Poetry and Pictures from Tyneside by Alan Hartley

tyne poetry headerPhotograph ©Carol Haynes.

Back Then

A poem written in sincere gratitude for our wonderful National Health Service.

jarrow.jpgHe suffered rotten with the pains
But saw it as a part of life
For men, and never did complain.
Nor did his poor long-suffering wife,
Who had the sickness off and on
But tried to cope, as women will,
And cared for their ungrateful son,
Who hated them for being ill,
Not knowing the slump years they'd seen,
Not having had ambitions killed
By poverty, as theirs had been.

The doctor was a last resort.
They always got the bottle there,
But not the alcoholic sort,
No way could they afford such fare.
No, they would get the bottle, red
Or, failing that, the bottle, white.
The one to get you out of bed,
The other one to keep you right.
"There is no ailment, to be sure,"
(Or so our learnèd doctor said)
"The bottle (red or white) won't cure."

That's how it was for 'unemployed',
No cash to pay a doctor's bill,
No hope of work, respect destroyed,
The penalty for being ill.
And what a help their son was then.
He didn't mean to be unkind,
Cajoling them to try again.
Not that they ever seemed to mind
When he denied them sympathy.
They always seemed so damned resigned;
At least, back then, that's how it seemed to be.