Wednesday, 12 April 2017


This 'poem' (if it is a poem) was written for a couple of reasons; first of all because, shortly before I wrote it, I did a gig in Middlewich with Adrian Spendlow and Jacki Jackson and Adrian came up with a brilliant poem about the things 'old blokes' say*.
It was called We Used To Make Our Own Entertainment and struck an immediate chord with the audience.
And with me.
It set me thinking. What other 'old bloke' expressions could be used to similar effect?
Naturally the Grandaddy of all 'old bloke' expressions sprang immediately to mind.
'All This Was Fields'.
Hopelessly out-dated now, of course. You're far more likely to hear old men telling you about all the old factories which once existed rather than reminiscing about fields.
The second reason for the existence of ATWF was the popularity of Jenny Joseph's Warning, known to many as When I grow old I shall wear purple..,
That 'When I grown old...' line is an obvious starting point, and all I had to do was look around at all the horrible old men I knew for inspiration for the rest of it.
Because there seems to me to be a big difference between old ladies and old men. 
Old ladies are sweet, gentle and apple-cheeked, whereas old men are horrible.
A horrible old man
Not all of them, naturally, but quite a few of them. Enough to make them a problem, I would say.
Some old men will use the very fact that they are old to try to gain advantages and take liberties, and to get away with things they shouldn't.
Like being Dirty Old Men for example, and thinking they know more than younger people with the justification that it must stand to reason that the longer you've been alive, the more knowledge of the world you will have picked up.
Which, is, of course, nonsense.
If you're an idiot when you're young, you remain an idiot when you're old.
ATWF is unlike anything else I have ever written. In fact it's probably unlike anything else that anyone has ever written.
It's part stream-of-consciousness, part monologue and part rant and, definitely unlike any other of my pieces of verse, doesn't rhyme, except where the 'key words' occur.
Those words are there to give everyone (including the reader) a rest from the relentless pace of this rambling piece, which should be recited very quickly in the manner of an old man in a pub letting people know that none of them are as old as he is and he is older than everyone else and therefore must be right and all this was fields,,,
A typical field
Incidentally, I was 46 when this piece was written. I am now 61* and, as a consequence, as the years go by ATWF sounds less and less like a send-up and more and more like me just being myself.


By Dave Roberts

When I grow old I shall wander around the streets in an old green motheaten kagool with grease stains and a picture of the Spice Girls on it and glare balefully at innocent passers-by and spend a lot of my waking hours incoherently
about nothing that makes any sense and when it suits me I shall be oblivious to everyone and everything and, every now and again, I shall make a point of
in a very unpleasant manner, in the hope of upsetting people and I will tell them All This Was Fields and there used to be a sweetshop where the off-licence is now and suddenly, without warning for most impact,
around abruptly for no apparent reason and talking to people who are clearly imaginary or died fifty years before or possibly, if I can contrive to be demented enough, come from outer space, or China, or Winsford or somewhere.
And when I grow old I shall take a great delight in
endlessly from pub to pub in the hope of getting free drinks from young, impressionable people who think I am a ‘character’ just because I am very old and dirty and insanitary and demented and daft and look strange and
on and on about how there used to be an ironmonger’s shop where the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society is now and All This Was Fields and you youngsters think you know it all and we never even saw a banana until we were nearly thirty and now the whole world’s gone mad and you can’t even walk down the street without being murdered, even on a Saturday morning, and isn’t it a shame they pulled the abattoir down? And things were better then and sometimes
away most of my meagre pension (which I will never tire of grumbling about) on clapped out old horses that haven’t got a clue and go calmly and sedately
around the track as if they haven’t got a care in the world and when they were foals All This Was Fields and there was no great urgency and time didn’t matter (which by then, of course, it won’t).
And when I am old I shall buttonhole young people in the pub and irritate them
by asking them (with a twinkle in my eye) how old they think I am and being
hurt and offended when they say, ‘I don’t know – a hundred and twenty-eight, you boring old git’.
And I shall twitter on and on about how things aren’t the same any more and in my day you could buy twenty gobstoppers for a farthing and how we used to go potato-picking and how the local buses used to be owned by some daft old sod who started with a handcart in 1897 carrying workmen at tuppence a time (in old money, of course, you won’t remember that; this decimalisation was the biggest con ever. My Dad brought up a family of twelve on fourpence a week and the beer was stronger then and there were trams and we played marbles and there was no television or computers and we used to swim in the canal and All This Was Fields and you don’t know you’re born) and
leering at young girls with big busts and wearing mini-skirts and a lot of make-up and saying if I was sixty years younger I’d show ‘em all and of course in my day there was no such thing as sex and the Vicar said it’ll fall off if you touch it and they made you wear boxing gloves in bed and we didn’t have sex before marriage – we didn’t have sex after marriage – and All This Was Fields and I shall smirk at these girls and, because I am old and batty, I shall be able to talk to them
and get away with it. And when they smile at me out of pity I shall think they still fancy me even though I am old and incontinent and more of a walking compost heap than a man and smell and remember when All This Was Fields and
I shall become so old and senile and detached from reality that I shall start writing letters to the local newspapers about nothing that means anything to any normal person and I shall write week after week after week
on this and that and telling everybody that things were different in my day and why won’t anyone listen to me? and All This Was Fields and cocoa doesn’t taste the same now and I’m right, and everybody else is wrong. And if anyone dares to contradict me I shall write letter after letter after letter
each and every thing that people do or say or think or feel because none of them are as old as I am and I am older than everyone else and All This Was Fields and therefore I must be right and I know best and, eventually, after all this I shall write again
that it is a shame for me and everybody should pity me really because I am old, and by that time I probably won’t be able to help myself.
And after that I shall, in a quiet sort of way, die.
And you can write on my headstone: ‘He was right. When he was young they didn’t have fancy cemeteries.You dead people don’t know you’re born. When he was young
All This Was Fields…’

Dave Roberts
© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2012

* The evening was recorded by Mid-Cheshire Radio for use in a progamme we used to feature on local station YFM in Crewe in the 1990s. The tapes still exist...somewhere.

* 63, actually! (update: 25/1/16)
* Actually just days away from 65! (update 7/9/17)
*65.......(update 20/9/17).

First published on THE ODD EXCEPTION 9th January 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment