For World Poetry Day 2017 I thought I’d share this poem I wrote in October 2016. The idea came to me after a silly conversation with Crazy Uncle John when we’d had a few whiskies. We were talking about the future, in a science fiction/march of progress sense, and he said something to the effect of; “Some day, robot dugs will be commonplace!”
As you can imagine I practically laughed ’til the wee ran down my leg, because it struck me immediately how absurd it would be if that became a reality! But then, there are many examples over the years of how the advance of technology has brought us things that weren’t really needed.
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Around 25 years ago, when I was an apprentice electrician for the MoD, I would wait each summer morning for the bus to work at the submarine Base. An older guy, Tommy, whose name I had gleaned from the other bus stop folk who spoke to him, would usually be waiting there at that time in the morning, too.
I quietly observed that Tommy was pretty eccentric. Even then he had a bit of a stoop to him and a face full of character. He would wait seemingly indefinitely on the bin lorry picking him up on the way past and he’d chat away about this and that to everyone who shared the bus shelter. I didn’t know what he was on about half the time, but I would still humour him on his chosen subject of the day because I liked Tommy.
Even though I was a naive young man, somehow I was astute enough to appreciate that the world needed more people like him. He was a bin man, which, let’s be honest, is regarded as the lowest of working class jobs, but that didn’t stop Tommy talking to anyone and everyone as an equal. Apprentice electrician or bank manager – it didn’t matter to him and it’s a trait that I thought was admirable.
He was a kind man with it. One time he saw me running in the distance and asked the driver of the bus I was clearly going to miss to wait for me. That was a big deal to me – I didn’t have the best timekeeping record as an apprentice and Tommy probably saved my bacon that day.
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On Friday the 13th of January 2017 I attended my first Burns Supper of the season, hosted by Helensburgh Burns Club. I will complete my third year as secretary for the club in May and, as we draw performers from a selection of guests and from within the club, that meant I was invited to do “whatever I liked” by this year’s president, Geoff.
That’s quite an open remit, but when I was asked earlier the previous year I had a good idea of what I would like to perform. The first Burns’ poem that I learnt was To a Mouse and I have always been fond of it. In early 2016 I had the idea of writing a reply on behalf of the titular mouse and this eventually became my poem, Fae a Mouse. So that and the work that inspired it became the core of what I would do and as fortune would have it, with our club supper being so close to the festive season, I could open with I’m Really Glad Xmas Is Over which I had written during the festive season of 2015.
At our St Andrew’s Night I had to read the poems I performed because I just wasn’t confident enough in my ability to recite them off by heart. The fact I did drew some gentle criticism which I happily accepted. I really had no excuse for not learning my own poems properly!
This time around I had put a lot more practice in and could probably have done all three without any cues. That’s tempting fate when you’re drinking though, so I printed my two out and put extra effort into getting To a Mouse learned. In the event I stumbled once on that one – it was going so well it seemed too good to be true, so I checked I was doing okay with one of our past presidents!
I received some really good feedback on my poems. A couple of people asked for copies and a lady who is performing at the Edinburgh Fringe asked for a copy of Fae a Mouse because she wanted to use it there.
I couldn’t be much happier with how my part of the night went. It’s both rewarding and a relief when you perform something you’ve written and have it be so well received.