Monday, November 17, 2014

Life of a Poet - Old Egg

Kids, you are in for such a treat today! We are swooping across to Australia, to meet with Robin Kimber, whom we are pleased to know as Old Egg. You will find this poet at Robin's Nest. I knew Old Egg had a love story to tell, but now have also discovered he was a child in England during WWII, living through the Blitz. Wow! Gather round. Let's share a cup of good British tea with Aussie's very own Old Egg!

Sherry: Robin, it is so nice to be visiting with you. Give us a little glimpse into what your life is like at this time.

Robin: As you are probably aware, I am a senior with a long past! I am fairly organised and living by myself. I used to walk a fair bit but am slowing down a little. I am happy cooking for myself and am quite domesticated, although there is a pile of ironing to do in the other room. The cleaners are coming on Friday, so I shall have to tidy up by then!

View from my balcony

Our family has lived in South Australia since 1966. It is a large state and its capital sits on the plain between the Hills to the east and the sea to the west. Adelaide is about 6 miles from the sea and the sandy beach suburbs run for miles on the western coastline from Outer Harbor in the north to Seacliff in the south. This is where the hills to the east behind Adelaide swing around south to meet the sea. Like most Australian state capitals, the suburbs stretch for many miles with mainly single storey housing. Multi-story apartments are generally nearer the city itself. 

Most seaside suburbs have safe bathing beaches and my closest shopping centre at Glenelg has a tram service from the city that takes you to within metres of the sea. 

Seated sculpture on the beach at Glenelg

Sherry: You live in such a beautiful country, Robin!

Robin: I have been involved with a local church here for many years, although I am slowly trying to pass on some of my duties and hide in the back pews! I also belong to a local Probus men’s club, to socialize.

I make a habit of visiting a café in Glenelg regularly, just to observe; which is a great way to get material for poems and stories. In fact I do this all the time wherever I am!

Sherry: People-watching is a great source of material. On your blog, you write “family is the most important thing”. Tell us about yours.

Robin: Our three children all live and work in and around Adelaide, in South Australia. Of the six grandchildren only the youngest two still live at home with their parents. I see my son and daughters on a regular basis and we are always having a family get together to celebrate birthdays and other events especially at Christmas. My elder daughter Ruth and husband Steve, besides running a business also have a property with alpacas in Wine country just south of Adelaide

Some of the family at the Alpaca Farm

Sherry: Such a wonderful family. It is so cool that your daughter's family raises alpacas! I love the woolly creatures. You made your life in Southern Australia, but I read on your blog that you grew up in Britain. Tell us a bit about your boyhood, if you will, and also what took you to Australia.

The Kimber Family, taken on a box Brownie camera
about 1940 in England, of my father, with me looking at the camera 
and my older brother walking through a farm in the country

Robin: I was born in England before WW2 and started school when war was raging and things looked bad for adults. Children however knew no other life, so it was normal to hide when the sirens wailed or, if at school, run with the other kids to the shelters in the playgrounds and wait for the all clear. The streets rumbled with army vehicles and the skies always had planes overhead. We lived out of town close to a large field, so no bombs were wasted on us.

My father, unlike many other dads, was in a reserved occupation, working in London maintaining the electricity supply. At night he would sit on the roof with buckets of sand and water with his mates to put out incendiary bombs if they landed there.

Sometimes at school we would remember a child killed when his house was hit.  At home we would remember uncles who died in action and not know what to say to our aunts. 

On a nostalgic trip back to England

Sherry: What an incredible boyhood, Robin! You lived the film Hope and Glory, set in England during the war.

Robin: When war was declared, the supply of many luxuries, like film for domestic use, ended. So unless you managed to stock up with rolls of film (8 shots a roll), there was none available until the end of the war. Certain professions presumably had permits, however unless you had contacts with the black market, most supply was for the war effort and professional photographers. It was the same with foodstuffs and treats like candy which was in very short supply. 

The ration per person was 4 oz per week and the ration book had a section called "Personal points" which the retailer cut out and then had to tally on his inventory and report to the government department. This applied to most food and clothing too! Curiously Horlicks tablets in little rolls were an alternative for me, and the other one was lemonade powder which the retailer poured direct into your hands for a penny! I wasn't fond of that because it made your hands sticky when you licked it!
December 29, 1940

One of the most famous stock photos of the war scene is the one of St. Paul's Cathedral in London about 1940, shrouded in smoke after a very heavy air raid where much of London's east end was destroyed, including some of the architect Christopher Wren's classic 17th century churches.

