Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Rising Above Age Concerns


Now, there is a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, I disagree.

It isn’t only retired people who can feel lonely, of course; it can (and often does) happen to anyone who, for whatever reason, feels out of the social loop and has no idea what to do about it. Doing nothing, though, is not an option unless we are resigned to letting life pass us by. For retired people, daytime TV isn’t a satisfactory option either.

Focusing on the job in hand, many of us underestimate the importance of the everyday contact with other people that any work ethos offers. Suddenly, we arrive at the retirement we have looked forward to all our working lives; for single people, especially, that everyday contact may well no longer be there. Gone are the people that have been so much a part of our lives for so long; gone, too, a major focal point…the job itself.

I got chatting to a widower recently who hated retirement until he joined a local community group campaigning for better facilities for young people in his area. A former business executive  he  was able to bring his organization skills (among others) to the campaign and made lots of new friends, young and old. I asked him why he got involved in the first place. “I suddenly realised I was on my own, going nowhere fast and I’d be stuck with Jeremy Kyle if I wasn’t careful,” he told me with a grin. “I was out of the loop good and proper, and nothing was going to change unless I made it happen. I heard about the campaign, and have never looked back. If not the campaign, I’d have found something, you can be sure of that. I mean, you can’t survive on your own, can you…?”

How do I cope with retirement? Well, I took early retirement at 50 so I could spend more time writing. An isolationist occupation, you might think, but feedback suggests my blog readers enjoy many of my poems, and I have always found writing very therapeutic. Even so, I made a point of getting out and meeting people for many years if less so now as I have prostate cancer and a mobility problem following a nasty fall in 2014. Yet, I made some good friends and remain in touch with some, especially my best friend Graham, these plus my blog readers help me feel in a loop I’d rather be in than out so no worries there.

Many older people are unable to get out and about; for them – especially single people and those whose families are not on hand – loneliness can be a terrible thing. I recently heard of someone who takes retirement (and loneliness) in his stride by visiting lonely people and spending time with them. “It’s two-way traffic,” he told me when we met recently, “We support each other.”

Supporting each other… What better way to stay in the loop, eh?

I recall once complaining about being bored to my English teacher Mr ‘Jock’ Rankin who had asked how I was settling in at my new home across the river. ‘Life won’t come to you, Taber,” he said, “You have to go out and meet it head-on or you’ll not only be bored, you’ll be lonely too” Wise words in my ear, some 60+ years on…


Loneliness crept up on me,
had its feet  well under my table
before I knew it

No one calling on the phone,
no one ever knocking at my door
to ask how I am

No more cheery cards, letters,
remains of  kinder times dropping
on the doormat

No one stopping for a chat
while window shopping, desperate
to pass the time

Took a tumble in the street,
complete strangers rushing to help
piece me together

Faith in humanity restored,
I joined a local community project,
got myself a life

Self-pity, it had played dirty,
given Once-Upon-A-Time priority
over Here-and-Now

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Giants, no Fairytale Species


Not infrequently, people confide how they feel helpless against a tide of socio-cultural-religious forces manipulated by various leaders for their own sakes and/or kind to the detriment of 'outsiders'. ‘Why are we all so divided?’ someone only recently wailed in my ear, ‘Why must it take a tragedy like the recent terrorist atrocity in Manchester to bring people together …until innate differences start to drive them apart again?

On the grounds that repeating the obvious is sometimes necessary if only to prevent its being lost in a sea of trite, I often make the point in my blogs that our differences do not make us different, simply human; we can and should learn from them, not gang up against them. Far too many if not most socio-cultural-religious leaders are invariably quick to agree in principle, but less willing to practise what they preach.

So what can we do?

It is (surely?) down to each and every one of us to live our lives as best we can and try not to be judgemental, the very trap our leaders and so-called ‘betters’ would have us fall into by appearing to refute it, thereby planting the very seeds of division in our minds that suit their individual purposes while cleverly avoiding either blame or responsibility.

A socio-cultural-religious metaphor may well be a chess master’s political strategy where the likes of you and I are taken to be vulnerable pawns; it is, however, a game that two can play... Being our own person (no pressure or aspiration to be someone else) and living our lives as we see it playing out to the best of our ability, immune to unfair or unwanted comparisons...that is what is known as being on the winning side.


What is it really all about,
I’d ask myself as a child, this growing up
among restless giants…?

Why do giants wear a mask
for every occasion, always seem so wary
of letting any slip…?

(Why must I tread so warily
for fear of offending by just being honest,
speaking my mind…?)

Diplomacy is all very well,
but no substitute (surely?) for keeping faith
with basic principles…

Oh, and what of love’s light,
come to guide us through a darkening world,
but frequently cutting out?

