The Curious Case of Mr Smith

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The Curious Case of Mr Smith

Agatha Christie cherished the Tories,
Kept the masses out of her stories –
Servants were faceless, background filler –
Never the victim, never the killer.
Whodunnits by nature are class-based, though,
With chaos disrupting the status quo,
That must be traced and rooted out
Before it spreads its dangerous doubt.
Now true, she distrusted businessmen,
And makes them villains agen and agen,
Not like a blue-blooded, honourable gent –
But was this an anti-Semitic bent ?
Of course, she hated the socialist –
But wait, with her there’s always a twist !
Just witness her Nile when splashed on the stage,
With Poirot banished back to the page –
Instead, a Canon is quizzing them,
While building his new Jerusalem –
One wonders what he might behold ?
A commune or sorts ?  We’re not quite told.
And then, at last, there’s Mr Smith –
The snidy lefty they’re travelling with.
Part hypocrite, but only a part,
When a short-hand typist catches his heart.
He makes some good points along the way,
That it’s hard to imagine our Agatha say –
Perhaps once the cuts had been applied,
It left no room for a seedier side.
All-in-all, a little less sour,
Just as Attlee was coming to power.
For this one trip, it must be said,
It wasn’t only her herrings were red.

Graves, Worms, & Epitaphs

Photo by Ahmed Adly on

Graves, Worms, & Epitaphs

So you’re the new lad come to join me
Digging graves for young and old ?
I’ve started one if you’d like to see,
Though a hole is not much to behold.
But still, you’ve joined an honest trade –
Now don’t stand gawping, grab a spade !

Yes, yes, I’ve heard the rumours too –
When nobles die, the mill grinds fast.
Poor lass, but that’s so often true –
We only meet then at the last.
They’ll bring her soon from out the kirk
To rest within our handiwork.

At least her grave’s beneath a willow –
Hope her shade enjoys the shade.
She has a headstone for a pillow –
Let her sleep, no more afraid.
I’ve heard it said, since days of yore,
All willows weep in Elsinore.

But as for those she leaves behind,
I sense a civil war is brewing.
Keep your head down, deaf and blind,
Don’t worry what those lords are doing.
The kings may change, but we’re still here,
Digging trenches year on year.

We chafe our hands and break our backs
Because a serf is born to toil.
So when a king demands his tax,
We dig his nation’s precious soil.
And if another claims his throne,
He gets to lie in here, alone.

Well, I’d say that we’re nearly done.
So climb on out and take a breath.
Then time to dig another one –
There’s never any break from death.
And if we’re heading for a war,
Then we’ll be needing plenty more…

A Locked-Tomb Mystery

Scottish Hot Cross Buns by Marijke Blazer

A Locked-Tomb Mystery

Maybe there really was a guy who said,
“Why can’t we get along ?”
Maybe the poor sap went and wound-up dead,
From when it all went wrong.
And maybe his still-believing converts claimed
He rose up from the grave,
Like dozens of disciples of previous prophets
Framed their loss to keep them brave.

Hardly a two-pipe problem, this.
Not much call for the little grey cells.
But round-up the witnesses if you wish,
And compare the parallels.
Now, how many women approached the site ?
Three ?  Or two ?  Or one alone ?
How many young men dressed in white ?
Was there a guard ?  Or tampered-with stone ?

We’ve so few clues for the how, why, or when,
But remember the first rule of proof –
If we first eliminate the impossible,
Then what remains is likely the truth.
Maybe there really was a guy who said
“Let’s love our neighbours, hey ?”
And maybe, alas, he really wound-up dead.
And that’s all there is to say…

Deckle Edge

Deckle Edge

My shelves are full of books for lending,
Books I love, and need to share –
Their spines are useless when not bending,
Spreading words to ev’rywhere.
I long to be what lib’ries were for me,
A haven and a runway –
Take these beauties down and set them free,
And bring them back, well, some day.
Pay them forward, share the thrill,
And validate my soul, my love…
And yet…I know you never will –
You need to want, I can’t just shove.
Ah well, there’s no sense my pretending –
Who am I to hook and sway ?
My shelves are full of books for lending –
There they sit, and there they’ll stay.

