The flourishing show-off their fruits, As they always do, From star to plutocrat. And I want to hate their loot – But then I hear you Saying I’m better than that. Not better than them, no, They clearly are winning, And I couldn’t compete if I tried. But I mustn’t get low If I want to keep grinning – I mustn’t give in to my cynical side.
The skilful exploit the thing they do, Create a buzz, With even better times to come. Now the world’s not fair, it’s true, It never was, But is success then zero-sum ? You always told me, don’t despise, Don’t bitch and sleight – To be myself, and not some copycat. But dammit, it’s so hard to rise Above the spite, It’s so hard to be better than that.
Don’t snub them, don’t hate them, Don’t read the bad press, Don’t seek out their scandal, don’t kiss them and tell. But call them, and honestly congratulate them For their great success Which they handle so well. I can hear your voice admonishing me For unworthy bile And poisonous chat. I hate that you’re right, but we must let it be – So paste on a smile And be better than that.
I want to scream, and curse my fate, And spit their names – But dammit, I can’t give in now – It hurts to be considerate, But paranoid games Are indulgences that I cannot allow. Don’t suck-up and don’t condemn, Let it go, Don’t measure myself with where they’re at. I’ll never be better than them, I know, But at least I can be better than that.
Reflections on the Imperial War Museum’s Great War Gallery
Is the purpose of a museum To tell a story or show-off its wares ? Poking around the bowels of Bedlam, I started to question theirs. Crammed-in from a lack of space, (A bit like the trenches, but only a bit), I started to notice the absences, The parts they couldn’t manage to fit – The lack of horses, for instance, Or the lack of Colonial troops in the ranks, Or the life in the Jerry’s trenches, Or even that much about the yanks. It was, in the end, not a history, But a series of stories of artefacts – More could be added, but as modern props, With the sense-of-fakeness this attracts. The trouble, perhaps, was with the curators One hundred-plus years ago, Collecting what was seen as significant So soon after the show. We might now wish they’d chosen diff’rent, The future might want diff’renter yet – But if they ain’t got it, they cannot display it, So this is the War that we get.
We, the onlookers, dressed for Summer, Less of a troop and more of a pack. Shins and forearms and heads uncovered – Only the jackdaws are dressed in black. Partly honouring, partly gawking, English voices amiably talking, Not many present are younger than fifty – One or two pause to read the plaque.
Officials in blazers, though we’re well-behaved. Squaddies’ fatigues, their shoulders say Dutch, Though I swear their “left-right-left” is in English – The crowd wear no medals – would that be too much ? The towers of names are columns of debt, Bearing down, by rank before alphabet, In a random sample, I look for my own In the Surreys and sappers and serjeants and such.
Suddenly, a hush, an announcement by speaker, Telling we must not talk or applaud. A trio of buglers – was that the Last Post ? Then a soldier steps up, a little over-awed. “They shall grow not old” he reads, His accent heavy, and yet succeeds To draw from us a shared Amen: “We shall remember them”, these Brits abroad.
The bugles again, and wreaths are laid, The squad march off in the evening sun, And suddenly ev’rything melts into chatter – We mill for a while, but the service is done. The road reopens, the traffic drives through, We pose for a final selfie or two, But we’ve far too many atrocities to remember, To focus on only one.
What ho ! I’m Ali, Born in Cairo – True-blue British, doncha know ? Like squire Sanjay – Mumbai-bred, As English as a phone box red. And then there’s Chang, From County Down, By bowler hat and Chinatown. And Elzbieta, Glasgow gal, As fish-and-chips as any pal, And Welsh Pierre Of Montreal, So fluent in the bat-and-ball. The best of British, Tweeds and cap – As much as any other chap.
The Nazis used to be quite rare, With few who earned the name – But now it seems they’re ev’rywhere And free speech is to blame ! These random people on the net Who think they get a say – I call them out as fascists, yet Their views leap by the day I put them down, but still them come, Replete with facts and stats. I can’t believe how many scum Are lurking in the chats. They should be rounded up, the lot, And left to rot in Hell – And if you disagree, a spot Gets found for you, as well…
I fully admit, I don’t understand This waiting in line. Hours and hours, as if it’s a test, Come rain or shine, To be a part of history, they say, To mark the moment – To prove themselves her loyal subjects ?, Or maybe beg atonement ?
I fully admit, I don’t understand, As the World looks on – We’re not all doing this !, I cry, Till my voice has gone. I scoff and rant and pity them, But I’m one of a very few – And nobody’s lis’ning to me, of course, They’re all watching the queue.
