On Day Six… #limerick

Esther has prompted with ‘neck’ and this is the result…

A furious God held the first scrotum

In front of his hapless factotum.

‘Why didn’t you check?

They’ve used turkey neck.

And what use is an opposable bum?’

Posted in humour, limericks, miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Week Thirty-Six: 2022

A week of official mourning and a bit of gardening. Everything seems to be on hold, politics especially. It makes for an oddly echoing sort period, normal things done to a background of abnormal quiet…

Since the coffin arrived from Scotland and moved to Westminster Hall, it’s been about the Queue, that never stopping snake along the south bank that I’ve walked so many times. And the live feed of the lying in state as mourners of every size and shape, hue and creed pass by and pay their respects or merely stare in fascination at this bit of history in the making.

It’s like slow TV, engrossing as the pace of one’s mind slows. You find yourself picking out a face at the top of the steps and following him or her (or them) until they reach the coffin and have their moment.

You know, if there’s one change I’d like the King to make it’s to end the use of the curtsey as a form.of acknowledgement. It’s an awkward, antiquated piece of ephemera that has passed its sell by date. Just have everyone bob their heads, please.

The Queue became its own meme and will be replayed in future many times but if there’s one thing I’ll remember it’s the flummery of peacock coated military and royal household persons as they take part in the formalities. The scarlet and gold coats, the thousands of feathers and yards of bearskins and polished leather. I have no clue what regiments are involved but that’s OK. It makes what would otherwise be entirely sombre something of a celebration, a fancy dress party.

And I like that idea. When my mum and dad died and we buried them, there were a few tears but generally we worked hard to celebrate lives well lived.

And for all the sombre notes, for me I’d like to celebrate Her Maj for a life well lived. Thanks Ma’am, it’s been a blast.

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The First Half Of September Or A September Of Two Halves #garden

We started in drought and have moved into soggy saturation. Almost. Dust bowls have gone, replaced by forests of grass and a revived set of sunflowers, straw flowers and, well, pretty much every flower.

There’s been a fair bit of tidying up and we’ve removed a ton if irises from the pond as they had rather exceeded their remit. Now to decide with what to replace them.

I’ve been pretty much on my own, as the Quilt Show is next weekend and the Textiliste is being pulled every which way.

At least Dog is still there to support my efforts.

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Thoughts On The Monarchy

The death of one monarch and the accession of the next inevitably triggers a pause for thought. Several thoughts.

Most immediately, why did I feel emotional at different points over the last few days? I’ve never been an ardent monarchist; I’d not queue to see one of their family and while I’ll belt out the national anthem at a sporting event, I’d belt out Bob the Builder if that was our national anthem. I’ve often said of our own rather jingoistic anthem that it’s not its lyrics or tune that appeals but its brevity.

And the Queen was old, approaching Methuselah on the ageing spectrum. So no one was going to be surprised at her passing, though its suddenness has had something to do with the sense of slight bewilderment. We might have imagined a few days or weeks of increasingly sombre statements from the palace that would prepare us, not a photo of the Queen looking twinkly eyed a couple of days before as she accepted Liz Truss as her umpteenth PM.

I think it is in part the unfamiliarity of this event, a passing of the monarchy, a succession which even state events like the death of the Queen Mum and Prince Phillip didn’t involve. Very few of us would remember the last time as any sort of comparator. I tried a thought experiment: imagine King Charles dying in the next few years. How would we react? The same set of traditions would be evoked, the same clearing of the TV schedules but the public’s response? Would it be so intense? Would so many queue?

As an aside this mythologising about the British love of queuing is grating. I’ve seen many other nations queue with a ferocity we couldn’t imagine. Standing at an American lift station waiting to return to the top of the mountain requires an intricate knowledge of one’s personal geography. It may seem as thought there is no specific structure to it, but move ahead before you allotted moment and the hissing invokes a nest of rattlers and delay by a split second and the ‘Hey Bud, are you with us?’ Tells you, like no other accent that you’d better shuffle forward the allotted yard ‘right now’. Coming from the French approximation to a human magimix as one is pushed and prodded into gaps smaller than those between my teeth before being spat out in front of a chair that requires both timing and unbruisable thighs to mount safely, it is quite a thing.

No, we queue and we moan at having to queue; those two go hand in glove for we Brits. That’s what makes this time, as many file past the coffin lying in state, so exceptional. We queue but as far as I can make out, we aren’t moaning.

