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The Bristol Burroughs on why he waited 93 years to publish his poems


Ray Webber, a former unionist and postman, has just published his debut collection of poetry – at the age of 93

Ray Webber has a boxful of books to sign, a launch to attend and a nurse to make sure he is in full working order. When I arrive at his flat in the Bristol suburbs, the nurse has hoisted his shirt over his head and is applying a stethoscope to his bare back. Webber says he has trouble breathing and has to walk with a frame. But then, as he points out, he did turn 93 in March.

Physically, Webber has seen better days, but his poems are limber and fresh, full of a loose, playful energy that has earned him a small but ardent following on the city’s arts scene. His debut collection, High on Rust, amounts to an autobiographical flurry. It bounds from his birth in the slums (bedbugs, drunken midwife) to the death of an infant sister to his first kiss on the cobblestones outside the cigarette factory. Towards the end, Webber brings us bang up to date, describing himself as “a sickening hunk of old flesh”, a man with one foot already through the exit door.

Best get a move on – it could be curtains for me any time!

I haven’t had so many angina attacks. Toni, my nurse, ​thinks it’s down to the book

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