Archive | November, 2014

I read the news today…oh boy

21 Nov

…..About a lucky man who made the grade

And though the news was rather sad:

The good and great of Rochester and Strood

Had caught the media-nation mood

And made their choice – a man called Reckless,

A turning coat, now purple, feckless.

From his Farage he has persuaded

That Brits of Kent shall be invaded,

Swamped, trampled by the  immigrant,

Such a silly, sad…compelling rant.

The aftermath..well let’s just guess…

Dreadful news for the NHS.


And on to the Shadow Attorney General

Whose cabinet days have proved ephemeral.

Her name suggests both sharp and sweet

But bloody stupid, too, to tweet.


And next the rapist wants to play,

He’s done his time is what some say

But moral hackles, rising high

Have writ quite large on Sheffield’s sky:

If  that bastard isn’t banned

We’ll rename Jessica Ennis’s stand.


No need to move from home work station

To find bad news from other nations

Lots to keep us weeping here

Ne’er mind Hammas, Putin, North Korea.

I read the news today oh boy,

Let’s hope the morrow brings more joy.


Poems of my Life. Flint.

17 Nov

Nursery rhymes and songs were the stuff of my childhood. Nothing unusual there. Listen with Mother and, when we had a TV,  Watch with Mother added more rhyme into the mix. Having a Danish dad meant Hans Christian Andersen and the stories and poetry of Ole Luk-Oye. More of this anon. Rupert Bear’s adventures were told in verse and prose. Now We are Six by A.A. Milne was read to me early because I had the book hand-me-downs from my elder brother.

Rhyme and rhythm should be part of a child’s sing-song day. At Cuddington County Primary School, I’m sure there were rhymes aplenty but one stands out. Flint by Christina Rosetti.

~Christina Rossetti

An emerald is as green as grass,
A ruby red as blood;
A sapphire shines as blue as heaven;
A flint lies in the mud.

A diamond is a brillant stone,
To catch the world’s desire;
An opal holds a fiery spark;
But a flint holds fire.

This is the first poem I remember being ‘taught’. I’m pretty sure that it was in class 3 –  Mrs Thorburn . I was 6. She would have had to explain what sapphires and rubies were, no doubt. We went foraging in the woods looking for flints, about which I had no idea. Mrs T encouraged us to clap stones together and make sparks, then breathe in the ignition aroma.

Then the poem. At 6 I was told what a simile was – and a metaphor but it took me longer to grasp that, I think. I knew about rhyme of course but hadn’t bothered with much else, I’m sure. Mrs T, after extolling the excitements of the gems, teased answers out of us about the monosyllabic fourth and eighth lines. It is these two lines that jump into my head as much as any other that I have ever come across. especially that last, exciting line. I can hear Mrs T now.


Poems of my life. As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

5 Nov

I have written before of the influence of poetry. Not a day goes by without words and rhymes from days gone by forcing their way happily into my consciousness. There are a million triggers – and you would expect an old English teacher to have an extensive store of verses neatly mind-catalogued, cocked and ready to fire into action when the occasion demands. Yet so often it is the words that others put in front of me – or that I sought for myself – that spring into my head.

I first came across Gerard Manley Hopkins at school. An A level teacher, Brian Cope, wanted to introduce us to something beyond our ken; a poetic experience unlike any other. Hopkins wasn’t on the syllabus that year but, in 1968 with no Ofsted or league tables to worry about Copey tried to give his boys a it more of an education.

We struggled, quite honestly, not helped by our giggling immaturity. One or two poems survived our initial indifference  and Brian’s informed and quietly powerful readings stayed with me. Later at university, when a wonderful tutor, David Fussell, asked the group if any of us had tried Hopkins my hand raised itself and I found that I was reading sonnet 34. The first four lines have bounced into my head so regularly. The metaphors capturing kingfishers and dragonflies are just – exciting. Then the tough mouthfuls of sound and alliteration and scrambled syntax that cascade down the octet before the point: What I do is me. The defining actions of nature, the individuality, the uniqueness of all living things proves, for Hopkins, the divine. The sestet nails the argument For me, a  poor atheist being guided by the promptings of Dave Fussell, to tease out the excitement and fun of the language and form and enjoy Hopkins’s commitment to his God – it was a divine lesson and one that has stuck.

