Hear the dozen tongues that trip
Around the top of ev’ry bus:
They’re London’s latest membership,
As once the immigrants were us.
Not whence we came, but chose to dwell
Is what defines our each success;
And though we are our past as well,
It comes to matter less and less.
We’re changing daily, ev’ryhow,
As our subconscious makes its choice;
So we belong to London now,
It’s in our eyes and in our voice.
I met her in the silly season:
Ace reporter Lisa Leeson –
Met her in the Summer, as it moved from high to late.
She said she newly had the time
For chilling with a gin and lime,
And meeting with a stranger for a secret steamy date.
Until the real news arrived,
She churned-out waffle, faffed and skived,
To dodge the z-list luvvie-spotting at the village fete.
And so we spent the Summertime
Away from wars and wonks and crime,
And nothing went on happening in law and trade and state.
Not a love-nest, romp or threesome,
Just myself and Lisa Leeson,
While the ever-greedy presses must procrastinate –
And so we joined our choice of queues,
With not a thought to check reviews,
For visits to the restaurants, the movies and the Tate.
But Summer changed to Autumn brown,
And cooler breezes teased the town,
And she could hear the calling of the headlines and the hate.
So Lisa Leeson bid farewell,
And broke our silly Summer’s spell
By quitting idle drifting for a world that would not wait.
Well done, Ealing ! Macho, strong !
Build your towers, probe the sky,
Pump your concrete, raise your steel –
Bring the low-rise wimps to heel.
Bravo, Ealing ! Far too long
You’ve languished only four floors high;
Never felt the bracing breeze
When funnelled through a cut-price Mies.
Lord it over Christchurch spire,
Just a finely-sculpted fop;
It looks too good and stands too proud,
It mocks too much to be allowed.
Now we find when building higher,
So our expectations drop:
Mustn’t cling to ancient primes,
For now we live in av’rage times.
Your flats will sell before their sheen
Has moldered-off or ghetto-greyed.
So price them at a hefty wad –
For no cheap housing here, thank god !
And finally can Haven Green
Now bask all year in deepest shade.
Don’t be subtle: rage and shock,
By showing them the finger-block.
Well done, Ealing ! Ditch the mild !
You’re pissing down to raise a stink.
It’s meant to be so out-of-scale,
This temple to the Thrusting Male.
Bravo, Ealing – stay beguiled !
And who cares what they locals think !
Quit the Nineteenth Century,
And welcome Nineteen Sixty-Three.
The ‘Leaf’ was a proposed wanger for Ealing in West London back in 2007. Alas, this was ditched in favour of the Dickins Yard wangettes of only 14 floors, which is only three-and-a-bit times too high. But just think what we could have had !
I know a modern architect who really loves his jazz.
The hypocrite ! Still clinging to his Monk and Duke and Chas !
The music of the moment is the only sort allowed –
Hip-hop, pop and drum & bass – played endlessly and loud.
For any newly-written jazz is just a quaint pastiche,
So councillors and plutocrats must keep it on a leash.
Keep it stark and minimal, without such syncopation –
For finely-crafted solos are just needless decoration.
And as for old recordings: don’t restore them, but adapt:
Saxophones now synthesized, and melodies now rapped.
Drum machines inserted, so’s to tell the new from old;
Gut ’em out and fit ’em up – it’s brutal, brash and bold !
We’ll wipe the records clean to make the space for noises new,
For songs are just machines for lis’ning to.
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 !
Born, bred and boarded in England, by chance,
Yet close as to Calais as 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 !