Trick or Treat?


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Frankenweenie (2012 film) poster.jpg

(A seasonal re-blog, folks- enjoy!)

It was Hallowe’en and Carrie’s children were hyper-excited.  Tiger-Lily was

in charge of her siblings.  She had dressed as a witch and her brother,

Ferdy, was carrying a plastic trident and sported horns.  Ming had a

black plastic cape and his smile was rather disconcerting as he had

managed to retain plastic fangs from a Christmas cracker in his mouth,

in spite of the additional dental obstruction of a brace.  The whole effect

was akin to Frankenweenie.

Bill was a white-faced zombie with fake blood dripping down his jaw.

Edward’s face was green and he had a screw sticking out of his neck.

Rollo was a Ghostbuster.  Dressing up in clown costumes had been


All carried pumpkin lanterns and empty, be- ribboned mini-trugs, for

the reception of donated goodies.

Now be polite, children, and only visit the houses on High Street.  Ring the

doorbells once only and say thank you if anyone gives you fruit.  You

mustn’t accept money…

Edward looked disappointed. I’ll wait round the corner in The Peal O’

Bells with the other mummies.  Stay together and when you’ve finished,

knock on the window.

Let’s go to Grandma’s first, said Ferdy. She won’t be scared of us.

Yes, let’s get it over with, said Tiger.

They rang the doorbell and stepped back politely.

Suddenly a white-sheeted figure with two black holes for

eyes opened the door and shouted: Boo!

Little Edward was terrified.  He seized his sister’s hand and

dropped his trug.

It’s only Grandma, silly, said Tiger, annoyed at the naughty


Trick or treat, Grandma?

Ginevra pulled the sheet off and smoothed her hair.

We’re not having that American nonsense here, she lectured.  When

your daddy was small he had to do guising properly.  We’re a traditional


So, who’s going to do the first turn?

Turn? quailed Rollo.

Yes.  A  recitation, dance or song.  You don’t get owt for nowt as

they used to say.

What’s a recitation?  asked Ming.

Come in.  I’ll show you, said Ginevra enthusiastically.  Ola! Have you

put the apples in the basin of water?

But Ola wasn’t there.  She had run off to Bric-a-Brac with Jean-

Paul, the opportunistic widower from the twinning visit.  Ginevra

had forgotten her new carer’s name.

Sorry.  Magda, then.

They all trooped into the sitting room and Ginevra moved her

case of Dewlap Gin for Discerning Grandmothers off the sofa, so that

they could sit down.

She took a deep, somewhat juniper-scented breath and launched


Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought Death into the world and all our woe…

Sing, Heavenly Muse!…

Two hours later Tiger had to shake Edward awake as their

grandmother uttered the final words:

..through Eden took their solitary way.

Ginevra bowed with a huge flourish and pronounced:

Paradise Lost: now that’s poetry!

She then proceeded to help herself to a bag of Mars bars which

Magda had been instructed to purchase for the children.


Grandma, we’ve got to go.  It’s past Edward’s bed-time, said Tiger-Lily


Oh, what a pity.  We didn’t get round to ducking for apples, said Ginevra,


There’s always next year, replied Tiger, scarcely banishing a rather

un- grand-daughterly thought: If the old bag is still around.

Carrie was frantic:  Where have you been all this time?

Blame Grandma, said Tiger.  Give her any opportunity or a platform and

you’ll be there all night.

You should have taken the crucifix and the garlic, like I told you, said

Carrie, bundling them into the 4×4She’s always been a monster.

Even to Daddy? asked an exhausted Ming.

Especially to Daddy.  Never mind.  We’ll have good fun at Clammie

and Tristram’s Guy Fawkes Party.  Burning effigies is so therapeutic!

Location, Location, Location


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Sorry, Cindy, this a re-blog!

Clammie had succeeded in getting her own way, as usual.  Tristram, her longsuffering husband, had been instructed to come home early from work, even though there was a big contract in the offing, as she had arranged a viewing of the eight-bedroomed, double-fronted Georgian house in High Street, Suttonford- (the one she had lusted after through the window of Shelley’s Estate Agency.)

