Dad’s Poem

Completely out of the blue, having never shown the intention of writing down anything more than a shopping list, a cancer diagnosis prompted our Dad to write down his life story as a comic poem. Here it is:

My name is David Robert Locke

The year is 2017

I’ve been very ill this year

The worst I’ve ever been

I’ve been diagnosed with cancer

I’ve really been quite poorly

It’s made me think about my life

So I’m going to write my story

I was born on the 8th of March 1941

Although I didn’t know it then

My life had just begun

I lived with my Mum and Dad

And brother Dennis

He was five and half years older than me

I bet he thought I’d be a menace

In the early Forties

As you know I’m sure

It really was a bad time

The middle of the Second World War

Our country was in trouble

Bombs were dropping everywhere

But I was just a baby

And I really didn’t care

My Dad was a fireman

He always worked long shifts

Putting out fires and saving people

During the London Blitz

My brother collected shrapnel

He came home with two incendiary bomb cases

Mum & Dad were not too pleased

You should have seen their faces

Den painted them different colours

He did it all by himself

And when the paint was dry

He put them on the mantle shelf

They stayed there for a couple of months

There or there about

Then one day they disappeared

Mum must have chucked them out

When I was about three years old

I can’t remember the exact day

A V2 rocket landed

About half a mile away

It caused a lot of damage

Some people lost their lives perhaps

But I know the blast and shock wave

Caused our ceiling to collapse

Den was nearly 9 years old

Quite strong and he was able

To pull me clear to safety

Underneath the table

I don’t think I ever thanked him

What with one thing or another

But I don’t think he minded much

Because he’s my big brother

I went to school when I was five.

The war was over, we’d survived.

My friend at school was Glyn

We used to play together

At that time I didn’t know it

But we’d be friends forever

When I was about seven years old on sports day

I ran in the egg and spoon race

I was disqualified for sticking a bogie on the spoon

To keep the egg in place

My punishment for cheating

Was to stay in after school

The Headmistress reprimanded me

For being such a fool

She said “you’d better go home now

It’s nearly half past four”

And I swear I heard her laughing

As she closed her office door

When I was eight Mum went to hospital

I think I must have missed her

Dad to Den and me to visit, and in her arms

Was our new born baby sister

Mum & Dad named her Margaret

She really was a cutie

They said that when she grows up

She’d really be a beauty

When I was about twelve-years old

With my friends, kicking a ball and having fun

Tony Clark came over

He said “I’ve invented a rocket gun!”

It was just a popgun really

The type that fired a ­­­­cork

You’d think it was a big invention

The way he used to talk

A cocoa tin lid was fixed to it

Fitted by Tony Clark

He said “This tin lid will protect me

From the rocket’s sparks”

He loaded up the rocket

Someone else lit the fuse

The rocket shot out, it didn’t go far

We were not amused

“That’s a load of rubbish!” we said

And started to walk away

He said “Don’t go, I haven’t finished yet

Why don’t you all stay?”

“I know”, he said, thinking hard

“I’ve had a revelation

The solution to my problem is

I need more elevation”

“All right”, said Ronny Warren

“If you want to give us proof

Why don’t you climb up there

Onto the air-raid shelter roof”

So Tony thought about it

And that is what he did

He found it a bit difficult

He was only a little kid

He aimed the gun in to the air

He was a brave bloke

And then he disappeared

Into a shower of sparks and smoke

He stood there like a statue

You had to admire his pluck

And then he made a statement

“I think the rocket got stuck”

His face was black, his hair was singed

We laughed so much it made us cough

Then he wiped his hand across his brow

And both his eyebrows fell off

We said “never mind Tony, it’s alright

You’re just a little kid

When you try it next time

Use a dustbin lid”

We all walked home together

Laughing through the tears

We still used to laugh about it

When we met up through the years

Dad was in the Salvation Army band

He was a trombonist, a true believer

If he passed wind he’d lift his leg, slap his thigh

And pull on an invisible lever

Dave Brooks built a water chute

Into the gravel pit

He wanted to launch a new canoe

While he sat in it

He sat in his canoe

But it wouldn’t budge

He shouted out to us

“Oi, can you give me a shove?”

The canoe shot down the chute

Travelling over gravel with real haste

But the bottom ripped off the new canoe

He ended up in water to his waist

We made a giant catapult

I didn’t like it much

Two front forks of a motorbike

Spread out to form a crutch

We used two inner tubes for elastic.

