Patrick Wakeling's poem

This poem is written by Patrick Waveling, consultant child psychiatrist, poet, and former resident of Brattleby. See the link below for an obituary in the Guardian. We are publishing the poem here with kind of permission of Vivienne Wakeling, his wife.

All The Best

‘What will you do,’they asked, ‘when you retire?’

I had a list prepared to meet their need:

study, travel, gardening, the rest.

Though some shifted their gaze

as if to say, ‘that’s not enough,’

most were reassured, took word for deed

-’I envy you’- and wished me all the best.


I was afraid to say out loud,

‘I really want to be myself,’

in case they changed their view,

concluding I’d been cagey, after all,

but now felt free at last to hive

old toys upon the dusty shelf,

saying I’d found a better game than you.


A foolish ambition to be me?

The doubt, the panic and the rage

suggest I don't know what I'm asking for:

an ill-cast actor playing to an empty house.

Or start a chapter that might lapse

say halfway down the page.

Sounds worse than any normal job.

And only one week in. I’m not so sure.


Parties, a presentation,

regret for what was left unsaid,

crowded the final week.

Yet love survived the traffic of the mouth

- words, the mash of food, guffaws -

with sudden lungs of the tilted head,

scoring dampness on the proffered cheek.


The parting patch soon dries,

composure once more wedded to each face.

‘See you around…..we’ll keep in touch,’

we clamour, adding other cop-outs for goodbye.

At home I read the bon mots in the cards:

’No longer will the toad squat….’ place

that one fondly. I’ll miss her very much.


Of course, no one has mentioned death,

though ’long retirement’ means the same,

referring indirectly to a certain end.

Why not ‘a new beginning’ ?

Won’t do. Not end-stopped yet, for meaning

carries over, ‘Enjambment’ is the name

to give me hope that I may send

old thoughts to new conclusions

on another line.