Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop


, ,

Now The Husband is getting in on my act. I’m supposed to be

the one who notices things.

Today we were in Wintoncester Cathedral’s Refectory and I spotted

something amusing on their advertising banners.  Actually, I saw

it a couple of weeks ago, but The Husband made the most fruitful

collocation, as it reminded him of Mrs Lovett’s song in Sweeney Todd.

He is a bigger fan of Sondheim than I am.

What caused the mirth and the despair?

Some bright spark had composed the following enticement:

We grow our own herbs, with as much love as our resident monks did

years ago.

They take centre stage in our Refectory menus.

This reminded us of the lyrics:

It’s priest, have a little priest

…..Sir, it’s too good, at least



Not as hearty as bishop, perhaps,

But then again

Not as bland as curate…

Trouble is

We only get it on Sundays

Have you any beadle?

Beadle isn’t bad till you smell it and

Notice ‘ow well it’s been greased.

Stick to priest.

Try the friar.

Fried it’s drier.

No, the clergy is really

Too coarse and too mealy.


Can I help you?

Two resident monks and chips. Salad on the


Orthographical Side-Effects


, ,

(Photo by Pawel Wozniak-

So, you were in school today? Chlamydia asked.  I don’t

know why you keep going in.  You must be a sucker for


Au contraire.  It’s interesting sometimes.

How so?

Well, I was taking in exam papers and noticed some graffiti

on a desk, which said: ‘Ebola surviver.’  The vandal was obviously

infected by orthographical side effects.  Someone needs to write a

research paper on the correlation.

Not you.

No, not me.  I am too busy telling boys who punch walls only to

lash out if the wall hits them first.

Anthem for Doomed Language


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I heard it again, I groaned.


Someone on the radio saying, ‘I was sat…’

Oh, I know, agreed Brassica.  It’s really annoying.

It made me think of Browning’s poem about the

grammarian’s funeral, I reflected.

What’s it called? asked Brassie- only mildly interested.

‘The Grammarian’s Funeral’, I think Anyway, his body is

being carried by his students to an elevated position, suitable

for his entombment.  There’s a lot of ‘leave the vulgar thorpes’

and ‘leave the unlettered…’

That’s not very kind, is it? remarked Brassie.  Browning sounds a

bit arrogant.

Robert Browning by Herbert Rose Barraud c1888.jpg

Never confuse an adopted persona with the poet himself, or

herself, I cautioned.

Well, I bet he was full of himself, rejoined Brassie.

Hmmm, Richard D. Altick said the grammarian was a dead

gerund-grinder, I countered.

Who’s Richard…?

Don’t even go there, I replied. There aren’t so many grammarians

nowadays.  As a group, they seem to have declined. And never speak

to the moniker; only the gerund-grinder.

She didn’t get the jokes.

When I heard that journalist saying ‘I was sat’, what do you

think came into my head?

Candia, how could I ever guess what would come into your

crazy mind?

Maybe you’ve got a point, but it was pure Parry.

Parry?  Bruce?  He’s quite fit- in both senses of the



No, the composer.  Hubert.

Blank look.

(Image uploaded by Tim Riley)

Think Kate Middleton’s wedding.  Westminster Abbey.

Oh, that Parry!  Why?

All I could hear was:


I was sat…

sat’, when they said unto me.

You were NOT!  You were what??

‘Sitting’ is what it should be.

You stayed on that chair for some time,

so, in principle,

use a participle.

The past perfect’s a syntactic crime.

(Editor: This time the imperfect is fine)


You were sitting- ‘sitting’ is what was agreed

is the norm; judged good form-

what Dr Johnson decreed.

All right- a cat might be sat on a Yorkshire mat

and the vowel in ‘sat’ will be probably flat,

but it’s quite simply the wrong tense. That is that!

If you’d refer to the work of grammarians,

you’d have more class;

sound slightly less crass

and not be lin-guis-ti-cally bar-ba-ri-an!


O pray plenteous errors will justly decrease;

solecisms will wither and pall.

Recite declensions with fluency, ease:


and inflect-

shock them all!

You were ‘seated’;

‘seated’ is what is preferred.

