A Hymn to Home

Those who know me will be aware that what follows does not necessarily reflect my own views. I might even go so far as to state that I am speaking in the voice of a convinced Brexiter in this attempt at a post-Brexit National anthem written in the workshop I ran a couple of Thursdays ago for Macclesfield Creative Writing Group. I’d be interested to hear what reaction, if any, it elicits.

A Hymn to Home

From North Sea to Atlantic vast,

from Dover’s cliffs and Beachy Head

to Scotland’s northern shores, from mast

we fly our flag, blue, white and red.

 

One people and one nation proud,

our borders now reclaimed and whole,

together we are all endowed,

O little island, great of soul.

 

Weather fronts and jet stream’s wiles

have formed our temperament benign.

We shrug off daily tests and trials,

believe that all will turn out fine.

 

Our politicians selfless are

and our police are pure at heart.

Our health system’s the best by far

compared to those in foreign parts.

 

We’ve made the world a better place

because of Britain’s glorious past.

We’ve given English as a base.

and to tradition we hold fast.

 

We love our Queen. Long may she reign.

We’ve Lords and Crufts and Wimbledon.

On foreigners we pour disdain.

It’s they we Brits look down upon.

 

So hush, Remainers, hold your peace.

We’ve led you out, like knights of old,

from Brussel’s grasp. Be not like Greece

impov’rished, but enriched and bold.

 

The Future’s bright outside EU.

We will succeed against the odds.

We’ll thrive. A golden era’s due.

The choice is ours. The will is God’s.

Lip Service

It was my turn to run the Macc Writers’ workshop on Thursday and its proximity to Bastille Day gave me our first topic: the challenge to write a new post-Brexit, National Anthem, more of which later. After tea and the read around of some excellent, funny and heartfelt anthems, we broached the subject of “Tennis”. I found myself starting with the title and harking back to the young McEnroe. I suppose I could have started it with “O young McEnroe is come out of the west*…”, but here’s what I ended up with.

*London, of course

Lip Service

“You cannot be serious!”, was his spoilt brat battle cry.

“That ball was in. You must be blind or a very stoopid guy!”

Back then, line calls were made on a simple puff of chalk,

but now technology has given us the eye of hawk,

whilst McEnroe has mellowed and from commentators’ box,

he gently criticises and occasionally mocks

this generation’s mavericks, incompetents and worse,

shows mild surprise when Djokovic is overheard to curse.

The Preservèd Village

Gabe and Clare live in the small Oxfordshire village of Beckley. Towards the end of 2016, the brewery which owned the Abingdon Arms, their local and hub of village life (That must be what they mean by pub hub, I imagine), threatened to close it down. The possibility of a buy out by the residents of Beckley was mooted and thus began a nationwide (if you count Macclesfield) campaign to raise the necessary cash in the very limited time available. The BACBS now owns and runs the pub. Success! Since we have a small share in this new venture, I wrote  a little tribute to their efforts borrowing heavily on Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Deserted Village”. (Thank goodness for English Lit. O-level! It came close to making me very nearly literate!)

The Preservèd Village

Sweet Beckley, loveliest village of the shire,

where working folk plan some day to retire,

where  season follows season with a sport

though “Don’t be optimistic”, Life has taught,

where Oxford may be up, yet could go down,

Uniting all, though more town folk than gown.

Here, far from madding crowd or London’s pomp,

the locals stroll through fields where Spring lambs romp

and savour village Life at walking pace,

a stone’s throw from Brize Norton’s airfield base.

 

Bucolic idylls sadly face the threat

of sudden change  if bottom line’s not met.

The village focal point, its vital hub,

its beating heart, its watering hole, the pub,

is central to a social unity

identifying each community.

is crucial for its daily Life to thrive,

the single means by which it can survive.

Thus, came to pass, despite its many charms,

the  mooted closing of “Th’ Abingdon Arms”.

 

At once, a cry ran round that we must act.

Plans were conceived, unanimously backed.

