Bike Rack in the Sky

Sadly, my ancient bike, the Yellow Orrell, has reached the end of its days. The steel-framed steed has been struck down with terminal rust and must reluctantly be replaced by some quivering interloper, still wet behind the gears.

I can’t muster a lament to compare with Roger McGough’s “Stop All the Cars” on the demise of his old Metro, but here’s my epitaph-cum-eulogy.

Bike Rack in the Sky

I’ve ridden dusty tracks and muddy

astride my yellow bike, my buddy.

More roads had puddles than were dusty,

the reason why the bike frame’s rusty,

why terminal is the crank shaft crack:

end of the road, no turning back.

 

We’ve bumped along the leafy lanes.

We’ve climbed the hills, rode Cheshire plains.

We’ve slalomed round deep potholes scary

which lurk to trap the poor unwary

sod distracted by bucolic scene

of gambolling lambs in pastures green.

 

We rode the country End to End

tagged on behind long-suffering friend.

We toiled up slopes seemed almost sheer,

fought head winds without changing gear.

Stamina sapped, we’ve given in

and dropped down to the granny ring.

 

Ten years ago, (how Time’s whizzed by!)

I brought you home and I rode high

You would have had more TLC

owned by a Wheeler, not by me.

Now time has come for us to part,

yet somehow I don’t have the heart.

 

I’m yearning for another chance

to pause a while Time’s cruel advance,

to take you out for one last spin.

Spare tubes I’ll pack and gatorskin.

I’ll inflate tyres and oil that chain

and keep one eye out for the rain.

 

The bubble bursts. I blub. I bawl.

You’re now a trophy on my wall

Advertisements

The Restaurant at the End of the University

If sheer output were the yardstick, 2018 would be classed as a vintage year.   Admittedly, the title of the poem which follows owes practically everything (92%) to Douglas Adams and the rest to the Park Tavern discussion group. Their theme tonight (“University Education for All?”) is one I feel strongly enough about for me to attend tonight and to prompt a rhyming summary.

The Restaurant at the End of the University

Discussion group, this Wednesday night

and the theme is right up my street:

“Uni’ education for all?”

The Park Tavern’s where we will meet.

 

I come from a working class background

and for me it couldn’t be plainer.

The path from our house led to the pit.

For me, it seems a no brainer.

 

Two roads diverged in my life – and I

took the path to a B. Sc.

I stayed above ground, hands and face clean.

It’s thanks to that science degree.

 

Of course there was more, so much more

in those University years:

a real social mix and friendships forged,

all washed down with quite a few beers;

 

add in a cultural awakening,

discovering Shakespeare and Pinter;

became aware of what was out there,

like burgeoning Spring after Winter.

 

But was our cohort just lucky?

The question now asked looking back

by those coming post-Baby Boomers:

“Do you want fries with your Big Mac?”

 

Down with Shingles

Not me, folks, but my friend and founder member of Macclesfield Creative Writing Group, Margaret Holbrook. On Tuesday evening, we had shared a compact, poetry open mike at Poynton’s Ubagene bar, where a select gathering of enthusiastic regulars shared 4 poems or stories each. Excellent as usual. Margaret’s non-appearance at Thursday’s read around was unexpected and turned out to be due to the dreaded zoster virus. Initially, I thought she had come down with Jingles, but I would, wouldn’t I? Get well soon.

Down with Shingles

With winter colds, an ailment mingles.

Ya boo! Ya boo! Down with shingles!

Our friend, Margaret’s really poorly,

She’s suffering and afflicted sorely

by a sneaky, nasty virus,

which courses nerves. Pains shoot and fire us

when we harbour Herpes zoster.

Say your prayers, say “Paternoster”,

when immune systems on the rocks,

if in your youth you’d chicken pox.

 

You start with an unsightly rash.

To cure it, you would pay good cash.

Then there’s searing pain, not tingles,

when you’re laid up with the shingles.

Contagious if one’s not had pox,

so you can’t go down to the doc’s.

The crafty virus, dormant, latent,

a tiny opportunist, blatant,

is like the wasp. You have to wonder,

each is an evolution blunder:

 

no blooming use, a perfect pest.

My god! Like Trump and all the rest.