I fully admit, I don’t understand, And I never will. I hope this brings about a change – No more standing still. But right now, the status is in the quo, The ink won’t leave the pen. I’ve never felt so alien To my fellow countrymen.
And so it begins, the Toady Race, The public performance of grief – Saccharine and suffocating, Preaching your True Belief ! Posters declaiming official tears, Tributes gushing with pomp. Change the stamps and coins and anthem – Such a jolly romp ! Get that sobbing good and loud, And really have a bawl ! Hope your knees are in good shape For the curtsy and the crawl. Show yourself sufficiently sad For ev’ry arse-licked toast – Bow and scrape and bob and tug Till the knighthood’s in the post.
Vive la République !
In other news, I see we’re going to get a bank holiday for the funeral. But we will continue not to receive a bank holiday for Election Day. Priorities, I guess…
I live in the suburbs In a box made of ticky-tacky – It’s small and it’s samey, And won no award. It’s not to conform, And it’s not to be strange or wacky, I live here because here Is all I can afford.
I grew up around here, Then I went to the university And I came out with a large debt And I found my first job. And it paid not a lot, Except for in uncertainty, So I tried for a mortgage For a key on a fob.
There’s a Barratt, there’s a Redrow There’s a Wimpey, there’s a Jubilee. Where’s the woodland, where’s the meadow ? Oh, please don’t ask me.
But all they would give me Was a box made of ticky-tacky, But it’s dry and it’s plumbed-in, If no pleasure-dome. I raised up my children And worked as a gopher-lacky, Trying to get by And make it a home.
So spare me your distaste How I went to the university – And spare me your prejudice Of me and my peers. I don’t have your millions Or a co-operative nursery, Yet I struggled and I made it Despite all your sneers.
Blame the council, blame the builder, Blame the bubble, blame the rising-sea. If it all seems out of kilter, Then please don’t blame me.
This is a response to the song Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds.
Strange to think The Satanic Verses Was ever even published at all. And following from the string of hearses, Who would dare now have the gall ? I don’t like it myself, it’s not for me, But that’s hardly the point – It’s even more vital we keep speech free When it puts us out-of-joint. But the zealots have won, we all self-censor, And now the Left have caught the bug – Trading-in Marx for Marks & Spencer And sweeping their principals under the rug. The truth is, they admire the power To shut down speech and cancel voices – They’ve fatwa-envy, to make us all cower For daring to stray from the authorised choices. Well, I’m just gonna come right out and say it – Islam and Woke are a toxic trigger. Not all their adherents, let’s not overplay it, But enough, who pursue their commandments with vigour. So we really need to come down hard on apologists, Stop their political victim-blaming, As they unironic’ly draw-up blacklists, Shutting-down speech while fanning the flaming. But now we’re shocked, that someone attacked The one we attacked with ferocity, Named and paraded and finally sacked For the sin of secular blasphemy. So we clutch our pearls and wring our hands, At what could drive this murderous spate. Then we push to get a comedian banned For saying the Koran is full of hate.
To be clear, the Bible is equally hate-filled – but most Christians have the decency to be embarrassed by theirs. Sometimes this shame is subconscious, but even the most fundamental literalists will inwardly wince if you bring up –
Job 1 (God giving his approval for Satan to kill Job’s ten children for the sake of a bet), or Numbers 25:6-8 (Phinehas murders a inter-racial couple and God is appeased and stops his plague), or Psalms 137:9 (happiness comes from dashing the babies of your enemies against the rocks), and let’s not forget Deuteronomy 20:10-14 (when beseiging a city, offer peace – if they surrender, enslave them, if they resist, slaughter every male (even the male babies), and take the women and girls for yourselves) –
They may mutter something about context, and ‘appropriate for their own time’, and change the subject to the New Testament – while ignoring Colossians 3:22-24 (slaves, obey your masters !).
Another atrocity, another round of blame, With the righties claiming they’re all the same, And the lefties burying their heads in their guilt, And our knee-jerk laws that are jerry-built. Another outrage, another assault, And we all us know who’s really at fault, But none of us will say – Mohammad. And Jesus. And Shiva. And Yahweh. And the dozens of others, monsters all – Let’s stop the worship, let them fall. Just why are we honouring the afterglow From the morals of how many centuries ago ? But no, don’t ban them, not a single sect – Just stop any pretence of honour or respect. Laugh at their gods, like we did before, To Zeus and Baal and Ra and Thor.