Friday, 26 April 2013


My father getting his long service award-a radio, back in the 1970's.

There is a theme to the poems this week- work. Interestingly they were written over a long period of time during which I think all of our attitudes to employment/work/career have had to change.

My father's shift; he's on the left standing.
This made me think of a song from the 1960’s Gold Watch Blues by Mick Softley that was made famous by Donovan. I had an interesting time trying to find a suitable version to link to. There are a couple of recordings on Youtube by Donovan but the quality is not very good on ether.

For all of you who cannot be fagged to watch the video the song essentially charts the narrators attempt to get a job in a large company. It implies that working in this company is a life sentence, that there is no remission until you get your gold watch on retirement. Needless to say the shiftless narrator is not employed to “sweep the bloody floor.” How times have changed. The song reflects a world of labour shortage.

My father joining the Golden Eye Club following an industrial accident. If he had not been wearing  eye protection he would have been blinded.
This however is not the focus of post which is to present two poems. This first one describes my days in industry. I did work in a plant that made chlorine which was used to manufacture CFCs and the people I worked with did not wear masks so that they could spend the summer in the sun.


No one ever noticed the roof,
with its hidden castellation:
touched by the sea blue corrugated sides.
Each rectangular trough a silent, secret pool.
sidestepping further tasks,
fitters in summer hid here.
Beached, white, flabby flesh
basking between blue walls and sky.
Curious, I only went up once.
the gravelled felt moved softly underfoot,
gulls overhead.

We used mercury to split brine,
rendering chlorine and caustic.
My work mates never wore the masks provided
to filter mercury vapour from the air we breathed,
courting high mercury levels in their blood,
to work outside in summer and tan.
Removed from the process,
they lay on scaffolding boards to bake,
as quicksilver seeped from their bodies.
The chlorine we made killed the ozone.
Supine in our apathy until summer changed for ever.


I wrote the poem fairly quickly in a vegetarian café in Wells. As I remember it came about relatively complete.

Ten strangers circle an oval table,
endure an unending induction.
The tutor mumbles names,
as statutory facts are pushed past
in a slow soporific sequence.
This is entropy in action,
we will make of it what we will.

This poem was written much later as the boring induction wound on. I think the person taking the induction was as bored as we were and it showed.

Me in 1979 at work.

I have a number of interesting interviews in the pipeline as well as some other newer poems. Watch this space.


  1. Lovely evocative poem - could feel the summer languor, and shiver at the sense of the chemical menace waiting to strike..... Donovan was a contemporary of mine and one of my school friends, Julia, went out with him for a while...we were all in awe.

  2. Interesting song! I enjoyed the poems as well--and the photographs were great.