Breaking News

Public address systems can sometimes further confuse those whose hearing is no longer functioning at peak acuity.

Echo location at Waverley Station

Scot-Rail are happy to announce an ounce an ounce

that the train about to leave from platform nine a-nine a-nine

is the twenty eighty four to Strathmore and Singapore

through Japan, the Isle of Man and Bangalore alore alore

where the coaches at the rear will continue to Tangier,

while the front ones will advance to Norway-South or France,

and either Crewe or Waterloo; just take your chance or chance or chance

and if

you need us eed us eed us to explain plain plain

and repeat it, eat it, eat it, once again an-ain an-ain

or if you have been waiting far too long along along,

there is one thing we should mention,

pay attention ention ention at your platform



or you’ll find the train you’re waiting for has gone on on on on.

In the years when students were fortunate enough to find work on the Christmas Post, the high point of the morning was pouring out the tea after completing the sorting and before setting out on the delivery rounds.

The Argument

It is no use arguing with an elderly official

at the mail reclamation point,

no use at all.

You may press your case with specious argument

and think that his attention span is small

and with constant repetition

stress the source of your unease.

And he agrees,

Yes all you say is true,

but you must know yourself,

there is nothing we can do,

as we do not write these rules.

So, seeing the man in front

beat his head against the wall,

I thought

I might as well

take a slightly off-white handkerchief,

tie knots in all four corners and wear it on the beach

until the tide recedes,

leaving landlocked jellyfish

both sand-soaked and abandoned,

though some




and if they do,

I will retrace my steps

to pursue my own request

and see

postal workers pouring cups of tea*.

I think they will not pour one out for me.

Culture Channel

It’s eight o’clock!

Here is the Muse and the Pleasure Forecast.

Workers at a literature reprocessing plant

have discovered a hitherto untapped vain of creativity.

A spokesman for the group has said,

The implications of this work are immense,

as the whole nation could become

self-sufficient in verse

by two thousand and twenty three..

Meanwhile it will be dull, with outbreaks of pain.

Any lingering despair will be slow to clear

and could return during the night,

but spirits will lift late in the afternoon,

when the whole land becomes swathed in a band

of light entertainment.

Football News

Jerusalem 1, UK 0

And did those feet

in ancient times

play football,

and did they win or draw against much better teams?
When did we cease excluding foreign champions

from our native sides,

and were the transfer fees obscene,

more than ten miners earned throughout their working lives,

and was a well-turned goal the only thing

that brought men to their knees?

Yet kind to those who seek asylum on our shores,

we let them work gold seams of their desire

in broad estates and tower blocks,

but go to war to keep the oil supplies for our machines

(and old folk warm)

and license GM crops and build

wind farms

on clouded hills.

Meanwhile it has not escaped our attention that two older men had a special interest in the 2014 World Cup Final.

The Beatific Game

Two pontiffs

side-by-side before the shimmering screen

fingering their beads

and praying that the Gracious Lord would,

from his mercy seat, relent and teach

the other side to turn

the other cheek.

Business Section

A National Bank mounts an advertising campaign featuring two of its high-profile employees, one symbolising trust and competence, and the other ……

Bank Lady Blue

Bank Lady Blue,

your white, your brimful smile,

your cornucopia that pours

fiscal beatitude unending.

Your light is not reflected,

but shines out.

I walk on air,

I step upon cloud nine.

Come come away with me,

remove your uniform,

take down my sort-code,

debit my account again tonight.

Together we will mount the everlasting staircase

to the great celestial dance floor,

take our places there

and build our house of cards.

Quantitative Easing

The banks had known the good times,

but a fall was overdue,

leaving quantitative easing

as the only thing to do.

When you’ve passed out of the window

what has come in through the door,

only quantitative easing

lets you have a little more.

They had clogged the lanes of commerce,

bit off more than they could chew;

so the bankers were all straining hard

to see what they could do

to restore a healthy bonus

and relieve that sluggish feeling,

hoping quantitative easing

would start something coming through.

We imagine some committee

met to find the course to take

and they said, we need a slogan

that will serve to obfuscate.

And this is quite a good one,

as it doesn’t mean a thing,

but quantitative easing

has a rather knowing ring.

The man who first decided

that these words could make a phrase

should become an national hero,

winning never ending praises

and a letter from the Queen.

A knight in shining armour

in a gallery of rogues

wearing quantitative easing

like the Emperor’s new clothes.

Out and About

Hadrian’s Wall

It’s hard to imagine a happier place for a wall,

where the earth rears like a great wave

waiting to break

Strangers were here once,

but there are no ghosts now,

save for the ghosts of the south,

when winds blow.

Winds that waft warm air where larks sing

and winds that cover stones with drifted snow.

