Sadly, there’s many a poor soul who’s finished up that way.
Back in the early 1990s my friend, the late Terry O’Brien, was one such individual: a man in his early sixties who’d lost his home, savings and status as a consequence of a disastrous late marriage.
While I was writing this poem, Terry's ghost lingered in my peripheral vision but my real focus was on G B Edwards, the enigmatic author of one of the Twentieth Century’s finest novels, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page.
Gerald’s final years were spent as a lodger in a house just outside Weymouth in Dorset.
Whilst the poem isn’t based upon G B Edwards’ actual circumstances*, it was certainly influenced by them.
He could be short-tempered and cold.
He’d say, Too dear at seven quid,
and other times she would be told,
I’m leaving! But he never did.
At times he seemed to rule the house.
Lodger from Hell, she’d tell her spouse.
An old man, elderly, she’d say
a writer, something of that sort.
Is it a novel or a play?
My bloody masterpiece! He’d snort.
The manuscript on ruled foolscap,
some days he’d call a load of crap.
He was an inconsistent man:
one moment charmer, next a boor.
A solitary, without a clan,
with old-school manners, but piss-poor.
He’d leave his light on half the night,
brew pots of tea and write and write.
But all of that was years ago.
He’s dead and buried with his debts.
His book is in the shops, although
it doesn’t sell well, she regrets.
A book’s no substitute for life.
He’d have been better with a wife.