Wonder Boy


In grainy films of black and white

The weather’s always dull and cold.

The people, overcoated, hunched,

Appear, before their time, too old.


A mother, barely thirty-one,

Seems far advanced in middle age,

While flat-cap dad who spits and coughs

Has lost all sparkle and all rage.


It must have been a heady mix,

The wartime rations, fags and booze.

Pea-soupered air meant healthy lives

Were not available to choose.


The generation from these times

Was shrivelled by back-breaking toil,

In factories or down in mines

Or labour daily on the soil.




With one exception: Wonder Boy.

A product of the darkest days,

His seemed a usual life’s employ:

Married, ten kids, set in his ways.


His neighbourhood and home were bleak,

He worked all day at forging steel,

Yet managed not to look antique.

Sometimes they whispered: ‘is he real?’


Most evenings, he would join the blokes

And swill into a drunken state.

Each day he puffed a hundred smokes,

Yet lived till he was ninety-eight.

◄ In the darkness

Spread ►


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Stephen Gospage

Tue 1st Dec 2020 16:58

Thanks to Mike and M.C. for the heroic tales and to everyone else for the likes.

It is incredible how long such people lived, given the often terrible conditions at home and work. Apart from anything else, so many people smoked several packets of fags per day. Even my Dad (who died at 86) was puffing away until the age of 30; he gave up because I was coming alone, so at least I achieved something.

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Mike McPeek

Tue 1st Dec 2020 05:18

Liked this one Stephen! My uncle worked 35+ years in a steel mill and is still going strong - about 85 years old. Gotta be something in the genes...

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M.C. Newberry

Sun 29th Nov 2020 16:32

Yes - it's amazing that so many achieved very long lives despite the
stress of so much adversity. My mother - born just after the start of
the 20th century - lived to 90. My step-father - born when Victoria
was on the throne - had lived to the same age. A cousin reached
100 - to add to that substantial total - playing bridge to an advanced
level into her own 90s. Truly, they don't make 'em like that anymore!

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Stephen Gospage

Sat 28th Nov 2020 17:08

Brian, I'm sure that two minutes was worth it. You could have spent it watching Newsnight, or Jacob Rees-Mogg, or both.

As you say, Paul, it is fascinating to see how old relatively young people looked in days gone by. As a youngster, I used to think of my grandparents as ancient, although they were only about sixty-five, an age at which people now take up sky diving or marry a member of a boy band.

What was his secret, Philipos? I think just being a one-off, exceptionally lucky. There are such people, I suppose. Or perhaps the fags were unpuffed and the drink poured away. Still, ninety eight is a pretty good age.

Mala', I would be delighted to read your poem.

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Brian Maryon

Fri 27th Nov 2020 21:40

My guess is that he poured his drinks away when no-one was looking and only had a quick puff on each fag. In reality he was the boss's son, in the community undercover and had a home gym and a cupboard full of vitamin pills. (That's two minutes of my life I won't get back!)

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Paul Sayer

Fri 27th Nov 2020 17:26

What a great insight into the days of old Stephen.

I have some photos of my father on the beach in the middle of a very hot summers day, dressed in his cap and tie! He looked over sixty, he was in his mid-twenties.

He worked since leaving school every day of his life in a boot and shoe factory apart from from a spell fighting the Hun until he retired at 65. They never even knew he retired.

Shame on you 'Southhalls'

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Fri 27th Nov 2020 16:58

Stephen, amazing how some get through it, when others don't.

Enjoyed the read and the sharing of thoughts and the subtle rhymes.

What was his secret do you think?


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