Swindon Link poetry correspondent Maurice Spillane on the perils of admitting to being retired

By Barrie Hudson - 3 April 2024

Arts and Culture

You should never admit to being retired.

It’s the quickest way to end conversation and watch your interlocutor search the room for someone more interesting.

At one stage I thought of describing myself as a professional athlete as I run a couple of marathons every year - and I do come in the top three for my age group, though over 70 is a small group. Nowadays I say I’m a writer. With several poetry books published, a TV script written, I‘ve a better conversation opener.

If not a writer, I would’ve said I’m a gardener.

At this time of year, the five months of melancholy skies are about to dissipate, frog spawn is in the pond, daffodils are out, evenings are getting longer, potatoes are chitted, seed packets are a beautiful fan and I’m happy.

Succession sowing through Spring and Summer ensure we have salads, variety in vegetables and enough for the Winter freezer. But the real joy is working in shirtsleeves enjoying, as Monty Don says, the well-being, the bird song, the peace and poetry. This poem “The Garden” captures that.

I shall wear a garden smock with a belt of rope,

exhibit dirty fingernails that have reached

into the good earth to thank the earthworm.


I shall hold still by the spade handle, inertia

still as in an Angelus, beating time to

the woodpecker drilling the false acacia.


This year I’ll not dig, just compost over paper folds,

use covers to succour the heat for early crops,

tell of the devilment sowing spuds through holes,


and later swap nuggets with friends: the tryst

of seed trays, new plants, over-abundant crops,

the freezer bursting beyond the harvest.

Poetry Swindon meets at Lower Shaw Farm SN5 5PJ on 3 April from 7pm to 9pm. Contact Sophie Boyce [email protected]


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