The owners, Brakspeare, listened, but unmoved,

proposed a buy-out scheme and so it’s proved

a mettle-testing project for our ties.

How many would respond to rallying cries?

But first the legal niceties were done

(and everyone’s aware that that’s no fun).

The enterprise conceived was firstly named,

its constitution then agreed, once framed.

 

Its officers  were volunteered or pressed

to pledge their time and energies invest.

Some readily stepped up to others coax

with mild coercion, repartee and jokes.

Appeals were issued to take out a share

with fingers crossed, breath held, a wing and prayer.

The deadline fast approached to raise the sum,

two days to go and 40 k to come.

Some miracle perhaps would intervene.

It did. Job done by midnight, Hallowe’en.

 

The rest, my friends, we celebrate tonight.

Our venture’s just beginning. Future’s bright.

Support your local with your kin and friends.

Thus it grows and prospers whilst my poem ends.

Anyone for Tennyson?

Although this poem was written at the end of February almost 20 years ago, when we were due to visit our friends, Chris and Margaret, in West Sussex, it seems timely to give it an airing today as we are half way through the annual grass courts, new balls and strawberries extravaganza.  For Wade (Virginia) read Cash (Pat) and for Des Lynam read McEnroe.

Anyone for Tennyson (de la Mare, Keats, Hardy, Browning….) ?

Wimbledon fortnight’s halfway through.

You shift uneasily in your chair.

You sip and savour your homemade brew,

Mull over the puzzle why we’re not there.

 

No cautious tap at the window pane ;

No knock at the door at the midnight hour ;

No muffled whisper pierces the rain

As squall is followed by shower.

 

But you suddenly think of a call at the door,

Too soft, and you lift your head :-

“Did they come and no one answered,

Did they keep their word ?” you said.

 

Or what unveiled a night-time drama,

A stone or nail caused tyre to ping

And in the blizzard made you brake ?

– Yet no ’phones ring !

 

The covers are on. The grass grows lush.

The ball girls in bed are relaxing,

Counting pigeons regaling the hush,

Which Barker and Wade find so taxing.

 

For this is the weather Des Lynam shuns

And so do we.

Spectators drip in browns and duns.

They’ve paid their fee.

 

No cannon-ball serves, or volleys that thunder,

Or drops exquisite tear rally asunder,

Making the gallant crowd cry out in wonder,

Are seen. Why didn’t the weathermen blunder ?

 

Oh, to see All England

As June becomes July,

And whoever’s at All  England

Sees great tennis – when it’s dry ! –

From the outer courts and the lowest seeds

To Centre Court with its different breeds

And, when rain permits, the royal bow

In All England – now !                                

“Bequest” by Mark Henderson: tonight 3rd. July at 8-30pm (Partington 1 Act Play Festival from 7-30pm) at the Partington Players Theatre, Glossop and a recent poem from me, “Sandi’s Big 5-0”.

Mark’s new 1 act play, “Bequest” is on tonight (for one night only!) and Mark’s actually in it. It’s an entry in the Partington 1 Act Play Festival and will be well worth the detour. Mark’s play is on second at 8-30 pm.

Meanwhile, on June 24th., Sandi (next door) celebrated a big birthday in their recently finished, magnificent garden, complete with mirrors which double the size and worthy of Versailles or Chatsworth  (don’t look on our side of the hedge, folks). There was a Turkish-cuisine BBQ, good company and oceans of fizzy drinks (!). Although we didn’t stay the course, the party went on into the early hours with a gradual quietening down after midnight. This is what I penned for her card. (Henry is their dog).

Sandi’s Big 5-0

When I started writing this, I was in a dreadful rush.

I’d need a minor miracle to finish at a push.

It all began when Henry left a message on our lawn

in the shape of ’67 (the year Sandi was born).

Then Poppy, bless her tabby socks, confirmed it with a “Miaow”,

suggesting we come Saturday for drinks and chat and chow.

 

We checked i-pads and i-phones and found we’d had a text

from Sandi who’d explained in brief just what would happen next.

