For all our tappy-typey lives,
For all the keyboards we must pound,
Still ev’ry Summer there survives
A world of scritchy-scratchy sound:
Ev’ry Summer, ev’ry school,
The wriggly-ragged spiders rule !
It seems we do not think exams
Are punishment enough –
Who cares if they know volts from grams,
Or pantaloons from ruffs ?
Their future jobs lie in the grip
Of under-pressure penmanship !
You know, I reckon if we’re honest,
Few of us could truly claim
Our efforts wouldn’t look the same.
For all they pressed upon us
Their italic script or copperplate,
Calligraphy was not our fate.
To all the pupils suffering
From writer’s cramp and knuckles rapped,
Your talents ever under-tapped –
At least you’re not alone.
To all ex-pupils struggle‘ing
With inky hands that biros give,
Our meanings lost in hieroglyphs –
It’s time that we atone:
It’s keymanship that should be taught,
So crisp upon the pristine page,
With fingers fast as any thought –
It’s time to write the modern age !
For all that pens have served us well,
Let’s end their scribbly-scrawly hell –
Born, bred and boarded in England, by chance,
Yet closer to Calais than Canterb’ry town –
Where the Channel keeps nibbling the chalky-white Downs,
And keeps her from cycling to France.
Trapped by La Manche
From Dunkirk to Rennes –
But still she stays staunch: La Douvresienne !
Douze ans is she, in the town of her birth,
And watched by the Castle that keeps her kept here.
But the bright lights of Calais are teasingly near –
Yet somehow they’re out past the end of the earth.
Trapped by the rosbifs
Like Jeanne d’Arc back when –
This unwilling hostage: La Douvresienne !
She lives by the gateway, she lives by the quay,
And watches the French as they come off the ferries
In Deux-Chevaux Citroëns and bob-cuts and berets,
With bœuf bourguignon and bagettes bearing brie.
She mimics their movement
Agen and agen,
With steady improvement: La Douvresienne !
When the weather is right and the signal is clear,
She re-tunes her black-and-white into their station
And watches in awe at the sights of a nation,
And wishes she understood all she can hear.
She mimics their voices,
Both women and men.
She makes the right noises: La Douvresienne !
But their language is tricky to lodge in her head All accents and commas and genders to test her,
And sometimes it’s only a shrug or a gesture –
It’s just like their spelling, there’s so much unsaid.
She’s learning at school
With the rest of Class 10.
She’s sounding so cool
Is La Douvressienne !
She fancies herself as a Mademoiselle,
But family hist’ry declares her a Miss
But what do they know of Gainsbourg or Matisse ?
It’s more than genetics that makes her a belle.
It’s more than a pose
For this proud Madeleine:
She’s no English Rose,
But La Douvresienne !
I know a stare-fast girl
Called Cleopatra Cleet,
Who is altogether clever
In her spotty-stocking feet.
With her busy books beside her
And her thorough-thinking brow,
And her mother dear to chide her
For neglect of here-and-now.
“Cleopa, Cleopa, what are you thinking ?” How does the addersnake sleep without blinking ?
“Cleopa, Cleopa, what do you wonder ?” How does the lightening outrun the thunder ?
“Cleopa, Cleopa, what are you reading ?” Pixies and pirates and guinea-pig breeding.
“Cleopa, Cleopa, why the long weather ?” There’s so much to learn, it will take me forever !