I had an older brother but we didn’t get on, and we went to different schools. After the war, boys ran free in the woods or waded in streams of water and explored old deserted buildings. I was fond of sport and played soccer and cricket for my school but was only an average scholar. The trouble was there were too many pretty girls in the school, so I couldn’t concentrate! I scraped through my exams and was offered a job with a local architect and was never out of a job after that. 

As I walked home from work one evening, I saw a girl waiting for the bus to go home. I was entranced, and about 18 months later, in 1957, we were married.  In 1966, I, my wife Maureen, and our two children at that time migrated to Australia, because that seemed an adventurous thing to do for a young couple then. We had another baby in 1969 and settled down in "the lucky country", as it was known then.

Sherry: Robin, you two were adorable!!!! I sensed you had a fantastic story, and so you do. What was your field of employment before retirement? And what is the best thing about being retired?

Robin: Jobs were easy to find when we came to Australia, and soon I was working for the South Australian Railways as a technical officer, designing railway buildings and supervising building construction. I became head of a design department, then later I became an assistant to the Engineering branch manager. I took early retirement when offered, which turned out to be the wisest thing I had ever done.

With the three children now with partners in their own homes, we were now able to travel extensively abroad and revisit the UK to catch up with old friends and relatives.  However that only lasted 5 years, for in 1998 Maureen was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma,  a difficult blood cancer.  She undertook every treatment offered, having three stem cell transplants, and agreed to take new drugs on a trial basis.
Nourlangie Rock Art Site
Kakadu National Park

During this time, she enjoyed every holiday we were able to take, including the two day train journey from Adelaide to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, where we explored the pristine wild environment of the Kakadu wetlands and aboriginal cave paintings in that region.
Jim Jim Falls - Kakadu National Park

In January, 2010, with other family members, we took a New Year’s cruise around New Zealand and visited most of the major attractions there.

Sadly, the disease finally won, and Maureen died a few days before Christmas in 2010. 

Maureen and I on cruise in early 2010

Sherry: Robin, I am so sorry for your loss. Maureen was lovely, and you both look so happy.  I am glad that you and she enjoyed those years and travels together. She fought a good fight and gained some time, though never enough. 

Your two poems  Yearning for Home  and  The Lake in the Trees were what tipped me off there was a beautiful love story here. I would love to include them, if you agree.

Robin: I agree.

Yearning for home

Your love is a nightingale's song
That sad caress of hearts desire
This touches me wherever I am
Whatever I do I will not tire

As I travel so far from home
I picture you in all my dreams
As lonely paths I walk at night
My way is lit by your moonbeams

This yearning will be sure to end
In your sweet arms I’ll gladly lay
Homeward’s journey soon will make
And with our children gladly play

You’ve warmed me with your fire of love
I kiss your lips with passions drive
What kind fortune picked me for you
This is all that keeps me alive

Beautiful nightingale sing on
You echo words my love does say
I sadly sleep this night alone
At dawn I’ll take the homeward way

Sherry: So incredibly beautiful and poignant, Robin. Sigh.

The Lake In the Trees

I went back again
To that special place of yours
That comforted you

To the secret lake
Through the whispering pines trees
Your childhood spent there

When we were first wed
You gently took my hand
To tell who you were

There you swam alone
So long before you knew me
Before we were one

Sometimes I go back
Because there I feel you again
Now that you have gone

The lake and pines wave
For they mourn your passing too
I am not alone

Sherry: Sad, and so lovely. When did you begin writing, Robin? 

Robin: Maureen had been the writer in the family, and the writing group she attended needed new members, so she invited me to go along soon after I had retired. That is when I really started writing and, pleased with the groups’ encouragement, I continued off and on until our younger daughter started blogging on the net.  I asked her how she started, and it all flowed on from there.

Train terminus, Glenelg

Sherry: And we are the happier for it! When did you branch out into poetry writing?

Robin: Curiously, poetry has only come slowly to me. Most of my posts until recently have been tall tales and true; and a lot of opinionated nonsense engendered by old age. If you have had a dig, you will notice that I have written a few stories in serial form that last months, or even years, such as  Ahu, the Maori woman and her family during the European invasion of New Zealand in the early 1800’s.

Sherry: It looks fascinating, Robin - over a hundred posts! Enough for a book!

Robin: Currently I have been mass producing poetry almost as though I really must “write it down or it will never see the light of day” sort of attitude. 

Sherry: I feel the same way. Time is finite. There is still so much to write.