It’s definitive,

like the infinitive:

so, ne-ver say ‘boldly go!’

Your feet ‘shall’ stand: that auxil-i-ary will show

your strength of will (in hail or snow);

you’ll be transfixed and simp-ly re-fuse to go.


I was gled.

Gled’ when I spoke marked RP.

Let us go…Tally ho!

into the royal marquee.

Inside I found jem and Jeru-salem

and tried to converge

(but then it emerged)

that the chep I thought was posh- just- made- the- tea.

I was glidding-

glidding‘ when they said unto me:

Let us go….Pedants, ho!

(That’s the subjunctive, you know.)

My feet...reprise

Da capo.

Then I was glud.

Glud‘ when some said unto me,

You’re prescriptive;

so restrictive.

Why don’t you go with the flow?

My heart leapt up as I su-dden-ly re-alised

that I’d been well advised

and parsed with ease, so easy pease, from way back in the mists of Prim’ry Three.

So, vivat Scolastica!

Vivat Grammatica!

Vivat Syntactica!

Vivat Pedagogica!

Vivat Logorrheica!

Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!

You just need an orchestra, said Brassie.

And a choir. And a large cheque book, or a sugar daddy.

I’ll have to ask if one can book Westminster Abbey.

You could reserve a New York venue like Ethel Smyth, the

conductor, or that Jenkins woman, suggested Brassie.

Narcissa Florence Jenkins?

Fits, said Brassie.  The name’s the giveaway.


Florence Foster Jenkins.jpg


Ten Little Children


, , , , ,

What a world we live in! sighed Brassie.

I know.   I couldn’t get this jingle out of my mind, during the

night, I agreed.

What jingle?

This one:


Ten little children

found an old land mine;


and then there were nine.

(Image: 2005 David Monniaux)

Nine little children

stuffed in a crate; shipped

by people smugglers-

then there were eight.

Eight little children,

told they’d go to Heaven,

if they wore a martyr’s vest:

now there are seven.

Seven young children

shared explicit pics.

One went to meet a man

and now there are six.

Six feral children,

unlicensed to drive,

nicked a powerful car

and now there are five.

Five drugged up children

broke into a store;

stole some Ketamine

and now there are four.

Four little children,

outside, running free-

the blonde one trafficked

and now there are three.

Three little children-

just as children do,

trusted youth leaders

and now there are two.

Two little children

found their father’s gun.

One pulled the trigger

and now there is one.

One little baby,

born to show the way,

will greet his true friends

on The Judgement Day.

Image result for baby jesus

(Photo: Jeffrey C Cann)

The Woman at the Well


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

(Currier and Ives image)

Did you see Kim Kardashian’s toddler daughter, North West,

addressing the paparazzi with an authoritative:I said no pictures!’?

Yes.  She looked quite cute in her designer jacket and tutu, but

imagine having to be so media savvy from such a young age.

A lot of girls who are not that much older are desperate to

attract media attention, I remarked.

But some people maintain discretion, Brassie reminded me.  Not

everyone is narcissistic.

I often wondered what Photini would have done after she met

Jesus, I mused.  I bet she wouldn’t have asked to take a selfie

with Him.

Who’s Photini?  Brassie asked.  Her name sounds like something

to do with photos, so maybe she would have sold her story to the local

Nablus rag.

No, she sounded as if she had more respect, I decided.  How

about the following villanelle for an exploration of the encounter?



(Matson Photo Service, Matson Collection,

Library of Congress)


They labelled me: The Woman at the Well –

Put in the Pitcher by a Nazarene!

They said I had a story that would sell.

Swine rooted round me, snuffling at the smell

of scandal – reckless as those Gadarene.

They labelled me: The Woman at the Well…

and camped outside my house, convinced I’d tell;

amazed that He should speak to the unclean

and said I had a story that would sell.

Some vowed He’d mesmerised me; cast a spell

on me; elaborated what they’d seen.

They labelled me: The Woman at the Well…

Those paparazzi made my life sheer hell.

Why not take the shekels and spill the beans?

They said I had a story they could sell.

Rabboni’s Living Water seemed to quell

my raging thirst.  Now I know what peace means.