“If this works, it’ll be fantastic”.

It took two boys to pull it back

And the front forks came off with a mighty crack

They hadn’t been properly fixed in place

And the forks hit them smack in the face

We also all had leaping poles

Across the brook we’d vault

Sometimes we would fall in

If we made the tiniest fault

Ron Hull said “I don’t need a pole to vault

I reckon I could jump across and do a somersault”

We said “You’ll never do it”

Ron said “Don’t worry, I’ve got this beat

If I tuck my head in

I’ll land on my feet”

He took a run and made a leap

And landed on the other side in a crumpled heap

Ron didn’t move, we thought he was dead

His brother Pete said ‘it’s alright, he landed on his head”

Ron staggered to his feet

He clearly was in pain

He said to his brother “take me home Pete

I think I’ve hurt my brain”

I helped Glyn paint his Mum’s kitchen

We made a bad job I guess

She gave us 5/- to go out

While she cleared up the mess

Our parents worked hard raising us

They did the best they could

And looking back I realised

I had a very happy childhood

I left school at 15 and went out to work

We worked a 10-hour day, and weren’t allowed to shirk

I worked first in a furniture factory

I didn’t think I could hack it

But I changed my mind come Friday

When I got my first wage packet

I lost touch my childhood friends

All except for Glyn

Even up to the present day

I’m still in touch with him

I had a lot of teenage friends

Bill, Dick, Glyn and Bru

Not forgetting Johnny Gardener

Dave Courtney and his brother Lou

We were all working an earning money

Girls started paying interest to us, don’t you think that’s funny?

I really enjoyed my teenage years

Full of fun and laughter

Even though the local girls

All knew what we were after

Glyn became a publican

Selling beer and wine

The pub was called The Olde English Gentleman

We would meet there all the time

I’ve known Glyn a very long time

Seventy years or more

I’ve even drunk his home-made wine

And crashed out on his kitchen floor

In my early twenties I got married

A big mistake, of course

The marriage didn’t last long

And ended in divorce

By the time I was twenty-five

I felt I was a loser

Every night, you’d find me

In the local boozer

When I was 26 years old

I met a girls called Pam

I asked her out, she said “OK”

What a lucky guy I am!

Pam and me, we love each other

Although we seldom show it

But when you feel like we do

You don’t have to, you just know it

I married Pam when I was 28

I’d got myself a beautiful wife

And a perfect soul mate

Pam married me when she was 23

I still don’t know to this day what she sees in me

We bought a house in Bishop’s Stortford

A small two-bedroom home

We didn’t have a lot of room

But at least it was our own

During the first year of our marriage

Our lives were filled with joy

Pam gave birth to Tony

A 10 pound baby boy

I think at last my luck had changed

Sometimes a loser wins

Two and a half years later

Pam gave birth to twins

We named them Chris and Matt

Now we’ve got three baby boys

What do you think of that!

We lead a peaceful life

Sometimes very loud

But of my wife and my three sons

I am very proud

We lived in that small house

For nearly six years

Full of fun and happiness

Sometimes a few tears

Pam loved looking after our baby boys

She was very happy

She took care of them so well

I never changed a nappy

We had a dog called Rusty Locke

I know it sounds ironical

But he taught all our three boys how to walk

It really was quite comical

We sold that tiny little house

And moved to Hoddesdon, near Ware

It was a big old Victorian house

I hoped my family would like it there

It turned out to be a wise move

In spite of all my fears

We all loved living there so much

We stayed for thirty years

This is where we raised our sons

From infancy to manhood

We did all we could for them

As every parent should

Children say and do some funny things

Our sons were no exception

Here’s a few little stories about them

From my recollections

Tony had a Bomber bike

On it, he was unbelievable

He used to practice big air jumps

Just like Evel Knievel

He rested a plank on two bricks at one end

To launch himself into the air

The twins lay down in front of it

They were a crazy pair

They laid there very still

They dare not even flinch

Matt said “I’m not doing that again

He only missed me by an inch”

Chris was in front of a mirror, naked

Admiring his reflection

He said “Matt come and stand by me

And have a look at your collection”

Matt said he wanted to be a dancer

He was always prancing around

He kicked his leg up behind him

And his forehead hit the ground

He said “I’ll do something else

That doesn’t cause so much pain

I think I’ll be a pirate

So I can fly a plane”

Chris had a camouflage suit

It was coloured black and green

Every time he wore it

He was convinced he couldn’t be seen

He said “Dad, this suit is brilliant”

I said “Do you think so really?”

