National Poetry Day: Freedom

Last Thursday, 28th. September was National Poetry Day with “Freedom” being this year’s theme. Four poems of mine sprang to mind which touch on this subject, albeit tangentially: “Resistance is Futile?” was posted here on  January 6th., 2016; and the other 3 happen to be about seabirds or our hamster, Bev. “Seascape with Gulls” is in the “Eric Bloodaxe? And Other Verse” collection; and the two others are “Beverage Almond  Gnawwood Cleansetail”; and “Barnacle Geese: On a Wing and a Prayer”,  juxtaposed by chance in “Seconds Out”.

NB. I should mention that Bev was Hugo’s hamster and the name derives loosely from his impressive moniker (Hugo Armand Norwood Kensdale).

Beverage Almond Gnawwood Cleansetail

Our hamster’s in an awful rage.

She sits and fumes inside her cage.

She thinks this time we’ve gone too far,

our furry prisoner at the bar.

 

For every evening on the dot,

she exercises on the plot

comprised of landing, hall and stairs,

pausing to groom beneath the chairs.

 

It’s then she leaves her fur-lined nest

(about the time we get undressed)

her ears erect, her nose a-twitch,

(but first to soothe that nagging itch).

 

From time to time, we have a scare.

We glance away. She isn’t there.

For hours we scour the kitchen round,

anxious for the slightest sound.

 

If, like tonight, we are not there,

she’ll stare and think or simply stare,

or pull and tug her tatty cover,

yearn wistfully for hamster lover.

 

Some days she doesn’t sleep too well.

We’re noisy neighbours sent from Hell,

diurnal strange insomniacs

who wait for night-time to relax.

 

A self-respecting vertebrate

knows when it’s time to activate

once sun has dipped and darkness falls

and shadows steal along the walls.

 

By day she dreams a cunning plan

for Rodent victory over Man :

draw up petition which with paw would

be marked Cleansetail, Beverage Gnawwood ;

 

or (unhinged, alone and barmy)

Hamster Liberation Army,

with Foxy beret à la Che

or balaclava (IRA)

 

sit on haunches, raise clenched paw:

Today the hall. Tonight the door.

Tomorrow, so her reasoning goes,

… a noise disturbs rebellious doze…

 

… go placard-waving down the street :

“GIVE EVERY HAMSTER MORE TO EAT.”

“LET’S TURN THE TABLES, NOT THE WHEEL.”

“MINIMUM CHOW IS ONE SQUARE MEAL.”

 

“WE WON’T WAIT FOR EVOLUTION.

THE PET SHOP GIRLS WANT REVOLUTION.”

“STOP CHANGING CAGES TWICE A WEEK.

A LIBERTY ? A BLOODY CHEEK.”

 

But then again, all snug and warm,

she sees the case for slow reform

and, as she slips back into trance,

decides to give us one more chance.

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Royhull-ium/The Roy Hull Chemical Society (R-HCS)

Yesterday, at the beautifully situated church of St. Saviour in Wildboarclough, we said our goodbyes to one of heterocyclic chemistry’s essential elements: Royhull-ium. He was a month short of 98 or 7 x 14. That these factors constitute the atomic number and atomic weight of Nitrogen would have been relished by Roy. What an enthusiast and what a great ambassador for chemistry and lifelong advocate for that of the heterocyclic persuasion!
Here’s a poem I wrote for Roy on the occasion of his 95th. birthday on 5th. October, 2014. I have (probably) taken liberties with the practicalities and intricate details of heterocyclic chemistry, but asked for the indulgence of Roy and anyone else who recognised or recognises this. Please don’t try these reactions at home!
Roy Hull of Heild End Farm, Wildboarclough,
b. 5th. October, 1919 / d. 6th. September, 2017

The Roy Hull Chemical Society (R-HCS)

When ICI seemed here to stay
from Frank Rose’ to McKillop’s day,
one man there is was never phased
by complex rings which left us dazed,
who rolled down lab coat sleeves with glee
when time came round for chemistry
of N, S, O heterocycles.
(Some routes used Fischers, others Michaels).

Roy Hull defined without a blink
each bond, substituent and link,
completely unambiguously,
spoke heterocyclic chemistry.
Safe behind protective glasses,
he squirted acids, bubbled gases,
problems foresaw and thus avoided.
Best strategy? That’s what Roy did.

So when he wished to synthesise
some arcane molecule, his eyes
lit up. He rubbed his gloves, reflected,
never once became dejected.
An imidazoquinoline?
Now which isomer did you mean?
“From pyridines I’ll make a start”
He was of course versed in the art.

He relished challenges like these
(though for him it was a breeze).
He’d prise apart those naphthalenes,
smash C-C bonds to smithereens,
insert an ‘N’, an ‘S’ or ‘O’.
Voila a cycle, hetero-.
Diels-Alder, Wittig, Hofmann, Prins?
Hey presto! Thenocoumarins.