They labelled me: The Woman at the Well

who had a Story that she Wouldn’t F***ing Sell!

Trick or Treat


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 facewas green and he had a screw sticking out of his neck.

Rollo was a Ghostbuster.

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 nonagenarian.

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 family. 

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 widower from the twinning visit.  Ginevra had forgotten the 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 her

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!




Ode to Autumn


, , , , , , , , , , ,

John Keats, by William Hilton (died 1839). See...

St Crispin’s Day, sighed Brassie, my close-bosom friend.

The nights are drawing in. This weekend we change the clocks,

don’t we?  Which way?

Fall back; Spring forward, I reminded her.

(She can never remember in which direction to adjust her timekeepers.)

Think about it like this: tights down. Tights, as in stalactites.  My teacher said

they hung down.  But people are hanged. She also recited: One ‘l’ lama he’s a

priest; two ‘l’ llama he’s a priest, but you can bet your silk pyjama, there isn’t

any three ‘l’ lllama.

Dalai Lama at WhiteHouse (cropped).jpg

Why should tights hang down?  Wolford ones don’t. And shouldn’t it have

been ‘pyjamas’? remarked Brassie.  Anyway, what are you

talking about?

Just deliberating on my life and how it has fallen into the sere..

You sound a bit depressed, she stated bluntly.

I can’t help the pathetic fallacy of the season.  Keats was too upbeat in my


I wouldn’t exactly have called him a glass half full kind of guy, objected


Suppose he had written about Autumn thus, I volunteered, pushing a

sheet of A4 in her direction.


Season of fogs, mouldy putrefaction,

enemy of the geriatric sun,

bringing depression, dissatisfaction,

blasting the mildewed fruit trees, one by one;

tainting blackberries with lead pollution,

eroding limestone buildings as the air

saturates with sulphuric solution.

Emissions from cars, whose owners don’t care

make children’s lungs bloat as they breathe exhaust

fumes more deadly than poppy opiates:

an inspiration of enormous cost-

harvest to be garnered at future dates.

Who has not seen them oft amid their stores,

stockpiling for Christmas, demented folk?

Those raking rotting leaves: of garden chores

the most thankless.  Resulting bonfire smoke

irritating neighbours, whose dank washing

is ash-specked.  Home-brew enthusiasts start

ineffectual sterilising, squashing

of elderberries….It’s then their wives depart

for evenings out, to let men watch the ooze;

they do lotteries with syndicate friends,

hoping for windfalls; drinking decent booze.

Who hears the songs of Spring?  It all depends

to what you are attuned.  If you have kids,

you’ll hear the first whine of the Christmas list,

as children’s advertising makes its bids-

o’erwhelming, so no parent can resist

its importunities.  The dismal rain

fills gutters blocked by aforementioned leaves,

which de-rail, or delay the British train,

which sceptical commuter scarce believes.

Cold, full-grown lambs may bleat from hilly bourn,

outwith the fold, or a housing bubble.

Reaped fields disappear; crops, livestock we mourn.

Winnowing is gone- designer stubble

the only razing we can recognise.

Clearly Men and Nature are out of synch.

Seasonal disorders rise.

If Keats were here, whatever would he think?

I think that is SAD, said Brassie.


Yes, the product of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Go and get a light


Very helpful.  If the Romantics had been persuaded to get a light box,

we wouldn’t have had all that marvellous poetry.

Interesting subject for a dissertation.

Well, why don’t you write it, instead of all that drivel?

Because we might not be amused. How much are light boxes, anyway?

(re-blog from 2013)

Bug out


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Coventry Scouts groups have a visit from Bear Grylls.jpg

(Bear Grylls photo by

Augustus looked at his ex-lover, Diana Fotheringay-Syylk

and raised an eyebrow.

He then glanced towards his current enamorata, Virginia

Fisher-Gyles and she shrugged.

Murgatroyd was prevaricating as usual. They were all ready

to go out for a walk and he was fussing around with some

man bag, or other.

Surely you don’t need that?  Gus was good at rhetorical questions.

