By golly it makes me smile

Sunday February 12, 2006

Today I tackled the problem of having too many clothes. Over the past few years as my weight and girth has oscillated I seem to have acquired at least three separate wardrobes in different sizes.

Sorting them out now I name them as falling into three classes: optimism, realism, and negativism. In the first pile go those garments I’ve set aside thinking that, one day, I may be small enough to fit into them once more. In the second go those I can actually wear at the moment. In the third, thankfully small pile I’ve put those I bought at the height of my weight gain, allowing an extra inch or so for even further spread because at the time I could see no way forward but constant outward growth.

Taken as a complete set they represent a topography having both physical and psychological significance and some clever clogs of a philosopher could like as not write a paper on it. Me, I’m going to do nothing more than bag up the first and third piles and stuff them in the Salvation Army clothing banks.

Ye gods and little fishes but there are a lot of clothes there. Far, far more than I can actually carry. It seems less than sensible and a lot less than modest for a chap to have more clothes than he can carry.

That thought didn’t last long before I shook my head and got on with the job in hand. I filled three plastic bags and took them to the clothing bank in Boston on my way to Boston. The remainder are bagged and stacked ready for future excursions.

I reckon I’ve freed up about two thirds of my clothes storage space and an equivalent volume of my uneasy conscience.

It wasn’t the most interesting of tasks but I stuck at it patiently, got it done and, as so often happens, reaped my reward a little later.

A long stretch of the back road into Boston runs alongside the wide drainage river all the way into the centre of town. For perhaps a mile it’s wide open countryside, populated with wild fowl and a joy in just about any weather. Even on a dull, damp, drizzly day like today the sight lifts the spirits and I always drive as slowly as I reasonably can to make the most of it. Sometimes I stop, parking the car with the full authority of my disabled driver’s badge, and walk over to stand on the grassy river bank for as long as my internal batteries need to recharge. Open water has always had an uplifting effect on my soul.

Today, driving along, I caught sight of a couple of coots—one of my favourite of all water fowl—and in a flash an entire new poem wrote itself, complete and entire, across my weary internal landscape. When that happens I feel rewarded for all the long, long hours and days of work I’ve put into my study of poetry.

In a spirit of sheer bravado, I didn’t stop to write it down. Nor did I write it down when I got to the supermarket. Further, I left it to marinate in my head while I took my siesta. When I woke, and sat down at my desk with coffee, pencil and paper, it fell onto the page in one go, fresh and lively, needing no more than a nudge here and there to make a poem with which I’m well pleased.

Writing poetry may not yield an income but by golly it makes me smile.



driving along the pencil-straight bank I saw from
a corner of my eye one white-faced coot chase
another in territorial pursuit on the wide winter water

had it been me I would have said it was
an ill-tempered moment of wintry discontent
reacting to the relentless drizzle of the day

as they settled the ripples settled too
and I saw it clearly as no more than
a coot doing what coots do

John Bailey
Lincolnshire, February 2006


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