Wimbleworms were born in 2017at Cardiff Museum’s exhibition Wriggle in response to a workshop with the poet Phillip Gross.

Every day since I was a baby more and more words have been added to the sprawling compost heap of words in my mind. All the words I’ve ever heard, from ba ba black sheep to the BBC News, all the words I’ve ever read, from Alice in Wonderland to the menu at Wagamama, all the words I’ve ever spoken out loud, all the words I’ve spoken silently to myself; all the words that friends or strangers have ever said to me are heaped up in my memory. There are words from Dr Suess and the Origin of Species, from Star Wars and Silent Night, from Marmite labels and military reports. Like the grass cuttings and dead flowers and potato peelings in a garden compost heap the memories of all these words decay and get mixed up and become a fertile soil where new creatures are born. One day I saw a worm in my composting heap of words and it began to speak to me of Wimbledon. When I showed it to Philip Gross, a poet who knows a lot about composting words; he told me it was a wimbleworm.

 I’ll begin with the words of a wimbleworm who lives under Court number 2 at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club.

“There they go again, galumphing about all day long, just when I’d gone to sleep after a hard night’s work doing my bit to reshape the earth.

What’s the point of humans, I wonder; they can be a real nuisance; their habit of laying stones and concrete on the earth gets in the way of our work even more than the galumphing. 

Never mind, in the end everything they build falls down, and plants begin to break up the ruins, and then we come along and eat the dead leaves and cover everything with soil so it’s all smooth again.

I suppose I ought to feel a bit sorry for the poor two legged creatures, it must be so difficult for them; their bodies are so cluttered up with bones they can hardly wriggle at all. That's really sad, but still, I do wish they’d stop making the earth shudder and let me get a good day’s sleep.”

A wimbleworm who lives on Wimbledon common told me a little of his life.

“It’s the best time of year now, cool and damp and all those juicy leaves falling down. I like to go out every night, enjoying a good wriggle over the soil picking up delicious dead leaves and hoping to meet other worms.

All worms are both he and she, so when I feel attracted to another wimbleworm, and he/she feels the same about me, we wrap each other's rings with extra slime and give each other a present of sperm and later we both lay eggs. Being male and female at the same time is really cool, I feel sorry for all those other animals who have to be either a sperm giver or an egg layer.

I rarely leave my burrow entirely, whatever the attraction; I hang on with my tail, ready to spring back in a flash if I sense something shuffling by.  Foxes and badgers can dig us out in a flash, and as soon as it begins to get light there are those horrible early birds trying hard to catch a late worm. Being a worm isn't simple at all; we have to have our worm wits about us just to survive.”

This wimbleworm is of no fixed abode, he told me his sad story on a dark wet pavement in a suburban street in Wimbledon.

“I didn't leave the place where I was born lightly, life it had become a constant battle to survive. The place had been lovely once; the gravel paths were almost lost in weeds, worms had colonised every crack between the paving stones and we’d almost succeeded in burying the patio. Now people have moved into the house and devastated our wonderfully wild garden.

The extra-large paved area is bad enough, but the plastic green stuff where the lawn should be is a total abomination. The humans who did this have forgotten how much they owe to worms, and it's sad to think that the little humans I feel running about above me will hardly ever see a worm. What a deprived childhood they will have. When they are grown up I wonder if they will cover even more of the earth with stupid plastic.

I set off on my voyage of discovery as soon as I could. It may all end badly, I may be dead tomorrow but I may find somewhere where I can live as a worm should live, fulfilling all my potential as a cultivator of the soil. If I fail in the attempt so be it, I have no choice but to look for a better life”

Here are the words of a happy wimbleworm who lives in Wimbledon cemetery.

“This place, I believe, must have been made by humans who have a real reverence for worms. No humans disturb us by galloping about as they do in some places, everyone walks softly here. They come and bring flowers, and the petals fall onto the grass and provide delectable treats for wimbleworms. The soil is rich and even though humans do disturb us by digging holes now and then they soon fill them up again.

Here, I feel, worms are valued, and we can get on with our work of changing dead leaves, and indeed dead anything, into a soil that is full of life. What we swallow is useless and rotten, and what we make of it is only heaps of waste, or shit to put it more bluntly. But on the shit that we void from our dark underworld grow flowers that heavenly butterflies feed on in the sunshine and dusky moths drink from in the honeysuckled evenings.”


Anne Bryan October 2016

a.bryan77@icloud.com © Anne Bryan 2018