He very rarely had the opportunity to use them in teaching as they

were open, rather than closed questions.  He quite liked the control

they gave him, if delivered with heavy irony, but he had been

advised at his appraisal that sarcasm was out of fashion in current

classrooms. What a pity.

I won’t be a moment.  I just have to fit the Sawyer water filter in-


But we’re going to the pub eventually.  We won’t need water, Virginia

pointed out, sanely.

You can’t tell him, groaned Diana.  But I draw the line at taking the

one man tent.  It is big enough for both of us, but, even in a

nuclear incident, I wouldn’t want to be so close to him!

Oh, bug off! Murgatroyd was becoming irritable, as he felt they were

laughing at his expense.

Diana was starting to enjoy teasing him when the others were giving

her moral support.  I don’t think there are too many zombies around

here, darling. Just some SNPs.

Zombies?  It’s not Hallowe’en yet, Virginia commented, perhaps too

freely, considering she was addressing her host.

No, zombies who would steal your supplies while you were bugged in-

before you bugged out after the mushroom cloud, replied Diana, who

knew the lingo.  Or after we’ve been forced to leave the Union.

I don’t fancy these dehydrated snack things you’ve got in there, said

Snod.  I thought we were going to have a pie and a pint.

Murgatroyd knew he was dealing with unbelievers and not his fellow


Hang on! Snod said suddenly.  Maybe you could take the mosquito net

with us.  I bags it if we encounter a cloud of midges.

Don’t unwrap it! shouted Murgatroyd.  It took me ages to roll it up and

fit it in to my bivvy bag.

I used to read ‘The Secret Seven’ when I was a kid, reminisced Virginia.

Fatty advised everyone to have an emergency tin with a piece of string, a

safety pin, a folded up piece of paper, a kirby grip, an Elastoplast and a

coin for the phone.

What was the kirby grip for? asked Diana, while Murgatroyd struggled

to put on his boots.  His back was still bothering him after all the scything

he had done.

Well, it worked in conjunction with the paper.  You see, if someone locked

you into a room while you were doing your detective work, you could put

the paper under the door and knock the key out from the other side and

slide it towards you and, hey presto! explained Virginia.

I bet Arto Soderstedt hasn’t thought of that one! laughed Diana.

Enid Blyton meets Arne Dahl, guffawed Snod.  Oh, come on!  It’s

going to rain and you haven’t got a brolly in there, have you?

Just leave it! Diana ordered.  If you hurry up we will get a table

and if you are very good you can let them watch armouredcockroach

on Youtube this afternoon, for some light entertainment before

supper.  Come on, Bear.

You know, it’s a bit odd.  Dru hasn’t been in touch since they went

to the parador, remarked Virginia, who carried a mobile phone in her

handbag, like a good PA and considered that her main piece of kit

for any emergency, or unforeseen event.  I hope they are okay.

Well, I don’t think there has been an Apocalypse in Spain, or we’d

have heard about it, sighed Diana.  It’s more likely that Murgatroyd has

had his phone blocker switched on.  He’s very anti-government, aren’t

you, darling?  Anyway, it serves him right as he blocked an e-mail from

the pub about their two- pies- for- one offer.  Shame.  Personally, I feel 

you have to trust the zombies sometimes.

Two pies for the price of one?!  Snod was intrigued and enthusiastic.

Come on, Fatty, Virginia quipped, linking arms, but Diana thought she

might be going too far towards sizeism and the non PC.

Delta NC Wikipaedia

Schubert in Salisbury


, , , , , , , , ,


So, you went to Salisbury at the weekend?

Yes.  To the ‘Celebrate Voice!’ Festival.

And heard what?

I sipped my Monk Pear tea.  Schubert.  Susan

Bullock, the Wagnerian soprano.  She was singing

lieder.  But I think that she was upstaged by the moon,


How so?

You can read my poem and decide for yourself.

Schubert in Salisbury

Our invisible feet traverse The Close

and we are shrouded in darkness.  It’s there:

luminous, transcendent, yet immanent,

its sculpted details sharp in the moonlight.

Together, on this frosty evening,

our hearts ache from Schubert’s yearning lieder:

betrayal, grief, regret and bitterness.

Oh, farewell to the world- let them feel love;

they may thank you yet – sooner or later,

but tearfully– and probably too late.