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.


I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

To drool or drule. Depends on how hip your dictionary is.

4 Nov

Within a heartbeat of publishing my last blogoffer, Week-End, a dear friend and pedant called to point out my curious spelling of Drule or, as he would have tapped, Drool. He further guffawed at my fulminating over apostrophes whilst committing certain typos as well as  the Drool/drule faux pas. My explanations, weak as they were, fell on the stoniest of ground. I turn off the spellcheck – it’s untrustworthy anyway. Crap excuse, he said. I tried convincing him that drule was a mere multiple typo. He clutched his sides in mirth. I slammed the phone down and reviewed the rogue blog.

There it was in all it’s awkward glory. If I’d used a fluorescent highlighter it couldn’t have stuck out more. Stubbled men drule looking like cats who will get the cream. What was I thinking? Hoisted with my own petard. Found out. I was desolate. But wait. The Urban Dictionary has come to my rescue before. Might it help recover some pedantry house-points? First things first. Update the entry with drool to keep the masses happy while plotting my escape from ignominy.

The UD came through. I knew it would. Just as scrabblers rely on the OED for xylem, yah and zooid to get them out of tight corners; I raise my hat to the Urban Dictionary to cover my extraordinarily unusual errors. I can’t let that man Humphreys or Lynne Truss or Simon Heffer or the rest gain any greater advantage than they have already in the clarity and correctness stakes.

The word DRULE ( no. 1 definition) means, as I knew it would, : Beyond cool, unnecessarily awesome. Girls rule; boys drule.

Or (no. 2 definition): Beyond rubbish. Just disgraceful. Pure shit.

Or (no. 3): Hip, stylish. Clothes designed on the west coast USA.

Wow! What a dictionary! Check back to my original sentence. Not only does no. 1 def. fit like a glove, but so too def.s 2 and 3. The UD also has helpful link-words/synonyms. This list includes: pecker, rule, awesome, hip, great, dk stains, pecker drule, spittled, pecker stains, stylish, urban, worse, worthless, west coast. It’s an extraordinary array which proves that whatever stupid, fantasy, figment of your imagination you come out with there is an authoritative organ that will support whatever spelling and definition you want. Wikipedia eat your heart out. I’m a he fan of the soon-to-be viral Urban Dictionary. Creationism watch out. I’m heading your way. I fancy scientology too and I might look up that funny bloke who used to be a sports presenter before he developed a hole in his trousers and his marbles fell out.

I’m looking forward to calling my mate the pedant back and putting him right in his place. David Icke, that’s his name.

Week – End

4 Nov

I did say, midweek, that I would return to the Odeon Epsom for more comment. You will recall Gone Girl – the movie, on which I briefly commented. Well the 25minutes of advertising preceding the blockbuster was wearily illuminating. Now I’m not on air-kissing terms with Germaine Greer but the shameless and shameful sexploitation is so much more apparent at big screen venues that on our little flatscreens at home. Loadsamoney spent on lavishly, digitally undressing gorgeous women who look as if they are about to orgasm over the leather seats of their new pink cars. Stubbled men (who invented this silly sandpaper? Do one thing or the other; shave or no shave) drool looking like cats who will get cream. Prudishly and rarely  I thought: what on earth are we doing to ourselves? I got over it pretty quickly, you’ll be glad to know.

Excitingly old buddies from university days came to stay for the weekend. The weather held for a grand Saturday walk along the Pilgrims/South Downs Way above Reigate. Clear and heart-swelling views over the town and, turning 180degrees, there way Wembley Stadium, the Eye and Shard and the rest. Gatton Park was a joy to wander round despite the National Trust’s unforgiveable misuse of apostrophes. Beers at that great pub on Walton Heath, The Sportsman and back to select a feast from The Haweli, Sutton’s finest Indian takeaway.

