Poetry by Jeff Green

3307–Bert.html

Bert

by cricketjeff on July 14, 2011.  © Jeff Green, All rights reserved

I doubt if people notice while they’re waiting for a bus
But there between the trees and summer flowers
Is a simple dedication to a man who made no fuss
And every day he gave them all his hours
Erected to the memory of Albert Arthur French
His ninety years upon the earth recorded on a bench.

I used to sit at lunchtimes in the sunshine by his name
And wondered who he’d been before he died
I knew his children loved him but that’s not a claim to fame
What extra deeds had filled their hearts with pride
I’ve searched through local papers to unwrap a special life
A tale of love and kindness for the world and for his wife

His father died at Passchendaele before the son arrived
His mother started teaching at the school
No silver coated childhood but he never felt deprived
And didn’t feel the need to play the fool
Apprenticed at the glassworks hard at work by ’39
The army sent a letter and invited him to sign.

From Catterick to Cairo eating sand and breathing flies
Italians and Germans came and went
He fought when he was told too under unforgiving skies
And having fought he went where he was sent
Then Bert invaded Sicily with many thousand mates
He found spaghetti’s secrets and then crossed Messina’s straits

They called them D-Day dodgers but it didn’t blight his life
It ended and he thought he’d like to teach
He studied hard at college and he found a pretty wife
A brighter sounding future was in reach
He taught his boys with passion not the cane and flying chalk
Where others needed terror he would smile and simply talk

They started with a daughter, then a son who shared his name
And five years later pretty little Clare
He taught them life was precious and to play it as a game
And Clare grew long and curly ginger hair
He always helped his neighbours was the first to own a car
A dark blue Morris Minor that his children called the Tzar

The local cricket club have pictures taken every year
With Bert and scruffy children from the school
He scored at least one fifty (when they beat “The Belvedere”)
And saved a girl from drowning in the pool
You see a life in snippits when you search through local news
And trawl through dusty records for some unsuspected clues

His wife won cups for knitting and she curtsied for The Queen
His boy played golf and won a camel race
I wonder what he thought when “Local Beauty Clare” was seen
At Epsom wearing just her smiling face
Reports of his retirement with some quotes from boys he’d taught
Revealed he liked a whisky and he “made a god of sport”

So that was Bert the hero, born as Albert Arthur French,
A teacher and a husband and a dad
Remembered every lunchtime that I sit down on his bench
And knowing more about him made me glad
A week ago last Wednesday there were three sat on that seat
Now I’ve met all his children and my poem is complete!

Author notes