The Groaning Trencher

from a listing on AliExpress

The Groaning Trencher

Sometimes, Burns Night falls on the second New Moon,
And that marks a brand New Year –
So the neeps and the cock-a-leekie share the serving spoon
As the beansprouts and riceballs appear.
From the docks of Kowloon to the mists of Brigadoon,
It all goes in the haggis, and the bamboo pipes the tune –
As we all sup together, from Scotland Yard to Scone,
In a typhoon of tartan cheer.
Now me, I am just a Sassenach poltroon
From the billabongs of Perth to the snows of Saskatoon –
But a shortbread in my green tea on a global afternoon,
And the paddy-fields of glens are very near.

Can I just say what a wonderfully weird experience it is to hear someone read Address to the Haggis in an unapologetically RP accent ?

Mrs Silver

The Lost Portrait of Kitty by dangerliesbeforeyou

Mrs Silver

Back in the days he had two legs,
I imagine John was quite the catch –
A sailor seeking fortune
Who needed a wife who was his match.

Step forward our unnamed heroine,
A negress perfectly at home
As landlady of The Spyglass
While her hubby’s on the roaring foam.

He promises to heave-to by the hearth,
And tend to Captain Flint.
But is she happier to see
Adventure re-ignite his glint ?

I wonder what her story is,
To wash ashore in Bristol town ?
Then selling-up, and sailing who-knows-where
To rendezvous, or drown.

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

The Establishment honours one of its own…

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Through the village of Longbourn, the undead shuffle,
The unemployed and the destitutes.
The Luddites who moan in a rustic muffle,
Back from Napolean without any boots.
Mr Bennett says he can’t even hear them,
So alien is his world to theirs,
But they’re getting restless, threatening mayhem –
What if it spreads to the staff downstairs ?
Don’t worry, Lizzie, here’s bold Mr Darcy
With his wealth stripped from the backs of the poor,
He knows how to stop the rabble getting arsey,
Put them back down when they dare ask for more.
Crush their groups, and deport the whole crew,
This seething horde of the unwashed masses.
Best to wipe them out like we did at Peterloo –
Before the balls are overrun with jumped-up underclasses.

A Meal For One

Still Life with a Wicker Bottle by Carlo Magini

A Meal For One

“The condemned’s last meal is the ultimate dining-in experience”
                                                                – Judge Janus Jeremiah

After months of bread and gruel,
At last, a dish to whet my lips !
But oh, to bring it now is cruel –
I’d rather lard and apple pips.

A final meal is offered up,
A host to help assuage your guilt,
It seems so civilised, to sup
Before the ritual blood is spilt.

And all the while, with ev’ry bite,
The butcher’s hungry blade shall wait –
I am your fatted calf tonight,
Just like this one upon my plate.

All these calories I’ve chewed,
And yet so little time remains –
It’s such a waste of decent food,
You should have brought me simple grains.

Next-Gen

Jenny von Westphalen & Jenny Lind (both born Johanna). Presumably their J’s were soft.

Next-Gen

Women have answered to ‘Jenny’ far longer than ‘Jennifer’,
Whether they’re maidens or maids –
A pet form of Janet, Joanna, or even Siobhan,
She’s really a jack-of-all-trades.
Old English had a few Jinifers, sure,
But those weren’t Guiniveres, those were Junipers –
Then, from nowhere, Jennifer came –
From Cornwall, and from a parallel universe.

As the Twentieth Century progressed,
The Jennies were pressed into service
And switched their allegiance to Jennifer only,
And rode her success to over-abundance –
Then into the downward curve of redundancy,
No longer heroines, neighbours, or queens –
But surely we’ll always remember the Jennies,
As wrens, or as donkeys, or spinning machines.

Lazy Art

The Master’s Studio by Cesar Santos

Lazy Art

The Impressionists, they started it –
The deliberate eschewing of the details of the waterlilies,
Slapping on the sunflowers, slacking and half-arsing it,
The barmaid blurred by beer-goggles, shorn of intimates and frillies.
The Modernists just loved the concept,
Loved the new permissiveness to never bother with the hard parts,
Far too busy writing manifestos, or just overslept,
To ever stoop to spend the years to learn the graft behind the arts.
Ah, I guess they have their fans, these Abstract-ists of vapour –
And not just money-launderers or the Commie-fighting CIA –
Some might look alright in advertising, or as wallpaper,
When tossed-off in an afternoon of dribbles, nudes, and squelching clay.
But then, the public never get to choose who shall be fruitful,
For we must take whichever trends the critics shall annoint.
It’s just…I want my art as something rare and something beautiful,
And not a random find, or shocking ugly, just to make a point.