Tristram had been unenthusiastic-understandably so-, given that their outgoings on school fees and mortgage were already crippling them financially and they had not even put their own home on the market.  So Clammie had brought in the big guns, namely Kirstie and Phil from the programme, Location, Location, Location.

Tristram was on a hiding to nothing and he knew it.  He had dutifully returned early, but Clammie had already smoothed most of the logistical difficulties by arranging for her boys to go to an early screening of Skyfall with Brassica and her twins.  Scheherezade was going to stay over at Tiger-Lily’s to work on their joint art project, while listening to One Direction.  Seven pm was an annoying time for a viewing, but Kirstie was a busy woman and that was the time they had been given.

Clammie had laid out his best, but casual Boden gear and then she had spent most of the afternoon trying to look cutting-edged, but understated.  This meant that she hadn’t organised a meal for their return, so Tristram telephoned and placed an order for an Indian takeaway with Benares Balti House.  He just hoped that the salt content wouldn’t do irreparable harm to his kidneys.

When Kirstie- certainly not understated- opened the door and ushered them into the hall of Nemesis House, Clammie fell instantly in love.  It would have made more economic sense if she had fallen for the rather dishy cameraman, but they squeezed past him as if he was invisible and the first soundbite to be recorded was Clammie uttering the totally original : Wow!  She then produced the suspect sentence that she had been invited to use in order to promote the programme:

Our priority is Location, Location, Location.

The camera focussed on Tristram, but not picking up the appropriate expression, swivelled to Clammie again, who said:

The large kitchen-cum-dining room has just the dimensions we crave for family bonding at mealtimes.

Kirstie felt she had it in the designer handbag, so she allowed them to go upstairs with Dan, the cameraman and then she texted Phil, who was sinking a pint in The Peal o’ Bells around the corner.

Get butt here pdq.  Sense sale.  Wild card not needed.  If no deal will eat espadrille. Kirstie addressed him differently off-camera.  She’d been on her feet all day and so she slipped off her wedged platforms and cooled her stockinged soles on the Welsh flagstones in the kitchen.

WIGWAM Woven Espadrille Wedges

Phil thought: In my own time, hussy.  (He was enjoying a third pint of the local micro-brewery’s Old Badger and was getting the low-down on the market from some of the locals.)  However, he knew all about being shown the red card, so he drained the glass, wiped the froth off his upper lip and hared it round the corner.

Clammie rushed into the kitchen, flushed and exclaiming:

Most of our furniture would fit and a lick of Little Greene paint would cover the cinnabar in the hall and the cardamom in the boot room.  Listed Building Permission for a few things and hello! –I mean, Voila! – Our Forever Home!  She looked into the lens, hoping that the entire nation would recognise her bilingual skills.

So you want me to phone Shelley’s in the morning to make an offer?  Kirstie could see a sunbed featuring on her horizon.  I think we should go in at the asking price.

Tristram wanted to put his foot down, but he knew that even Rumpelstiltskin could have put his foot through the floor and it would have made no impression on his wife.  The cameraman gave him a sympathetic look.  Both women ignored him.

Phil let himself in with the spare key.  Before he could enter the kitchen a make-up girl powdered his receding hairline.

Quick work, Kirstie, but just before you get too excited, I have something to say.  Do you want the good news or the bad news?

I don’t like these infantile games, Phil, Kirstie scolded, nodding to the cameraman to switch off.

A guy in the pub has just told me that the owner of the Balti House put in a good offer this afternoon and they’ve taken it off the market.

What did he offer? shrieked Clammie.

The full asking price, I believe, said Phil, who just wanted to go home.

But we would have offered more. Gazump them! screamed Clammie, turning the colour of Vindaloo.  Clearly she planned Montezuma’s revenge.

Sorry, said Phil.  He sealed the deal with a promise of complimentary poppadoms for life.

Kirstie spat, Poppadoms are SO last century.  It was difficult to make out what she was saying, though, as true to her word, she was beginning to eat her espadrille.