Oilseed Rhapsody

Rapeseed oil

is not enough reward

to pay for pungent yellow scars,

the rape of earth.

But sunflower fields,

or flax,

the smell of cricket bats

and fields of blue

like skies brought down to earth

might justify

the rape of heaven.


The quagga was dull,

dull as its name,

which like itself

merged with the shade

and its extinction, if indeed it has happened,

was predicted and long overdue.

But a group of quagga, standing together,

were so well camouflaged

that it was impossible to know whether,

or even when,

they were.

It is not even certain now that they ever existed,

or were anything other than shadows

filtered onto the sand.

Even in Antland

A trillion ants will start to die today,

but that is not a disaster,

even in Antland.


King of the trees,

you fly too high for me.

I want to ask,

what is the point?

Why wear a golden crown that none can see,

except, perhaps, one with a keen marauding eye

whose heart leaps with that glint

and thinks he will be rich,

but dare not make the plunge into the leaves?

Also your song,

if one can call it that,

so thin and shrill

that says

‘look up,

look here’,

has now,

like you,

become too high for me.

Science and Technology

Current interest in the meeting of a spacecraft and a comet should not diminish the fact that an even brighter conjunction of Science and Poetry happened more than 10 years ago when a NASA probe landed on Eros, an asteroid, shaped, appropriately enough, like a dancer’s elegant foot.

Landing on Eros

What is this star

that, in elliptical orbit,

threatens to obliterate humanity with passion?

Our atmosphere could not burn it,

or seas quench until too late.

But it has been placated.

Man’s seed,

trapped in weak gravity,

has descended to this disembodied limb

and, resting beside the heel

on pale illuminated skin,

will wait for love

forever and a day.

In some ways mice are better prepared than humans for journeying into space.

Dying fall

Mice can fall from any height and live.

They may not have some problems sorted out.

Re-entry, burning up, and oxygen;

supplies of cheese,

space sickness pills,

but never need to think about

the fall that kills.

Town Planning

The Tiled Victorian Toilet at Rothesay

Tiled Victorian edifice at Rothesay,

Oh Edinburgh has desperate need of thee.

Does not this literary festival

call out for thee, or thy facsimile?

But thou, who never wilt accommodate

as many clients each year as fill these seats,

could’st reassure the anxious queues that form

at erudite events and endless signings.

Do not remain the privilege of few,

a modest toilet born to flush unseen.

The sludge-man comes and night miasmas blow

faint fragrant hint of medieval air,

while I remain here contemplating you,

beside this mobile loo in Charlotte Square.

The war on terror.

When my grandmother was in her nineties, she lived with two of  her daughters, the eldest being in her seventies. At this time there was a letter-bomb scare and my grandmother was said to have insisted that her eldest daughter open the mail.

Part 1.

First in, last out

I’ve said before

that men are all the same,

you should know that.

They’re all the same,

these men,

they only want one thing.

They just don’t care.

They want to see us

blown to bits across the breakfast room

and plastered on the walls

like silver shred.

So tear it open up quickly

Taking care, while I

just look away.

Slide anxious fingers down.

I’ll hold my breath.

It’s what your father,

     bless him,

would have done.

So pass my glasses dear.

Slice up some bread.

Now drink your tea.

Part 2.

Another duty was to look under the bed for men.

Palely loitering

And, another thing.


are so despicable,

they only do their worst

when we are most defenceless.

in the night, perhaps

How would you find it if

when you began to reach

under the bed

for the smooth white china handle

of the chamber pot

you found


the clutching fingers of a work-worn hand?

Crime and punishment

After receipt of the following complaint from a Mr W. Blake, further investigations have cast new light on the incident.

I asked a thief to steal me a peach.

He turned up his eyes.

I asked a lithe lady to lie her down.

Holy and meek she cries.

As soon as I went an Angel came.

He winked at the thief

and he smiled at the dame

And without a word said

had a peach from the tree

And twixt earnest and jest

Enjoyed the ladye.

Peach Jam

There was something out there and I wanted it soon

and the one man to get it was ‘Fingers’ Colquhoun.

I had plenty on him; I said, here’s the plan,

for a slice of the action, spring this from the can.

He was down on his luck. He needed the bread,

but all that he got was a helping of lead.

He’d forgotten that Greengrocer Joe was in town

and was stewed in the juice with the lid screwed tight down.

I went to find someone I thought could explain,

a renegade nun, Sis. Severa McCane.

She had been trained in very strict orders

and was running a rest-home for overnight boarders.

She showed me her card; this was some wild dame;

this chick was a sister who’d been on the game.

But, no doubt about it, she knew about fruit,

ex-nun in a house of a certain repute.

