My Uncle Fred

My Uncle Fred

His narrow, terraced house survives the blitz

until its blacked-out windows can enjoy

sashed daylight, hazed by lace, creating

patterns on the polished, oilclothed floor.


Hiss click, hiss click. Steel needles conjure

symphonies from brittle, shellac discs

(a giddy dog admires His Master’s Voice)

spinning new worlds between the dull brown walls

– and on the picture rails, hung by their wheels,

aircraft, created by a master’s craft –

doped tissue paper cloaks the balsa frames

glued under gaslight, employing self-taught skills.


With equal gentleness he strokes a bow

across a violin or – on Sunday,

a day for ritual – sets foot

inside the musty, hallowed sitting-room,

draws in his fragile breath and

pulls with sympathetic strength

at organ stops, summoning a fugue by Bach

to rattle doors, disturb the cats,

shake off a week of post-war toil.


His diaries record the thud of bombs,

the price of fish, a flower seller killed,

a rose in bloom, a broadcast by the King

and other miscellaneous things… a baby’s birth


                                                      © Tony French


The diaries of Uncle Fred, inherited by the author of this poem, are published day by day on their 70th anniversary at