For England & St George

St George
Saint George & The Dragon by the Salviati Workshop, Woolwich Garrison church


For England & St George

Up in Heaven-on-the-Clouds
You works on our behalf,
Pushing through the saintly crowds
To bat for Halifax and Bath,
And bring to Lynn and Dale of Borrow
Sun today and jam tomorrow.

Working hard in Upper Eden,
Pushing England’s cause.
You wouldn’t get the saint of Sweden
Cheering on so many wars:
Rule Britannia, Hope & Glory –
Welcome to the national story.

Tea and crumpets, trains and cricket,
Stratford to South Shields.
There you lurk, on moor and thicket,
Anglicising foreign fields.
Who needs Alban, Bede or Swithun ?
Give us Bowie, Dench and Niven !

But wait, I hear the Genoese
Have hired your service too;
And Catalans, and Portuguese,
And Greek and Germans join the queue –
The Georgian and the Muscovite
Are proud to sport your red and white.

And soldiers, archers, and the Scouts,
Equestrians and knights,
And farmers rearing sheep and sprouts
Are likewise firmly in your sights.
I do hope, George, with all this lot
That England’s voice won’t be forgot.

And then there’s leprosy and plague,
And syphilis to boot,
But here your role is rather vague
On how you earn your extra loot:
Helping patients come to terms ?
Or do you represent the germs ?

And back home in your country seat,
Its lord is rarely seen;
In ancient times, your sandalled feet
Came nowhere near our mountains green.
But hey, who cares from where you’ve strayed –
For Englishmen aren’t born, but made.

You spend your days in Greater Blighty,
Meeting with the Boss –
Asking him to make us mighty,
From Land’s End to Gerrard’s Cross
You always done us proud, our George,
When lobbying for Cheddar Gorge.



Penwith Smith

The Minack Theatre


Penwith Smith

As I was heading to Saint Ives,
I passed a troupe with many lives,
With many plays and songs and dance,
As I was heading to Penzance.

As I was heading to Saint Just,
They played for me, as well they must,
And bid me “Come and join us, Friend !”
As I was heading to Land’s End.



This piece of nonsense was inspired by the famous nursery rhyme, even though that probably refers to a different St Ives (who’d have thought there’d be two saints named Ive ?)  The town in this poem is the Cornish seaside resort on the Penwith peninsula, which is also home to the Minack open-air theatre.



The Cester Slur


The Cester Slur

Launceston is an English town
Which stubs its name and hacks it down.
And likewise Leominster says it strange,
While Foway and Wymondham short our change,
And Cholmondeley too is slave to fashion,
Following the -cester ration –

Alcester, Bicester: trochees truly,
Frocester, Gloucester: spelled unruly,
Leicester, Rocester: letters wasted,
Saucy Worcester: under-tasted,
Towcester: always worth a snigger –
Spoken short, but written bigger.

Then there’s stuck-up Cirencester –
Siren, maybe, but no jester.
She’s no sissy, she’s no sister.
Strong like -caster, long like -chester –
Who’d have guessed her lack of slur ?
For she’s all -cester, not a -ster !

I should point out that the towns menstioned are pronounced Laun-ston, Lem-ster, Foy, Wind-ham and Chum-ley. All of the rest are xxx-ster (except Cirencester, obviously, which has all four syllables). Oh, and Towcester is said as Toaster.

Honeymoon at Niagara Falls

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Photo by Artem Bali on


Honeymoon at Niagara Falls

We shared a kiss at Cautley Spout,
Amid the rush and spray –
The waters leapt and splashed about
And we were swept away.
We fell in love at Hardraw Force,
The falls upon the fells,
And watched the beck descend its course
With tinkling wedding bells.
We were engaged at Corra Linn,
Beside the change of grade.
We took the plunge and dived right in,
And let our hearts cascade.
There’s something in the water
That attracts us to each weir.
We’ll face a fair few cataracts,
But never shed a tear !


Milepost by Simon Harriyott



“First recorded as such c.698.  Origin: (settlement of) Gilla’s people, from Old English -ingas ˋpeople of’.”

Eight miles west of Charing Cross
And just to south of Hanger Hill,
Lived farming folk whose Saxon Boss
Is with us yet, through his old ville –
Now while our names are doomed for loss,
Gilla’s people linger still.



Decline & Fall

course of empire
The Course of Empire: Destruction by Thomas Cole


Decline & Fall

The Romans faced decline, they say,
A hundred years or more,
Before the Goths stole Rome away,
All in one day.
It wasn’t just a day, of course,
With forces building at the core
Throughout the hundred years before.

So were there Romans in that fray
Who watched the turning of the tide,
The steady slide, the slow decay ?
And were they powerless to stay
The endless slump of getting worse,
The creeping curse, the seeping sore,
The gradual fade to grey ?

Or did they never smell the rot
They’d got ?  Perhaps too decadent,
Too drunk to see their own descent,
Too busy in the hay.
They maybe missed the skulking spore
Until the joists had given way,
And brought Rome to the floor.

But that was then.  We’ve surely learned
How Rome was burned from within as without:
The morals shine and loudly shout,
And history shall not be spurned.
And yet.., I sometimes look about
And wonder where we’ll be in, say,
A hundred years or more.

Salient Thoughts



Salient Thoughts

Passing through Ypres,
We paused for a moment to take in the Cloth Hall.
By the cathedral we parked,
And we wandered the Grote Markt,
Charmed and yet chilled
By the way they had carefully rebuilt it all.

The shops were all shut –
(We’d come on a Sunday, just wanted a look)
English words blared from their posters and flyers
So locals or ex-pats ?  We didn’t enquire.
Their windows were filled
With helmets and biscuits and rifles and books.

Then down to the Menin Gate –
Far too triumphant and proud of its names:
Look at how many I bear !
They all did their duty and lie who-knows-where.
Just look at our killed !
And dare you resist us, and dare you lay blame ?

Rank upon rank of surnames,
With first-names reduced to only initials.
People I found myself wishing
Had told their nations to carry on fishing –
But instead, they had fought.
And here were their names, to make it official.

The flags barely moved,
And a few of us found ourselves holding our breath,
And it all seemed so lonely and still
And so thankfully long since the kill,
And yet still overwrought –
A faded and motionless orgy of death.

Ah, hindsight you rogue !
But let us not hate the hard lessons you tell.
So maybe it’s time to finally suture,
Time now for Ypres to find a new future.
And here’s a thought:
Maybe let’s spell it as Ieper from here on as well.