A Poem by Wynn Wheldon

Kicking the Bar

Sometimes my father would come home in time
to run in the park in his old black tracksuit.
More often it was a walk round the block.
With no time it was just kicking the bar.

The first I would do grudgingly: “OK”.
The second I might enjoy – on a good day.
The final I would gladly take with him.
One way: kick. The other: kick. Then home.

Sometimes we were quiet. This didn’t bother us.
Sometimes he’d ask “How was your day?” I’d tell,
but I liked best when he told me about his.
Not enough OKs, never enough good days.

A version of Kicking the Bar was published in
Tiny Disturbances (Acumen Occasional Pamphlet 21, 2012).
It is also the title of Wynn’s biography of his father, published by Unbound in 2016.

 Wynn with his father, the much-admired and fondly remembered broadcaster and BBC executive, 
Sir Huw Wheldon

Wynn Wheldon’s biographies are Kicking the Bar: A Filial Biography of Huw Wheldon (Unbound 2016) and The Fighting Jew: The Life and Times of Daniel Mendoza (Amberley, 2019). His poetry collection, Private Places, was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2015. Other books include The Father and Child Companion and World Famous War Heroes. He reviews books for a number of publications. He lives in London.

My Father’s Hat – by Jennie Farley


Oriental Panama, Size 6 (redolent
with Bay Rum hair tonic and Craven A).
It features in the family snapshot album.

Outside the Grand Hotel, Scarborough, circa 1936.
My father, hat on head, playing the giddy goat,
balanced on one leg in an ornamental urn.

It could be a Scott Fitzgerald beach party,
striped canvas hut, cloche hats and panamas –
except it’s Filey, where the wind blows chill

A few years later. Our garden on a sunny day,
Clutching a small shawled bundle beneath
his arm, the tipped hat shows his jaunty pride.

School Speech Day. Playing cricket for
the parents’ team, white flannels secured
by a striped silk tie, and panama. My hero.

My wedding. Dad in morning suit
escorts me down the aisle, but he’s
not my Dad without the hat.

The final snapshot. Forty winks
in a deck chair beside the sweet peas,
his bald head shaded by the hat.

To keep me safe I keep my father’s hat
on the back shelf of my car, as he did
in his old Ford V8 on family outings.


Jennie Farley is a published poet, teacher and workshop leader. Her poems have featured in numerous magazines, her latest collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Publishing) came out in 2016. ‘An only child I was treated by my father as a boy, his chum, accompanying him to cricket and football matches, on country rambles, playing tennis, singing old music hall songs, doing crosswords. He taught me independence, perseverance, curiosity, how to drive, and Latin. He was the perfect Dad.’