And how would we see King Charles in his demise? What cliched status would we attach to him? With Princess Diana it was the People’s Princess, with the Queen it is becoming common to hear people call her the Nation’s Grandma. Charles? The Nation’s slightly irritating and know-all uncle who’s made more annoying for often being right, perhaps? I’d love to think the reinvention of King Charles will enable him to receive a better, more affectionate moniker, but I do wonder if his history of barbed comments will make that difficult.

It has also been of interest that few of the natural opponents of the Monarchy have popped their heads above the parapet. The republicans amongst us have dipped their heads, mumbled stuff about how as an individual you have to admire what the Queen managed to do over her reign and sloped off to the pub. They’ve not stopped republicanising, of course. They’ll be back, banging on about class and elitism and empire and how the monarchy epitomised all that. And in a curious way, they are right but not as they intend it. Today, for many, Britain is a place of opportunity. No, of course those opportunities aren’t as wide spread as they should be or we would wish, but they are far more widely available than in 1952 or in hundreds of other countries around the world today. We, as a nation, rightly rail against those denied opportunities through poor schooling, awful home lives, bias and prejudice. We are appalled by the evils of modern slavery, of course. But we revere the servitude we willingly impose on one family. Oh sure, if you are born royal you get to occupy some castles and landed estates, dress in sumptuous jewels if that is your thing and avoid queuing. I imagine one thing every member of the Royal family would find challenging, if they escaped their captivity would be traffic lights: they’d never have stopped for a traffic light in their lives.

But like giant pandas, we get excited when they breed, we want to view the new borns. They are born into captivity just as much as Chi-Chi and Ann-Ann were; they are held behind bars, just as the gorillas are at London zoo. They get the best food, excellent veterinary care and plenty of marvellous frocks. But the freedom to be where they want, when they want and how they want? Hardly. What if a successor was an atheist (please)? How’d that go down in our judgmental press and mealy-mouthed media?

But if they try and leave, we vilify them or those perceived to have driven them out. We see them in binary colours; good and bad. The Queen is currently a white hat but think back to Aberfan and the death of Diana and she was, if not a black hat then sporting a fetching shade of dark grey. The latest examples are Harry and Megan; families fall out but when this one does there is nowhere to hide. Everything is picked over in a very public gaze.

Whatever one may think of Megan and her victimhood and new agey pontificating on Spotify – nope, I’ve not listened to her podcasts but read the snotty reviewers so I’m as bad as anyone, falling to judgment without proper research – you have to sympathise with a life never to be lived in the quiet again. Sure her mistake was to indulge the self harm of marrying into the monarchy but her reaction to what that entails is all rather human. The fact that the new Princess of Wales keeps her cool and her counsel says a lot for her determination, resilience and fortitude. Made of steel, that one, methinks.

Let’s be clear: I’m no republican. I admire the Queen wholeheartedly and, indeed the new King for playing out their roles where they haven’t ever had a choice. It’s extraordinarily cruel of us to do this to anyone. Andrew’s behaviour has been egregious and gross and he deserves a heap of approbation but the miracle is not that he has turned out the way he has, but that more haven’t. Maybe having equerries and footmen numbs one to one’s reality.

No, despite this I’d keep the monarchy because, if I’ve learnt one thing in my several years on this rock it is be careful what you wish for. Without the monarchy we’d still need a head of state. Our PM, arguably has too much power as it is, but give them the sort of powers vested in, say the US President without the history of how to control it, the history of working out how the checks and balances function in practice in a society not used to such a structure and things would rapidly deteriorate. It took the French five goes to work out their preferred republican structure, and even the American’s needed a civil war and umpteen amendments to their mythologised constitution. And if we slipped in another figurehead, like, say the Irish, who’d we get? Like Groucho Marx refusing to join any club that would have him as a member, I’d fear that those who might make a decent fist of it – a younger Sir D Attenborough, say – would be too intelligent and self aware and avoid putting themselves forward. I’d fear it becoming the repository of failed political lackeys or a stepping stone to high political office. I doubt it would cost us much less than the monarchy either without the resulting boost to tourism and tea towels, though the National Trust would probably benefit from a few more stately homes in which to instal their tearooms.

I remain steadfast in admiring what the Queen did; I’ve been fascinated to hear what her still surviving PMs said about their weekly audiences. Some talk about the wisdom shared, some the humour and the opportunity at times of major stress and crisis to take some time out with someone who’d seen many crises before. I wonder if, in truth, it was the fact that it brought home to them the essentially ephemeral nature of their position when compared to hers that counted most; it acted as a check on the egos of those who thought themselves most powerful at that moment. Monarchs in Britain today have little power and a lot of influence, mostly by just being there, being a living and breathing representation of continuity.