It dawned on Tristram that Balti, along with something else, was going to be off the menu for a very long time.  He hoped Kirstie and Phil, or the cameraman and make-up girl, might like a doggy bag at eight thirty. Meanwhile, the indignity of it: he would have to join the queue for pollock and chips at Frying Tonite.  He’d never get the smell out of his new Boden Chinos.


Addled Strop


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(Adlestrop station sign in bus shelter, 2007.


photo: Graham Horn)


Yes, I remember Adlestrop-

the name, because, quite uncertain,

of its precise pronunciation,

I referred to Richard Burton


(You Tube.)  Was that a mistake?

Once yclyped Tatlestrop, I trow-

where Repton landscaped Thomas Leigh’s lake.

‘Lee’, or ‘Lay?’  I don’t really know.


The church -St Mary Magdalene-

or should I call it ‘Maudlin?’

was linked to the Dukes of Chandos

(Shandos?) [ note to self:  Google the Bodleian]


Now I’m getting into a strop.

As for Twistleton-Wykham-Fiennes

of Tedestrop, or Attlestrop

or Tiddlestrop, it is like Heinz


Fifty-Seven Varieties.

It is hard to get it all off pat.

So, the present Lord Saye and Sele

shortened the whole shebang to ‘Nat.’

Ruskin Falls


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Millais Ruskin.jpg

(Portrait of John Ruskin by Sir John Everett Millais



Another poem lost in the archives, which might be

worth a re-blog…


They thought I was in contemplative mood

when I gazed at those lichens and bubbles.

In fact, non-consummation makes one brood.

Damned rain exacerbated our troubles.

Effie assiduously sewed red cloth,

her hair crowned with a garland of foxgloves,

while Everett circled her like a moth,

the pair of them billing like turtle doves.

You’d look like a hyena if your wife

was trailing around the Trossachs like that.

You’d feel that you could take a palette knife

to the one against whom she leant and sat

for hours, reading Dante, while he drew.

And, having him cooped up in that snuff box,

tickling her with fern- as if I misconstrue.

His doodles made me uncomfortable.

He’d come in damp from studying these rocks,

clutching his oils, sepia ink, sable

brushes, teasing her, calling her Countess.

She even trimmed his hair for him one night,

collecting the blonde curls on The Witness,

some Edinburgh newspaper, not quite

read by William, or myself.  And his hand

was bandaged because the fool had injured

it, trying to make unstable stones stand

in the stream, for her to cross.  I’d endured

enough by then.  I watched the salmon leap

in Glenfinlas waterfall and pondered

what they were sowing and what they would reap.

They played battledore in the barn, wandered

the moors and bogs.  He said chilly mountains

made him love soft, warm breathing bodies and

all the while it incessantly rained- rains!

Do they think because they are in Scotland

the normal marriage vows do not apply;

that they can shelter under a shared plaid

and return soaking with another lie?

The bubbles have all burst, I’m afraid.

I stand in the midst of this turbulence.

Passions, torrent roars: I counter silence.

The Kisokaido Road- after Hiroshige


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More haiku to match the previous post!


Geese over the bay

curve through harboured boats’ masts, dark

against a full moon.

A firework’s flare

falls smoking over the bridge

where the daimyo passed.


People don’t notice

the moonbeams through transparent

petals of blossom.


In rain some wear capes

made of straw.  Their parasols

point towards the wind.

The temple precinct

is ankle deep in crisp snow.

Pipes are lit at fires.


In a timber yard

Chows sniff each other: a tryst

beneath the lanterns.

Kimono hitched high,

a woman turns round to check

if her friends follow.

She is well balanced

on her little platform shoes

under louring skies.



After The Stations of the Tokaiado Road- (Hiroshige)


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Getting into haiku.  Must have been after my post on The Perpetual Calendar.

First Cuckoo of the Year at Tsukudajima - Hiroshige

Cuckoos fly the coast

from Edo to Kyoto.

It takes him three weeks

on foot, through high rocks,

where shrines hang in opaque mists.

