The Talk of far-off Forums


top view photography of buildings and trees beside large body of water
Photo by Chedi Tanabene on


The Talk of far-off Forums

Some cities were built on solid rock,
Some cities were built on marsh,
Some cities were built on shifting sands,
Or fault-lines sleeping in filigree strands –
And some cities brought their own earthshock
By building themselves in wilderness harsh,
Or building themselves on the very lands
That other tribes sought in their conquering hands.
But no matter how long ago,
And no matter how brute their overthrow,
And no matter how the northwinds blow –
Not all their dust shall dissipate
Upon the breezes’ sarabands –
For all a city’s kiss-of-fate,
A glimpse remains, a trace withstands.
Through their footings bared and carvings old,
Through their buried pot and coins of gold,
And through their ev’ry mention in the tellers’ tales still told.

Some cities were held in high esteem,
Some cities were held in spite,
Some cities were held as shining states
To journeymen seeking their golden gates –
And some cities gave a lustrous gleam
That prophets implored their gods to smite,
That preachers condemned with envious hates
As other men praised for their glorious freights.
Ambition or apocalypse,
Each name upon their distant lips
As the place where sin and fortune grips –
The place, the home of orgies grand,
The nest of countless sirens’ baits,
Where ev’ry taste it must command,
As ev’ry thirst it satiates.
Through their legends past and heroes bold,
Through their poets’ songs and glamours sold,
And still their very mention breathes them life that we behold.



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.