First Footie

Just recovering from a week of the dreaded man ‘flu’ (snuffles and chesty cough), which, due to a heroic effort, failed to blight the festive spirit, but seemed to dampen the creative side. In order to send everyone my best wishes for 2018 whilst it’s still vaguely topical, I’ve cobbled the following seasonal ditty together. Apologies for the rough edges, which need a fine sandpaper rewrite. Nevertheless, I shall give it an airing at the Visyon “Headspace” tonight (3rd. January). Happy New Year!

First Footie

We’ve had a traditional Christmas,

roast turkey and heaps of mince pies.

Round the tree, stacked up were the presents,

a surfeit of toiletry supplies.

 

We’ve passed through the dark winter solstice.

It’s been difficult to celebrate,

though the Christmas tree’s heavy with lights.

Like the world, we’ve too much on our plate.

 

On TV came a king known as Morecambe

with another, by name Ernie Wise.

On the news, we picked facts out from falsehoods

and statistics from damned, outright lies.

 

We’ve had highlights from the 2 Ronnies.

At 3, millions turned on the Queen’s speech.

Alas, Freddie M. dead and gone is.

That’s one Champion who’s now out of reach.

 

(There’s much at this time is traditional

so grammarians have nipped in the bud,

a future demand for the conditional

to be re-named the “Victoria would”).

 

With the roast we had all the trimmings,

pigs in blankets and stuffing and sprouts

and we toasted with glass over-brimming

“Happy New Year”, which common sense flouts.

 

By the 31st. of December

the bird had been curried, baked in a pie,

risotto-ed, the carcass dismembered

as broth and served up for one final fry.

 

We’ll go veggie, drink in moderation.

We resolve we’ll be radically changed:

that Nation shall speak peace unto Nation,

a pledge that may seem quite deranged:

 

Primrose pathway of good intentions

brings us back down to earth with a bump.

We fret over inflation and pensions

and Kim-Jung-Un and President Chump.

 

To the strain of Jules Holland and guest bands,

Big Ben’s chimes and a firework display,

we head into the New Year and link hands

and we promise to mean what we say.

 

In the old days, a dark haired first footer

brought in a coin, some coal, a mince pie.

Now on January 1st. hear me mutter,

“It’s Premiership First Footie on Sky!”

Bridge in Winter

Phew! We’ve scraped through the winter solstice and will soon be heading towards that gleam of light on the horizon known as Spring. Out cycling last Wednesday, we were astonished to see daffodils in bloom by the roadside south of Goostrey (admittedly looking a bit the worse for wear and bedraggled from mud spray).

I’m posting this jingle, written for our pre-Christmas bridge tournament, as an excuse to send out last minute season’s greetings and best wishes for a peaceful and productive 2018 to everyone (anyone?) out there. Back in the New Year.

Bridge in Winter

Outside it’s wintery showers and c-c-colder than our fridge.

so we’re huddled round the table to play some hands of brrrr-idge.

North shuffles in his chair and bids. South dreams of milder climes

and East’s a beast, but blessed with West (for want of better rhymes).

South dreams of long bridge cruises, attractive package deals

and pleasant company and slams, along with all your meals.

North wishes South would concentrate or shuffle off this coil

or they’ll be in double trouble which his afternoon would spoil.

But playing bridge in Chelford, there’s one name you can’t ignore.

We’ll be back in 2018 and it’s thanks to Barbara Moore*.

*Organiser extraordinaire at Chelford Bridge Club

No L? Kind of a Christmas Carol

This should really have been called “No E” as it came out of a Macc Writers’ workshop a week or two back when Jacquie Spry asked us to write a piece without using the letter “e”, a constraint explored by Georges Perec in the 1960s (in French). Amongst the helpful phrases given to kick start us were “In dark woods” and “Approach of Christmas” and  voilà un chant de Noël (Zut alors!) It received some very positive feedback at last night’s Macc Writers’ seasonal reading at the King Edward Street chapel.

Next Tuesday, 19th. December, there’s a chance to catch “Raspin'” Mark Rawlins, “Heckler’s Nemesis” Nick Degg and myself when we are guest poets at “Write Out Loud” at the Waterside Arts Centre, Sale (KO 7.30 pm).

