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.