“We’re at the summer solstice and it’s time to celebrate

a certain great big birthday. Yes, mine, so save the date.

The heat wave may be over, but as long as it stays dry,

join us in our new garden, a kind of miniature Versailles.”

 

So, it’s round to 1 4 5 to mark one fifty come what may

and witness that it’s possible to keep old Father Time at bay.

True, there may be laughter lines, odd grey hairs we cannot hide,

but, shucks, that’s Life experience. We wear our years with pride.

We’re all still mods or rockers, punks or hippies in our hearts,

though in broad daylight those like me are taken for old farts.

 

Today, there’s a marquee up, the barbeque is sizzling.

(With one eye on the forecast, they’d hoped it wouldn’t be drizzling).

So, pull frothy pints, pop champagne corks, maybe some apple brandy,

bought on recent holidays at friends in French Normandy.

Of wine, there’s a selection, from the New World and the Old:

oak-aged reds and tangy whites delicious when they’re cold.

 

We have a dual purpose. Forget the world outside a while

(and, Man, we’re all United, so chill out, relax and smile)

and for this special person, fête this extra special day.

Raise glasses in a toast in that special Sandi way.

She’s put us in the picture and we can watch her garden grow.

On reflection in those mirrors, it’s “Happy Big 5-0”!

 

I’m looking for a final rhyme… if only one were handy!

How about a word of thanks to hosts, both Daine and Sandi.

 

Great party. Happy Birthday, Sandi.

Solitude

Tonight’s Speakeasy theme at the Park Tavern is “Solitude” and Zoe Quinlan led a well-attended workshop a couple of weeks ago for Macclesfield Creative Writing Group to draw in the crowds with lots of relevant material. Here’s what I’ve written for the theme.

Solitude   

(After “Daffodils”by William Wordsworth)

I wandered lonely in a crowd,

whilst posting thoughts unveiling ills.

I walked along and talked  out loud.

Aren’t earphones great! They’re really brill!

Beside the bank, through shopping malls

whilst still on line with website pals.

 

Continuous as the stars that tweet

or presidents at 4 am

their every thought quite indiscrete.

Oh how I do so envy them!

Ten thousand followers at a glance

each logging on at every chance.

 

My Facebook page where I lay bare

the trivia of each passing day

is where I live or simply stare

or turn to online games and play.

These habits steal my days. They filch,

so social intercourse is zilch!

 

For often on my couch I lie

and nothing much comes on TV,

I sometimes ask myself just why

I am so crap at being me.

But then my heart with pleasure fills

until I get my broad band bills.

D-Day (Jour-J)

Today is the 73rd. anniversary of the D-Day landings. Here’s a small tribute to those who died and to the survivors, most of whom will be well over 90!

D Day (Jour J)

June the 6th. was D-Day way back in 19 44

when Allied troops disembarked on Europe’s bloody shore

and France’s liberation began the day they call Jour “Jee”

and many a soldier lost his life that day in Normandy.

so whether your name was Hans, my boy, or Jean-Pierre or Tom,

it’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

It’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

 

The five pronged thrust from Neptune was planned to make a breach.

They came from Canada’s wheat belt to die on Juno beach,

whilst Yanks who left the mid-West, home states both near and far,

perished under machinegun fire at Utah and Omaha,

so whether your name was Hans, my boy, or GI Joe or Tom,

it’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

It’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

 

The Brits were asked to play their part at Gold Beach and at Sword

to establish a bridge head in Operation Overlord,

but mothers grieve on both sides having lost their pride and joy

for Lebensraum’s worth nothing when it takes away your boy,

so whether your name was Hans, my boy, or Fritz or Franz or Tom,

it’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

It’s History repeated a stone’s throw from the Somme.

“Mine” or “O Mine Papa”

Here’s my attempt at a mining folk song.