No L? Kind of a Christmas Carol

In darkling woods, still night at noon,

“Approach, O Christmas,” is our cry,

whilst stars and slowly waning moon

faint light gift to that dusky sky.

 

Magi, kings from a distant land,

myrrh to mourn and gold gifts bring.

Madonna’s child’s birth is at hand.

Applaud him now and loudly sing.

 

Hosanna to young Mary’s boy

who’s born midst holly, ash and oak.

A holly crown will bring him joy

though thorns may prick through swaddling cloak.

 

That bloody fruit of rowan ash,

a garland shows what things will pass:

a stab wound and a gaping gash.

His blood pours gushing on the grass,

 

whilst sturdy oak will form a cross.

That way his martyrdom shall go

to gain for us by this vast loss

a kingdom which is ours to know.

Hosanna sing, hosanna sing, hosanna sing to Christ our king.

Saggy-tarians’ Birthdays

Sharing a birthday with Mady makes it (almost) impossible for me to forget to say, “Bon anniversaire!”, but it didn’t stop me having to scrabble an improvised card and commemorative ditty on the morning of the 9th. I’m only adding this to the website now as an excuse to remind folk that “Macclesfield Writers Does Christmas” again this Thursday, 14th. December from 7.30 to 9.30 pm in the King Edward Street chapel in Macclesfield (admission £4, includes hot drinks and mince pies). We’d love to see you there.

Failing that, “Raspin'” Mark Rawlins, “Heckler’s Nemesis” Nick Degg and myself are the guest poets at “Write Out Loud” at the Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, on Tuesday, 19th.  December at 7.30 pm. It should be a really good night.

Saggy-tarians’ Birthdays

The days have passed by and we’ve gone with the flow.

Since we were like Casper* seems ages ago.

We’ve slowly matured and almost grown up

since you were a kitten and I was a pup.

Together we’ve garnered 1 44 years.

In old numbers, that’s gross and might bring on tears,

but just by good fortune, they’re now 1 for 2,

which means 36 each, we’ll go with in lieu.

Sit back and relax. You feel better I’ll wager.

Next week, 1 for 4 and you’re back to teenager.

Best stop there before we take too far these dreams,

ending up in our Dads’ eyes the merest of gleams!

*Casper is Estelle and Laura’s new baby, Mady’s new grandson, born 27th. November, 2017

Christmas Flier_171214

The Great eSkype

I began this poem with the title back in 2013 after a visit to the Glen Coe region with our  Australian friends, Ian and Louise Whyte, whom we first met on the Gibb River road in 2001 and with whom we have shared some great moments. This time I was truly amazed by how the marvels of modern technology have somehow simultaneously shrunk and expanded our world.

The Great eSkype

We found ourselves in Glen Coe with our Aussie mates, the Whytes,

so no surprise to be outdoors and reaching heady heights.

We set off up a winding track towards our first Munroe,

the four grown ups and Timmy and his Tazzie friend in tow.

 

We old folks were all zonked out by the time we broached the crest

and at the summit plonked right down to grab a well-earned rest.

The day was clear. The clouds were high. We had a brilliant view,

a moment to be treasured. With the Whytes we’ve shared a few.

 

We settled back to savour our precious solitude,

high above that glen renowned for massacre and feud.

We watched the clouds go scudding by when Tim’s friend took his ’phone

and Skyped his folks in Tazzie. My, how small the world has grown!

 

Through modern day technology, the view we saw unfurled

was on his parents’ i-pad screen on the far side of the world.

They saw the cairn, the eagle swoop, the dipping sun’s display.

We shouted, “How ya goin’, mate?” and waved and said, “G’day!”

 

We’d set our sights on one more hill before we headed back,

along the rock-strewn ridge and up the purple heathered track,

then wound our way down to a pub, played pool and downed a dram.

and almost before we knew it, there we were on Instagram.

“Preparatory” School

Last Tuesday, Jude D’Souza announced to the enthusiastic, but numerically sparse Speakeasy faithful that the next session would be the last and that the theme would be Mistakes (a note of unintended irony here?). This will be on Tuesday, 19th. December, kicking off at 8.30 in the Park Tavern with its excellent range of beers, though it ought perhaps to be renamed “The Last Chance Saloon”!

It would be great to send the Speakeasy off with a good turn out, so pop this in your diaries now!

