Conquistador

On my first essay into moveable type.

Clackety and clackety and pick–flick–click:

the music of the press and the composing stick.

Ink upon my fingers and I can’t quite spell –

with upper case and lower case and “Where’s the Ell?”

Calamity! – I’ve dropped ‘em, now they’re upside down –

are these twenty-six commandos or, like, fifteen clowns?

 

Finally! I’ve marshalled ‘em in one straight line,

like Wellington at Talavera: Just In Time;

Sling ‘em in the galley now to watch them row,

and take a beat to think it wasn’t always so –

cuz way before Columbus got his sails unfurled,

one Gutenberg delivered us a whole new world.

 

 

Composing Stick

 

Thanks to the John Jarrold Printing Museum in Norwich, and to Paul Welters.

 

The Pirate who couldn’t say ‘Arrr!’

A lipogram
 
I’m a gentleman dandy of hot and high seas:
I sail as I like, and I steal what I please!
With my leg made of teak, and a patch on one eye,
I devastate shipping – my black flag flies high
above islands and inlets, the whole Spanish Main;
of all fat wealthy galleons, I am the bane!
 
But I’m thinking of quitting – though not out of choice –
this lifestyle of mine will play hell with the voice:
all the salt in the winds, all that shouting “Avast!”,
(plus the gunsmoke you swallow while climbing the mast),
that takes quite a toll on the lungs, don’t you know –
which isn’t conducive to daunting one’s foe.
 
See, last week, off the coast of the Île de la Vache,
I spotted the sail of a ship filled with cash.
So we chased up abeam of this affluent sloop,
and, with cutlass and pistol, I swung to the poop;
I attempted a yell, my most awesome-est shout
but to my amazement – nothing came out!
 
No, all that came out was a soft, gentle “Ahhh…” –
Why, they laughed me post-haste back to old Panama!
Oh, the giggling, the gibing, the taunting, the shame!
(Not to mention the damage it’s done to my fame!)
Can I honestly style myself ‘ Jacob the Violent’
when even the kids call me ‘Little Jack Silent’?
 
(with thanks to Leanne Moden and Dan Clark,
from whom I shamelessly plundered the idea)

Writing To Greek Goddesses Isn’t Topical

Written on the eve of my 40th birthday. This is what happens when I smoke weed and read Byron.

 

I’ve puzzled, Calliope, on this twister:
Do you have laptops on Mount Helicon?
Like, one for you and eight for all your sisters?
Oh, not for Facebook; not for Amazon;
but so you Nine can see what’s going on
in all the budding genres of the Arts?
When at your desk – I guess, a nonagon –
do you keep tabs on all the modern charts?
so you can – as of old – inspire creative hearts?
 
Do you, dear Calliope, check my blog?
Or show Urania NASA’s new advances?
Does Clio read, at all, the Captain’s Log?
Does Pitchfork bring Terpsichorean dances,
or iTunes soothe Euterpe’s blissful trances?
Does Polyhymnia glut on Songs of Praise?
Erato gorge on Hollywood romances?
Melpemone – The Archers? Radio plays?
Are social media memes Thalia’s job these days?
 
Or, in this world, digitally augmented,
are there newfangled spirits who are muse
to every nascent art-form that’s invented?
of podcasts, selfies, Vines, online reviews;
computer games, and hipsteresque tattoos?
A goddess for the dubstep fan who clamours,
and one for those who illustrate the news;
for web designers, binary programmers,
and one for all of those unique three-minute slammers?
 
The reason that I ask, sweet Muse, is this:
it seems a lot of work for nine of you,
and at your age, it frankly takes the piss,
how you can manage that I fail to do!
I struggle with technology, it’s true –
and neoteric gimmicks leave me cold;
I’ve friends enough to help me bimble through,
but ‘trendy’ is a young man’s game, I’m told,
so am I doomed to obsolescence now I’m old?
 
So stay forever young, my Muse, stay young!
and keep my poesy fresh, despite my age;
keep topical the wit upon my tongue,
keep relevant the topic of my page!
See, ‘currency’ to me’s a scanty wage
and I’ve always been lazy (ask my mother).
So help me, Muse, when here upon this stage
I choose to stand (it seems I can no other) –
stay young, au fait, and cool – so I don’t have to bother.

Sol the Troll

A Revolting Rhyme

 

Some rhymes are good, some rhymes are bad,

and some are happy, some are sad;

some rhymes are witty, dry, and droll;

and this short rhyme’s about a troll.

 

His name was Solomon, and he

was not as nice as you and me –

he lived a grumpy life, alone,

beneath a bridge made out of stone.

His face was snarling, full of hate,

his eyes were large as dinner plates,

his hair was lank and dank with grot,

his nose quite small, but caked in snot.

His gnashers were a fearful sight

(he filed them pointy every night);

his skin was rough and tough like leather,

his chest was barrel-wide,  however ­–

his waist and tum were so minute,

despite the fluff, you’d think them cute.

For Sol was cursed with tiny belly

(well that, plus he was awful smelly) –

his stomach was so miniscule

that Solly struggled, as a rule,

to keep enough nutrition in it,

so Sol was hungry every minute.

 

One day, when he was picking over

the bones of some poor dog named Rover,

our hero/villain (what you will)

espied atop of yonder hill

a goat come trotting down the ridge

and make a beeline for his bridge!

A joyous Sol leapt out and cried,

“Drakdrak! Othangu! Gikkenschneid!”

which means (translated from the Troll)

“Ye Gods! I am a blessed soul!