Crisp Pages

Photo by Luis Quintero on

Crisp Pages

I borrowed the book from the library, years ago,
From a casual glance.
I fell in love with her title, I had to know
What on Earth she meant.
She promised me adventure, she promised me grit,
And an epic romance.
And over a sleepless week I devoured her wit
Till my lust was spent.

I stroked her crackled spine and embossing,
And tried to read her all again,
But couldn’t concentrate my brain –
Until my mum returned her, unawares.
In later months, whenever I was browsing,
I hoped to chance upon her between the heavyweights,
And see how many readers had stamped her with their dates,
But someone had purloined her, made her theirs.

I sought a copy later, long out of print,
For a foolhardy sum –
She sits on my bookcase still, and perfectly mint,
If gone a little brown.
But it’s good to know that she’s always there, close by,
For a time yet to come.
Though to tell the truth, I’m terrified to try –
For what if she lets me down ?

Is she quite as good as I remember ?
I just recall her basic plot,
And ev’ry year there’s more forgot –
But that, I always say, just makes her better…
Can she be as thrilling and as tender ?
Can all of her details make a striking whole ?
For that’s where the Devil lurks, and so does her soul.
I think I’d rather lose her all than regret her…

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

The Establishment honours one of its own…

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Through the village of Longbourn, the undead shuffle,
The unemployed and the destitutes.
The Luddites who moan in a rustic muffle,
Back from Napolean without any boots.
Mr Bennett says he can’t even hear them,
So alien is his world to theirs,
But they’re getting restless, threatening mayhem –
What if it spreads to the staff downstairs ?
Don’t worry, Lizzie, here’s bold Mr Darcy
With his wealth stripped from the backs of the poor,
He knows how to stop the rabble getting arsey,
Put them back down when they dare ask for more.
Crush their groups, and deport the whole crew,
This seething horde of the unwashed masses.
Best to wipe them out like we did at Peterloo –
Before the balls are overrun with jumped-up underclasses.

Losing the Plot

detail from The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

Losing the Plot

Mr Dan Brown, author extr’ordinaire,
Thrilling and gripping and Devil-may-care –
His fans want adventure, his fans want romance,
And intrigue uncovered from New York to France,
And heroes so clever and rugged and bold –
The sillier the story, the tighter it’s told.
Fast and loose plotting, his signature style –
From airport to bedside, from breathless to smile.

And what of Da Vinci ? Would he agree ?
Or would he be fuming, consumed in a rage,
As he turns and turns the page ?

Now you and I both might well disagree,
And see them as pulpy and intellect-free,
With sneers at the ready, with snoots in the air –
How we love to play pedant and cry it’s not fair.
He’s got his facts skewed and his history wrong,
So we have to correct him, for loud and for long.
We’re putting him right and we’re putting him down –
But the sales, they keep coming for Mr Dan Brown.

And what of Da Vinci ? Would he agree ?
Or would he be laughing, strutting the stage,
As he turns and turns the page ?

Dan Brown is on record saying that the ‘truths’ presented in The Da Vinci Code are all true. This of course is bollocks. But it is also irrelevant. And that infamous page of ‘facts’ at the start of the novel are just that – the start of the novel, a part of its world, and in no way to be criticised for not being a history textbook.

The author is under absolutely no obligation to tell the truth either on the page or off it – and indeed the whole point of fiction is to lie with style.

And yes, I am aware that I capitalised the Da in Da Vinci as if it were a surname and not an adjective. If it upsets you, then this is definitely the wrong blog for you.

Nudging the Thing-a-ma-jig

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Nudgeing the Thing-ama-jig

            (in reply to Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap)

Finally, ticked it off the list –
So easy to put it off for another year,
A must-see show that can be missed
Because it’s always here.