Meanwhile, for this month’s theme of School, I had several old poems ready to air, but decided to revisit my first few tottering steps on education’s tightrope. Here’s what sprang to mind.

“Preparatory” School

Mrs Ranby, Mrs Booth, Mrs Eales, Miss Hughes,

all warmly remembered, all urging us tots on

in the scramble for enlightenment,

up the ladder of education and out of the mines;

less so the formidable headmistress, Miss Rogers,

with her distinctly hairy upper lip and smart red dress.

 

Only in Junior School did men teachers make an appearance:

the loathsome, sarcastic Mr Crooks

who took an instant dislike to me,

introduced me to the word “conceited”

and, when I was pushed up to the year ahead,

wouldn’t have me back for the trip to Lady Bower dam.

(It was 40 years later before I drove past there,

shuttling step-daughter, Estelle, to and from her studies in Sheffield

and found myself transported back to that early 50s classroom);

the firm, humorous, upright figure of the lovable Mr Lawson,

with his faint whiff of tobacco and twinkling eyes

who, after our two schools merged,

brought a new approach with his gentle discipline

and homework and coached us through the fearsome 11+,

the school’s success rate rocketing, year by year.

(A 0/10 for confusing “its” and “it’s” clarified that distinction

long before I had heard of Lynn Truss).

At first he called me Jeffrey (as only hospital staff now do)

and had a dunce’s cap and a “kennel” for the class clown.

What a furore this would cause in today’s world,

but was considered perfectly acceptable back then;

the rotund, besuited, patriarchal headmaster,

Mr… Mr… Mr Allen. I struggle to recall his surname,

but how clearly I still see the magnificent flourish

of that “Frank S” in his signature on our final year report.

 

Of course, it’s the humiliations I remember most vividly,

relive most easily: in a poem,

the word “porpoises” I mispronounced

“poor Poysers” (and felt exactly that!);

as I had, after chattering in class once too often,

finding myself hauled before my classmates,

desk contents clasped, “Double or Drop”-like,

tremulously to chest, Miss Rogers’ finger

stabbing the top and bottom rungs

of a vertical ladder chalked on blackboard,

making it abundantly clear where, respectively,

she and I stood and how I was to return

to Mrs Ranby’s infants’ class to begin all over again.

I shed hot, 8-year-old’s tears,

overwhelmed with contrition, then relief,

as the carrot of a second and final chance

to reform was presented.

 

Two years earlier, impressed by my voracious appetite

for the array of books on the shelves of the class library,

the kindly Mrs. Booth had held me up as a rather different example.

“This boy will go far! Mark my words!”

Many years later, perhaps post-University,

I dropped by to see her

and as good fortune would have it,

found her returned in the role of relief teacher.

At first, to the general amusement of the class,

she mistook me for the man she was replacing,

but some recognition soon dawned

and I was able to express my gratitude

for her encouragement to tread the undulating path

which took me on my journey here tonight.

So far, so good.

For Stephen and Ann-Marie

Very occasionally, it’s an interesting challenge to put an artificial constraint on a piece of work, follow your nose and see what happens. Last Thursday’s Macclesfield Creative Writing Group workshop, led by Jacqueline Spry, involved dispensing with the letter “e”, cf. Georges Perec’s novel “A Void”, written in French and, even more astonishingly, translated into English, with ne’er an “e” in sight.

In a much less ambitious vein, I wrote the following birthday tribute to our friends, the Josephs, restricting it to 2 rhymes (one each?).

For Stephen and Ann-Marie

With the ticking of the clock,

the general public generally ages,

but not Ann-Marie and Doc.

For them it’s just the turning of Life’s pages.

 

They’re as solid as a rock

as they pass through the sequence of its stages.

Nor is either one a crock,

which at least in part our fretful thoughts assuages.

 

Vital to St. Alban’s flock,

where “elders” is another word for “sages”,

they reflect, when taking stock,

they do their very best to skirt Sin’s wages.

 

Knights and ladies don’t defrock,

or they’d hear how the congregation rages,

but they’d put themselves in hock,

at last to make their Holy Land pilgrimages.

 

You will never hear us mock

for our friends in Life Studies are both majors,

but we too hear that tick-tock

and, as poets, scuttle back into our cages.