Mine (or O Mine Papa)                                                                        

When pithead wheels still turned each shift

to drop the cage and then to lift

the colliers from their daily graft,

a mile deep buried down a shaft,

each man was 50 years condemned,

with two short weeks to rest and mend.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning.

Digging coal required no learning,

back when the nation’s home fires burned

and our satanic mill wheels turned

before our mining jobs were spurned.

 

Both my granddads, dad and brother,

all the family save our Mother,

uncles and cousins, neighbours too,

they shovelled coal the whole day through

or all the afternoon or night,

lit by a headlamp’s ray of light.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning etc.

 

Their lungs were clogged up with coal dust.

They sweated cobs and swore and cussed.

Back up on top, they’d wash t’muck off

and smoke a Woodbine, hack and cough,

and breathe the air, so fresh, so sweet

and feel the grass beneath their feet.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning etc.

 

Our sweat shone black for old King Coal.

He had us body, mind and soul,

but for our kids we wanted better.

Education could unfetter.

Down the pit they won’t belong,

just sing about our lives in song.

 

Chorus:

Repose and convalesce from earning

for the sunlight daily yearning.

Digging coal required no learning,

back when the nation’s home fires burned

and our satanic mill wheels turned

before our mining jobs were spurned.

“Mine” (or “O Mine Papa”) and 2 Guest Poet appearances coming up in early June.

I was lucky enough to be at the Dog and Partridge, Bollington, on Friday 26th. May for Bob Fox’s guest singer night. He’s an accomplished guitarist with an excellent voice, very much at home on the stage and  very entertaining and well worth a detour. (He was “The Songman” in “Warhorse” and will be again soon at the Lowry). He’s from a mining village in the North-East which immediately took me back to Mansfield Woodhouse and our local Nottinghamshire pits. Bob is one of “The Pitmen Poets” and reminded me that we’re both the first generation not to “go down t’pit”, though he does earn his living singing about it! It prompted me to have a go at writing a folk song (“The Folk Song with No Tune?”). I’ll post it separately after the commercial break.

As it happens, I’ve a couple of 10 minute slots as Guest Poet coming up myself at 2 open mike events locally. Both are free entry (but a fiver to get out – JOKE!). Come along and read something of your own or by AN Other or just come and listen.

“Poetry and Prose”

at the Petersgate Tap

19, St. Petersgate, Stockport

7-30 pm Wednesday, 7th. June

Open mike free event

Guest Poet: Phil Poyser

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Spoken Word”

at the UBAgene bar

61A, London Road South, Poynton, SK12 1LA

7-30 pm Monday, 12th. June

Open mike free event

Guest Poet: Phil Poyser

Camilla Meets Her Matt-ch

A couple of Sundays ago, Camilla and Matt Burke were quietly celebrating their silver wedding anniversary with lunch and a few drinks amongst close friends and family when there was a knock on the door. The stranger at first claimed to be a work colleague from way back, but after accepting a glass (or two) of wine, stepped out into the sunshine and declaimed to Matt’s surprise, this rather long tribute which Camilla had secretly organised.

Camilla Meets Her Matt-ch (or possibly Game, Sex and Matt-ch?

In case you’re wondering just who I am,

relax, rest assured, I’m no strip-o-gram.

I’m some kind of local poet or worse,

charged with deliv’ring this anniversary verse.

 

Let me tell you the story (and I’ll keep it brief

for Life whizzes by and Time’s such a thief)

of a young girl called Bennett, Camilla by name,

whose Welsh Mountain ponies won gymkhana fame.

With horsey obsession and thick goggle specs,

she failed to attract the opposite sex,

thus missing out on a high school romance

till Fate and a friend gave her a second chance.

 

At school, Matt’s football won out in the yard.

The Hesketh Tavern was where Camilla starred

November 5th., ’85 was a high.

This time the fireworks weren’t all in the sky.

Camilla had doted on “Misty” and “Taffy”.

Now it was Matt’s wit and charm drove her daffy.

The “bee” in her Bennett she dreamed would “bee” Burke

though 7 years would pass until they made it work.