Pretty much what I expected –
Dialogue from my grandparent’s day,
Archetypes who’re all suspected –
But that’s the fun of the play.

For entertainment, purely,
To be mesmerised by the whole ordeal –
Cheesy, sure, but surely
On a spike of cunning steel.

Alas, for an author so attuned
To clever plots as tight as a snare –
This one has holes like a gaping wound,
And simply doesn’t care.

Was it because it’s a play, not a book,
That undid the wit of the Queen of Crime ?
Did she dash it off, no second look,
Then order a gin-&-lime ?

The set was creaking, the policeman botching,
And the killer was inconsistently planned,
Conning with only the audience watching –
It just feels a tad underhand.

So by the end, I was scratching my head,
As they raised the dead for their final bow,
And the killer stepped up – here we go, I said,
Here comes the solemn vow –

They begged us, before they let us go,
To not let-on who done the deed –
And decade by decade, wouldn’t you know,
Their pleas, it seems, succeed.

But I’m not sure they’ve earned our hush –
The plot’s phoned-in, then they cut the line.
And if we were all to bust their flush,
They’d close in double-quick time.

I can’t even give you a walkthrough
To show how the plot just doesn’t gel –
The trouble is, who can I talk to,
About the play that we must not tell ?

The most middle-class of secrets,
Woe betide who blabs the second act –
And here I am, despite my regrets,
Obeying the unspoken pact.

But I guess they’re breaking-even,
Even after all these cynical years.
So maybe I should stop my peeving –
Clearly they’re shrugging-off the sneers.

And after all, I still had fun –
(And even more when I got to complain).
So on it goes on its endless run
Just off St Martin’s Lane.

And yet, I can’t help feeling
That a redraft could make it a thing of joy,
Like a cat that sends the punters squealing
As it plays with its startled toy.

They need to build a better Mousetrap,
Up the tension in the spring,
Or else the rats waltz through the gap
Before the jaws can swing.

Ophelia’s Pharmacy

Gather ye Rosebuds While ye May by John Waterhouse

Ophelia’s Pharmacy

Here’s rosemary – for memory, some say,
But here I offer it up for aches,
And for the colic, here’s caraway,
And there, valerian for shakes.
I have the wisest sage for the eyes,
And columbine for fevered brows,
And lavender, to drive off the flies,
And camomile daisies to help you drowse.
Some fennel to keep you regular, back there,
And thyme to rid the worms,
Here’s rue for you, but it scalds in the sun – take care,
Use St John’s wort for the burns.
And for the maidens, I’ve violet and pansy,
To keep your flowerhead free from weeds.
And if these fail, there’s purgative tansy –
Restoring your bloom, not going to seed.

I know, I know, I’ve rhymed worms with burns. Not ideal, but sometimes you have to take a leaf from hip-hop’s lyric sheet and roll with ‘close enough’.

Neater by the Dozen

Neater by the Dozen

Disciples or Olympians,
They always come in dozens,
Keeping in the families
With brothers, sons, and cousins.
Add in Tribes of Israel,
And Knights about the table,
And clearly stories love their twelves
As various yet stable.
But always, there’s a glut of candidates
From which to choose,
And no two-tellings can agree
On which ones win or lose –
Oh sure, there’s half-a-dozen, maybe eight,
All guaranteed –
But for the rest, it’s anybody’s guess
Who will succeed…
They’re heroes of the second-tiers,
The extras at the feast,
Without a story of their own,
But name-checked still, at least.
A pool of six to eight will form
As random plot devices –
A few more names to fill the ranks
As redshirt sacrifices.
A handful get the nod this time,
The rest stay on the bench –
And of the lucky ones, we know
These men are strictly ‘hench’.
So two or three are left out in the cold,
Cos here’s the rub –
You’re clique is nothing special
If there’s fourteen in your club.