Dreadful Service

No, this is not a restaurant review or a rant about the delivery of broadband to the remoter parts of Britain. It’s about tennis, and about my diminishing ability to play the game.  Twenty years since I last weilded a racket in anger, I was lured into having a game by the mention of it by a colleague. I eagerly joined a group of retirees about the same age as myself (a couple a lot older), keen to be skipping around the local court and whipping the ball back and forth.  Time, however, is a cruel beast and, along with loss of memory in old age, there is also a marked loss of agility.

I think I’ve kept myself fairly fit over the years and, although I gave up going to the gym last year, for a while I engaged in the new over-50s game of ‘walking football’. Really good. But following my move to the other side of the country I have been unable to find similar around here. Hence my desire to take up the opportunity of playing tennis. I must say that I was not doing too bad in getting the ball back over the net and actually winning a few points. The downside was when it came to my turn to serve. I remember being told many years ago by someone far more adept at the game than me that a key part of the skill was in the serve. It does not need to be particularly powerful, but accuracy is essential. Getting it over the net and/or into the opposite court would be a good start for me. I lost count of the number of double faults I committed (‘committed’ is the correct word, because my game was criminal).  Notwithstanding this, my friends have continued to invite me back for further participation, with the advice that I should get myself a new racket. The one I have is not exactly a museum piece but it is 20+ years old, so perhaps they are right.  I also think my game might improve if for once the wind does not play on the days we get together for a game. But that’s just an excuse.


Net Prophet

 I had a feeling when I received the balls

For me to serve, there would be many calls

Of ‘Out’.’ Just get it in’, was the advice

As to how I should improve my service

Game. But again and again, just the same.

‘Get a new racket’ they said. The fools.

A bad workman always blames his tools.

Not the tools in my case. The fact is

I just have to practice and practice.



Irish By Write

I took a recent trip to Dublin, visiting Ireland for the first time in my life. Much to my shame I might add, since Ireland lies not that far away and I also have some Irish ancestry. I found the city of Dublin everything that anyone has ever said about the place. It is vibrant, friendly and the people have a spontaneity of spirit. Needless to say I visited a few of the pubs (there are apparently 1000 in the city), in order to sample the Guinness which it behoves any visitor to do.

Of the various sights in Dublin I was surprised to chance upon the Dublin Writers Museum which has been in existence since 1991. It is a fascinating place, being a large former Georgian residence and which now contains a wonderful collection of manuscripts, books and letters from the great names of Irish literature: Swift, Yeats, Shaw, Wilde and Beckett, amongst many others. Each one a genius.

Like a long-legged fly upon the stream,

              Their minds moved upon silence.     [W. B. Yeats]



Only a Number

The classic phrase when it comes to discussing age, and especially old age, is ‘it’s only a number’. And I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.  Time is a contrivance to keep track of things. If the Earth took twice as long to orbit the Sun then I would only be half the age I am now. Conversely, if it went around its orbit twice as fast I would be (gulp) double my current age. Doesn’t bear thinking about. The reason I’m going on about this today is that, as you may have guessed, it’s my birthday. Given the time of year – the Spring Equinox – everything should be in perfect balance. However, in contrast to last week’s lovely warm sunshine, the weather has reverted to more wintry bluster and rain, which is I suppose some sort of balance. Yin Yang as it is said.

Looking at the symbols for this and the positivity of ‘complementary opposites’ my age (69) would seem to have a bright outlook. Certainly, if the rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday To You…’ from fellow members of my writing group this morning was anything to go by (and which startled other customers in the coffee shop), this should be a pretty good day in spite of the weather.


I played a game of tennis last week for the first time in about twenty years and was amazed that I could still return the ball over the net. More strenuous games involving running may not be as straightforward. The opportunity to wield a cricket bat in a competitive game may not present itself again, as I reflected in a poem posted a few years ago.

Playing for Time

 The pace of the games these seasons,

are much faster. I was a disaster,

painfully failing to fend off the fours.

Batting was just as bad, until a happy clatter

of stumps and Out! Polite applause,

but not quite sure of the reasons.


Let’s be honest, I’m a failure

and my best position is in the bar,

where I don anecdotal regalia.

A sage with time but no desire to declare

analysis of what has gone before.

I do not have to settle any scores,

but merely issue warnings and advice,

while the young must deal their cards and roll their dice.


© Wally Smith 2013




A Walk on the Wilde Side

This last weekend I found myself in Reading for the first time in many months. It was a place I thought I was quite familiar with until I took a walk from my hotel early on Saturday morning, enjoying the spread of spring blooms in the very welcome sunshine. The River Kennet runs through the town and a backwater flows by the ruined abbey and below the walls of the old Reading Jail. I discovered that the path has now been turned into a memorial to one of the jail’s most famous inmates, Oscar Wilde. The railings and gates have been fashioned into lines from his poetry and one gate has been cleverly made in his image.

Oscar Wilde

In his words:

I know not whether Laws be right,

Or whether Laws be wrong;

All that we know who lie in gaol

Is that the wall is strong;

[From The Ballad of Reading Gaol]

Gardening groans

Until my recent move to the countryside, I had lived in a flat for eight years and had missed having a garden to potter about in. The new place has a substantial area of greenery both in front and to the rear. The lawns and herbaceous borders as well as  established shrubs and trees all demand attention. Even more so now that the sunnier days and warmer air has arrived.  Two days ago I gave the front lawn its first cut of the season. I also continued to dig out emerging weeds from the beds and continued to turn the soil and weed a large raised bed at the rear. What I had failed to take into account was that in the intervening eight years when I had been without a garden, I had added those years to myself, and my former resilience to the rigours of digging and bending had waned considerably.  I was forced to concede that muscles which had formerly been exercised on a regular basis were not so forgiving of my sixty eight years of age.

I bought a sack of seed potatoes to plant in the vegetable bed but have had to postpone that task until the aches have subsided sufficiently.  Fortunately, quite heavy rain has swept in, making planting impractical at the present. The seed potatoes therefore lie in wait in trays in the garage, eyeing me with apprehension. Meanwhile, I will enjoy looking at the spring growth appearing everywhere.



Spring starts with a bragging blast

of daffodil-drenched verges,

trumpet heads calling for bud burst

and bird song. Even morning frosts

gleam with freshness full of life.

This is a time I should walk more:

with a spring in my step (pun intended).

Outdoor chores to be fixed and mended,

to get on in the garden before

boredom strikes again and I’ve

concocted lots and lots

of reasons for doing other things first.

I should right now use these initial surges

which I fear are not here to last.

[© Wally Smith 2014]





What’s in a name?

I should have known really that Spring was not yet on the way, despite the wonderful warm sunshine we experienced a few days ago.  It is still February after all and we should be grateful that we are at least not having to clear snow off our driveways or slipping along icy pavements.  As if just to remind us that winter is still in charge, we are about to experience the latest of the winter storms, named Doris.  So far we’ve had Angus, Barbara, Conor and now Doris.  I wonder who has the job of making up the list of names; is it random or is there a logical process in the choice? And what determines the gender?

Apparently the names are attributed when a tropical storm develops and the name is retained if the storm turns into a hurricane. Names can be reused in later years (after six years it seems), except for particularly devastating ones which are retired. It’s almost as if they are living entities. But what’s in a name? A storm by any other name would be just as bad.


Storm Doris blows in

With a retinue of rain.

Trees bend before her.