Ian: A Cocky-Sixty-Two

At the end of a sweltering week’s walking in the Luberon (with the occasional pause for wining and dining), we celebrated our Australian friend, Ian’s 62nd. birthday with a suitably lavish lunch in L’Isle Sur La Sorgue and a poem to mark the occasion.

Ian: A Cocky-Sixty-Two

 I’m keeping this short and I’m keeping this sweet,

Just being here together, strewth, what a treat!

Better still there’s a gourmet meal to eat

now that we’ve taken the weight off our feet.

First the good news is it’s time to relax,

enjoy our last lunchtime before we make tracks.

6 days in Provence we’ve been trekking with Mac’s.

It’s de luxe of course, so no heavy rucksacks.


Remember Cradle Mountain and Tassie?

Surely Ian’s not forgotten (or has he?).

They camped out and bushwalked in love and blasé

and Louise found Ian so handsome and snazzy.

The hard work and grunting, transporting the cases

this time it’s the Mac’s team when changing bases.

That way we’d maximum strength to see places

and got a little less red in our faces.


Like a flash, we’re at the end of our week.

Thank Christ, ‘cos the strides were beginning to reek.

‘S amazing at our age, we’ve breath left to speak

to make ourselves heard over joints as they creak.

Sixty two is a good age as I recall,

but at 70+ that amounts to damn all.

At least, no-one cares if the waist starts to sprawl

and your once sprightly gait is now more a crawl.


So, pack budgie smugglers, bikinis and thongs.

More Europe, then back home where heart belongs,

back to the bushflies, Aussie beer, billabongs.

Raise your glasses to toast “Good Health” and “So Longs”.

Ian, keep on looking as young as today.

You’ve heard that old saying, “Work, Rest and Play”.

Well, forget the first bit, ‘cos that’s just passé.

Live Life to the full, mate, that special Whyte way.


Whyte Walker Rambling

We joined our Aussie friends Ian and Louise Whyte for a week in the Luberon recently for 6 days of bushwalking in the baking heat (40 km in total), which was rewarded by some lengthy spells à table when excellent food was helped down with a pichet or two or… of rosé. We finished with a birthday lunch for Ian on Sunday, 11th. September (9/11!) and a couple of poems. Here’s one of them.

Whyte Walker Rambling

I. We’ve come from the land of the kangaroo

and the Luberon is our rendez-vous.

That’s Ian, Louise, Graeme, Chris, Jude and Don,

all gathering together in Avignon,

with Maree and Julie, known also as Jules.

Everyone’s dreaming of hotels with pools

and delicious tucker à la Provençale

and sharing a pichet of rosé with a pal.

So, Palais des Pâpes, a quick dance « sur le pont »

and the walking tour starts. Bring it all on !

And down autoroutes come Mady and Phil .

(Let’s hope that’s not when it all goes down hill).


II. Next day, Loumarin, – what a beautiful spot ! –

but the mistral is blowing. It’s strong and it’s hot !

We’re told that fire hazard means walking is banned.

Maybe we can say that we didn’t understand ?

So, we set off hot foot to do the 10k

along dusty tracks to sun-scorched Cadanet.

We get lost a few times, hug shade as we traipse

past fields full of gnarled vines laden with grapes

and olive groves heavy with precious fruit.

Tomorrow we’ll walk to Bonnieux. That’s just beaut !

Tonight we’ve a treat. There’s a local market.

For now the verse ends, so that’s where I’ll park it !


III . We’re off to Bonnieux. The leader is Julie

and just once or twice, the troops are unruly.

There’s a gruelling climb with the sun beating down,

but the views are to die for of far distant town.

Underfoot’s rough and rocky. It’s a hell of a way,

but we reach « Clos de Buis » by the end of the day.

Leaving Bonnieux, it’s a day to go biking

and the bikes are electric. That’s better than hiking.

Halfway round and we arrive at Oppède.

By now we’d be home if we’d had a moped.

The hills are no problem. We climb them with ease,

but her battery is dodgy, so we half lose Louise.


IV. Next day we up sticks and head off for Gordes,

poor Jude’s feet still blistered. They can’t be ignored.

The full walk begins at Fontaine de Vaucluse.

A phone box – a landmark – must be Dr. Who’s

for the « Tardis » once there, then « Pouf ! » it is gone.

We’d followed the Plague wall which went on and on.

They built it to stop people fleeing the plague

in 17-something… I’m terribly vague.

Then Julie spots a bright green preying mantis.

That’s not a beast you would want in your panties.

We walk past a field where snail shells are the flowers

and lavender rows stretch for hours and hours.


V. Phil has mystery « man foot ». Will he survive ?

He puts on a brave face and may well stay alive.

For our last walk we troop to l’Abbaye de Sénanque.

That’s where Chris is in need of a taxi-rank.

In the woods we watch butterflies courting and mating.

It’s not that unlike an evening’s speed-dating.

The last lap’s a cinch. We drop down into Gordes.