 

As a couple each complemented the other

and enhanced their tastes, but didn’t smother.

Camilla had been dazzled by Luther Vandross.

Now she  liked Prefab Sprout, the Smiths and the Boss.

Nowadays there’s room for Elbow’s CDs

whether played softly or as loud as you please.

Just right to accompany Matt’s carbonara

or “Gone With the Wind” and Scarlet O’Hara.

 

Meanwhile, Life was good, like one long holiday:

Italy, Majorca, you name it, they’d stay.

Then in 19 90, they flew off to Oz.

They needed no reason. They went just “because”.

Uncle Richard lived where the broad Brisbane flowed,

(along with “4X”), so they chose Rainworth Road.

Each found a job in a McDonald Drive-Thru.

At Maccas, the burgers were beef, croc or roo.

 

After 5 months’ hard labour, they were transported,

but by greyhound bus (not as convicts escorted):

The Outback’s stark beauty, its vastness, a shock:

the Great Barrier Reef; the Red Centre (Ayres Rock);

the Aussie crown jewel, Surfers’ Paradise on earth;

and Sydney and Melbourne and Adelaide and Perth;

That’s why a return trip tops their bucket list,

to Down Under’s cities and beaches sun-kissed.

 

So, tinged with regret, their year was soon over,

time to head home for the white cliffs of Dover,

settle down, get married, set the Big Day:

for 19 92, the 15th. of May.

All Saints Parish Church, Cheadle Hulme, was the venue,

then Adlington Hall’s Hunters’ Lodge wedding menu

and two weeks in Majorca as husband and wife,

then back to Macclesfield, jobs and real life.

 

A Ryle Street cottage for Matt and Camilla

was their dream chateau, their palace, their villa.

Of clerical work she’s done more than her stint

and Matt’s in procurement. That’s all I can print.

His McCann Erikson portfolio’s Aldi.

(Had it been for Four Seasons, I’d squeeze in Vivaldi).

In the background, his passion’s photography

and he’d rather do that, between you and me.

 

Their life together was not quite complete.

They longed for that patter of two tiny feet.

Twice they came close, but it wasn’t to be,

so they adopted a way to have family.

First there was Shane, born 5th. of November.

(That date keeps recurring, I’ll have you remember).

Five years later, came William, October 2nd.

A warm, loving family environment beckoned.

 

Where two had been cosy, there were now four of them.

They moved to a bigger house close to the “crem.”

West Brook Drive was their haven. It was and is still

for Matt and Camilla and second son, Will.

Did I mention labradors, Inka and Tess,

cats, Tallulah and Leo, live at this address?

They line up for breakfast at 8 am sharp.

For 6 o’clock tea, they miaow, bark and parp.

 

There’d been other pets: black cats, Minstrel and Sooty

and Scooby the dog in whose paws they were putty.

Way back Matt’s tortoise was Fausto Coppi by name,

but a menagerie like this just isn’t the same.

Scooby a mongrel was Heinz 57.

Sadly, aged 17, she went up to dog heaven.

At home the bosses are Tallulah and C.,

a mat-riarchy (spelled with only one “t”).

 

Who’d play M and C in the film of their Life?

Eric Morecambe for Matt, Julie Walters his wife.

He’d have specs on his head. She’d do C’s mimic’s voice,

For the script, Alan Bennett’s the obvious choice.

Man City (not Luton) would have a big role,

the theme tune “Blue Moon”. In the park it’s a stroll.

Somehow Shane’s support’s for those devils in red

(and I’m a fan too, but that’s quite enough said).

 

There’s lots more to tell you, but I’ll draw to a close.

If a poem’s soporific, there’s a risk that you’ll doze.

It’s 20 17, wed 25 years,

it’s time for some bubbly and good wines and beers.

It’s speech which is silver, though Silence is golden.

Camilla and Matt, this occasion embolden.

Let’s raise glasses high to the next 25

with good wishes echoing round West Brook Drive.

“CAMILLA and MATT, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!”