience

Laughter, passion, and sadness to boot.

Then do climb those stairs and join us

Our precious & priceless poetry group.


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