In the riverbed

Fichier:Hiroshige Man leading an ox between mountain slopes.jpg

a man leads an ox.

Travellers huddle in clefts:

their sticks cast shadows.

File:26 - The Oi River Between Suruga and Totomi Provinces.jpg

Nude swimmers transport

goods on rafts over the river.

Fuji dominates.

Ayasegawa kanegafuchi

Against a plum sky

boats are poled past willows

in reedy waters.

A crescent slice hangs

below a suspended cobweb

bridge, which straddles the gorge.

Someone is carried

in a wicker hammock, under

austere battlements,

by men with crampons.

In the night they find their way

by white marker stones.

The Perpetual Calendar


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We have just had Harvest Thanksgiving, so here’s an

old creation for you, in the manner of a Medieval Book of



The Perpetual Calendar

In January

he drinks by the fire,

mulling things over.


An icy landscape:

he raises his sharp axe blade,

then floats logs downstream.


March is for digging

and setting seeds in the fields;

sowing what they’ll reap.


A flowering branch

is borne in April:

fertility sign?


Hawking is fine sport,

though not as lively as love-

but the bird is faithful.


Hats keep off the sun.

It is the month of mowing.

All flesh is as grass.


Sickles cutting corn…

thick- fleeced sheep need to be shorn.

It’s hot wearing boots.


Threshing with a flail,

his mouth set in a grim line

of concentration.


Now vintage is here.

Grape clusters are as large

as those in Canaan.


Birds snatch winter seed

as fast as he can sow it.

Is there no respite?


Knocking down acorns

provides some variety

and will plump his pigs.


Pig – sticking’s grim work:

a December catharsis-

feasting, then fasting.



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A re-blog as a friend of mine has just returned from

St Kilda. I have always wanted to go there, but, so far I

have only managed to travel there in my imagination.  I

have been to the Melbourne alternative!


Beyond the map, for months inaccessible,

except to nesting puffins on sheer stacks.

Once fearless, prehensile-toed men, able

to grasp guano-stained granite; to steal chicks,

abseiled, avoiding foul seagull spittle,

with straw ropes, to find food.  They fixed strong cleats

into bare rock, until the press prattle

brought voyeuristic tourist hordes in boats,

who wondered how men lived by sun and tide;

how those who’d never seen a rabbit, bee,

snake, apple, hard cash, earned their daily bread,

herding Stone Age sheep around the bleak bays,

anointing newborns’ umbilical cords

with vile, regurgitated fulmar oil,

which lit their candles.  They looked backwards

to William IV, before they set sail

for forest work (who’d never seen a tree).

Disease-rid, the surviving thirty-six

were taken from their archipelago

of Ultima Thule, to be shown like freaks

in geographical publications.

Now they wore tweed and lay in feather beds,

conformed to the Victorian fashion,

dictated by a different choice of needs.

But, in their souls they heard the clash of waves,

knowing they’d built their houses on the sand.

Whenever they were told that Jesus Saves,

their thoughts wandered to their Promised Land.


Sin Tax


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When I was a student we had to read The Grammarian’s Funeral

by Robert Browning.

Today I have just returned from singing at a wedding and I thought

I’d re-blog this oldie, also on a grammatical note:




Sin Tax

Marriage was revered as a conjunction;

two main clauses fused by a word like and.

God-joined pairs could not, without compunction,

split an infinity forged by a band.

A compound subject was most’s intention,

instead of being the mere complement

of a life sentence (with much declension).

No male nor female, said the Testament:

the adjunct was as Christ loved the Church, so

husbands ought to love their wives as their own

bodies… but that was centuries ago:

things don’t change through imperatives alone.

Most wives still suffer subordination:

bound morphemes.  Eve’s sin tax?- affixation.

National Poetry Day


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For all you agnostics out there who don’t want to make poetry history

a re-blog:


All his life the sinner cried,

Ah dinna ken ; ah dinna ken.

And when he died, he cried,

Ah didna ken ; ah didna ken.

And the de’il replied,

Weel, ye ken noo.