Yes, we need rules to live by
or sheer chaos likely to get the better of us all,
but who rules what, for whom?

It’s a discerning inner eye
that perceives the flaws in any moral authority
over anxious to flex its muscles

So where does that leave us,
who can but trust basic instincts albeit thwarted
at every turn of phrase and policy?

It leaves us strong, stoic, free
to speak up, make ourselves seen, felt and heard,
risk being ignored, mocked, bullied…

Or what has it all been for,
I’d ask myself each new day as time rushes on by,
and I grow old…?

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Nature's Way

I started school in 1950 and never did well academically. Yet, as if not more importantly, I learned a lot from a hard hit generation of post-war teachers. Upon his retirement, I asked one (as children do) if being old was scary ‘what with death and all that’. He shrugged and gave it little thought before replying, ‘You reap what you sow in life, Taber. Sow well, and enjoy doing it, whatever and wherever it may be. Enjoy might not always be the first word that comes to mind, but satisfaction is much the same thing. Whatever, the chances are you’ll find Death isn’t such a grim reaper after all.’

That was more than half a century ago. Out of the blue, I found myself  thinking about him and those words of wisdom; both inspired this poem, written to help lift myself out of an inexcusably negative awareness of growing old and the cancer nagging at my prostate.


Sometimes, hearts lie heavy
on a spirit (still) young and fancy free,
in a world, oh, far less kind
than in its past it ever looked to be
in selective archives

No mornings up with the lark,
flying high in skies  shades of blue,
negotiating storm clouds
like a seasoned performer in the art
of positive thinking

Some may suppose little left
but sweet dreams to soften the blow
of time passing ever faster...
heart, mind and body left to babysit
a restless spirit

Ah, but nature has other ideas,
nurturing life forces to the very end
of any span only visible
to the applauding eye, ever mindful
of its seasons

On Earth Mother’s watch, keeper
of all living things, human and other,
no heartless discrimination
along narrow lines of good, bad, ugly, 
or judgement passed

If a sad mind likely to lead us on
into a world of tears at losing its shine,
it’s a sadder spirit still
sees us taken in by the sweet-smelling
poetry of self-pity

Where a body less able to follow
first instincts to leave clear footprints
worth following in, 
let it take its cue from sun-moon-stars
cruising centuries

So I grow old, so what? C’est la vie;
the mind- heart- body self can but dream
of rewriting its history…
while its spirit makes of us what we will,
no endgame

Though death would shut us out
of the world (however we perceive it),
find rest and peace in any
who continue to take from us their cue
for joie de vivre

Copyright R. N. Taber (2017)

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Venturing through the Looking Glass


As a young man, I once had the privilege of meeting a famous actor in a cafe one rainy evening in Soho. He caught me staring at him and grunted that he was in no mood to give autographs. I confessed I did not collect them anyway, but was thrilled to see him in real life. He thawed, and we chatted. I commented how wonderful it must be to live a life for which he would not only be remembered for all time but which had also been recorded on the big screen. “Oh, wow, what a legacy!” I enthused. He shrugged and muttered that the big screen was all about his acting, not his life, and how the only life and legacy really worth having is recorded for all time anyway…among the fonder memories of those who matter most to us.

At the time, I thought it was a trite thing to say. Now I know better.  I even found myself saying much the same thing to an elderly friend who was recently lamenting the fact that he had done nothing with his life to deserve leave any mention in the history books. I reminded him that the he has wonderful children who, in turn, have given him grandchildren. What better legacy or record of anyone’s life and history…?

Me…? No partner, no children or family to speak of…but hopefully my friends will think well of me when I’m gone and my poetry will at least have found a place in the hearts and minds of some readers. Do I think of my poetry as a legacy? I would not presume to predict. I have enjoyed every moment of writing ever poem, though, so hopefully some of that pleasure will have rubbed off on readers sufficiently for them to pass on the pleasure if not the poem.



Once, I looked in a glass,
and glimpsed a child waving
at me, a cheeky smile,
face smudged with playtime,
eyes shining

Later, I looked in the glass,
glimpsed a cheeky grin, youth
full of hope and promise,
face unlined, past and present
shining through

Once, I looked in a glass,
for a long, weary, weepy while, 
years taken toll enough
to obliterate even the shadow
of a half-smile

Later, I peered in the glass,
misty with quickening breath,
face-in-a-mist conveying
a wry smile for given up crying
over spilt milk

Now, I put an ear to the glass,
listening to words calling me 
back to life, love, nature...
an oral poetry returning me
a cheeky smile

Copyright R. N. Taber 2017