Two stories to share with my family and friends

The first story concerns me daydreaming and looking out of my shop window one beautiful summer’s day. A few lines of verse came into my head. Then I thought to myself: why don’t you put this in your window to lift other spirits as they have done your own? I grabbed for a pen before the words vanished.

Using our computer engraving system I did it on a piece of burgundy coloured laminate.
Some time later, a man came into the shop enquiring after something he had seen in the window. It turned out to be the poem I had written. “How much is that selling for?” he asked. Nonplussed, but thinking on my feet, I replied “£12.50”. “Fine,” he said, “I’ll have that for my static holiday caravan.”

Later, the thought occurred to me that that modest sale had, nonetheless, gained me admittance to one of the world’s most exclusive clubs: that of a poet whose work people will pay to read! The words of those few lines are as follows:

Our journey through this life is brief, very brief.
Enjoy the world for the beauty that it offers.
Be kind, show compassion. Be happy.

My second story concerns a veteran who stopped me outside the shop to tell me that a poem I had written to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War was to be read out that Sunday in church by a member of the British Legion. Apparently, it had been adopted by the Legion and was being read out each year. You can imagine how moved I was to learn of this. I think they may have picked up on the poem from the local paper.

I may have posted it on my blog at the time, but just in case I didn’t here is it:


A sea of time has passed us by and still we think of them:
The lives unlived, the dreams curtailed, the legions of our men.
We did not know, we could not tell, what terror lay in store,
As year on year the butcher’s cry demanded more and more.

For full a hundred years and more our power had waxed supreme
And kept large conflagrations low and made us start to preen.
We thought we could control events and stop war in its tracks
With webs of close alliances, diplomacy and pacts.

A maelstrom poured upon our men of iron, steel and fire,
And sent a piteous wail of grief through every town and shire.
We must press on, we told ourselves what now we have begun,
Till British pluck and doggedness did triumph o’er the Hun.

Through mud and ice and poison gas the order was ‘stand fast’;
This trial of strength twixt mortal foes, it surely could not last.
For four long years we stood our ground and bravely would not yield,
Till northern France ran red with blood through every poppy field.

Delusions born of hubris ease had caused us to believe
This war could be no different from the rest we had conceived,
But science changes everything and chivalry was dead,
Midst fire and smoke and strafing planes and mustard gas and lead.

Oh God above, what did we do to vent our foolish spleen,
But sacrifice the best we had on altars of the keen?
How little did we think it through and cry aloud ‘enough’!
But yet preferred to stumble on with bloody blind man’s bluff.


About tomhmackenzie

Born Derek James Craig in 1939, I was stripped of my identity and renamed Thomas Humphreys in the Foundling Hospital's last intake of illegitimate children. After leaving the hospital at 15, I managed to find work in a Fleet Street press agency before being called up for National Service with the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars who were, at that time, engaged with the IRA in Northern Ireland. Following my spell in the Army, I sought out and located my biological parents at age 20. I then became Thomas Humphrey Mackenzie and formed the closest of relationships with my parents for the rest of their lives. All this formed the basis of my book, The Last Foundling (Pan Macmillan), which went on to become an international best seller.

Posted on September 23, 2017, in miscellaneous, poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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