In the medieval hall she sang to us

and we were insulated by the warmth,

the spotlit dais; the shiny Steinway.

Elbow to elbow, we brushed each other;

applauded to show solidarity.

But, propped up, in the great closed porch, a lone

cold, shadowy figure, tightly cocooned

in damp, lumpy bedding, breathes not a word.

The stone finger of God points to the sky,

as if to seal the lips of the divine.

Before us lies a man who has no voice,

but merely craves some heat from God’s stage door.

The singer did not bow to him tonight;

he did not hear the piano lid come down.

He falls asleep and hears the angels sing-

the spire above, his ladder up to Heaven.

And we, like Jacob, rooted to the earth,

wrestle and wrestle with our own demons.

The moon vanishes behind a dark cloud.

She sang: Und finster die Nacht, wie das Grab!*

The frozen sleeper turns onto his side

and we hurry, before the gates are locked.

*’and the night dark as the grave.’

Que Gigantes??


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


John McDonnell as Sancho Panza?

(Photo: Kolrobbie at Wikipaedia)

(Zaqarbal, Wikipaedia)

Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master of St Birinus Middle,

grimaced at the Junior Master’s pronunciation.

Nigel had just informed his elder and better that he was taking

his paramour, Drusilla to a Ciudad Real Parador for the October

half term break.  They would not be joining Gus and Virginia at

the Pele Tower in the Borders.

On enquiring what Nigel’s- he refused to call him ‘Nige’- holiday

reading might be, he was given to understand that Cervantes was

on the agenda-or at least, on the Kindle, abridged, naturally.

Nigel, more or less, had identified the novel as Don Coyote.



Another instance of that annoying expression.

Nigel put his hand in his tweed jacket, to draw out a handkerchief

and, to his surprise, pulled out-not a plum, like Jack Horner, but a pair

of castanets.  He flushed and raised them above his head, attempting a

confident Ole!

What’s going on? muttered Snod.

Oh, Dru and I have been preparing for our forthcoming trip by attending

a Flamenco Club in Suttonford, on a Wednesday night.

Cervantes and the duende. Hmmm, you are studying the chivalric form of

The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha, I take it?

Snod patted his paunch sagely, as if he were Simon Russell Beale playing


Privately, Nigel thought Gus could do with some exercise himself.  He could

lose some of that grandote.

Flapping his hand in a hidalgoesque manner, Snod indicated that he was

terminating the conversation.  He picked up a newspaper and gave the

impression that all discussion on the picaresque was at an end.

But Nigel, noticing a front page photo of Jeremy Corbyn, could not help

commenting that the politician was another example, like Tony Benn, who

was given to renunciation of the caballeros class.

Snod lowered his paper and pronounced:

I think he feels Fortune has arranged thirty or more monstrous giants, all

of whom he means to engage in battle and slay in righteous warfare.

What giants?

No, Mr Milford-Haven.  The quotation is ‘Que gigantes?’  But, yes, Corbyn has

something of The Knight of the Rueful Countenance about him.  You see, he

wants you to believe what he claims to have seen in the Cave of Montesinos.

And that is all he has to say.  His words are like manure spread on barren

ground. He might as well be speaking Castilian.

(Photo: Garry Knight)

You think he is just telling some groups of goatherds about a Golden Age?

ventured Nigel.

He believes he can heal society with an equivalent of the Balm of Fierarbras, 

Snod nodded.

But at least he seems to be for the poor, Nigel qualified.

Fools think there is bacon when there is not even a hook to hang a haunch of

Serrano on, persisted Snod, beginning to enjoy the exchange.  I suppose in

office he might wake to sanity.

The bell rang, concluding the exploration of the romantic forthcoming trip

with Drusilla, or Dulcinea, as Snod was beginning to think of her.

Back to the galleys, Snod announced.  His identification with Cervantes

was complete.

La Mancha's windmills were immortalized in the novel Don Quixote

(Photo by Lourdes Cardenal, Wikipaedia)

This particular collocation of Don Quixote and Jeremy Corbyn is copyright

to Candia Dixon Stuart.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 748 other followers