He said “Yes, a fly flew past my nose

And didn’t even see me!”

The boys were very sociable

They joined the Scouts and Cubs

And later on with some of their friends

They formed a baseball club

They were taught by one of my old gang

Lou Courtney — until he quit

Then Pam and me, we took over

To help them organise it

We joined the British Southern Baseball League

It was really quite wide-spread

From Burgess Hill near Brighton

To as far north as Hemel Hempstead

We were in a minibus back from Brighton

I don’t know who makes these choices

But the team all had helium balloons

And were making funny voices

Tony left school at sixteen

And trained in a garage on YTS

But only stayed there for two years

Another Government mess

When he was 18 years old

Things hadn’t worked out right

So he came to work with me

As a carpenter on the building sites

He soon got the hang of it

He’s a hard working lad

He turned out to be the best workmate

And partner I ever had

Chris and Matt left school at 16

And then they went to college

And then on to university

So they’d increase their knowledge

My brother-in-law Ron Skingle

Was a fireman, like my dad, y’know

They were the two bravest men

That I have ever known

Tony met his wife Julie at a party

They got on well together

He bought her a lucky charm bracelet recently

That said “my wife, forever”

They got married in the Caribbean

Pam and me went as witnesses

We were the only ones to see ‘em

They had the honeymoon in the Dominican Republic

As beautiful, tropical isle

I think they stayed there two weeks

I know I was quite a while

Chris met Helen at University

A lovely girl from Surrey

They’ve both got university degrees

I don’t think they’ll have to worry

They bought a house in Bounds Green

And a holiday home in France

They spend most of the summer there

Whenever they get the chance

They got married in a hotel in Farnham

It was a lovely day

Helen arrived in a vintage car

With her Dad to give her away

Matt met his wife in Brighton

And her name is Holly Swain

She illustrates children’s story books

You might have seen her name

They got married in a hotel in Kent

Had their reception in a castle

It was a lovely happy day, very well it went

Tony & Julie bought a house in Oldbrook, Milton Keynes

Now they’ve got four children, all is well it seems

Their names are Daniel and Hannah

Emma and Liam

They always make we welcome

When I go ‘round to see ‘em

Matt and Holly have two lovely girls

Olivia and Rose

They are both artistic and creative

From their Mum and Dad I suppose

In Bounds Green we visited Chris & Helen

Pam was in the kitchen, putting something in the bins.

And then she called out “Bob, guess what?

“Helen’s expecting twins!”

They were two little baby girls

But born a bit premature

Helen and Chris will look after them

They’ll be great parents, I am sure

They named them Matilda and Alice

Chris said “this house ‘aint big enough, we’d better buy a palace”

Well as you can guess, our sons left that old Victorian house

That they all once called home

They’ve got wives and children and their own houses

Me and Pam lived there still, although we were on our own

Tony and Julie moved to a three-bed house

Which they extended to four

There is a lot of them living there

They need the space I’m sure

Matt and Holly moved from Brighton

The town they liked the most

Now they live in Portslade

A bit further up the coast

Den married Barbara,

Maggie married Tom

He is an East End lad

Where our Mum and Dad came from

Alison and Denise are Den & Barbara’s daughters

Born four years apart

But they’ve both got the same birthday

How’s that for family planning — pretty smart!

Maggie and Tom have two sons

Named Darren and Lee

I don’t know what they feed them on

But they’re both over six foot three

We sold that big old Victorian house

Good decision so it seems

Now we live in Bletchley

Not far from Milton Keynes

My favourite time is Christmas

Or whenever we are able

Pam cooks a big Xmas feast for us all

And there’s 16 of us around the table

I’m sitting in the back garden

The sun is shining on my face

Where would I like to be right now?

I can’t think of a nicer place

The birds have eaten all my cherries

The slugs have eaten all my beans

The weeds are doing wonderfully

I’m a brilliant gardener — yeah, in my dreams

If I had a tail, I’d wag it

If I had wings I would fly

If I had four legs I would run fast

And take off into the sky

I would fly to war-torn countries

Make peace and comfort wherever I can

But I haven’t got four legs, wings, or a tail to wag

I’m just an ordinary man

(If you’ve got this far, Macmillan do astounding cancer and hospice care in the UK. You can donate here https://www.macmillan.org.uk/donate )