If you want a Russian Thistle,
All you have to do is whistle –
In they tumble on the breeze.
An 1800s stowaway,
A foreign sprout who’s here to stay
Blowing ever West with ease.
Not a thistle, but as hairy,
From the steppes to claim the prairie,
Infiltrating cowboy lore.
Full of thorns and full of seeds,
These drifting immigrants are weeds
Just made to be a metaphor.
Shingle beaches, pebble-dashed,
Where armoured dunes are heaped and smashed
By hefting surf that tills and rolls
On up the beaches, spits and shoals,
Whatever flints that storm and time can prize
And toss like bowls –
All layered out by weight and size.
Gravels from the cliffs and beds
In blacks and greys, in blues and reds –
These bucket-breakers of the strand,
These castles that can never stand,
Upon a beach-head built by wave on wave
Of new-formed land,
Of nuggets dug from out the grave.
Pushing back against our soles,
The sucking wash between its holes –
This is no barefoot summer beach,
But haunt of limpet, kelp and leech.
Yet stones to scree to grains shall grow
Along this tidal reach
By silicates just going with the flow.
The Spanish have the Brava and Del Sol,
The French have the Vermeille and d’Azur,
The British have…the South, the East and West –
They’re simply places for the trains to roll.
They sound so innocent and amateur,
Before the marketeers have had them dressed.
They gave us the Jurassic, don’t forget.
What next ? The Coccolith Coast of Dover ?
The Devonian Coast of…I don’t know…Dundee ?
The Windfarm Coast of Wales – it could be yet,
The Yorkshire Bladderwracks – think it over,
The Seaside Coast of Seaton-by-the-Sea…
Siroccos blow across the Sahara,
North from the desert to the inland sea,
Where Mistrals meet them, off the Alps,
To buffet the coasts of France and Italy.
The Helm roars in from Winter Norway,
And the Bora from the Steppes out East,
But most of all, from gale to zephyr,
None can blow as often as the beast –
From out the West, with not a name but Westerly,
He comes, and comes, and rarely drops for long.
He’s blowing turbines, hats and weathervanes,
From Summer-teasing soft to stormy-strong –
Bringing the Atlantic in his clouds,
And laden schooners in his wake,
From Kerry landfall to the Humber,
He’s the one for whom the branches shake.
In truth, we rarely name our winds in Britain,
Save to tell us where they’ve been –
And Westerlies are born on ocean-blue,
In cloudy-grey, to keep our island green.
The trouble with lefties is cultural cringe –
The feeling that England and Englishness
Are suspect, colonial, Tory in dress,
And bearing the taint of the hooligan fringe.
I swear, that there’s many a comrade I know
Who just longs for our country to go down the gutter –
So while we’re all queuing for teabags and butter,
At least they can tell us they so told us so…
We know all the customs, yet scarcely believe them,
We laugh at the toffs and the pomp and regalia,
Meet with them rarely, yet long for their failure –
We just see the wigs, not the justice beneath them.
However we came here, we’re on the same side,
So don’t be ashamed of the marks that distinguish –
We’re caring, and hopeful, and diverse, and English !
For aren’t we the ones who are all about Pride ?
And St George’s banner – why must we destroy it ?
Let’s demystify it, but love the old flag.
So wave it, or don’t – but it’s only a rag –
It’s not gonna kills us if others enjoy it.
And yes, it is shame about God Save the Queen
With its sentiments we’re ill-at-ease to endorse –
But with national anthems, that’s par for the course –
It hardly excuses our virtuous spleen.
Ignore all the words, and just hum to the tune –
A dirgy tune, sure, but the one that we’ve got.
And at least we all know it – let’s give it a shot,
It’s only a minute, it’s all over soon.
There’s bad in our past, but those times were withstood –
Let’s learn from our worst-selves, and never forget,
And sing out our best side, and build on it yet –
The odd bit of bunting might do us some good –
Don’t think that old England is not worth the fuss,
For we’re all a big part of the way she turns out –
Let’s change her for better, not whimper and pout !
Be proud of our nation, for this land is us !
All my growing years were spent
In villages and country lanes,
Alas ! For I was always meant
For city streets and busy trains
And all those years against my will
Would only serve to stoke my dream –
They stole my time and served me ill,
Depriving me of smoke and steam.
My parents thought it best for me
To live in rural peace,
But I was sick of cows and geese,
And waited for my destiny.
And so I suffered Summer days
With nothing doing but the bees –
I’d wander through the wooded ways
And couldn’t even name the trees.
Some had burrs to ruin jumpers,
Some I’d climb or hang a swing –
Some were conkers, some were scrumpers,
Some had dandruff in the Spring.
But otherwise they were the bars
Around my rural cage,
Their green and brown forever beige,
Their fruits forever trapped in jars.
But now and then, I got a taste
Of glamour, in the local towns –
But oh, it hurt to see what waste
My life had been upon the downs.
For here were markets for exploring,
Full of wonderments to buy !
And here were buildings, gleaming, soaring,
One, two, three, no four floors high !
And that was when those shining stones
Broke through my rural hold.
I knew the streets weren’t paved with gold,
But granite flags and herringbones !
It wasn’t till I finished school
That I was finished with the sticks
I mustered all my pent-up fuel,
And then I ran – I ran to bricks.
I left my folks upon the green,
For we could not be reconciled.
They love their world so small and clean –
I’m surely an adopted child !
But I still visit, for all I knock it,
Back to their rural lot
Just as long as I know that I’ve got
A return stub safe in my pocket.
The friendly weeds are rambling over
The concrete desert flats.
Dandelions, rich as clover,
Are cracking through the slats.
And people too, with dogs and cats,
And lawns and privet hedges,
Have made a world for noisy brats
To soften brutal edges.
But certain sniffy poets would
Look down on all this life,
And cannot see the neighbourhood
Within the urban strife.
And yes, the ugliness is rife
Compared to York or Kent,
But here a working man and wife
Can still afford the rent.
Downs go up and downs go down,
As wave on wave of frozen ocean
Built each ridge and vale and crown
With ev’ry ancient tide in motion.
Tiny creatures swarmed the sea
And dropped their tiny plates all over,
From Stonehenge to Normandy
As deeply as the Cliffs of Dover.
Singular alga sounds all wrong, as if the term has become strictly a mass noun.