'Cloud cumulonimbus at baltic sea' by Arnold Paul (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Introduction by Graham Hancock

My uncle James Macaulay, my late mother’s brother, is the oldest surviving member of my family. He celebrates his 90th birthday this year.

Following the death of my mum (see here) Uncle Jimmy kindly sent these poems. No need for titles; they speak for themselves…

In the scale of things my sister’s death
Came as no earth quaking shock,
No rampaging watery flood’s catastrophe.
For as her faulty heart gave up,
She slowed, breathless
And the passing of dragged out days.
Led her to a gentle end.
Close in a family way
Though miles apart across the land.
And near the end
Much closer through the
Impersonal electronic touch of a telephone.
Kind words and small jokes
Shared memories of our distant youth.
And now she’s gone.
No longer just a call away.
No longer there to spread
Calm reasoned words.
That’s what sisters are for, she’d say.
So good bye Muriel and ta-ta
A rock, my rock and thanks.
My turn next!
Who will miss me quite as much?

A magpie by my morning walk,
I stop to talk.
Seys I to him
How do you keep your feathers clean?
Him seys to me,
And in a flutter of black and white
Flies off.
Nature is a one way street.

My wind up clock has surprised me yet again.
It stopped.
Seems like only yesterday I was giving it
The weekly 8 or 9 turns of the key.
“There old thing that will keep you going
For another 7 days.” I thought!
But here you are, stopped again.
Oh slow down, do take your time.
The passing hours have sped by unnoticed.
Looking at it, slightly askance
I tell myself, a clock is just a dumb machine,
I should not take it personally if it stops.
Other folks have clocks which run as fast
But mine seems to be running out of time.
I am given to suspect it,
In my heart of hearts
I believe it to be so.
It simply is a device
To speed me on my way,
To cut short my time,
To make way for another
To wind you up
As you wind me.
But who will wind you then?

It was spring when I met my love
I lost summer in her arms
Now she is gone
And immediately winter set upon me.
How could it have come so soon?
Where did the good times go?
They went with her in my youth,
And suddenly I am old and all alone.
Come dog and sit by me.
I’ll play the Hurdy-gurdie
One more time.
And still the rain comes down.

The window is a blur with wetness
And the songs have all been sung,
We must dress and go now *
Yes we and every one.
Short was the time we spend here
Yes we and every one.
And our flesh we must dispense with
Err the coming of the sun.
The glass was a blur with rain drops
What was proper has all been done
Someone is calling us home now
Yes we and every one.


A wild teenage hooligan wind
Rampaged mischievously along my street.
Panicking papers,
Bullying bins,
Attacking old aunts,
Who should have known better,
Better than to go out lightly.
It disturbed their hats,
Loosening their careful hair
Sweeping all before, behind them.
Yet with pounding heart
And stomach stirred
In a swift adrenalin rush
I thrust from the house, laughing.
Tears whipped from my watering eyes.
Coat as yet unzipped, ripped open
To expose my youthful soul to the gale.
I loved it, yet at ninety
I clung to the rail
Simply savouring the life of the day.
And then went back to bed.

Bleak the day is, and once more I am alone.
‘Tis winter and past me, down my wind scoured street,
An empty beer can rattles, on its noisy way.
I am neither coming nor going,
Just pacing to pass the time,
Wrapped up against the cold,
Alas not well enough,
And thinking, how like that can am I.
Once useful, smoothly rounded, and colourful,
Now dented, discarded and useless.
Later I catch up with it wedged
Under the palings of a wooden fence
Appropriately enough
The fence surrounds our G.P.’s garden
I should bend down and pick it up
And put it in his wheelie bin?
But you know I can’t be bothered.
Let somebody younger tidy up.
One of these days somebody
Younger will have to bend down
And pick me up and put me in another’s bin.

  • Seven poems on life and death
  • Four Poems, 2008-10-22