Monday, 24 December 2012

Slow Acting Poison

All hail! Ye Heroes of besmirch├Ęd skin,
Festooned with all thy markings erudite!
Recalcitrant and wayward types unite
Behind the foetid artwork of The Pin.

Hurrah! For all thy scribblings sentimental:
The children’s names so lovingly misspelt;
The Chinese word for “TWAT” across your pelt;
The daubings mixing kitsch with elemental.

Rest not until your dermises are hidden,
Your dignity abraded by these scars.
You’re priceless, like a mass-produced Ming Vase;
Your body now a disconcerting midden.

(And when you’re done with inking all your skin,
The Ironmonger’s punctures can begin…)

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Oh, Rubbish Choir!

Oh, Hark! Oh, Hark! We hear The Rubbish Choir!
The words are indistinct. The singing? Dire.
Oh, Hush! And Shush! The Rubbish Choir is singing.
Discordance and disharmony they’re bringing.

Oh, Choir! Oh, Choir! So natural, sharp and flat,
As musical as next-door neighbour’s cat.
Some think they’re rather sweet, some think they’re cute,
But I just think they’re better when they’re mute.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Touch Line Coaches

Three cheers for those who brave the cold,
To voice opinions brave and bold!
Who stand there bravely shouting brave advice,
As brave as chickens, scaredy-cats and mice!
Their words are so courageous!
Their bravery? Contagious!
Examples of the highest bravery,
From voices brave and never quavery!
These bravest of the brave, this touch line fray,
Who tell their unbrave children how to play!

But some would say they are not brave,
Who brave the cold to rant and rave
And bravely yell at children playing sport.
They are not brave, but thick, proceeds the thought.
For who, this thought might say,
Would waste the time of day,
On commentaries of total junk?
On spouting sporting bilge and bunk?
It’s children playing games, you massive dolts!
So leave them be; stop pointing out their faults.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Do Not Stand at My Desk and Weep

(after Mary Elizabeth Frye)

Do not stand at my desk and weep,
I am not moved by tears so cheap.
I do not care for sobs and sighs;
I am not touched by leaking eyes.
When you lament, “It isn’t fair!”
I will not say to you, “There, there!”
The list of things that I must do,
Concerns me more than your, “Boo, hoo!”
Do not stand at my desk and weep,
I’m marking books; your tears can keep.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Opposite of Boring isn’t Fun, The Opposite of Boring is Interesting

The biggest crime, according to progressive education,
Is teaching children factual information.
That’s right, you heard it here first:
Teaching children factual information is the absolute worst.

Barely has a child’s first day in school begun
Than he learns the fundamental precept of progressive education, 
   namely: Forget the Facts, Pump Up the Fun!
Fun! Fun! Fun! Just think of all the fun! Away with the tedium of hard 
   work and perseverance,
The lesson must be fun or The Fun Police will be putting in an 
That’s right: The Fun Police are in control,
Trying to make Education the New Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The Fun Police, by the way, are inspectors, whose job it is to go into 
   schools complaining
That there’s far too much teaching and not nearly enough entertaining.

When you teach them English, don’t make them learn the parts of speech,
No – leave linguistic awareness beyond every child’s reach;
But do give them a certificate
To celebrate being illiterate.

When you teach them science, dispense with Bunsen burners,
In case you set fire to your eager little learners.
These days, The Most Fun You Can Have in Science
Is answering multiple choice questions about Health and Safety 
A cause of far more merriment,
Than any difficult experiment.

When you teach them French, don’t make them learn any actual words;
English children speaking French sound like trainee nerds.
“Excusez-moi, Monsieur, parlez-vous le Francais?” No! Give that child a 
Get him to do something utterly pointless, I mean fun, like colouring in a 
In whatever colour he feels it ought to be decorated,
(To suggest otherwise would be both elitist and antiquated).

Whatever the subject, the story’s the same:
Attendance at school should be one, big, fun game.
Which is just the sort of half-arsed thinking which leads us 
   mild-mannered teachers to go round spitting pedagogical invective,
For we all know that learning doesn’t have to be fun – it simply has to be 

Friday, 31 August 2012

I looked above and wondered

Observe the sky, the time of day is not
important. Whether morning, noon, or night,
direct your gaze above the tops of trees,
above those hills, and listen to the notes
of nature with your eyes. Observe the sky.

Select each shape, each line, each tiny dot
in turn, and contemplate the voice of doubt
which asks, “Is any of this real?” then seize
that question; make it look with open eyes.
                                                Observe the sky.

