Like the Wriggle of an Eel

Photo by Sindre Fs on

Like the Wriggle of an Eel

Rivers are boring when they’re straight,
We’ve got the canals for that.
But rivers will race and rivers will wait,
As they twist through their habitat.
They’re in no hurry to terminate,
They meander around, and ambulate,
Through oxbows of a future-date,
Until they’re old and fat.
I used to marvel how they’d know
Which way to go to flow through ev’ry town.
But gravity cares none for to or fro,
For fast or slow,
As long as they flow down.
Rivers are boring when they’re straight,
But once they’ve earned the name of ‘great’,
They carve their many strands through delta sands,
While the hungry sea must wait.

The Groaning Trencher

from a listing on AliExpress

The Groaning Trencher

Sometimes, Burns Night falls on the second New Moon,
And that marks a brand New Year –
So the neeps and the cock-a-leekie share the serving spoon
As the beansprouts and riceballs appear.
From the docks of Kowloon to the mists of Brigadoon,
It all goes in the haggis, and the bamboo pipes the tune –
As we all sup together, from Scotland Yard to Scone,
In a typhoon of tartan cheer.
Now me, I am just a Sassenach poltroon
From the billabongs of Perth to the snows of Saskatoon –
But a shortbread in my green tea on a global afternoon,
And the paddy-fields of glens are very near.

Can I just say what a wonderfully weird experience it is to hear someone read Address to the Haggis in an unapologetically RP accent ?

England without the English

Hackpen White Horse by Martyn Pattison is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

England without the English

A strange village, this.  But why ?
The pub is near the village hall,
The church is near the school.
The pear trees over-reach the wall,
Beside the milking stool.
So where precisely does the oddness lie ?

I think it’s in the accents heard –
But not of locals, rather Poles,
They say “howzat” and “’pon my word”
And land the choice Mikado roles.
No reason why they shouldn’t, true,
But still…they’re more than quite a few…

A strange village this, no doubt.
There’s thatch as far as one can see,
And rolling downs for views.
So why do folks from Italy
Fill Church-of-England pews,
While Argentines keep bees and run the scouts ?

Speaking English, fishing pike,
Or growing leeks and supping beers,
And naming local landmarks
Like they’d known them all their years.
No reason why they shouldn’t, though,
Yet change round here is often slow…

A strange village this, alright.
As mentioned in the Domesday Book
And in the Civil War
Where Indians have found a nook
Behind the stable door.
With a hint of local brogue, but only slight.

And Caribbean morris-men,
And Russian gardens with a gnome,
And Chinese shepherds down the fen –
And yet, so very much at home.
No reason why they shouldn’t, Ma’am –
They’ve asked me round for tea and jam.

You can tell this poem is out of date by its use of ‘Ma’am’.

Tartan Tarts

Tartan Tarts

I asked her what was the tartan she wore,
She smiled and told me Smith.
I’d never considered that Clan before,
But fair enough – the Smiths of yore,
The Sassenachs of Aviemore,
The flints in the monolith –
The common Clan for the ev’ryman,
The hammers and tongs of myth.

She asked me the tartan in which I deck,
Buchanan, perhaps, or Brodie, or Beck ?
I smiled, and told her Burberry Check.

It seems that the Gaelic word for smith is the origin of the Clan McGowan, but that even before surnames arose in the Highlands, some Scots had Anglisised their profession to ‘smith’.

All Chalk, No Cheese

All Chalk, No Cheese

Cowes, atop the Isle of Wight –
East and West, though much the same –
Victorian and seaside-y,
With boats and seagulls running free.
And not a single cow in sight –
No running of the bulls – for shame !
No fording droves between the piers,
No cowboys showing off their steers.
And don’t come here in Cowes Week, right !
It doesn’t live up to its fame !
It’s not the time when bullocks battle,
Not a trace of rutting cattle.
Why then whet our appetite,
To wastes its strange and lively name ?
There are no bovine sacrifices,
Just cream teas at tourist prices.

I know, I know, despite a spine of rolling chalk downs through the Island, Cowes itself sits atop clay…

Warm-Water Waves

Photo by Pixabay on

Warm-Water Waves

Too far North, and barely notice,
North, yet swimming in the seas –
Where beaches should be icy-cold,
There’s ice creams, tans, and mushy peas.
There’s little snowfall on the coast
As far as even Sixty-North,
And days of t-shirt weather stretch
For far beyond the Firth of Forth

It’s crazy how the ocean brings
The Caribbean to the Clyde,
While closer to the Pole than even
Fuego is on the other side,
And Trondheim firmly basks within
Antarctic latitudes,
Yet broadleafs line the verdant fjords
To show their gratitude.

