I’m Reading Carol Ann

I was lucky enough to receive Carol Ann Duffy’s 2018 collection, “Sincerity” from my stepson, Hugo, at Christmas. (He also bought me “Does It Fart?”. I’m not sure who that says more about, him or me). It opened at two brilliant poems, “Gorilla” and “Swearing In”, whose juxtaposition added to both. It’s not been a prolific month for me for writing, but here’s what they inspired me to write.

I’m Reading Carol Ann

I’m reading Carol Ann.

Her words spring off the page,

playful, dazzling, yet dead pan.

She’s mostly in a mighty rage

where all the world’s a stage,

the politician-actors tossers to a man

who’ve never earned a living wage

and cream off everything they can.


From Grenfell Tower to Aberfan,

where trail is blazed or landslide ran.

The negligent and profiteers engage

their thirst, a greed we can’t assuage.


The View from Mid-Jan.

With a “read-around” pending yesterday afternoon at the Macc Writers’ Library session, I was feeling rather jaundiced about what is and what maybe in store for us in the year ahead and I’m afraid this might just have crept into the second poem of 2019! Happy New Year, everyone.

The View from Mid-Jan.

The seal on a new year’s been broken

and we’ve tidied our Christmas away.

The flutes of champagne were a token

and the fizz had gone flat New Year’s Day.


The tree lies awaiting collection.

Non-drop needles fall thick from the pine

I’m prone to some bleak introspection

which seems to emerge as a whine.


The baubles are back in the attic,

alongside them the Christmas tree stand.

For this year, I’m less than ecstatic.

(I’m beginning to sound like Jo Brand).


I’ll try to be bouncy and buoyant

and like Tigger I’ll aim for a smile,

but you don’t need to be a clairvoyant

to spot problems ahead from a mile.


At this point, the Brexit agenda

is demanding to have centre stage.

Common sense we’ve been asked to surrender

since Cameron let it out of its cage.


We’ve always had troubles aplenty.

Looking back we can see where we’ve been,

so my vision is less 20 : 20

and more blurred for this 20 19.


I don’t want the tinsel to tarnish.

We’ve recycled our cards ‘cos we’re green.

Can we find some covering varnish

and welcome in 20 19?


Are we heading for fortress Britain,

hoarding medicines and rolls for the loo?

I mull over these words I have written

and I’d rather stay in the EU!

Christmas Card Ditties 1, 2, 3

As Christmas fades into the middle distance, it’s still considered OK in France to send out one’s best wishes for the New Year in January, so here they are. It’s been one long winter whinge of colds and snuffling from me, but happily things are looking up on the footballing front and the light at the end of the (Channel) tunnel isn’t due to go out for at least another 12 weeks. I’m particularly hoping that you (you all know who you are!) enjoy the personal touch in Ditty 3.

Christmas Card Ditty 1

No little ditty in our card,

I’m lacking inspiration.

Just getting up was very hard,

brow dripped with perspiration.

The ravages of raw man ‘flu

(if I’d the breath, I’d hiss and boo),

nigh stopped me sending these* to you.

  • “Seasons Greetings”.

Christmas Card Ditty 2

Old Santa’s laughing, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

The Special One just had to go,

the pain relieved with sacks of dough.

It’s time to show we’re “Simply Red”.

Our style of soccer isn’t dead,

a fact that we’d begun to dread.


Sideways passing, hear the clocks tick.

In dressing room, the mood was toxic.

We know the “Baby-faced Assassin” *

isn’t merely here to cash in.

Rashford’s buzzing. Pogba’s dancing.

Passing’s forward. Play’s advancing.

It’s fun again. It’s entertaining,

The future’s bright and it’s not raining.

“ ’Bye, Special One! ’Bye, Surly Bugger!

You nearly had me following rugger.”

* Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Christmas Card Ditty 3:

 To Whom It May Concern

Dear Sir or Madam,

This personalised ode,

hand-crafted for you at our exclusive abode,

by our highly skilled team, dedicated and trained,

who have, first and foremost, your interests engrained,

should reach you by Christmas, or if not, failing that,

should drop on the owner or occupier’s mat

as he/she emerges from their New Year’s excess.

Please don’t return it to the cited address,

but ’phone our friendly advisor with queries

and though the cost occasionally varies,

it’s generally speaking a standard rate call,

where queuing or holding scarcely happens at all.

(We’ll play electronic versions of classics, if so).

Your humble servants, Poyser, Kensdale and Co.,

remain at your disposition, dear Madam or Sir:

quality first, of cheap imitations, beware!

Judy B: Mum’s the Word

Last Monday was our “Macc Writers Does Christmas” seasonal reading at the King Edward Street chapel. It was well attended by an appreciative public and about 20 of us did 3 minutes (each) at the mike (which was tweaked up and down with amazing regularity and variable efficacy). Our chairperson is the formidably bubbly Zoe Quinlan who followed Jacky Spry’s rendition of suitably seasonal songs on the pianoforte with a summary of the past year. One of our number, known by everyone as Zoe’s mum (aka Judy Brocklehurst) re-introduced us to the word “wassailing” and for several weeks now, the seed of the following verse had been germinating.

Judy B: Mum’s the Word

What’s that fair-haired lady’s name? Her? She’s Zoe’s Mum.

She’s born and bred in Macclesfield. Right here is where she’s from.


That woman with the fringe whose hair’s got a golden glister,

who’s she when she’s at home? Why that’s nowt but Sally’s sister.


Well, she’s got a very pleasant face, a cracking looking piece:

her, the one that’s smiling now. Oh, Alan Brocklehurst’s niece.


I hear the grapevine’s buzzing. The rumours have been rife.

Those in the know say t’jury’s out on her, yes, her, on Les’s wife.


She likes a laugh. She’s sociable, partial to a glass of sherry.

Who’s that? The quiet, pretty one, David’s secretary.


Well, me, I’m off to chat her up, see if I can make it fly.

Evening, love, great music. And what name do you go by?


What’s that? Well. Judy B., let me tell you what I think.

That glass is nearly empty. Time to let me buy a drink.


I’ve not seen you here before. I’m wondering who you are.

You have lots of different names as I’ve heard in this bar:


“I’m Zoe’s Mum and Alan’s niece and David’s secretary,

I’m Sally’s sister, was Les’s wife, but on the cake the cherry:


I’m my own woman, Judy B., the one and only Judy free.

I’m that very special entity known variously as me.”



Gordon and Aileen, the next door neighbours on the leeward side, have recently erected a magnificent, wooden structure in their garden, which, if it really is a shed, as they claim, must have all mod cons en suite and several withdrawing rooms. I peer from my window practically salivating with undeniable garden accessory envy.


There’s a château at the bottom of our garden.

Well, it’s next door if you want to be exact.

That’s one thing you can’t press the present bard on.

The said château is next door and that’s a fact.


Some would say it’s more a “shed-o” than a château,

a view to which I’m diametrically opposed.

It’s a château! Of doubt there is no shadow

and as far as I’m concerned that’s the matter closed.


Admittedly, no maturing moat surrounds it.

In nearby pond, the goldfish only number one,

though a few more fish and frogs would surely fit.

Alas, portcullis, drawbridge, turrets, are there none.


Scarce a cobbled courtyard could be catered

for within the confines of those timber outer walls.

Into the night, you’ll hear hotly debated

just where the heck would they put the banquet halls.


O’er my Lady’s chamber hangs a question mark:

would her ornate drapes and tapestries be red?

would she let her plaited hair down after dark?


OK, you win. It’s just a bloody garden shed.