Oak Apple Day

parasitic tree lurker
Oak Apple Gall Wasp by Milan Zubrick

Oak Apple Day

Little wasp, little wasp,
Laying eggs upon the tree –
Sting the one who would be king,
And sting him once again for me.
Little worm, little worm,
Wriggling in your swollen gall –
Bite the one who’s cowering,
And bite him twice for one and all.

But oh !, you’ve gone and birthed a hornet,
Let loose on us worker bees –
And king or queen, or brutal drone,
They sting the same – just ask the trees !
To rid us of a coronet
Will always leave behind a gall.
The buttocks mould to fit the throne –
The canker ripens, warts and all.

Working-Class Absolution

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Working-Class Absolution

White men ran the slave trade, true,
And I’m a man and also white –
But don’t charge me for grievance due,
I played no part in the blight.
While others wreaked this tragedy,
It’s not me, mate, and not my folks –
I come from village farmhands, see,
From ordinary blokes.
While others banked the whole affair,
Or clapped the chain or cracked the whip,
We never owned a single share,
Nor crewed a single ship.
So don’t try laying on the guilt
For crimes my bloodline never did –
The damnable at which you tilt
Were not my fam’ly, kid.
I bear no blemish on my name,
I bear no once-and-future sin –
Don’t think that you can judge my blame
By the colour of my skin.
It’s not me mate, and not my genes,
My hands are clean, my soul is light –
So spare your wrath for dukes and queens,
Not me, mate – get it right !
My ancestors were starved and bruised,
And sometimes even outright killed –
They all were wage-slaves, much abused
By the lords whose lands they tilled.
And so were yours – I get it, I do,
But they’re not you and they’re not me.
But even if my blood were blue,
My conscience still blooms free –
For the faults of our great-great-grands back when
Have died with them, and have passed away –
Look, nobody alive back then
Is still alive today.
For none of us in here’s a slaver,
No-one’s whitewashing the trade –
So please, just do us all a favour,
And find a new crusade.

Fish & Physics

Amazonian Guaperva Fish by Francis Willughby (at least, I think he did his own illustrations).

Fish & Physics

Gentle Francis Willughby,
To best of his ability
Has written us a thriller – see,
The History of Fish !
Illustrated lib’rally,
Meticulous and jibber-free –
No charlatan or fibber, he,
But honest, if not swish.
The Royal-dubbed Society
Have praised his work most high and free,
And published with propriety
His dense and hearty dish –
Examining their parity
And countless similarity,
To classify with clarity
Each finble, scule and gish.
His work will lead inex’rably
To Karl Linné’s complexity
And Darwin’s sexy theory
That the bishops try to squish –
Yet mocked in perpetuity,
His book an incongruity,
For lacking the acuity
Of Newton’s masterpiece –
His grandiose Principia,
That makes the heavens trippier
And gravity much nippier,
Is straining for release.
But things are tight financially,
With profits down substantially
And Newton sees his chances flee
Despite the Fellows’ wish –
They cannot foot the bill, you see,
The budget’s blown on Willughby –
But don’t show Frank hostility,
He’s not so queer a fish.

The Merchantman Shanty

detail from Moonlight over the Bosphorus by Edward Hoyer

The Merchantman Shanty

“Work songs were banned in the Royal Navy”
                                                                                    – Capt A. Bakalarka

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval brig,
But there they wouldn’t let me sing
Whene’er we raised the rig

     So we hauled away in silence so,
     We had to heave without a ho,
     We dare not peep a quick-quick-slow
     Or the cat would make us holler.

We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only lubbers sing at sea
     So let all singing go.

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval sloop,
But I couldn’t let my whistle ring
Whene’er we swabbed the poop.

     So we scrubbed away in silence, see,
     We had to dumb without a dee,
     We dare not hum a do-re-mi,
     Or the cat would make us holler.


We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only madmen sing at sea
     So keep your whistle’ing low.

I used to sail with the king, I sailed
On a Royal Naval barque,
But I must not pluck a single string
Till safely after dark.

     So we sailed away in silence, aye,
     We had to hew without a cry,
     Unless the roaring wind was high
     And the cat can’t hear us holler.


We mayn’t disturb his majesty
     With a too-rye-ay and a yo-ho-ho,
For only sirens sing at sea
     So take your singing below.

The lines in roman are sung by the shanty man, the lines in italics are sung by the crew.