Undone Town

architecture british buildings business
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Undone Town

I rarely go to Walthamstow,
I never visit Hayes,
I’m seldom seen in Parsons Green,
Or Catford Bridge, or Grays.

It’s not their fault my doings halt
This side of Pimlico,
But now the thrill of Hampstead Hill
Is one I’ll never know.

You see, the catch with Colney Hatch
Is that it’s far away,
And Belvedere is not so near,
And nor is Harringay.

It’s quite a trek to Tooting Bec
To tax my weary feet;
To all who dwell in Camberwell,
I guess we’ll never meet.

I’m at a loss beyond King Cross
In Wimbledon or Cheam,
And hopes to race to Enfield Chase
Are but a wistful dream.

My view is dark of Belsize Park,
No matter how I look,
I’ll never gain on Rayners Lane,
Nor wade in Stamford Brook.

My plans to rove in Arnos Grove
Will never come to good;
I can’t head down to Kentish Town,
Nor fly to Falconwood.

They’re much too far from Temple Bar,
Though hardly by design;
It’s just today I rarely stray
Beyond the Circle Line.


I was aiming for a modern version of Bow Bells, but what with property prices these days, it’s already thirty years out of date.



Nothofagus antarctica

southern beech
Nothofagus antarctica-08 by Blake C Willson


Nothofagus antarctica

They call him the Antarctic Beech,
And they call him False Beech too,
He’s somewhat beechy, that bit’s true,
Although he’s rather false as well:
A cousin, not a brother, truth to tell.
But as for the Antarctic, hell –
That one’s a real reach !

Antarctic Beech is no such thing,
He cannot cross the Southern Seas –
He clings to Fuego, looking out,
The southernmost of all the trees.
He braces up to southerlies
That stunt and sculpt and knock about.

And so, each slow September-Spring
He wakes, and adds another ring.
But far five hundred miles beyond,
His boughs bow-out to fragile gloom,
Where only mosses raise a frond,
And only grass and pearlwort bloom.

Now far to the north, he’s also in sprout:
An immigrant hardwood who’s hardy and stout.
So the Antarctic Beech is the king of the Faroes –
Where’er the cold air blows,
That’s where he grows.
Though not in all lands that are under the Plough,
But only as far as the cold will allow:
The poles are forever beyond his long reach –
Forever the sub-arctic beech.

The Horn’s as far as he may go,
But fair’s fair, fossils have been found
Beneath the harsh Antarctic ground –
But as for living species: no.
But oh !  The Antarctic beech – what a star !
The tree to the south of the south of afar !
So yes, we all know that his claim is a lie –
But how could we let such a name pass us by ?



The Land of the Saints

Cornubia by John Miller


     The Land of the Saints

They’re pious in Cornwall, or proud, or just quaint,
Sennan and Bryvyth, Morwetha and Cleer
They name half their villages after a saint;
Piran and Tudy, Winwillo, Gwinear
Not many Marys or Peters or Pauls,
Nevet and Probus, Mabena and Breock
For ev’ry Saint Helen’s we find a Saint Mawes.
Leven and Cuby, Wennapa and Feock
Our corporate saints have been roundly withstood,
Sithney and Breward, Lalluwy and Ruan
For theirs are so local, old Cornish done good.
Mylor and Sancreed, Illogan and Mewan


I’m sure I’m getting the emphasis wrong on some of these names, but that’s the beauty of English – anything goes, and my mispronunciation is just as valid as yours, especially when you definitely have never heard of these names before.  And yes, they’re Cornish, not English, but consider them now Anglisised.  And yes, I did just spell Anglisised with two esses – deal with it.


My First Imperial Adventure



My First Imperial Adventure

As a child, I loved to pore
Upon an atlas like a book.
The early chapters laid out Europe,
Where I knew it’s ev’ry nook.
Later on came Africa or Asia,
I forget which first.
The other next, then North, then South America
Would be traversed.
Oceania bringing up the rear,
And scattered islands next,
With local names italicised beside
The faithful English text.
That was the story’s climax, now the coda –
Now the final pair of plates –
The Arctic, then the Ant, in round tableaux,
The Baring and Magellan Straits.

Antarctica, to my surprise,
Had place-name labels scattered round –
The Ross Ice Shelf and Ellsworth Mountains,
Kemp Land, and McMurdo Sound.
Such British names !  The Arctic, though, was foreign –
Though I’d love to think
How Queen Victoria might send
The Royal Navy out to turn it pink.
Take Greenland, with its Anglo-Saxon name –
From Cape Farewell down in the South,
On through Discov’ry Bay to Upper Tooley,
And out East there’s Scoresby Mouth.
The Viceroy has his Residence in Goodhope,
With the inevitable railway lines –
Heading South to Hope St Julian,
Through Greenvale and the Squarehill mines.

