Published by John Slim. © John Slim 2011.
Poems that rhyme, 47Alcester Road, Lickey End, Bromsgrove B50 1JT Tel: 01527 872664
JOHN SLIM has been a journalist for longer than he usually cares to mention – but he is always prepared to make an exception, and now, in 2012, he
acknowledges that it all started in 1951, a month after completing his two
years’ National Service with the RAF.
He joined the Kidderminster Shuttle in June of that year, spent some time thinking that that was a funny name for a
paper, then realised that shuttles were something to do with Kidderminster’s staple carpet industry.
He joined The Birmingham Post & Mail in 1954, in its Redditch office – where he remained until Bonfire Night 1965, when he moved to head office and
launched the Post’s revamped Mercian column. This became the collection-point for his daily
encounters with ordinary people with hobbies and interests that were often
quite extraordinary – people like Alf Tabb, the stringy septuagenarian who could ride a 4in-high
bicycle, for instance.
After this, in 1968, he began the first of two long-running series of major
profiles of Midlands and national figures as they dropped into the news.
He was the first journalist to interview Enoch Powell after his River of Blood
speech in 1968 and then the first to interview Muhammad Ali, just after
Parkinson’s Disease had begun its destructive assault on The Greatest.
His wide range of interviewees – sportsmen, authors, actors, military figures, explorers and politicians among
them – included Pamela Stephenson in her dressing room when she was appearing in a
show called Not in Front of the Children.
When he could no longer resist referring to an 8ft-tall columnar object standing
in one corner, he said, “That’s not a mushroom, is it?” – to which she replied, “No, it’s a cock.” Apparently under the surprising impression that he might see it even better if
she changed its position, she stood up and tried to move it – causing it to start to topple.
At this point, her visitor leapt from his moorings and wrapped his arms round it
– which was when, the pair of them began the brief, desperate and unseemly
shuffle while they embraced it and brought it to a halt.
Theatre reviewing started in 1968, as an after-hours adjunct to his
feature-writing. Then in 1984 he was asked to “look after the amateur stage this week” – an invitation that went on until his supposed retirement in 1991 and then
continued to separate him from his evening slippers well into the 21st Century.
Theatre thus became allied to words as one of his special twin interests. Words
went on to see him writing more than 7,500 limericks in seven books, but he had
already been using them, rather more soberly, to start creating the 200-plus
poems now collected in Poems That Rhyme.
Please don’t try to read them at a sitting.
He toiled long hours, penning verse. . .
...and clearly went from bad to worse.