Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Marvellous Alphabet

A cautionary tale on censorship - I'm not sure where this one came from, but I could hazard a guess. We had a creative writing exercise to write a lipogram - where we had to write some narrative excluding the letter E, so maybe that's the inspiration. The modified Wordsworth quotation came first, so it's likely, I suppose.

The Marvellous Alphabet

All praise to the marvellous alphabet!
It’s wonderful what it can do:
Arranging those symbols in different ways,
Depicting the sounds that we glue
Together to construct a series of words,
Representing our thoughts and our deeds;
To express our meanings to one and to all,
To pass on our concepts and creeds.

But what if some letters should become taboo?
We’re always told what we should think.
What if each day we are told we can’t use
One letter to save us some ink?
We wouldn’t discriminate – t’wouldn’t be fair.
We’d take it in turns to ignore
Particular letters each day, one by one.
But limiting though, to be sure.

Yes. You could quote Wordsworth, ignoring a U:
“I wandered lonely as a clod”
But, fun as that is, beware: don’t be swayed
As placed on your back, it’s a rod.
By using austerity as a big stick
It’s freedom they’re taking away.
It’s censorship hidden in monet’ry terms;
It’s limiting what you can say.

So embrace your marvellous alphabet
Ignoring the government howls.
Value each letter, each consonant group,
Each diphthong from pairing your vowels.
Develop your words and write what you will,
Communicate thoughts and ideas
And enrich the language, make sure you maintain
The freedom we’ve held all these years.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Building Bridges

Steve at Walmsley Bridge, 1876The following poem relates to the glorious summer of 1976 when my parents would take me to Walmsley Bridge, together with my two pals. Each time we went we'd spend the entire day building a makeshift bridge, never actually getting around to playing on it.  

Building Bridges
(Walmsley Bridge, 1976)

Remember days of warmth and light
When cares ran free and hid away?
The times when we would reunite,
That everlasting holiday?

The shallow stream in which we stood
The water playing round our limbs;
To wiggle toes and feel the mud
Adapting to our slightest whims;
To feel the pebbles ‘neath our feet
And watch the ripples grow and hide
As slowly we would walk, replete
With satisfaction, side by side.

Each time there we would mastermind
A plan, convinced it was unique,
To build a bridge from what we’d find:
From fallen branches, cross the creek.

The larger stones that we could shift,
(Strategic placement in the stream) 
Some heavier than we could lift,
We’d roll them, working as a team.
A branch we’d place across each pair,
Or more than one if they were thin;
With smaller rocks that we’d find there
We’d take great pains to wedge them in.

I’d hear the water change its route
To rush at speed between the stones
And then I’d watch it distribute
The floating twigs to calmer zones.

For hours on end we’d work like ants:
The watching sun would change its view
Of three young lads with dampened pants:
A holiday construction crew.
But then we’d hear my parents shout,
“Hey! Come ashore and dry your feet,”
We’d had no chance to test it out:
At least the building was complete.

Friday, 14 March 2014


The Poetry Show on Fylde Coast Community Radio is having Sir John Betjeman as its featured poet this weekend. Hence the inspiration for my poem, below.

A point of interest: the show is starting to be uploaded to Soundcloud, which is a benefit for those unable to catch the live broadcast.


I’m thinking of having some landscaping done
As damage from ice and the frost has begun
To lift up the gravel – I have to assess:
Is Betjeman really the way to progress?

I’m thinking of watching the Cheltenham Cup;
To risk a few quid as the horses line up.
I have my suspicions – the final furlong:
I Betjeman oats – they won’t last very long.

I’m thinking of breeding my pedigree dog.
I’m checking the listings, the Kennel Club log,
But it’s not too easy – I have not yet found
The Betjeman tending to choose for my hound.

This thinking of driveways and wagers and hounds:
Unusual. Possibly this gives me grounds
To think it’s subliminal; books I have read:
It’s Betjeman’s name that I have in my head.