And heading North on the Great Green Line,
With a branch and boat-train out to Sugar Top,
And via Lower Streamouth aerodrome,
To Foxborough – which once was the final stop,
Until the junction to Jacob’s Harbour,
(Ferries to Goodhaven from the pleasure pier),
Then the final push to Springfield Isle,
On viaducts of steel that we’d engineer.
Of course, in time the Esquimaux would learn
The ways of cricket and the bowler hat,
And in later years, there’s some would settle down
In Blighty, in a council flat
In Ashford, Accrington and Aberdeen,
To drive the buses and newspaper stands,
Opening churches, opening restaurants,
Marrying the local girls and forming bands.

I know, I know, so many problems
Unthought-out in the fantasy of a kid.
Just as well it never happened –
And yet…on a parallel Earth, it probably did.



Of Lost & Found Cities

beige analog gauge
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com


Of Lost & Found Cities

Nineveh and Babylon have crumbled into dust,
Carthage, Ur and Jericho are pillars in the sand;
Once they were such glories, true – bustling and august –
But now reduced to legends and faint markings on the land.
London, though, is still alive, still growing and unplanned,
Not like dead Persepolis, where only mem’ry roams.
Ephesus and Ashkelon are sinking, gust by gust.
Luxor, Thebes and Memphis, now preserved in ancient tomes,
Sumer, Sardis, Akkad and Knossos are unmanned.
London, though, is standing yet, and just as grim and grand.
Middle-aged, with stuccoed bays and stock-brick-golden domes;
Humble tracks now avenues, from Oxford Street to Strand,
Yet keeps forever youthful as it builds and fells its homes.
Many structures barely make a century’s employ,
Ere yet another edifice is raised upon its bones;
And so King’s Cross and Bishopsgate, and Knightsbridge and Savoy
Have thus by slow rebuilding changed their slates and paving-stones.
Once an early city stood, whose name we still enjoy,
But now that ancient London’s quite as lost as Kish and Troy.



The Queen of the Cockles

black seashell beside beige stone
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


The Queen of the Cockles

Fine scallops and oysters
For townlands and cloisters,
And cockles and mussels – alive, sirs, alive !
Come find one and pluck it
From out of my bucket –
It’s yours for a penny – or fourpence for five.

…………Fresh from the beaches of fair Dublin Bay,
…………Fresh from the sands where they thrive, oh !
…………Fresh from the beaches, and fresh ev’ry day –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !

There’s no need to scrimp it
With whelk or with limpet –
I’ll sell you no snails, sir – I’m clams through and through.
Don’t ask me for sprinkles
Of peries or winkles –
Why settle for one shell, when you can have two !

…………Fresh from the wash of the fair Irish Sea,
…………Plucked-out as soon they arrive, oh !
…………Fresh from the sand to the boat to the quay –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !

There’s some who dig beaches
For lugworms and leaches,
But they make a slimy and wrigglesome catch.
And scampi and crab, sir,
Will scamper and jab, sir –
But mine are like eggs that are waiting to hatch !

…………Fresh from where seagulls love combing the sand,
…………Fresh from where cormorants dive, oh !
…………Fresh from Portmarnock and Dollymount Strand –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !

So what do you say, sir,
To venus or razor ?
Just tease-out my beauties with jack-knife or steam.
They may hold a pearl, sir,
A feast for your girl, sir,
You’ll soon warm her cockles with cockles in cream !

…………Fresh from the beaches of fair Dublin Bay,
…………Fresh for your ladies and wives, oh !
…………Fresh-in from Skerries and Claremont and Bray –
…………Cockles and mussels alive, alive-oh !



Doves & Cockerels

action adult antique blur
Photo by Jahoo Clouseau on Pexels.com


Doves & Cockerels

…………(A Tale from the 80s)

Born, bred and boarded in England, by chance,
Yet closer to Calais than Canterb’ry town –
Where the Channel keeps nibbling the chalky-white Downs,
And keeps her from cycling to France.
Trapped by La Manche
From Dunkirk to Rennes –
But still she stays staunch:
La Douvresienne !

Douze ans is she, in the town of her birth,
And watched by the Castle that keeps her kept here.
But the bright lights of Calais are teasingly near –
Yet somehow they’re out past the end of the earth.
Trapped by the rosbifs
Like Jeanne d’Arc back when –
This unwilling hostage:
La Douvresienne !

She lives by the gateway, she lives by the quay,
And watches the French as they come off the ferries
In Deux-Chevaux Citroëns and bob-cuts and berets,
With bœuf bourguignon and bagettes bearing brie.
She mimics their movement
Agen and agen,
With steady improvement:
La Douvresienne !

When the weather is right and the signal is clear,
She re-tunes her black-and-white into their station
And watches in awe at the sights of a nation,
And wishes she understood all she can hear.
She mimics their voices,
Both women and men.
She makes the right noises:
La Douvresienne !

But their language is tricky to lodge in her head
All accents and commas and genders to test her,
And sometimes it’s only a shrug or a gesture –
It’s just like their spelling, there’s so much unsaid.
She’s learning at school
With the rest of Class 10.
She’s sounding so cool
Is La Douvressienne !

She fancies herself as a Mademoiselle,
But family hist’ry declares her a Miss
But what do they know of Gainsbourg or Matisse ?
It’s more than genetics that makes her a belle.
It’s more than a pose
For this proud Madeleine:
She’s no English Rose,
But La Douvresienne !