O Fortune bounteous, ’tis thee

I thank, bestowing lunch on me!”

(For Trollish speech, though quite impassioned,

in English sounds a mite old-fashioned.)

“Come meet thy doom, young goat!” Sol cried,

“I’ll eat your elbows, gently fried!

I’ll eat your gizzards, lightly seasoned–”

 

“You could do that,” the sly goat reasoned,

“I’m so, so small – of course you could!

The question is though: if you should?

See, I’m the third of three goat brothers,

and I’m much slimmer than the others!

Yes, I’m all skin and bone – no doubt! –

the other two are fat and stout:

they’re both back up the road a bit,

why not eat them, and let me split?”

 

With tiny tear in massive eye,

a shocked Sol whispered, in a sigh,

“Betray your brothers! Oh my word!

Why, that’s the vilest thing I’ve heard!

You’d serve me up your closest kin,

and just to save your scraggy skin?

You must be crazy, must be mad,

when even trolls can think you’re bad!

Have you no loyalty or shame?

Well, I’ll not play your twisted game –

a lonely troll like me would kill

to have some brothers… So I will!

Because of what you tried to do,

I’m going to eat all three of you!”

 

And so he did – the thin one first,

all wrapped in sliced-up pepperwurst;

the second goat was somewhat fatter –

Sol ate him fried in ale and batter;

the third – despite humongous size –

was gobbled down with curly fries

(well, all except a leg for later,

left warming on his radiator).

But after goat, and chips, and beer,

Sol’s tiny stomach felt quite queer:

it rumbled, grumbled, made a sorta

strange noise, like farting underwater.

It swelled and stretched – Sol feared the worst –

and with a splat! his stomach burst.

 

The chips and sausage filled the river,

the bridge was sprayed with Sol’s own liver;

his legs just wobbled to and fro,

as bits of Solly fell like snow.

His eyeballs sank a passing boat –

and all around was stinking goat.

Yes, so much goat, that to this day,

they call it “Goaty Goatplace Way”.

 

And there I’ll end this little rhyme,

(the cast’s all dead – we’re out of time);

The tale of Sol, so sad and smelly,

whose eyes were bigger than his belly;

a lonely troll, like many others,

who wished that he’d been born with brothers.

21 Beers of Latitude

What to pack, by year:

1. Tent, beer.

2. Tent, sleeping bag, beer.

3. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow, beer.

4. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow, change of T-shirt, beer.

5. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow, roll mat, change of T-shirt, beer.

6. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow, roll mat, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, change of T-shirt, beer.

7. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow, roll mat, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, toothpaste, change of T-shirt, beer.

8. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow, roll mat, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, toothpaste, toothbrush, change of T-shirt, beer.

9. Tent, sleeping bag, pillow, roll mat, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, wacky sunhat, change of T-shirt, beer.

10. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, roll mat, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, wacky sunhat, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, beer.

11. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, pump, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, wacky sunhat, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, beer.

12. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, pump, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, paracetamol, berocca, massive bottle of water, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, wacky sunhat, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, beer.

13. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, pump, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, wacky sunhat, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, change of pants and socks, beer.

14. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, pump, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, tins of beans, juice boxes, plastic forks, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, wacky sunhat, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, change of pants and socks, beer.

15. Bigger Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, pump, Hula Hoops, Kit Kats, tins of beans, tin opener, juice boxes, plastic forks, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, sensible sunhat, torch, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, change of pants and socks, beer.

16. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, pump, Hula Hoops, breakfast bars cuz Kit Kats keep melting, tins of beans, tin opener, juice boxes, plastic forks, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, sensible sunhat, torch, change of T-shirt, change of shorts,change of pants and socks, beer.

17. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, pump, Hula Hoops, breakfast bars cuz Kit Kats keep melting, tins of beans, tin opener, juice boxes, plastic forks, kettle, stove, tea bags, plastic mugs, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, sensible sunhat, torch, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, change of pants and socks, beer.

18. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, electric pump, Hula Hoops, breakfast bars cuz Kit Kats keep melting, bananas, tins of beans, tin opener, juice boxes, plastic forks, kettle, stove, tea bags, plastic mugs, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, sensible sunhat, torch, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, change of pants and socks, beer.

19. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, electric pump, Hula Hoops, breakfast bars cuz Kit Kats keep melting, bananas to be eaten on the first day cuz they keep going off, tins of beans, tin opener, juice boxes, plastic forks, kettle, stove, tea bags, plastic mugs, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, Pimms, lemonade, fruit for Pimms, plastic glasses (as if that weren’t an oxymoron), toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, sensible sunhat, torch, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, change of pants and socks, camping chairs, earplugs in case you end up camping next to some theatre types who sing show tunes all night, beer.

20. Tent, spare tent pegs, mallet, sleeping bag, pillow, inflatable mattress, electric pump, Hula Hoops, breakfast bars cuz Kit Kats keep melting, bananas to be eaten on the first day cuz they keep going off, tins of beans, tin opener, juice boxes, plastic forks, kettle, stove, tea bags, plastic mugs, paracetamol, diarrhoea tablets, berocca, massive bottle of water, Pimms, lemonade, fruit for Pimms, plastic glasses (as if that weren’t an oxymoron), toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, soap, suntan lotion, sensible sunhat, torch, change of T-shirt, change of shorts, change of pants and socks, camping chairs, radio to listen to Test Match Special, Magicool (have you tried that shit? it’s awesome), earplugs in case you end up camping next to some theatre types who sing show tunes all night, beer.

21. Campervan.

 

 

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