Shakespeare Reflects on Four Hundred Years

Had I But Known

Four hundred years ago, had I but known
My words and phrases – minted for a play,
In haste upon the empty page new-thrown –
Would still be spoken, careless, every day
By everyone from greatest in the land
To meanest of the realm, indeed; why then –
Would I have taken up my quill in hand
And turned out phrases fresh for use of men?
Would I an endless word-hoard have poured out,
Such portion of the common tongue to make?
Foretold of legacy, some self-made doubt
Would doubtless have caused mind and hand to shake.
My dramas would have gone unplayed, unheard:
I, under burden such, could write no word.

#thinkofapoem – Stanhope Road

I suppose this could be subtitled ‘Growing Up North’.

Coal cellars, blackened grates,
Sideboard covers, chalks and slates,
Fish on Fridays, homemade bread;
Scouring stones and Cardinal Red,
Mansion polish, Oxydol,
Whitewash, goosegrease, castor oil;
Blue Ford Anglias, front step sitting;
Poodle bottle covers knitting;
Jubblies, kali, whips and tops,
Black red-washered bottle stops;
Roaring fires, chimney sweeps,
Finders keepers, losers weeps;
Beech Nut machines pennies burned:
One free packet each fourth turn.
Boiling beetroot, three-wheeled scooters,
Spud guns, pop guns and pea-shooters;
Opening medicine, brown suede boots,
Sloppy Joes and Sunday suits;
Friday bath nights, old tin bath,
The water used to swill the path;
Growing pains, camphor in steam,
You’re alright now, you’ve had a bad dream;
All in white for the May procession;
Saturday – eleven o’clock: confession;
Releasio, kick-can and back-alley games;
Machines on the station would stamp out your name;
And many’s the night I would go to my rest
With Vick’s Vapour Rub plastered thick on my chest.

The Woddleploshers Exchange

Note: this poem was created out of the ‘family’ words or favourite unusual words of my colleagues on an Arvon course.

The place: Woddleploshers, a small remote village
Concealed in the mists just outside Hebden Bridge.
The time: call it winterish. That time of year when
On some days it’s warmer to sit in the fridge.
The biting wind mithered the vulvular valley,
Cloud-busting, helping the morning light change.
A heart-sloughened mother stood biting her knuckles:
Her lad was a part of the Woddleploshers Exchange.

Bumper to bumper two cars faced each other
Like monochrome cats locked in eyeball embrace
Who couldn’t decide between fighting and flighting
But neither one wanted a scar on their face.
Delishamus frisson of silence befell
Those who’d driven, so eager to soon rearrange
Their cargoes in jittery, slippery swoppery:
Who’d get the best deal at The Woddleploshers Exchange?

A bleep and a click and one car’s door swung open.
A mallemaroking man loomed from within:
Devoid of entranklements, mighty in moto –
The kind that light fires by striking their chin.
The mallemaroker held up his device
(An objet futil that he’d bought with the change
That was left after buying a spanky Ferrari)
And so, there began The Woddleploshers Exchange.

The other car opened; the mother cried out as
Her lad appeared bearing the things for his trade:
A bedpan, a suitcase, some falling-down water,
A package of faffage, a jar of pomade,
A telecommander, an exteroceptor,
An oofdah and flask of home-made cure for mange.
All these the lad gave to the mallemaroker
In return for five beans at The Woddleploshers Exchange.

The lad and his mother were not seen again.
Some say that she killed him for loss of their hopes;
Some say that their ghosts can be seen in the twilight
Wandering mafted on Heptonstall’s slopes;
Some say that the lad did away with his mother
As the shock of the loss caused her mind to derange;
Some say they found gold at the top of the stalk
That they got from the beans in The Woddleploshers Exchange.

If ever you’re in Woddleploshers in winter,
When a vulvular valley plays tricks with the light,
When you’ve something to swop – like a coin for a story,
A pint for a poem, or calm for a fright –
Remember the tale of the lad and his mother:
Beware of the mallemaroker so strange,
Beware the delishamus frisson of silence,
Beware what you get in your Woddleploshers Exchange.

Man! I Feel Like A Curry

(to the tune of Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman’)

Let’s go, gang

Late night with the boys, making lots of noise,
Really getting in the mood.
The night just ain’t complete without some kind of treat:
We gotta have some real soul food.