We moderated our Saturday alcohol intake as Friday’s arrival of old friends had seen quite an assault of various bottles. The evening had taken its usual majestic course:the easy slipping back into college banter; incredulous reflections on how irresponsible fun-junkies of the 1970s became tolerably regarded members of the professional classes; disregard of body clocks and vitriolic contempt of a range of modern mores from the ubiquity of Apple-tech, ‘like’, silly children’s names, political correctness, tattoos, shit politicians, X-Factor, Jamie Oliver… get the picture. And fucking apostrophes.

It was Halloween night. That’s another thing. What’s happened to that estimable member of Catesby’s team who planned to obliterate James 1st and the whole rag bag of Parliament on Nov 5th, 1605? In the deeply grey 1950s and early 60s, I slogged for weeks (well days) making gruesome, scarecrow facsimiles of the would-be multi-murderer, to wheel around on old pushchairs extorting money for my personal charity. We’d buy firecrackers from the local tobacconists (that’s another moniker lost to the idiocy of pc) to scare our primary school girlfriends. Our back garden for a few minutes would sparkle with Catherine Wheels and sparklers. My father would put a few impossibly large rockets tiltingly in precariously placed milk bottles. The blue touch paper rarely responded with brilliant ignition so he always risked life and limb returning for another Swan Vestas relight. The resulting take-off and orbit was as unpredictable as Richard Branson’s tourist space rocket, though mercifully not as calamitous. Stories abounded of those who had filled hospital casualty departments on Bonfire Nights. No Sorro ever suffered but there were close shaves aplenty. This mightily wholesome activity has been replaced by wizards and witches and the execrable fraud of trick or treating, not to mention the waste of millions of nutricious pumpkins. You can imagine the bile effused by me and my mates, frighteningly articulate at 2am.

The came a knocking on the door. God, not more T or T’ing at this time. No, there stood a solitary shivering lass, clad in strips of wispy green looking like a  Robin Hood groupie with face paint. She was in some distress – let’s call her Maisie – and a certain amount of drink and/or drug-fuelled confusion. She had escaped, so she said, from a place, up the road, where she was being held captive. Could she come in? Crying, frightened creature she was too. Quite clear in speech but weirdly wired and making little sense. Had she been harmed? This prompted a flood of tears. Was she with friends? More tears. Clutching a completely empty  handbag and shivering rather cold turkily poor Maisie cut a pathetic and sad figure. We erstwhile complaining men sprouted arm hair and bravado. We walked her to where she thought the ‘party’ had been – and where her money, clothes, friends and phone (ie her life) were last seen. An open ground floor window. No sound, no sign of life. We knocked loudly. Nothing. We returned. Phone police.

Within 5 minutes two highly attractive young constables, he a ringer for Jude Law; she Cameron Diaz. perhaps I have just watched The Holiday far too much in my downtime moments – it’s on ALL the time isn’t it? Sorry – digressing. Anyway these guys were brilliant and took Maisie’s plight very seriously.What were the possibilities? Endless unfortunately- rape, rohypnol, mugging, theft, drink and drugs….and, of course -and hopefully- a girl who had got pissed, become disorientated and wandered off in fright but come to no harm.

The PCs wandered down the road to investigate. I contacted mother – in Coventry. She and her partner leapt into a car as I was speaking. A 3 hour drive to Sutton police station or near-hospital, ETA 5.30am? Back came the bravos in blue. The party was going on in the garden shed. Maisie had been put to bed by her friends when she peaked early- she had been ‘out of it’. No one had checked her and they were not a little surprised to hear she had gone AWOL. The blue-brigade decided she had better stay with the authorities (good choice) and await the arrival of bleary mummy.

The delightful constables took the tearful Maisie off and we were left having to revise our opinions of earlier on the quality of young professionals today. Jude and Cameron were quite outstanding.

Oh I forgot to say what Maisie did for a living. She is a 26year old teacher. Well I never.

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