Today, I embrace the hated headwind
As a friend; sweeping up from the south,
Driving the Arctic air back where it belongs.
Along the kerbs and verges
Cracked ribs and ferny fringes
Of rotting, softening ice
Print meltwater barcodes across the road:
All snow is now reduced
In winter’s closing-down sale.
The wind has changed
And everything must go.


No L

No L

There’s no L in Mastercard, Visa or debt,
In Where can we buy one? or What did you get?
There’s no L in party frocks, panic or stress
No L in consumption, exhaustion, excess
In hangovers, arguments, waking at five,
Or that this is a season we have to survive.
Look up ‘turkey’ in Chambers and what do you see?
You guessed it – and what’s more, there’s no L in ‘tree’.
Of course, none of this should be any surprise:
There’s no Christ in Christmas in most people’s eyes.
There’s no L in Santa, I’m sorry to say –
And there’s no L like Christmas in Britain today.

Cold snap

Winter’s come early to Sussex, with over 12″ of snow (which is a lot for us) and roads encased in thick sheets of ice. This morning, we joined the neighbours in clearing our street of the horrible stuff, in a truly communal effort that seemed more like play than work.


All the neighbours turn out
To sweep heaps of glassy fragments
Into the gutters;
A sweet victory peal
In the rasp of shovels.

Red-faced, easing backs and shoulders
We survey the road –
Hard, dark, glistening
Like a newly-emerged dragonfly –
And smile at what we just did.

But tonight
Each shining droplet
Will spread out slender threads
That touch, fuse and slowly glaze
Our new-won freedom over;
And so, tomorrow,
We’ll smash our way out again
And long for Spring
To come and save us.

It's that time of year again

One of my favourite poems is ‘McCavity, The Mystery Cat’ from TS Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.’ I wrote this affectionate parody with my daughter, who when asked what she’d been doing at school replied wearily: “Nativity, Nativity…” After that, it pretty much wrote itself.

(with apologies to TS Eliot)

Nativity, Nativity, there’s nothing like Nativity,
Engulfing everybody in a whirlwind of activity
Assembling angels, soldiers, Magi, townsfolk, shepherds, sheep,
The Virgin Mary, Joseph and a baby (fast asleep).
And when Year Five’s in uproar and Reception’s stiff with fear
I tell you once and once again: Nativity is here!

Rehearsals happen daily and go on for hours and hours,
Till even Mrs Brown is at the limits of her powers;
Each time the boys attempt their song the quality declines,
Now Balthazar’s gone AWOL; Mary hasn’t learned her lines.
The soldiers miss their cue (again) and come on far too late
And Herod stands and trembles like a jelly on a plate.

Nativity, Nativity, there’s nothing like Nativity
To bring out children’s acting talent, wit and sensitivity:
The innkeeper plays it for laughs (he has us all in stitches)
While Joseph jumps a yard each time the donkey’s tail twitches.
And now we wonder where time’s gone: what happened to this year?
Ay there’s the wonder of the thing: Nativity is here!

Mrs Brown attempts to get the Juniors in the mood
By dancing: what they think I could not say (it’s far too rude).
She waves her arms and jumps about and does all kinds of jiggles;
Meanwhile the children in Year Five collapse in fits of giggles.
They won’t line up or stand up straight; it’s turned her hair quite white
Which prompts the Head to intervene and give them all a fright.

The angels hate their haloes: they say the tinsel’s very rough.
They scratch their heads and fidget – must they make them from this stuff?
The shepherds squirm and chatter, fight and pull each other’s hair.
Their tea-towels keep on slipping. Mrs B is in despair.
But somehow it will all work out and come right, never fear
So we can say with certainty: Nativity is here!

Nativity, Nativity, there’s nothing like Nativity
The Infants make a racket like baboons kept in captivity.
They have their own performance that’s as sweet as it is short,
Their parents reach for hankies; the Juniors simply snort.
An entertainment guaranteed to make you shed a tear
So grab the Kleenex, take your seats – NATIVITY IS HERE!