Had a little drink, don’t need to have a think,
Know what stops us feeling blue.
Getting in the action, need some satisfaction –
Only one thing that’ll do.

The best thing about falling out the pub
Is that that’s the sign to go and grab some grub – grub – grub…

Oh oh oh go totally crazy for chicken jalfrezi,
Spending your dosh on rogan josh,
Oh oh oh
Wanna have poppadums and the pickle tray.
Oh oh oh go totally barmy for biryani,
We never pass on a madras,
Oh oh oh
Kicking it off with an onion bhaji starter:

Man! I feel like a curry!

Bhuna would be nice topped off with pilau rice,
A mushroom bhaji and a dhal.
Our knees just go weak at thoughts of chicken tikka;
Burn your lips upon a phal.

The best thing about a night under the moon
Is the fun you have with just a fork and spoon – spoon – spoon…

Oh oh oh go totally leery for chicken kashmiri
With sag aloo or vindaloo,
Oh oh oh
We want samosas and peshwari nans.
Oh oh oh go totally crazy for chicken jalfrezi,
Spending your dosh on rogan josh
Oh oh oh
Wanna have poppadums and the pickle tray:

Man! I feel like a curry!

Shall I compare thee?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art both dry and bright, and far away.
And oh, my love is like a red, red rose –
Especially the bit around the nose.
One thing, it seems, we want to know these days:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
One. Possibly two if I’ve had a drink.

You should’ve known that, Eric…

Can’t help it – I love quizzing;
Brought up with it, you see.
My parents asked me questions, like:
‘Where’ve you been?’ and ‘Who’s he?’

Can’t help it – I love quizzing,
Along with all my team.
With every subject covered
It should go like a dream.

Can’t help it – we love quizzing.
Competitive? No doubt.
That team just there’s the one to beat –
They thrashed us last time out.

Can’t help it – we love quizzing;
We play our joker straight.
“Switch off your mobile phones please!”
Be quiet! Concentrate!

Can’t help it – we love quizzing;
Our minds we synchronise.
We’re dredging facts from backs of brains
In mental exercise.

Can’t help it – we love quizzing,
And groan despairingly
As gaps within our knowledge
Are plain for all to see.

Can’t help it – we love quizzing,
And winning is the aim
And when we lose, we never say
“Oh well, it’s just a game…”

Tax Rebate

A week ago today I got a tax rebate.
A tax rebate? Well, that’s just great!
A week ago today I got a tax rebate
And this is what it said.

It said:

Don’t spend it on the spot,
Don’t blow it on a yacht,
Don’t buy yourself a plane,
Don’t go insane;

Don’t journey into space,
Or have someone lift your face,
Don’t plant any forest pines,
Lay down any vintage wines;

Don’t waste it on a pub,
Don’t buy a football club,
Don’t go to Disneyland,
Don’t fly to Samarkand;

Don’t open up a shop
Or shop until you drop,
Don’t buy a mobile phone,
Don’t give the dog a bone;

Don’t guzzle it in booze,
Don’t splash out on a cruise,
Don’t go bathing in champagne,
Don’t go swanning off to Spain;

Don’t take up a new career,
No liposuction on your rear,
Don’t buy a house, don’t buy a car,
Don’t go for treatment in a spa;

Don’t pay off the national debt
And above all don’t forget:
Don’t get uppity and shirty –
Your tax rebate’s eight pounds thirty.

I am woman


I am woman, hear me snore:
Raspings too loud to ignore –
I can’t help it – Mum and Dad were just the same.
I’ve tried sleeping on my back,
Left, right, front and in a sack;
Throat drops, nose clips, plasters, pillows and a frame.

I am woman, and I sweat. 
I’ve not met a person yet
Who can beat me for hot flushes and red face;
Dancing wildly – parties, balls –
My pits are like Niagara Falls…
There’s no wonder people give me personal space.

I am woman, and I fart
Though I try not to impart
The sound and smell of wind that’s building up inside;
I will waddle, buttocks clenched,
Though in sweat I’m fairly drenched
From the strain of trying to hold on to my pride.

I am woman, sing it loud: 
Noisy, dirty, wrinkly, proud;
And if by some chance you are to me attached:
I am me, no less, no more
I swear and sweat and fart and snore
And that’s why my house must always be detached!