Glenelg Jetty

Robin: The very first poem I posted late in 2009 was, however, a laugh at myself as I have a glint of gold capped tooth if I open my mouth. Here it is:

I woke with a start.
Was that a bump?
It was pitch dark.
Who is that there?
Had to check up.
Put my robe on.
Quiet down the stair.
Open the back door.
Hair stands on end.
Am grabbed from behind.
What is going on?
Whisked off my feet.
Can't even call out.
Put into a boat.
And Charon he says:
"Coin in my hand."
Then opens my mouth.
I panic and squirm.
A tooth he extracts.
My gold capped one.
He examines it well.
And loosens his grip.
I'm over the side.
In the River Styx.
The river of death.
Swim to the shore.
Run back home fast.
In through the door.
Climb up the stairs.
Get into my bed.
Am asleep in a sec.
Dead to the world!
Wake soaked in sweat.
That wasn't a dream.
I had cheated death.
Just for a bit!

Sherry: Ha, this makes me smile! What do you love about poetry? How does it differ from your other writing, in the way completing a poem makes you feel?

Robin: I tended to make up my own rules with poetry, but I was taken with the haiku style and quite a lot of my poetry is in the 5/7/5 syllable format.  When I am really strict with myself I will imply a season in it too! Curiously I think that prose writing can be quite poetic too.  No, I think the word I should have used there is emotive. There can be such a fine line between poetry and prose. 

Sherry: What or who would you say is (or was) the single biggest influence on, or encourager of, your writing? What keeps you doing it?

Robin: Clearly the loving relationship I had with my wife has had a great impact. However more than that is how easy it is to express emotions, especially love, with words. Even when prompt words seem unlikely, their use does not prevent love and affection taking control, when the writer gets it right to make the words sing.

Sherry: Well said. What impact has blogging had, on your writing and your life?

The Alpaca Farm

Robin: I suppose the greatest impact has been the world wide contact with other writers.  This has been not only in the comments themselves but the concern we have for one another. In 2011, I travelled to the UK for a few weeks and, not having an iPad then, checked my blog on a Library computer and found so many people missing me, wondering where I was. I was overwhelmed.

Sherry: I love that, too. Some wonderful friendships occur online. Do you have a regular writing routine?

Robin: Living by myself, I make the rules, so the routine is flexible. However, recently I have been spending far too much time on the computer. It is becoming addictive! Although I do sometimes post the same piece to a couple of prompt sites, for some reason I would rather not do this, preferring exclusive placement. This has no sense, but this writer is not sensible!

Sherry: Ha! I am addicted too, but it is a rewarding addiction. Is there anything you’d like us to know that I don’t know you well enough to ask? Hobbies? 

Robin: Thirty years ago or more in an Adelaide antique shop that was closing down, I found boxes of old postcards dating back to WW1 with French battlefield scenes and messages from soldiers to their families.  In addition I found artist signed glamour cards by Harrison Fisher, C.W. Barber and others along with Fairy cards by Margaret Tarrant and Dinah, WW2 kids at war cards and more. I bought as many as I could and have kept up that interest and added to the collection ever since.

Sherry: Oh my goodness! What a treasure trove that is. You might consider self-publishing a photo book of war cards, for example. (I am so good at getting bright ideas that mean work for other people!) Music?

Robin: With a beautiful wife that sang, why would I not be interested in music? Maureen and I were always at the Ballet, Opera and Orchestral concerts. I’ve not been much recently, but I did see Joan Baez at Adelaide’s Festival Theatre last year!

Sherry: I love Joan Baez! Lucky you! Movies?

Robin: Movies you ask! There are plenty of cinemas close by. For some years I have given a concise review of recent movies I have seen in the side bar of my blog!

Sherry: I will have to check them out. I am a movie buff too. How did you find Poets United? Is there anything you’d like to say to our members?

Robin: I regularly correspond with the poet Jae Rose, who was featured here a few weeks back. I asked her which sites she posted on some time ago. She mentioned Poets United so I joined in as well! 

Sherry: We are so happy that you did! Jae Rose, good call!

Robin: I am very pleased with the comments I have received from other poets. What we all crave is feedback, and we certainly learn a lot, in both technique and form, from others.

Pelicans at the Murray River

Just for fun I have included a picture of some locals and the Murray River, (Australia’s major waterway), which flows out to sea about 50 miles south east of Adelaide.

Sherry: Oh, so beautiful! Thank you, Robin, for a most enjoyable visit to life in your part of the world. It has been such a pleasure. We look forward to reading much more of your work in the years to come.

Well, my friends, I told you you were in for a treat. Wasn't this a fascinating life story, not to mention a heartwarming love story? It doesn't get much better! Do come back and see who we talk to next. It might be you! Or......maybe even me!