Roy Hull, heterocyclotron,
it’s time to fire guns 21
to celebrate you’re 95
still on the ball, still have the drive:
in Heild End Farm in Wildboarclough,
the chemist who can’t get enough,
pied piperidinojethrotull,
the incomparable Roy Hull.

© Phil Poyser, Australia, 29th. September, 2014
PS Happy birthday, Roy. I have great memories of 1965 and my summer vacation training in Exploratory Chemistry with Paddy Mulholland and Bryan Haydock, of your visit to Reims and hearing la nomenclature heterocyclique rattled off en français and of course the years we overlapped at Alderley Park. I particularly treasure your final salvo (i.e Section Meeting) delivered eyeball to eyeball with Tom himself.

 

Dates: Figure This

Today is “el dieciocho”, the National Day of Chile where I lived for a year and a half from January, 1971 to July, 1972. On 11th. September, 1973, the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende, was killed in Pinochet’s military coup, so “9/11” has a doubly ominous significance for many Chileans. Last Monday was the 16th. anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity and I wrote the following poem a day or so before to mark the occasion.

Dates: Figure This

2 –  4 –  6 –  8 – … – … – … here’s a thought to contemplate:

next in this arithmetic series, what’s the date?

For 1 – 3 – 5 – 7 -… – … – … here’s my answer: Nine Eleven

 

It’s Tuesday, early afternoon, about 2-ish GMT.

We’re in the office, grafting hard or just passing time, maybe.

On Graham’s desk, he has a screen which all day’s illuminated

and brings hot press the latest news, so he’s constantly updated.

 

And then he calls me over. Something odd has happened in the States

There’s been a plane crash – “Strangest thing!” – the commentator insinuates.

“It’s flown into the north tower of the World Trade Centre building”.

We take this with a pinch of salt. He’s just the lily gilding.

 

It must be small, a private jet, and we assume the guy’s insane.

We’re casually dismissive until it happens once again..

Now we really pay attention. What the hell is going on?

Then we can’t believe our senses when we see the south tower’s gone.

 

A real life drama is unfolding, History’s happening as we gaze.

The whole world is in awe and shock. The whole world’s in a daze.

As we watch, the second tower crumbles like sand castles on the beach

and suffocating clouds of debris come rolling from the breach.

 

Rubber-necking’s over, spectators scatter, fearing for their lives.

Inside last words are shouted into phones by mothers, husbands, wives.

Some 3000 workers perished and three fifty firemen too.

and all the people on 4 planes, passengers, terrorists and crew.

 

So is this where it all went pear-shaped, where Apocalypse drew near,

where America and Britain opened Pandora’s box of fear?

Bush and Blair together went Desert Storming through Iraq.

It’s been a downward spiral since and the clock can’t be turned back.

 

Obama’s been and gone since then and with him common sense.

Trump’s in charge, a dreadful thought. There’s no sitting on the fence.

Bin Laden’s dead and Saddam too, Now Kim Jong-un is raving,

provoking with his missile tests. For an earlier time we’re craving.

 

So fingers crossed and holding breath, at the slightest straw we clutch.

We yearn to live to tell the tale and say, “Thank you very much”.

The clock approaches midnight when all Life on Earth’s extinct

We so stupidly played chicken! Which of us was it first blinked?

Burn

As Hurricane Irma wreaks her unprecedented havoc in the Caribbean, it seems petulant to be brassed off with the shortcomings of the English climate, but it’s difficult to suppress a slight moan as the rain beats down and the sky remains 50 shades of grey. So, to cheer myself up, I’ve trawled the archives and come up with a poem that spans the best and the worst of our insular climate. It was written way back in 2012.

Burn

The lido beach was a sun trap,

the sunshine guaranteed.

I drifted off, had a cat nap.

To my sad tale, take heed.

 

Sun loungers are a beach bum’s boon.

Stretch out and take your ease.

Avoid the hours approaching noon

Or wait to do striptease.

 

The sun beat down. I nodded off,

No sun block on my skin.

Oh, Worldly Wise, be smug and scoff.

I’ll take it on the chin.

 

I slowly cooked by ultra V.

My skin turned  infra red,

then reddened more, till visibly,

you might have thought I bled.

 

I glowed. No tan did I achieve,

shade: lobster thermidor,

Red Flag on chest, as well as sleeve.

It really was so sore.

 

And now we’re back where skies are grey,

so was the sun a dream?

We do not see a single ray.

I need rain-proofing cream.

Dali’s Moustache

The month of August has sped by and the Muse seems to have been sun-seeking elsewhere. I’ve managed a couple of birthday tributes for friend, Maria (70), and for step-daughter, Estelle (41), otherwise the Microsoft Word document pages have remained blank. Is this because, as in April, the Macclesfield Creative Writing Group has also taken a break, or is it more sinisterly due to the “Bump in the Bath” in March (see the  post “Bang to rights: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday”)? Let’s kick start September with a limerick, which, at the end of July when written, was topical.

Dali’s Moustache

Salvador Dali, surreal artist,

that he’s a genius would always insist,

but is he Dada or Daddy

via an affair that he had? He

gives his Life and moustache one more twist.

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.