Of course it’s real, as real as any “What?”
or “Who?” or “When?” or “Why?” Or maybe not.
Accepting life is just illusion frees
us for a while. “It’s real” becomes a phrase
of dust. We never stop. We will not wait.
                                                Observe the sky.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Stopping Time

It seems that stopping clocks cannot stop time.
I tried it just this morning. Tick, then tock
(you know what’s coming next: another tick,
another tock; repeat until the end
of time). ‘Remove the battery’, said a thought.
‘Stop time’. The irritating din I thus
un-dinned, allowing me some silence. Tick,
then tock. Another ticking clock to stop?
‘Remove the battery’, said a thought. ‘Again?’
I thought. The irritating din I thus
un-dinned, allowing me some silence. Tick,
then tock. ‘How many clocks does one room need?’
I thought. Not three (you might imagine three
was quite sufficient; you’d be wrong), but six.

How many ticks and tocks will leak from
not just one but six clocks? Five too many; five.
I’ll spare you all the details, save to say
that some time later, all the clocks were stopped.

Returning to the task in hand (a poem),
I sat in clockless silence; tickless, tockless
tranquillity. The poem wrote itself,
as poems often do, and when that final
impression on the paper had been made,
I looked towards the mess of clocks upon
the dresser. Tick, they didn’t go, nor tock;
and though I had forgotten all about
the time, forgotten every second, let
each minute pass, unnoticed, into hours,
until a morning had been lost to writing,
I saw that time had quite forgotten all
those clocks, and moved towards its destination,
regardless of the absence of clock motion.

It seems that stopping clocks cannot stop time,
‘though writing makes it vanish altogether
(if only for a morning). You should try it.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


The Sistine Chapel is, more or less, stunning,
Helen of Troy’s face was known to set heart-rates running,
Many a Mozart ditty
Has previously been called quite pretty,
And the Taj Mahal looks rather splendid,
As does a broken Ming vase (once it’s been mended).

The majesty of a sunset can seemingly stop time,
There’s even a certain elegance in a well… placed… rhyme,
A Steinway Grand still looks cool, even if you upend it,
The phrase “And then things got ugly” has little to recommend it.

Most people would agree
That the first time you catch sight of the sea
After driving with a carful of children for several hours
Couldn’t be more beautiful if the horizon was made of flowers,
Which, in turn, were being watered by multi-coloured rainbow showers.

Beauty is all around us:
In nature, in life, and in art, Beauty is on hand to constantly astound us.
If a poetic defining of Beauty is what you’re after, for my money, nobody 
John Keats:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness.

Which does make me wonder
About the linguistic competence of people who will insist on using this 
   monstrously inaccurate blunder:

“The Beautiful Game”?

Thank you Mr Pele,
For coining this ridiculous and inaccurate epithet to describe what is little 
   more than a ninety-minute melee.

Football? Beautiful? Really?
Not even nearly.

Twenty-two dim-witted thugs, all abnormally fit,
Run around a field doing one of two things: play with a ball, or spit.
“Did you see Wayne Rooney’s perfect lob?”
“No, mate; I was too busy watching David Beckham gob.”
“Yeah, his free spits are amazing; talk about Expectorate it Like 
   Beckham…what a shot!”
As another square inch of the hallowed Wembley turf is covered in 
   mucus and snot.
Some players, like Zola, may only be little,
But look at the things which they do with their spittle.
“And Ashley Young shows us why he has a reputation as a diver.”
“Oi Ashley, your shirt’s all covered in saliva.”
“The referee’s booked him; he’s not about to quibble.
It’s one thing to spit, but to stand there and dribble… without a ball?”

I’ve never been to a pre-match talk,
But I imagine the coach stands next to a blackboard, holding some chalk,
Which he uses to write just one word: Hawk.

They probably don’t do a FIFA coaching badge in aesthetics.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Destroy the plants. Lay waste to all that’s green:
each vicious, thorny branch; each overgrown,
ambitious, overblown and too-tall nettle;
the scratching, scraping, stinging, silent army
of pestilential chaos; terrorize
the undergrowth with garden fork and rake;
wield secateurs in safely leathered hands;
annihilate the deadened stump which waits
to trip; and halt this garden’s never-ending,
incessant, slow, perpetual growth. Complete
this pastoral devastation, until all
that’s left is pinned-back, black plastic, concealing
the surface: brown, uneven, halted, still. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Bear with the Musical Face

Beyond the triangular telephone tree,
At the edge of the land where the skies roam free,
   Where the hat birds sing in French,
And the sleepy flowers dream,
As they drink their tea from a lemonade stream,
   Whilst hiding their feet in a cranberry trench,
By an almost-rainbow’s beam…

Throughout this lost enchanted place,
There walked a Bear with a Musical Face.
   Two eyes of E flat minor,
Eight notes which stretched from ear-to-ear,
Which played, once a day, for those who might hear,
   A tune as frail as china,
Which could make a stone shed a tear.