  1. Yay! Thanks, Sherry! Hello, Robin. So glad to meet you in this interview in addition to through your poetry. I enjoyed the pictures and the windows of happiness they reveal. I love how you focus on the love, making your poems radiate into my life. Enjoy, enjoy. I would love to know how you chose your blog name!

    1. Thank you Susan. My blog name "Old Egg" came about because my high school in England was named "Eggar's Grammar School" in Alton, Hampshire founded in 1642. I helped run the Old Eggars association after I left; thus the name. Sadly the original school has now been converted to housing.

    2. Oh I'm so glad you thought to ask this question, Susan. I wonder why I didnt think of it.......LOL.

  2. its really nice getting to know Robin a little more, so far i've read his sharings on a Sunday and he visits my blog and leaves encouraging comments, its really nice knowing a little more of him here

    much love...

    1. Thank you Gillena I always enjoy visiting your blog.

  3. I enjoyed reading more about Robin! So appreciate his extended comments for my poems! Glad he's satisfied by joining PU. Cheers, OldEgg :)x

  4. Thank you for visiting my posts so often Humbird. When I visit others I prefer to say something constructive or how the piece makes me feel.

  5. What a wonderful interview.. I love reading the background, and I love the way we always exchange comments each Sunday..

  6. Thank you Bjorn, I particularly like your gritty urban poetry and of course your ability to contantly post such impressive work.

  7. Hi kids, I so enjoyed getting to know this poet better. I have limited access to a computer all this week, so next chance I will have to come back in here is tomorrow morning - if it doesnt snow!!! Enjoy, my friends. It was my pleasure to put this together. Robin, so nice to know more of your most interesting life story. Have you considered writing a memoir? I'd read it!

    1. Thank you for you enjoyable interview Sherry. I think it was the ex-pat Aussie Clive James that wrote "Unreliable Memoirs" as his biography. Mine would be like that! Snippets of my life come out in my posts so there are no plans for more than that.

  8. Wonderful interview with a great enjoyable poet !

    1. Thank you R.K. I saw from from your own interview that your mother wanted you to be a Robin too!

  9. Robin, yours is one of the poems I very much look forward to on Sunday morning at the pantry. It is good to learn more about you. I am very fascinated with what you have said about living through World War II, as I am interested in that time. I always used to enjoy Dave King's poems about his WWII days. Perhaps you remember him. It is interesting that your wife was also a writer and that through her you joined her writing group. I think a lot of us get into writing through the influence of someone else; and you are right, it is addictive. Smiles. I enjoyed learning about your diverse interests & do understand your love of music. Your WWI postcard collection awes me...what a treasure. Again, really nice getting to know you better!

    1. Thank you Mary, this is like a party with all my friends come to say hello.

  10. What an interesting interview. I'm so glad that you explored the love story behind some of the poems. I too wondered about the story. Now I know and understand. I visit Robin, Old Egg, as often as I can. His writing is so sensitive, sincere and emotional I always enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading this post. Tnank you Sherry and Robin for collaborating on such a pleasant write.

    1. Thank you Myrna, I find that writing about love and romance even flirting comes easy to me.

  11. Thank you for the feature Sherry ~ Such an interesting story & journey, Robin ~ I enjoyed looking at the pictures specially the ones of you and your wife ~ I am happy that you keep yourself busy and surely, blogging and writing are very addicting ~

    1. Thank you for your visit Grace, I can remember many, many years ago a friend saying "Write it down!" It is funny that it took so long for me to start!

    2. Ack! My Mom ALWAYS said I should be writing down all the history, family anecdotes and ghost tales that my Grandma used to tell. Sadly, I did not. And now my memory is faulty. A lot of good stories have been lost. But I am thankful for the ones that remain.

  12. It's good that you found Poets United Old Egg (a historical name, I must say) glad to know more about you & we are lucky to have a poet like you so enriched with the amazing experiences of life...and Sherry thank you thank you :)

    1. Thank you Sumana, I love the mythical feel of your writing.

  13. So excited the read about your story Robin as I have read some of your poetry and series from a former poetry group. I remember the Ahu series.

    I was smiling and at the same time touched reading your life story here at Poets United.

    Yearning for home is such a tender poem. It has the ingredients of an everlasting love.

    I particularly liked that childhood photo of yours, an absolute treasure.

    It’s always good to read your writing, Robin. And I thank you for that.

    Thank you too, Sherry for this wonderful interview :-)

    1. Thank you Totomai, I always feel we get 200% from you when you post as your accompanying photographs are always superb. Funny about the Ahu series I still have that yearning to go back again!