But what a totally shitty job it is. Seventy-one years and no retirement. Bloody hell, no thank you even if you get to make films with Paddington and never have to queue to get home after another English defeat. I’ll happily accept my place in the moaning multitude as the doors close on another train, leaving me to grumble in the rain…

Posted in miscellany, thought piece | Tagged , , , , , | 37 Comments

When Is A Door Not A Door? #writephoto

this week’s writephoto prompt is

‘Oh. Good morning. My name is Charleston and…’

‘You’re not one of them Jehoshaphats, are you? Can’t abide them, trying to flog me a water tower, when I have a perfectly adequate cistern…’

‘Do you mean Jehovah’s?’

‘That’s what I said, didn’t I? Jehoshaphats.’

‘Witnesses. They’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.’

‘Well, I ain’t seen nothing and no one came make me say I did. I was working, or degreasing the wife’s archipelago.’

‘I think we are drifting away from the purpose…’

‘So are you flogging me a water tower or not? Cos I ain’t inclined to buy, not from any old Tom Dick or Harriet who comes barging their way in, without so much as a by your leave, like they own the place, all high and mighty and la-de-dah.’

‘La-de-dah?’

‘Oh yes, bloody elitist, I call it, like yer BBC and yer Grauniad, smug bastards, come over here, taking our marmalade…’

‘I really do think we’ve drifted away from the purpose of my…’

‘So how much is it?’

‘Is what?’

‘Yer water tower.’

‘I’m not selling anything. And I think you’ll find it’s a watch tower, not a …’

‘You spying on them, communistics at number 48, are you? That why you need a watch tower? Cos it’s about bloody time. I’ve been telling Petunia for years that the way he grows his marrows is dead dodge, all that manuring in the third trimester…’

‘Marrows don’t have trimesters.’

‘Expert is you, cos I’ve had just about enough of your experts and correspondents and what have yous, coming over here, taking our…’

‘Yes, you said. I need to know…’

‘That’s what I told Petunia, last week, during Bargain Hunt. It’s all need to know these days. You know, the other day I was at the greengrocers – odd fellow, that Simon Sayes, walks like a cucumber has invaded his…’

‘Please… this won’t take a moment. I was told to come to the red front door…’

‘Why come here then?’

‘You have a red front door.’

‘No we don’t.’

‘I’m sorry but your front door is very clearly scarlet and…’

‘No it ain’t.’

‘Isn’t.’

‘Isn’t what?’

‘I’m sorry, I have a very specific urge to correct grammar.’

‘Well, I’m with you there, Pal. My Gramma was a right old didact, correcting my aitches and telling me the Prime Minister was an alien. But if I corrected her… oh my! She went off like a Saturn Five on a cabbage diet.’

‘About your front door…’

‘Serbian larch. Very knotty, them Serbian coniferouses. Not easy to cut but you try breaking through it. Bloody near impossible. Go on. Give it a kick. Try and damage that, Mr You Have A Red Front Door, why don’t you?’

‘But you do have a red front door.’

‘It’s green.’

‘I… no, it’s not. It’s red.’

‘Ah well, see, you may have a proper heducation unlike me but you don’t know your sages from your scarlets. You’re not the first, mind.’

‘I’m not?’

‘Nope. You won’t know this… why would you, unless you have a passion for the history of the Little Tittweaking women’s caber tossers.’

‘Tossers?’

‘Well, I imagine some were, but most were housewives with biceps like granite outcrops and energy to burn.

‘How…?’

‘It’s the sweat, see.’

‘The sweat?’

‘Creates a miasma. Makes them what’s not used to it colour blind. Seeps out of the rocks, so it does. They’ve done tests.’

‘Tests?’

‘And hexaminations and hanalysises and whatnots. So when you see red, as it were. You see what I did there?’

‘Sadly…’

‘Anyway, you see red when its green and vicar verses. You want no. 48.’

‘The communistics?’

‘As it happens.’

‘And their door is red?’

‘Green to you. But, naturally, being communistics, they’d want it red.’

‘Right. Well, I’d better…’

‘Word to the wise.’

‘Yes?’

‘They’ve got a water tower. Bought it from the last chap. Probably not worth mentioning it.’

‘Thanks.’

*

‘He’s gone then?’

‘Yes.’

‘Tea?’

‘Yes, please. Any red bush?’

‘We’re out. There’s some green…’

‘Why not? You can hardly tell the difference…’

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, little Tittweaking, miscellany | Tagged , , , , | 24 Comments

Limericks: Those Awkward Rhymes

This week’s prompt is ‘church’ from Esther

When an ascetic churchwarden, called Bunt

Found out what they’d done to his punt

Which was covered in baubles

He said, ‘Bless my corbels;

Whoever did this must be some sort of an artist.’