And not just warmth arrives all year, but rain –
And rain it is, not snow –
So Western Europe only works because
Its crops and people grow.
Too far North, and that’s the beauty,
Norther than we’ve any right,
When Winter Moons are long above
And Summer Suns last half the night.

I’ve commented before on how much further North Europe is than North America, at least in terms of their respective population centres. For instance, the Southern point of Hudson Bay lies at the same latitude as London – but whereas the former has polar bears, the latter doesn’t even have them in London Zoo.

The Only Lefty in Poundbury

Cottages in Poundbury by Chris Ison

The Only Lefty in Poundbury

She sits on her first floor balcony,
Overlooking Casterbridge Square,
She sits and sips her Earl Grey tea
In the light West Country air –
Here in her true-blue toytown
Like a tolerated pet,
Her flat dressed-up and she dressed-down,
As she joins the Georgian set.
Dorchester is hard on Hardy –
Thomas, yes, but never Keir,
And the local Labour party
Is about to disappear.
But the class-struggle can still advance
With the taste of the elites –
Should not all workers get the chance
To live in pleasant streets ?
And yes, she’s aware of their breeze-block hearts,
And their ceilings lacking height,
And don’t get her started on glazing bars !
But all-in-all, it does alright.
Developers on best behaviour,
Showing that they can play nice –
But oh, the cost for a little flavour !
Beauty has its bogus price.

Of course, whenever HRH comes by,
She must lay low
As locals swoon and neighbours sigh
At the whole boot-licking show –
And even when it’s safe to leave
And stroll about the place,
The very streets still live and breathe
With his family’s air and grace.
She sees it in the names of roads,
The names of buildings, names of shops,
She hears it in the toady toads
Whose croaking never stops.
But the sad fact is, it’s thanks to him
That there ever was this town –
It may be prim, but never grim,
As sparkly as a crown.
So yes, she knows, for all her gripes,
It’s thanks to him, her joy –
For were it left to lefty types
Then tower blocks ahoy !
She sits on her balcony under the sun
Over the flagstone square –
And curses the Tories, but knows they’ve won –
For she’d rather be here than there.

Go See the Elephant

Armed Forces by Tom Pogson

Go See the Elephant

Hey kid, did I tell of my time in the Gobi,
And the camel that tried to eat my sock ?
Or how ’bout cycling to Nairobi ?
Or the Outback, when it was still Ayres Rock ?

I did ?  Then why’s you still here ?
Just lis’ning to me rabbitting on so ?
I like to see you, but just disappear.
Shouldn’t you have places to go ?

Just walk out the door, right now,
And walk down to end of the block,
Turn left, don’t stop till Curacao,
By way of Seoul and Plymouth Rock.

And when you go, do not look back,
There’s more than enough out there to see.
You’ll come home by a diff’rent track,
By Bloemfontein or Waikiki.

Don’t you wanna hit the road, Jack ?
Mandalay or Timbucktoo ?
I’m too old, I won’t be going back,
But just what’s keeping you ?

Here, take my itchy feet,
Cos I can’t use them, so you must.
And walk them through the desert heat
And wear them out with wanderlust.

Monte Rosa

Monte Rosa

Hamburg built, to take the Germans
Down to Argentina.
A prize of war, she soon was serving
Those who thought the grass was greener.

In her life, she’d carried Jews to Auschwitz,
But that’s over now.
Now she carried demobbed troops about,
A thousand berths from stern to prow.

Renamed for a Cotswolds river,
Some say that’s bad luck –
Fortune, though, would soon deliver
When her new name really stuck.

Under-occupied in Kingston,
Looking for some cash,
A bill in Parliament that worried some
Enough to make a dash.

She didn’t carry most who followed those,
Yet hers the fame –
The right ship at the right time, I suppose,
And with a poet’s name.


Photo by Tom Fisk on


Downriver, below the final bridge,
The last of the swans patrol –
To meet the early terns, who reach
Only this far from their native shoal.
Passing strangers, side-by-side,
Sharing the brackish tide.

Up-ocean, above the muddy flats,
The first of the mussels are found
To meet the sticklebacks and sprats,
On the down-stream, up-bore bound.
Passing currents, slow and wide,
Sharing the brackish tide.