The Haunted Schoolyard

black wooden door frame
Photo by ramy Kabalan on


The Haunted Schoolyard

We’ve all heard the stories in the school lunch-queue,
Every village has its ghost or two:
Headless horsemen, women in white…
’Course, we don’t believe you, and you’re just kidding, right ?

Witches had a presence – there was always one around,
But werewolves and vampires, were rarely ever found.
We knew them from the telly, sure: a terrifying throng,
Yet somehow in the villages they didn’t quite belong.

And then there was that we·ird guy who hardly ever spoke,
Since ever since he’d lived alone, and never smiled at folk,
And his house was full of boxes full of empty snail shells,
And it made these funny noises, and sometimes funny smells.

The heroes of the playground were the locals who won’t rot:
The strangled and the drowned and the poisoned and the shot
Spirits of our neighbours – though they’re long since dead and gone –
Except, of course, they’re not.  They’re out there.  Pass it on.



Listen, Children…

low angle view of man standing at night
Photo by Lennart kcotsttiw on


Listen, Children…

Listen to the east-wind as it rattles at the window latch…
Listen to the mice behind the skirting…scritter-scratter-scratch
Listen to the garden foxes gnawing on some unearthed bones…
And listen to the creaking and the thumping and the sighing groans…

Now the sun has gone to bed and now that night has spread its gloom,
Then shall I tell you, children, of the ghost that haunts this very room ?
Listen closely…closer still…behind the death-watch beetle’s click…
And there he is…the ghost of time…the never-ending tick-tick-tick

Shall I tell you, children, shall I tell you what is worse than witches ?
Scarier than sprites and spectres…filling sleep with sweats and twitches…?
Listen then…and listen for the tiny voice on nights like this…
The tiny voice that ev’ry child must hear…must hear its icy hiss…

Never witches…never spectres…nothing ever living on…
Nothing from an afterlife, and nothing but oblivion…

Listen…can you hear it ?  Can you hear the voice from the abyss…?
Listen to the tiny voice that terrifies on nights like this…



Night of the Restful Dead

orange plastic bucket
Photo by on


Night of the Restful Dead

Halloween, when the dead don’t walk,
The wraiths don’t keen and the sprites don’t stalk,
The shades don’t slink, nor devils prowl,
The vamps don’t drink, nor werewolves howl.

Halloween, when the dead stay dead,
The walls aren’t green and the sheets aren’t red,
And physics’ laws still reign supreme,
We’ve got no cause, yet still we scream.

Halloween, when the ghoul-less roam,
Or sleep serene in their haunt-less homes;
We walk this night with carefree airs,
And won’t take fright, nor whisper prayers.

Halloween, when the kids raise Hell –
It’s always been within their spell –
They may look gaunt, but fake their gore –
They only haunt from door-to-door.

Halloween, when the pumpkins smile,
And folks convene in a gothic style –
With tongue-filled cheeks and boozy breath,
They dress as freaks and laugh at Death.

Halloween, when the graves aren’t stirred,
The ghosts aren’t seen nor the banshees heard.
Yet still we fret by thinking dumb
When we forget how far we’ve come.

Halloween, when the mind plays tricks,
And the silver screen gives us frights for kicks.
For this one night, let’s dig suspense;
Just don’t lose sight of our common sense.



One Spot, Two Spot

ladybird on finger
Early Ladybird by Gavin Clack


One Spot, Two Spot

Ladybird, Madam Ladybird, so good of you to call
Will you stay here a little, pack your wings up to crawl ?
Ladybird, Madam Ladybird, have you flown a long way ?
Do you come, Miss, for feasting, or have you eggs to lay ?
Ladybird, Madam Ladybird, your wing-case is ajar;
Won’t you stay a little longer, ere your au revoir ?
Ladybird, Madam Ladybird, how longer is your reign ?
Shall I meet you on the morrow, or never now again ?



Not Telling

exercise equipment skipping rope gym sport
Photo by Dom J on


Not Telling

(a skipping chant)

I’ve got a secret,
Maybe I shall speak it –
Maybe I shall leak my secret indiscreet.

I’ve got a story
Told to me by Rory –
Maybe I shall store my story safe and sweet.

To how many folk
Shall I utter not a croak,
Shall I never chat or jaw
What I saw ?

And how many days
Shall I mutter not a phrase,
Shall I never breathe a word
What I heard ?

Your hunger’s getting bolder,
Your guesses getting colder;
But promise to be good
And I’ll tell you when you’re older.

Five fives are twenty-five
And three threes are nine
I’ve got a secret
And it’s mine, all mine.


There have actually been whole studies conducted into skipping chants and clapping songs, and it seems ti’s a surprisingly conservative world, with endless variations around a few old standards – number one in the playgrounds for the past few decades has been A Sailor Went to Sea, latterly morphed into We Went to a Chinese Restaurant.  I don’t hold out much hope of entering the canon, and quite honestly until it’s been playtested by proper six year olds, we’ll never know if it even meets the brief.




signal box
Yeovil Pen Mill Cat & Signal Box by Tim Jones



There is a cat who watches trains
And makes his home in signal boxes,
Lives beneath the weathered gables,
Catches rats who chew the cables.
Grey, he is, with smoky grains
That fleck his coat the way of foxes,
’Cept the tramlines down his back
Which earn his name of Clickerclack.
They shine out silver, brow to rump
They even bear the marks for sleepers;
Branded thus, his fate assured
His working for the Railways Board.
So where a plague of rodents clump
Within the homes of signal-keepers –
Unannounced by midnight freight
Comes Clickerclack to extirpate.
He bites, he claws, he chews in half
And shreds them into vermicelli –
Drives them out and leaves his scent
To fright them off resettlement.
And when his work is done, the staff
Will feed him fish and rub his belly.
Then it’s off to boxes new
Aboard the 07:22.