She’d been working the late shift and looking dead-beat,

I said, lady you should take some weight off your feet,

but she made a suggestion I will not repeat.

I was turning to go because here was a broad

much further up-market than I could afford.

The phone rang. Who? Angel-face Jack, Send him in.

So here was an angel who knew about sin.

She threw off her habit, it slipped to the ground,

and boy I have seen some habits slip down!

But this was no chassis you’d meet in the street,

she was wearing more hide than an old three-piece suite.

She picked up a whip and said, Buddy, Get Lost!,

or you’ll find yourself paying a share of the cost.

I hid by the door, he came in

with his pale yellow teeth in a wall-to-wall grin,

his one twitching eye and his hair thick with grease;

I could tell from his walk he was toting a piece.

He’d come round to squander some dough he’d just ‘earned’.

So had he been present when ‘Fingers’ got burned?

You’re a very bad boy, you’ve been in the trees,

I told you before, now get down on your knees.

He tried to reply, ‘It was only a joke’

Don’t answer me back, you’ll be sorry you spoke.

You know what we do here to boys who won’t learn.

If you think you can stand there and speak out of turn,

one hand in your pocket, one twisting your hair,

you’ve another think coming, bend over the chair!

But he had such a pitiful look on his face,

that I found myself wishing I’d taken his place.

It was warm, I was caught in a very tight spot

and that’s when I found I was losing the plot.

His obituary in ‘The Times’ claimed that Eddie Stobart was the second best-known Cumbrian after Melvin Bragg. However a case can be made that, after Wordsworth, he ranks alongside John Peel.. Apparently many enthusiasts have enrolled themselves as honorary members of an imaginary Eddie Stobart Society.

D'ye ken John Peel when he's far, far a-way.

Father of the Man


Eddie Stobart’s dead!

You left us Eddie,

second best-loved Cumbrian.

No man of letters, yet you named them all;

Ruby, Joyce, Belinda, Ermintrude,

and single-handed polished every wagon in the morning light.

You enrolled us and we won’t forget you,

Edward son of Eddie,

Eddie’s son.

Yes Edward, son of Eddie,

third chip off the block,

your colours, red and yellow,                       

hunting green and white,

your drivers in their uniforms, immaculate,

you, in your worn grey suit,

who raised them from their beds so soon

that we could only follow in their wake,

and, true to form,

your horn was burnished, ready, but unused.

But now the sound of engines revved at dawn,

of Cranefruehauf and Norbert Dentressangle

may waken us;

it will not waken you.

Yet we won’t let you pass upon your way unsung,

Leading the pack, your rainbow logo makes the heart leap up,

though you are home before us Eddie,

Eddie Stobart,

Eddie’s son.

Personal column


Always the same!

when I say that I am growing grapes in my conservatory,

Will you be making wine?

What must they think of me?

An old man, corpulent, bloated,

who floated up against the ceiling,

spilling from his golden goblet,

streams of crimson liquid,

intercepted in mid-air

by laughing cherubs,

or an elegant satyr who leans,

one elbow on the sideboard,

talking to a lady

with explaining eye,

naked and greedy,

and wants to take his goatskin trousers off,

but never can.

The Poor, In Spirit

St. Peter looked up from his ledger

and his heart leapt.

It was Joe Bloggs in his clapped-out Ford Cortina.

He who,

all his life,

had only wished to go from A to B,

had finally arrived.

St. Michael and the angels gathered round.

Jesus wept.

Storm in a teashop

To be read aloud by two (lady) speakers: No. 1, No. 2

and together:- 1 leading and 2 leading.

What were you thinking when you heard that ‘news’ ?

I thought, Good gracious me, what are we coming to !

I’m not a one to talk, but all the same!

To say that here! You’d think they had no shame,

Oh yes, it’s not as though they needed to:

I quite agree. I’m sure we always knew

when to speak out, or when to let things be -  

but these are modern times, I blame T V

Of course. That’s right. It might avoid a row

to get it all out in the open now -

the soonest done, it could save pointless stress

before the other party starts to guess?

But they might answer, this is nothing more

than idle gossip, coming from next door.



1 Echo Location at Waverly Station

2 The argument

3 Culture Channel  

4 Jerusalem 1, UK 0

5 The Beatific Game

6 Bank Lady Blue  

7 Quantitative Easing  

8 Hadrian’s Wall

9 Oilseed Rhapsody

10 Shadows

11 Even in Antland

12 Goldcrest

13 Landing on Eros

14 Dying fall

15 The Tiled Victorian Toilet at  Rothesay

16 First in, last out

17 Palely loitering

18 Peach Jam

19 Bacchanalialia

20 Father of the Man

21 The Poor, In Spirit

22 Storm in a teashop