The Musical Bear had a beard made of strings,
From violins, guitars, and triangle ‘tings’.
   His eyebrows both were flumpets,
And he played his tune on a wordless flute
(For words were never his strongest suit);
   It hung from his forehead’s trumpets,
And it whistled a magical “Toot!”

But the Bear wanted lyrics to go with his song,
Without them he thought that the tune sounded wrong.
He took up a pen and he wrote down some words,
Which he showed to some two-faced and fabulist birds.
“Bravo!” they all smirked, as they clapped, and clapped hard,
As if he was some kind of Genius Bard,
“The words what you’ve writed be ever so smart;
They bypass the brain and go straight to the heart!”

Emboldened by all of this false acclamation,
The Bear sang his song as a grand celebration:
“O! Sing with me! Sing FA-la-la-la!
   Sing LA-la-la-la!
And OO-la-la-la!
   And you mustn’t forget to sing TRA-la-la-la!”
Sang the Bear as he played on his Magical Flute,
(For words were never his strongest suit).
And all of the creatures from near and far,
Followed the Bear as he sang, “Tra-la-la!
Two nautical chickens, a squadron of geese,
A squawking baboon and a not-yet-dead fleece,
Two toe-tapping tapirs, a wallaby’s whelp,
Four sharks, and a woodpecker covered in kelp,
An ant from Alaska, a dolphin from Mars,
Some devious mice who enjoyed stealing cars,
A hare, seven piglets, a horse, and a skunk,
And an unwashed red panda who looked like a punk;
All of them heard, as they followed along,
The Bear with the Musical Face sing his song:
“O! Sing with me! Sing FA-la-la-la!
   Sing LA-la-la-la!
And OO-la-la-la!
   And you mustn’t forget to sing TRA-la-la-la!”
Sang the Bear as he played on his Magical Flute,
(For words were never his strongest suit).

Then the Bear with the Musical Face sat down,
As his flumpetty eyebrows knitted a frown,
For he’d tried to find words to go with his flute,
(But words were never his strongest suit).
He ended up sitting there, staring; quite mute.
“Fa-la…” he began, to the notes of his song.
“Fa-la?” he thought, “That’s surely quite wrong.
“I cannot write words,” he thought, “though I’ve tried.”
And he sat and he cried and he cried and he cried.

But as he sat down crying musical tears,
A musical sound reached his musical ears:
“O! Sing with us! Sing FA-la-la-la!
   Sing LA-la-la-la!
And OO-la-la-la!
   And you mustn’t forget to sing TRA-la-la-la!”
Sang the animals all, to the hills and the sky,
For none could bear to hear the Bear cry*

“O! Sing with us!” they sang as they danced,
“Oh! Sing Fa-la-la!” and the animals pranced,
They hopped and they jumped and they leapt and they sprang,
And they sang and they sang and they sang! and they SANG!!!

“We’ll make up the words as we sing sing-along,”
All the animals sang to the notes of his song.
“We’ll sing of the land where the skies roam free,
And the Fluffalumps nest in the marmalade tree,
   Where the frangible aardvarks wait,
While the paradox moondogs bark,
In time to a garrulous quark,
   And all that you hear is ignored by Fate,
And stars are on hand to light up the dark,
Whenever it gets too late.”

And the Bear jumped up and he played along,
To the magical words which went with his song;
And the animals sang as he played on his flute,
(For words were the animals’ strongest suit):
“Beyond the triangular telephone tree,
At the edge of the land where the skies roam free,
There walks a Bear with a Musical Face,
And you’ll hear him if only you come to this place.”
Like a heavenly choir, the animals trilled,
And the Bear with the Musical Face was thrilled.
“What joy,” they all sang, “to live in this place
And sing with the Bear with the Musical Face.”

(*It sounded like Schoenberg, if you’re wondering why)

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Little Knowledge is a Tedious Thing

There is a certain type of tedious, pedantic dullard, who, when confronted
   with a wrongly positioned possessive apostrophe,
Will declaim, in loud, dramatic tones designed for all to hear, that this is a
   monumental catostrophe.
Any reasonable person might have thought that just because one small piece
   was missing from the puzzle of someone else’s education,
This wasn’t necessarily a forewarning of the imminent and total collapse of
   the whole of Western Civilization.

