Go and catch a falling star:-  Donne

Whether or not Pluto is a star, or has in any sense fallen, is beside the point because it has now been revealed as one of the most beautiful and surprising objects in the gallery of the solar system.


Nothing could be older, or more remote, than Sunday suits,

hanging in dusty darkness

until they turn to dry silvery life,

like a comet ascending to its moment of glory

leaving a sparkling trail,

the head turned one way

and the wings (in this case)

turned the other

before descending to the deep folds of space,

a cosmic wardrobe,

an Oort cloud of clothes

hidden beyond the orbit of Pluto.

The evocative odour of naphthalene (moth balls) was as much a memory of church-going as the sound of the organ, or the words of the Te Deum.

Patrick Moore was an inspiration to astronomers throughout the world, but surprisingly no object in the weird Pluto system has yet been named after him. A man gifted with near-perfect pitch and whose love of music lead him to chose Sibelius’  magisterial ‘At the Castle Gate’ as the introductory music for ‘The Sky at Night’, once asked to spot the royal relationship between a piece of music and a picture, he unerringly identified a piece by Walton, but failed to recognise Our Queen.

Some watcher of the skies

(A tribute to Patrick Moore)

His well-tuned ears recognised her theme

but to his eyes

the Queen.

was nothing like the sun,

the moon

the planets,

or the stars.

Yet he once stood alone before a Castle Gate,

and passion overwhelmed.

But in his pilgrimage,

so sweet, no hearts would break.

He journeyed thirty thousand days and nights.

Among his flock he counted

many a woman true and fair;

He showed them wondrous sights

and thoughts of things

invisible to see and now

they mourn him,

grieving one and all.

Then should committees

of the great convene,


and in his honour

find, or else rename

some constellation,

or instead to seek

one returning visitor as strange as he,

that any distant watcher might look up


in the Sky at Night

his comet,


rising in the east.

Some find that discussing the less than perfect driving skills of fellow road users whiles away the tedious hours. Others take their pleasure in criticising signing and road layout, but few would be churlish enough to decry the helpful advice frequently displayed on overhead gantries.


(mark my footsteps good my page, tread thou in them boldly)

forth they went together,

though, in this case side-

by-side and sometimes talking

sometimes not. The sign said


in yellow lights. Silence again until

I wonder if we’ll see it in the next approaching lay-by?


The Winter Weather Plan, of course.

Oh God!

You must be madder than I thought!

You don’t think that it means..

It must, it does. Hold tight and think

(for once) about it all.

I have. I can’t

Just planning what?

Before we left the house? Too

late for that. Or does it mean the winter weather’s there

or up ahead, or here? You need it pointed out!

No, won’t you get it in your head,

They’re only trying to help.. trying to prevent..

the worst, I doubt they could, it’s just

bureaucracy again, a slight upon the driver,

triumph of the desk-bound, no!

instead lets think about the

Winter Weather Wenceslas dot plan.

Plain mad and that is

if he had one to encourage the faint -hearted

who might have wished themselves at home in bed.

One Plan fits all,

in gold illumination


One of the more annoying things about television documentary makers is their addiction to the Walking Shot, as though they believe that that the thoughts of the wise presenter will carry even more weight if he/she is walking briskly and explaining something to someone who is retreating backwards in front of them. Perhaps this panders to a race memory of the behaviour required when leaving the King’s presence.  Annoying as this is, it is nothing compared with the Driving Shot where the wisdom is being dispensed by a man steering a car and turning to talk to someone in the passenger seat. In this case the most annoying part of it is the very thought that it might impress. Strangely enough it is even more annoying if the speaker wears a moustache.

Walking Wounded

See how he goes,

driving and explaining something,

looking sideways at us.

If I were the police,

I would not hesitate.

For justice' sake, put three points on his licence.

Do it now,

as this

is quite a serious offence.

They draw him up;

he winds the window down,

looking sideways with a most intense expression,

lips moving,

but his words do not make sense.

Now he gets out,



walking at us

as though the very sands of time conspire against him.


how he wrings his hands!

The fact that Coleridge’s Khubla Khan remains unfinished is considered by many to be an artistic loss ranking alongside Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony or his even more unfinished Quartetsatz.  

The blame lies with the Person from Porlock who paid an untimely and apparently unwelcome visit. However when we consider The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, one of the works Coleridge did complete, a case can be made that the Man from Porlock interrupted the wrong poem. There is no doubt that the crime of the Mariner’s fellow crewmen did not merit the supreme punishment that they received, and in consequence the moralising of the second part is rather overblown.

Apart from ‘The Man’, Porlock is famed in the cycling community for its hill that leads up Exmore with its steepest gradient being 1 in 4, somewhat reminiscent of the fact that the wedding guest waylaid by the Ancient Mariner as one of three.

Bearing these things in mind it is perhaps time for a reassessment of the contribution of this anonymous and maligned personage.