The first of Mike Chisholm’s “Spoken Bars Poetry Workshop”s at the Treacle Tap, on Sunderland Street, Macclesfield, kicked off at 8 o’ clock last night with half a dozen of us in attendance. The aim is to spend a while writing on a theme, then read/perform the piece. There is time too to read a few poems written prior to the evening. The theme was loosely based on “crazy animals” and I managed to work it round to the recently reported example of rat gigantism. The 3rd. Tuesday in December we will each be bringing along one of our poems to pass on to another attendee to read out and then re-work as he/she feels fit. Should be good fun, as were last night’s pieces produced on the spot.


21 inches from its nose to its tail.

I can’t say for sure, but I guess it was male.

A record for Britain, it’s our biggest rat.

The Guiness Book of Records ratified that.

The poor murine bugger was doing no harm,

just hanging around for the Pied Piper’s charm.


It was quickly despatched by a Jack Russell,

stocky and small, but 100% muscle

and it needed to be to shake it and lift

and shake it again and give it short shrift.

I have mixed feelings re rat protection,

but somehow between us I feel a connection,


not nearly as strong as between you and me,

so here’s to Goliath the Rat, RIP.


Almost Quiet on the Western Front

I took a turn to run the Macclesfield Creative Writing Group workshop this afternoon and chose to concentrate on the new month and its associations with the past, particularly the Armistice Centenary. Thomas Hood’s “No!” and Carol Ann Duffy’s “The Wound in Time”, spanning 200+ years, made an excellent starting point, followed by an alphabet of prompts, one of which led me to write:-

Almost Quiet on the Western Front

A hundred years from now, I’ll freely take a punt,

some bloke’ll say, “All was quiet on t’Western Front.

11th. November, hostilities will close

and we’ll be friends again, not bayonet-wielding foes.”


Both sides are drained, exhausted. No-one gives a damn,

desperate to get home to warm tea, fresh bread, roast lamb

–         and Jerry will head back for sauerkraut and schnitzel.

I wouldn’t touch the stuff, but I’m damned sure Fritz will –

and to see the missus and the kids, to walk where trees

aren’t stark and crippled skeletons, devoid of leaves,

where zephyrs kiss the topmost boughs and nesting birds

roost safe where cosy, verdant canopy engirds.


One final foray for the sarge. Lads, here we go.

No bullets got my name on. Crouch down, head low,

then home to Blighty, sure as eggs is eggs.

What was it all about the question begs:

four years of endless, unrequited, nightmare hell,

entrenched, entombed, endured, spent listening for that shell.


Mist at Monk Coniston

We’ve just returned from a long weekend in the Lakes resplendent in their Autumn colours and had clear, blue skies and sunshine – apart from the day and the half day we actually walked when the Mellow Fruitfulness welcomed back its old friend Mist. As the weather improved on the Sunday, we were taking the steamer from Brantwood  (John Ruskin’s house) to Coniston and views of the hills and the Old Man reappeared together with a stunning rainbow arching from the centre of Coniston itself. Mady and I made our own way back from there to the HF house and muggins decided not to return by the same way we had come down with the rest of the party. Mistake! We ended up on the road with Hawkshead Hill between us and our destination. Mutiny on the Mount-y! The poem below actually refers to the easier walk on the previous day. Mady is French remember if you’re puzzled by the line ending each verse.

Mist at Monk Coniston

It’s October when the leaves turn brown and quit their lofty boughs.

At home, we’ve cancelled doorstep milk and said, “Goodbye”s and “Ciao”s.

We’d headed up to Cumbria which world famous views avows.

Next day, we frog marched Mady through the mists around Tarn Howes.


We love our HF weekends and the Healthy Life espouse,

though we’re not averse to wine and beer and love to chat and souse,

but when weather turns inclement, it’s our spirits we arouse

and then we frog march Mady through the mists around Tarn Howes.


When the clag is down all day and rain drops hang upon our brows,

we wouldn’t dream of letting this our enthusiasm dowse,

even when we meet a herd of bellicose and stubborn cows

as we frog march poor Mady through the mists around Tarn Howes.