  14. Congratulations old boy! A wonderful interview that must make you feel warm and happy to know that you are so well loved and appreciated.

    1. Thank you Leigh, who would have thought 60 years ago that we would both be where we are now and entertaining on the web.

  15. This is a grand interview Old Egg. It's great to know you better. I always look forward to love and love's bidding in your write. It makes me feel young as well.Wonderful pics you've shared here with PU. Thanks Robin and thanks Sherry!


    1. Thank you Hank, you are a fine poet yourself and I often think of your work "I wish I had written that!"

  16. Sherry thanks for cracking the old egg. A wonderful post! I loved his story!

    1. Cackle. I LOVE that, yes, he did crack a little, under pressure, and even hinted he might go into hiding yesterday. But here he is, shiny as a new penny. Thank you, Robin!

      It was truly my pleasure, my friends, putting this extremely interesting interview together. Sigh. I love my job!

    2. Now you know what is inside the Old Egg I hope you are not disappointed Annell. Perhaps you have heard of the expression "the curates egg" which is good in parts!

  17. Old Egg is one of the best: masterful in the way he brings his poetry to life! Wonderful knowing you more, Robin. :)
    Enjoyed reading this lovely interview, Sherry. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Panchali, your last piece on the "Blue Lioness" was overwhelming to say the least.

  18. Oldegg, I always appreciate your poems as well as your comments. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. I come from a region of France where a lot of WW1 battles were fought - there is even a small Australian museum and some memorials nearby - so I was very interested in those boxes of postcards you found. Thank you Sherry for this wonderful interview.

    1. Thank you Gabriella for your comments. Yes, some of the WW1 cards have been an inspiration for writing from the hurried messages from a soldier to home.

  19. Robin, thanks for the peek into your rich world down under. I too am sorry for your loss of the love of your life. Poetry does keep her spirit alive for you and others to enjoy.
    I have so enjoyed getting to know you and I will continue to be inspired by your depth.

    Thanks Sherry for another wonderful view into a poet's life.

    1. Thank you Moonie for your kind thoughts. That is the beauty of poetry, we can find inspiration everywhere even in sadness.

  20. Thank you Sherry! Robin, it is wonderful to get a glimpse into your poetic life. I am sorry for your loss, and thank you for sharing that with us. Blessings!

    1. Thank you for your visit Audrey especially as you are in the middle of Nanowrimo. I am sure we will meet again later.

  21. Sherry another fabulous interview...I am so happy to get to know you I read the first 2 poems I felt the deep love for your special one and the deep loss...beautiful Robin and I am sorry. Your life is fascinating tale of adventure and I am looking forward digging into your archives and reading more.

    1. Thank you Donna, your own writing so inspirational it must bring a lot of comfort to both your readers and yourself.

  22. Lovely interview! I have enjoyed what I've seen of Old Egg's writing — but did not realise you were a fellow Aussie, Robin! Sounds like you enjoy your life in S.A.

    1. Thank you Rosemary. Us diggers turn up everywhere don't we? It is good to meet you.

  23. Old Egg really lives up to his name - a kind and generous blogger who offers encouragement and support to our community. As a writer Old Egg always offers something new and fresh..sometimes fun, sometimes romantic, sometimes poignant but always with great wisdom and empathy for people and the world around...and so good to see those photos to catch a glimpse of where he finds inspiration...

    1. Thank you Jae for your kind words. I think I find inspiration everywhere and you do too.

  24. Nice to get to know you Robin and such a beautiful and moving poem. Your love shines through. So sorry for your loss.
    Suzy from New Zealand.

  25. Thank you Suzy for your comments we have a wonderful poetic community don't we?

  26. It always feels good to know and connect with a person beyond their pen name and image. Reading the poems, I could guess the immense range and variety of your writings, which I personally appreciate a lot because I've been too caught up in one or two themes in my own writing. And I'm glad you shared such a wonderful and loving relationship with your wife.

    Thank you for sharing your life's story with us all. :)

    1. Thank you Enigma, writing is such an infinite field that we should set ourselves no limits.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. A very beautiful story of your life. The best thing we can give to ourselves a content life. Huge research is going on multiple myeloma and I am sure in future a solid treatment would be available. In hospital I keep on bumping into people who have lost their loved one to a disease.As a researcher I feel so depressed sometimes. But it takes time, and trials and I am sure things will be better for patients in coming years.

  29. Thank you Vandana, I am sure one day multiple myeloma and many other diseases will be able to be controlled. Sadly each MM patient is different and there is no simple cure as each is affected in various ways.


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