Snuggling up to John Betjeman

When recently indisposed due to a bad attack of Man. Utd. (not uncommon these days), I was unable to make Margaret Holbrook’s March “Spoken Word” at Poynton’s Ubagene wine bar, so I asked her if she would read 2 poems for me from “Seconds Out”: “Character 4” (about my Mum) and “Character 1” (about my Dad), both of whom had died in the month of March. Her throwaway, comforting remark sparked the following verse:

Snuggling up to John Betjeman

The first day of Spring and I wax almost lyrical,

not like me at all. I’m more often satirical.

You might go so far as to say it’s a miracle.

or not say a word. That’s entirely empirical.


These thoughts come from those casual comments you dropped.

I’d said your “Seconds Out” had been charity shopped.

“Not at all,” you replied. In my tracks I was stopped.

“Next to John Betjeman on my shelf it is propped.”


Next to my hero! I was flattered and flustered

and saw straightway on my face was egg custard.

What in life could be better than to be clustered

and snuggled up next to JB! Done and dusted.


Keeping Mum

Mother’s Day in 1988 was Sunday, 13th. March and has a particular significance, because it was the day that “our Mam” died in the Queen’s Hospital in Nottingham, so I was keen to write something on this 30th. anniversary. Rhyming poetry is my preferred form, but I thought I’d see if I could write a poem with half-rhymes as line endings as it’s less intrusive and perhaps more serious than my usual stuff. Wilfred Owen’s World War I poem, “Strange Meeting”, is a brilliant example.

Keeping Mum

It’s Mother’s Day; it’s Mothering Sunday

with shades of meaning for all and sundry:

a simple “Thank You”; a floral gesture;

recognition of beloved progenitor;

something heartfelt, sincere and tender

a gushy card or double entendre-

laden, red-cheeked, seaside-saucy (think McGill).


30 years ago, our bedside vigil,

with false alarms, drew softly to a close,

as if she offered us an unavoidable excuse.

Pauses stretched between her stertorous breaths

she, interminably becalmed in mini-deaths,

until that pallor once rouged cheeks imbued

and we each clasped a hand helpless by her bed,


her heart’s drum beating the retreat, then gone

and our era of memories began.

So Mother’s Day holds that added poignancy

when thoughts of Lucy come with frequency

and conjure bitter sweet “Remember when…”s

and send us to our keyboard or our pens.

Beware the almost Ides of March, my friend

when Death calls time and brings Life to its end.

March Madness: A Bridge Too Far

Before the memories of our Siberian winter interlude fade and the Beast from the East shrinks before the outrages of the Pest from the West* (guess who and I don’t mean Storm Emma), here’s a poem which testifies to the addictive nature of Bridge and the drive to get one’s “fix”.  As with the previous post, this piece began in a Macclesfield Creative Writing Group workshop, an inspired, last minute theme chosen by Alan Horne for the hardy souls who had braved the blizzard conditions.

* I’ve heard this phrase coined independently from 2 sources, poet John Lindley and my recent bridge partner Beryl Footman.

March Madness: A Bridge Too Far

It was madness.

15 minutes to skim away the Volvo’s white mantle,

remove the snow blindfold from its windows,

scrape, scrape, scrape away the ice cataracts,

release imprisoned wipers from screen’s tenacious grip,

prise open the doors fused to ice-box bodywork.

Tugs of desperation resisted, brute force

from red gloved hands, gloved red hands,

a screech of disapproval, refusal from the doors:

“We’re not going anywhere! You’re not going anywhere!”


Once inside, a stomp to unleash compacted snow

and a rush to generate that vital heat.

A tractor’s roar. The engine bursts into life.

We creep out onto the rink.