That’s it from me. I’m out of rhymes. I’d be a big girl’s blouse

if on your patience I imposed, more than courtesy allows.

I’ll refer to Alfred Wainwright, my little book of Chairman Mao’s:

He OK’s frog marching Mady through the mists around Tarn Howes.


“Windfall” and advance notice of a poetry evening with Mark Rawlins, myself and Nick Degg, “Macc Town 2, Port Vale 1”

I can’t believe that it’s been more than a month since I showed signs of life. I even let National Poetry Day (Thursday, 4th. October: theme “Change”) pass without comment or loosing off a “Loose Change” pun or two. True, I haven’t been especially productive on the poetry front, birthday tributes apart, though I shall finish with a poem written today. Before I do, I just wanted to let you know that on Wednesday, 14th. November at 7-30 pm at the Silk Heritage Centre (Whitaker Room, The Old Sunday School), I will be joining Mark Rawlins and Nick Degg in an evening of unrestrained and entertaining poetry (see Nick Degg’s Youtube “Regional Accent Syndrome” for a taste of things to come). £5/£4, includes refreshments, pay at the door.


Autumn has breezed in with its flurry of transient finery

of russets and scarlets and golds

and beneath the heavily laden apple trees,

the wind has harvested a premature crop

of bruised treasure, a feast for mice and slugs.


And I think of how ideas, maturing slowly,

hang in mid-air, awaiting that nudge, gentle or brusque,

from tousled-haired, round cheeked cherub

–         Pffft – and down they tumble,

coming to rest, causing scarcely a ripple, nearby:

wind felled, precious windfall,

something to value, to muse on or to discard.


First Prize in the Cute-cumber Category

Brookfield Lane Allotment Association (BLAA) had its Annual Show on Saturday, August 18th. and very successful it was too: well-attended by the enthusiastic plot holders and by family and friends. Cups (including one for best newcomers – congratulations, Plot 6B) were presented by the mayor and after the auction of produce and the raffle, a tasty menu of meal choices was on offer to round off proceedings. Thanks to the Committee for an excellent afternoon. Here’s a poem inspired by the afternoon’s competition.

First Prize in the Cute-cumber Category

I can’t let this pass without comment in rhyme

Fly flags. Hang out bunting. Let’s hear church bells chime.

My big day had come. I’d been waiting for years.

I’m feeling emotional, almost in tears.

For Saturday last was the day of the Show.

We hopefuls turned up with our produce in tow.

30 p for each entry, so serious stuff,

and winning first prizes would be really tough.

Whether single sweet pea or trios of veg.,

how would we find that competitive edge?


The morning past quickly selecting our crops,

the pick of the bunch. There’d be no room for flops:

a monster tomato; 3 beetroot; 3 beans;

a white, frilly squash; and maybe some greens;

one pot of marmalade; one pot of bramble;

one rhubarb and ginger (a bit of a gamble).

and one final entry, last but not least,

an arrow straight cucumber, fit for a feast.

On the stroke of midday, the judging began,

Would the afternoon go according to plan?


3 o’clock soon came round. We scurried back in,

eager to see who had managed to win.

Laid out on the tables, the results were displayed.

Had any of my entries made the grade?

Yes, here I’d a third prize, there I’d a second.

That was lots more success than I’d reckoned.

The sponges and scones I sauntered right past

and headed for where the cucurbits amassed

and I swear that this all logic defies,

there was my cucumber sporting first prize.


“Yippee!”, I shouted, though just in my head.

(Showing you’ve triumphed is very ill-bred).

It wasn’t the longest. It wasn’t its size.

It wasn’t its girth that won it first prize,

but somehow it embodied perfection:

most rectilinear in the cucumber section.

Its skin satin smooth, a beautiful green,

a tiny bit shiny which gave it a sheen.

I’m over the moon. I’m chuffed as can be.

Maybe next year, “Best in Show” might be me!