« Thank Gawd !», says Maree, which we roundly applaud.

One more evening and then we’re each on our way

with just enough time to wish Ian « Happy Birthday ! »

To round off the poem and go out with a bang,

a big « Thank you, Louise » and « Au revoir » to the gang .

Nobody Loves a Banjo

I inadvertently put this as a title to Phil Turner’s tribute yesterday, so now here’s the poem which should have accompanied it. It’s based on comments made at several Singers’ Nights at the Dog and Partridge in Bollington (Fridays, 8-30 pm to 11-ish), most of them by slightly glum banjoists.

Nobody Loves a Banjo

Nobody loves a banjo, especially on Singers’ Night.

Nobody sings its praises which doesn’t seem fair or right.

Its neck’s too long for comfort, whilst it may only have four strings.

The sound it makes ain’t music. It just kind of twangs and pings.

It’s the devil’s own job to tune it, a Herculean task.

Banjoists curse and sweat loads and swig from a sly hip flask

They’re kind of apologetic, shame-faced and can’t meet your eye

but they’ll plink and plonk for ages and keep on swigging that rye.

So when you see a musician with what looks like a banjo,

It’s time to head for the bar with the speed of a Fanjo.

You won’t hurt the banjoist’s feelings. He’s quite immune to pain.

Next week he’ll lug it upstairs and torture us with it again.

There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Saddlers

We said our goodbyes today to a good friend and great bloke, Phil Turner. He died suddenly on 22nd. August after a short struggle with cancer  at the tragically early age of 68. He was a loveable AstraZeneca colleague and friend who organised the site races and founded our ironically named walking group, the Real Men’s Club (or Real Moron’s Club as Mady preferred to call it). There’s nothing like death to photoshop someone’s personality, but with Phil it wasn’t necessary: a great sense of humour, a genial nature, a warm smile and a ready Black Country quip. On top of that his lectures on subjects ranging from antibacterial resistance to medicines in the time of the Pharaohs were a delight. (He had Ph.D.s in both areas!)

At the rate we’re succumbing to the vicissitudes of age, we’ll have to change RMC to “Real Medical Cases”. Yesterday it was our youngest member, Pete McLachlan’s turn, suffering a heart attack whilst cycling near the Leathers Smithy above Langley, ending the day with 3 stents thanks to an emergency helicopter ride to Wythenshawe.

Here’s a poem written as a tribute to Phil adapted from Ian Dury and the Blockheads hit, “There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards”.

There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Saddlers

(Apologies to Ian Dury and the Blockheads)

Phil was quite an early riser.

He drank beer, not Appletiser®,

was our race day organiser,

worked at AZ, not for Pfizer

and knew all about ELISA.

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


An NHS man through and through

and that is when he learned to do

incubating germs from pee and  poo

and when Anne and Phil pledged to be true.

Well, maybe some of this is true.

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


He had a football team to follow,

“Come on, Saddlers,” he did holler,

found the Blues too hard to swallow,

developed legs that must be hollow,

studied Raa rather than Apollo.

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


He went from bacteriologist

to Merrem® flogger-ologist,

then became an Egyptologist,

hieroglyophic etymologist,

Ancient Egypt entymologist.

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


He loved cycling, RMC-ing.

Was he also into skiing?

He was one great human being

which is why we’ve trouble seeing

as emotions we are freeing.

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


And so we’re gathered here to day

to send our mate, Phil, on his way.

In our memories he will stay

when RMCs from footpaths stray,

(That’s every time I hear you say).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


His accent wasn’t really brummie

and it surely wasn’t plummy,

saying “Blow me”, “Wunnie”, “Lumme”,

in awe of Akhenaten’s mummy

or Hawkshead beer that’s really yummy.

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


There’s Adrian Chiles and that Frank Skinner,

Julie Walters, not Michael Winner,

but Lennie Henry and Yul Brynner

before his hair was getting thinner

(I’m being a little white lie spinner).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


So, “Adieu” and “Au revoir” to Phil

who’ll be there walking with us still

as we tramp each Lakeland hill

and though a bitter, bitter pill,

just to have known him, that was brill!

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers

(plucky leaders, plucky leaders).

There ain’t half been some clever Saddlers.


Vintage Radio, Wednesday, September 28th., 2 to 4 pm: Poetry Showcase

At the Wirral Festival of Firsts, where Kemal Houghton and Paul Harris were 2 of the session organisers, I mentioned that I’d be interested in taking part in their “Poetry Showcase” programme on Vintage Radio. This is an internet channel with the programme going out on Wednesdays between 2 and 4 pm. So, I’ll have the chance to air 12 of my poems and 8 tracks of music on September 28th. I hope some of you will be able to listen in. I’ve been assured by Margaret Holbrook that it’s an enjoyable experience for the guest poet and hopefully for the listeners, too. I’m grateful to Colin Strawson who has located my 8 choices and put them on a CD for me. The difficult bit so far has been homing in on just 8 pieces of music for a life stretching over more than 7 decades!