Posted in limericks, miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

A Good Death #99wordstories #carrotranch

This week’s prompt from the Carrot Ranch is

September 12, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about balloons on a bumper. Is it a spectacle, an occasion, an eccentricity? Why are the balloons there? Who is involved? Go where the prompt leads!

Harold Cottonbud, Little Tittweaking’ infamous aviator, always wanted to fly. As a small child he made wings from two wire coathangers and Sibelius, the pet chicken’s feathers. Sibelius’ complaints on being defeathered, if not melodious were certainly symphonic. As for flying, Harold’s ensuing faceplant offered the denuded bird the chance of some avian schadenfreude. Finally, Harold devised a foolproof plan, attaching helium balloons to his toy car’s bumpers. As Harold disappeared skywards, Sibelius’ clucks became chuckles, while locals used ‘what goes up, stays up’ to connote stupidity. In time Harold became renowned in Little Tittweaking as a ‘stupid plucker’.

Posted in #99wordstories, Carrot Ranch Congress of Rough Writers, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, little Tittweaking, miscellany | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Accidental Love #terriblepoetry

Chel Owens is back on her terrible poetry schtick with accidental love.

This is more accidental poetry…

She elbowed my nose

Trying to make sourdough.

It broke. My nose, that is.

‘It’s just a dent…’

An accident

She took the car

To test her new glasses.

‘The tree came out of nowhere.

It’s a little bent.’

An accibent

The nice man with the moustache

Sold her a shiny bond

And cleared us out.

‘Every flaming cent.’

An accicent

We got it back on insurance.

She lent it to her brother

To start a platypus farm

In Adelaide

With a former Love Island contestant

Called Bouncy.

They don’t return her calls.

An accilent

I love her for her baking, her resilience, her openness and her family loyalty.

They say I’m mental.

I say it’s an accimental love.

Posted in humour, miscellany, poems, poetry | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

Week Thirty-Five : 2022

Well that was a week of 2 halves. I was sitting in my seat at the Oval cricket ground watching the rain pulse down when the news began to filter through of the Queen’s failing health. By the time play was abandoned for the day at about 4.30 the senior Royals were flying to Balmoral and you knew this wasn’t good.

I think it was the suddenness that caused the sense of personal grief that hit me. There was no lead in, no time to adjust. Of course, at 96 you knew she didn’t have decades but her mother made it past 100.

She has been ubiquitous, part of everyone’s wallpaper. I never saw her in the flesh, never lined a street or pressed against a railing but her presence was a constant and her constancy an ever present. There’s a silhouette in the national backdrop where once she added colour – and boy dd she add colour with her lilacs and lemons and peaches and pinks. You can’t be beige as a monarch if you need to be easily spotted – I wonder how our new King will address that piece of pragmatic protocol?

The cricket continued on Saturday – everything was too raw for Friday to happen – and there was some debate whether any sport should take place during this period of mourning. The Queen – indeed her whole family – enjoyed their sport and in the end only football cancelled. I’m glad I went. The communal sense of something defining was palpable.  Though it was very strange to sing God Save the King for the first time in my life.

The ground was pindrop quiet, sepulchral almost during the minute’s silence and then the applause, continuous and considered. It went on and on, only stopping when the players were in their places and ready to play.

The ground dressed in black, even the scoreboard reflected the moment. And it was sort of back to normal… sort of.

We’ve had a lot of rain too. The garden is perkier, I’ve rediscovered pullovers and anoraks and umbrellas. At last. I promise never to moan about rain again.

Behind all this we also have a new Prime Minister and an eye wateringly large support package to try and take the sting out of the upcoming winter fuel crisis. Right now, that and all politics have disappeared. It won’t last. It mustn’t last but for now there are more momentous things to think on.

Posted in 2022, thought piece | Tagged , | 28 Comments

Thoughts On The Rain

The flowers, a riot of colours,

Crinkle wrapped,

Sit sentinel, gently rotting in the sun

As a curtain of rain squalls across the tarmac,

Pixelating the blossoms to abstract.

Eyes turn skyward,

Anticipating the rainbow,

Mirroring the display,

Now dank, gripping the floor.

A sigh,

Seismic and gentle

Ripples the crowd.

Tears replace rain

Icing cheeks

With unexpected sadness.

The news, when it came

Shock absorbed the daily grind

To leave each eerily detached

From the anchors of our mundanity.

The rain comes afresh

Mixed with clouds

And sun

And hope.

The old reign ends in tears

And begins in hope.

Posted in miscellany, poems, poetry, thought | Tagged , , | 32 Comments