'I don't know where it comes from' - 93-year-old Long Itchington man becomes a poet overnight

John carries a pen and paper with him everywhere now

John, with notepad and pen at the ready.
John, with notepad and pen at the ready.

A 93-year-old from Long Itchington was wondering if he was going round the twist when he began to wake up in the early hours to write poetry earlier this year.

John Eyles, the son of a blacksmith, was born in 1928 at the Cuttle Inn.

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The father of five was still working up until 18 months ago – spending days trimming and tidying a thick farm hedgerow.

John walks anything from three to six miles a day and he is an expert gardener, still producing a healthy crop of vegetables at his allotment.

Recently John received a serious diagnosis – and while he remains active – he said he is not sure how much longer he has.

“I take each day as it comes. I could be here today and gone next week,” he said.

In June John woke up in the early hours and had an urge to write poetry – something he had never considered doing before.

Since then he has been writing at an astonishing rate – filling a stack of notepads with hundreds of poems.

He said: “I don’t know where it comes from. I thought I might be going a bit mad.

“I’ll wake up in the early hours and have to write something.

“I’ll be going to the supermarket and I’ll have to stop the car, or I’ll be on a walk and I’ll have to pause to pull out a pen and paper and write another poem.”

John’s work addresses an array of themes – ranging from his own memories of rural life, the wisdom (of lack thereof) of every-day sayings, to thoughts about the wars of days gone by and the pandemic.

John’s expert knowledge of plants, animals and the workings of the countryside are also a recurring theme.

A sample of John's work:

John said this poem was inspired by the memory of his father and brothers having supper every Sunday night – eating leftover potatoes and discussing work.

John’s uses ‘trumpet’ in jest, illustrating the lack of pretension in hard-working rural people.

We liked this example, as its clear, lucid prose captures the spirit of daily life in the villages many of us grew up in.

My folks always had supper on a Sunday night

I can see it now

Cold spuds and butter

Slice of beef and mustard

A glass of beer

Yorkshire pudding with homemade jam

They would jabber away

In their own way

Work was the subject

Not blowing a trumpet!

Those were the days you don’t forget

Cold spuds and butter

A slice of beef and mustard