So anyway, a little later, when our dullard, 
Has recovard, 
You make your mind up,
To engage in a little pedantic wind up,
And use the word “stadiums” in a big, booming voice, loud and clear,
So that our tedious, pedantic dullard could not but hear.
Quick as a flash, the t-p dullard falls into the trap you have set. “Aah-ahh-
Surely you mean Stadia?!”
To which you reply that, being English, and therefore a follower of the rules of
   English grammar, when making a singular word plural you invariably add 
   an ‘s’,
And that changing the word ending to an ‘a’ to signify a plural would create a
   most unnecessary syntactic mess.
To which they reply, falling further into the trap, that, "Stadium is a Latin 
   word and one should therefore use the Latin plural if one wished to be 
   grammatically proper",
At which point you apprehend them, like a grammatical copper,
For, you point out, Latin words change their endings not just for plurals but
   also for the nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, ablative and dative,
And this could get really confusing if, every time you wanted to use a Latin
   word, you thought it necessary to speak Latin like a Latin native.
The Romans, you point out, really hitting your stride, would not have said “to
   the stadium” but something like “stadio”, neither would they have said, “of 
   the stadium” but perhaps “stadii”, so if you wish to avoid this semantic and 
   syntactic mess,
Well, then, shut up about pluralizing Latin words with an ‘s’.

Not to be defeated, the pedant then rails against your use of a noun as a verb,
As if there could be nothing on Earth quite so absurb.
“Who,” they scoff, “would be such a butcher of the English language as to 
   turn a noun into a verb?” and they wait in gleeful superiority as if to their 
   brilliant riposte there is no reply,
And you say, “Why,
Surely a certain Mr William Shakespeare was very fond of the whole noun-to-
   verb transformation?”
Highlighting yet another gap in the pedant’s education.

Now, the pedant, if he has any sense,
Will swiftly move to the other side of the pedantic fence,
And recant his former pedantry,
As a state of mind which is equivalent to being intellectually sedentary.
Pedantry, he will have realized, really, is cheap and ineffectual,
As a way of trying to appear innallectual.
The former pedant will hopefully have learned that the answer to this
   question: “How often is pedantry genuinely clever?”
Is, “Never.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


It’s such a personal thing:
Those pieces of music which make you want to kill someone instead of 
   making you want to sing.
I don’t mean the sort of mild irritation
Brought on by being subjected to the latest tv-manufactured teenybop 
Harmless, vapid, a little bit annoying;
Half-way through hearing it for the first time and it’s already sickly and 

No – music cannot be truly offensive which is instantly forgettable 
   and bland;
I’m talking about the songs which set fire to your adrenal gland,
So that you want to run around the streets screaming at the top of your 
   voice: “Join with me to defeat the forces of darkness and evil; together, we 
   can be the nemesis,
Of really shit bands, like Culture Club and Genesis.”
‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ Well, if blow-torching that song caused 
   you pain,
Then yes – I wouldn’t be averse to hurting you: again, and again, and again…

And that’s just for starters.

The same ignominious fate
Really ought to be lying in wait
For the vast panoply of million-selling hits,
Which are the auditory equivalent of a dose of the shits,
Like ‘Careless Whisper’, where George Michael gets all sentimental and 
Whilst inexplicably replacing a melody with a malady.

I can almost hear the Shit Hits Fan whining right now:

“But I really like ‘Careless Whisper’ and ‘Come On, Eileen’,
My all-time favourite song is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen,
And the best band of the last ten years is a toss-up between Coldplay 
   and Keane;

“ ‘The Final Countdown’ is awesomely rifftastic,
Anything by Cliff is just totally fantastic,
And no way are Take That manufactured and plastic.

‘The Lady in Red’ had me swooning deliriously,
‘Candle in the Wind’ always moves me so mysteriously,
And the high-point of the Eighties was Phil Collins’s ‘But Seriously…’.”

Seriously? I mean… seriously? Was it?
Because I think this drivel needs to be driven right back into the 
   Shit Music Closet,
Whence it sprang, along with all the other mindless musical crap,
Like Hair Metal guitar solos and White Middle-Class Rap.
Not feeling enough suicidal despair tonight?
Just open up the Shit Music Closet and out tumbles Phil Collins singing 
   ‘In the Air Tonight’,
Which, you’ll notice, is sitting right next to ‘Ebony and Ivory’ and 
   ‘The Frog Chorus’,
Two songs which really ought to have been called, “Please, Please 
   Ignore Us”.

These songs have scaled the pinnacle of commercial success,
And yet artistically are little more than an over-produced, tune-shy mess.

The silver-lining of these sonic rainclouds, though, is that they highlight one 
   of the most profound truths that Humanity has ever faced:
Namely, Hell isn’t other people, but rather, being subjected to 
   Other People’s Musical Taste.
You think I’m wrong?
Then come on over to the party at my house tonight; I’ll be playing 
   The Smiths and Morrissey all night long.