Person from Porlock

Person from Porlock, you do pick your times,

I’ll give you that. Doorstep clinging, in-the-region man

purveying rhyme and half-ideas to weary writers,

What’s your chat-line then …..

…..‘In a vision once I saw …’

Hold off, unhand me soothsayer man,

I’m short of time, my plan for ending Kubla Khan is fading..

there was a hill … quoth he… so steep

….it’s one in four, or will be when it’s built.

On it I saw fair youths and maidens

riding strange machines with wheels of air I never saw

aught like to them unless it were

round spider’s webs that hang

on window panes or rungs of long

abandoned ladders. They

seemed to be out training for a thing they called

Le Tour de France, the air

is cut away before and closing in around

gives out the force they need,

but only if they stay behind the pack, then make their break.

Many will die, you know, of heat

exhaustion. I

fear thee ancient sporting man!

Don’t worry son, this flesh is real, this bony hand

has never reached beyond the lowest gear. I

find it hard to understand

what you are on about. It sounds

like death in life, as though their souls,

that ought to fly, are dead and hung around their necks.

The cream of youth would never act like that

when there are better things to do.

Oh yes, I know,

but I have seen sad sights of what must come. They hold strange things

and talk to any one at any time

and place and at the finish standing all in line

send pictures home

and Maidens singing to a dulcimer, however amplified,

at Glastonbury Tor, no more

than a short ride away,

will draw in crowds.

It is well-known that the flavour of food and even its nutritional value owes as much, or more, to the eye and to the showmanship of its presentation, than to its intrinsic quality. This must, in part, account for the enormous success of televised cookery programmes. Otherwise the very limited range of expressions available to the taster would inevitably lead to anticlimax. Here two popular personalities, not normally lost for words, attempt to bring this activity to life.

One of the most questionable aspects of the taster’s performance is their ability to load the fork in way that does full justice to the remarkable, and remarked on, arrangement of the food on the proffered plate. In fact the process of loading the fork is rarely, if ever, shown.

Fork Lift

Hi there! So,

what do you think?

then he insists

downward smiling folds  

and lightly round her.

Hands with bright eyes elevating knife,

form forkful,

forcing firm and tooth-white wall-smile,

warm in red-lip fencing.

Mirrored deftly-decorated plate creation enters

moist salivic concentration,

rolled appreciation

drizzled throat reply composes complex finding;


It’s nice!

Voice (sharp through mist and hints at sea-salt flavour,

estuarine) surfaces

first, herself, face ripe with piquant spicy sauce

and glazed, could-be, expression

It’s nice,



jaws move eyes

upwards, down and even round




by finding

depth of this,


It’s nice


It’s very,



That’s good,

he says,

extracting arm

Face dulls,

jaw falls,

smiles cease.

Many quite distinguished scholars have taken to describing past events in the present tense as though they ‘are’ there at the time. This can be a most  irritating habit and one which they must imagine has something to do with ‘style’. The impression it creates is not dissimilar to seeing a person riding a bicycle with no hands, being both skilful and silly and the same time

The Ever-Present

This new tense is with us,

not ‘has been discovered,’ as

there is no ‘has been’ in the Ever Present.

Henry is meeting Anne Boleyn.

He is having trouble with the Pope, but

as he is a man of great resource,

he sorts it out.


is sitting in the Tower

she is wondering why it’s going wrong,

She is having her fine head cut off.

He is having other fish to fry.

Brutus is sticking his knife in.

Cesar is saying,


        et tu Brute!

                      but there can be no dying in the ever now.

Jane is liking history.

Peter likes it too,

But does the dog like history?

That may be the one thing we

are never going to know.

Archaeologists have announced the discovery among Neanderthal artefacts of a bone flute capable of sounding a diatonic scale.

Late quartet

When man was Neanderthal

even then he had a noble soul.

When the young first found pain as a friend

he would wipe tears from coarse little eyes.

If four gathered together

Made music profound as Beethoven’s Cavatina

would they not be equally moved,

though Christ had not yet hung on his cross for them,

who died for us.

The next poem is a tribute to J S Bach, held by many to be the greatest musician of all. For those who love the music, but have no idea what is actually going on in it, the most they can do is to allow it to tell a story and in the way of the greatest art, that story will be different every time it is told.

Unaccompanied cello suite


What a day for embarkation, running with a heavy swell,

though, thanks to Sir Ralph the Rover,

no-one hears the Inch-Cape bell,

going on and on and endless, all for one and one for all,

while the sisters, though benighted, were invited to the ball

and the Prince, in desperation beats his head against the wall.

He has walked upon the water looking for the Holy Grail,

but the slightest undulation makes us stagger to the rail

and the lack of concentration at each ill-perceived event

is quite unlike the aim of one who loiters with intent.

So, when x or y extend out to the unknown z dimension,

all must then confront necessity, the mother of invention.


