Getting On With It, by Robbie Burton

Getting On With It, by Robbie Burton

For today’s guest post in my occasional series, Not The Guardian Family Section, I’m delighted to welcome one of my favourite poets. I love pretty much everything Robbie Burton writes. And says. She has an unerring sense of both humour and poignancy, and I’m happy to share this with you as we wait for her pamphlet to come out. (I’ve heard the draft. It’s ace.)


Getting On With It


A bit of a crack-pot, my late husband. Thirty-three years we lived in our last house, thirty-three years without carpet, wallpaper or paint on the hall, landing and stairs. The house was Victorian and its landing was vast. The hall floor had lost its beautiful tiles and was chipboard.

My husband was a surveyor and occasionally visited remarkable houses. One belonged to a painter and decorator whose paintwork was shiny and flawless as glass. Nothing less would do for us after that.

It took work. Stripping, filling, rubbing down. Filling, rubbing down. Filling, rubbing down, primer. Rubbing down… on and on. There was competition, of course. Music to be scored, the fabric of the chapel to worry about, boat engine to be serviced, lawn to be cut, laughter to be enjoyed.

After twenty-two years my husband retired. I thought the moment right to ask, ‘Erm, d’you think the time has come for, you know, the hall, landing and stairs?’

Behind his glasses his eyes gleamed. He sucked in a breath and shook his head.

‘It doesn’t do to rush these things.’

Eleven years later and my daughter, son and I are listening to the funeral director. He’s telling us about coffin options. ‘You can have whatever you like. Pine, wicker, cardboard… brass handles or rope…’ The atmosphere is strained and peculiar and sad. We don’t know how to breathe. Words rush out of my daughter’s mouth.

‘Could we have it in grey undercoat, d’you think?’


Getting On With It


Robbie’s poems have been featured in Poetry Wales, The North, Mslexia, The Interpreter’s House and other mags, and in the Quaker anthology A Speaking Silence (ed. R Bailey and S Krayer), The Book of Love and Loss (ed. R Bailey & J Hall), and other anthologies. Currently she’s working on a pamphlet and aiming for publication in 2016.

As chair of Cross Border Poets, a Poetry Society stanza, Robbie leads workshops, arranges poetry events and readings, and enjoys the company of many diverse poets.

You can find her blog here. And I’ll be telling everyone when her pamphlet comes out!

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