We will see, though at the moment

I am feeling quite perplexed by my sensing of direction,

whether this or whether that should be the path we ought to take,

and when all the indications predict uncertain outcomes

to the shaping of events and the strangest turns of fortune

start to make kind of sense to the purpose of this journey.

Which is best, and will we see it,

when the omens are propitious

and the storm’s full force is spent?


But come now, let us stop,

let us pull ourselves together

as the weather has improved,

and go down to the hold

to find the book that we have left there,

then relax upon a deck-chair

now before they close the flood-gates.

They are shut,

we cannot do it!

We have left it far too late!


How many times?

How many times!

Lying awake.

Such a mistake.

And the vessel’s endless rocking

till the day begins to break

had much better had been avoided.

Was there something you could take?


It is time to shed illusions, you must tell me how you feel.

Do I hear your stomach rumble?

Have you missed your midday meal?

Let’s partake of light refreshment. If your ardour starts to cool,

they could find some grain and grind it to become a grizzly gruel;

broil a fresh spring chicken in it till the skin disintegrates;

make ethereal concoctions to decorate the plates,

based on coils of salted samphire and a splash of cochineal.


But our figs are glazed with honey

and the night begins to fall

and an ancient aspidistra

casts its shadow on the wall.

Is there something you’re not saying?

Are there things you want to hide?

Do you fear the reef beneath us

that will take us by surprise

when the storm surge has abated and we cross it at low tide?


Best go down to lend a hand now,

as I know what you are thinking.

Take your stint there at the bilge pumps,

if you fear the ship is sinking.

No, the Prince has found the slipper

and he waves it at the band,

and the Captain sounds the siren

and the ship approaches land.

Some years ago a Government proposal was made to revise the Gambling Act in order to set up regional Super Casinos in the UK. These were to be based on the well-known and highly successful American Model, and the then Secretary of State for Culture is believed to have entered negotiations with American Casino experts. The voice that stands out is clearly that of the Prime Minister of the time. Despite the progress made, the project was apparently cancelled when Gordon Brown became PM.

For better, or worse


here’s how it goes,

I bet,

you bet,

he bets;

just see him there, the odd one out,

his back to us,

it is our business to encourage him.

We bet,

You (plural) bet,

They bet,

and that’s the point

there are far more of them than us.

Our slogan is;

A land where every one’s a winner!

I hope that you can go along with that.


So well then!




                                                                             his wife and kids

The caption says,

‘I took them to a little place I knew’.




                                                                    Eiffel Tower!

What do you think?

                             ‘Pardon my French’!  

                                                                      We liked that one!

Still our plan is not to redistribute any wealth we have.

That does no good!

Instead I would remind you of the Indians

on their reservations; in our State

the only ones allowed to run Casinos

And! They have done well.

My word they’ve seen their talents grow

and now agree to bankroll us,

our fiscal debt.

We’re talking Mega Bucks!


Do you accept  ‘Donations’ to your party fund?

You bet!

Many highly successful firms and organisations, in seeking to improve their public image, have resorted to the use of questionnaires to gauge customer satisfaction. This task has clearly been handed over, perhaps even ‘outsourced’, to PR departments whose enthusiasm can often overwhelm the clients (punters). It is not uncommon to read customer evaluations which, while giving the full five gold stars for satisfaction, add, ‘It looks very nice, but I haven’t opened it yet.’ Often the questionnaire does not ask the right questions, but gives no space or opportunity to point this out.

Here’s a how’d we do?

Dear Mr M.,

Our records show

you filed an application form

to use our services

and now we want to know,

‘How did we do?’

Please fill in this review,

it won’t take long; one minute, maybe two.

And please don’t feel the need to be polite,

ingratiation never helps to jump the queue.

Dear Mr M.,

Some time ago we sent you a request to fill in a review,

but to our great regret

you’ve not returned it yet

and we can’t improve our service till you do.

Dear Mr M.

Some time ago you filled in a review

and now we want to know

How did It do?

We need your feedback to review our own review.

Just take the time to answer questions one to ten

on pages 1 and 2.

Dear Mr M.,

Some time ago you helped us to review our last review.

We found (scanning the data sent by you),

in our review and your review of our review of it,

replies to questions 2 and 4 and 6 in your review of our review

conflict, so please download

and then complete

all the boxes on the right

in this supplementary sheet.

Dear Mr M.

We thank you for your aid

in helping us conclude our new

review review review,

but we regret to say that your esteemed request

has gone astray. If you could take a copy from your files

and send it in, it should help out a lot

by telling us exactly

just what it is we do.

Who will question the questionnaires?


1 Moths

2 Some watcher of the skies

3 www.plan

4 Walking Wounded

5 Person from Porlock

6 Fork Lift

7 The Ever-Present

8 Late quartet

9 Unaccompanied cello suite

10 For better, or worse

11 Here’s a how-de-do