Pirate day

Ho-heave-ho and haul away –
No tie required – way-hey!
For half-term’s here, and pirate gear
Is the order of the day.
With a yo-ho-ho it’s off you go
All rigged for the Spanish Main –
In your old ragged shirt and sword-belt girt
Ann Bonny walks again!

Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest –
These are the times that we love the best,
When you’re still young enough for this dressing-up stuff
But the day brings its own quiet warning:
For the time’s going by like the cannonballs fly
When the men-o’-war meet for slaughter
Then what shall we do for a pirate daughter
Ear-ly in the mor-ning?

May you always hold, like a pirate’s gold,
Onto all that you’ve done today;
May your flag always fly in a clear blue sky,
And fair winds blow you on your way.
May a fine, gallant crew sail along with you
To wherever the world may spin you;
With a yo-ho-ho, don’t you ever let go
Of the pirate spirit in you.


Our daughter’s school has just installed some new playground equipment, including a climbing-frame in the shape of a ship. To celebrate its inauguration, the children were allowed to go to school dressed as pirates; my wife conjured a costume out of charity-shop odds and ends, and the girl looked fantastic. She goes up to secondary school in September, which means there won’t be many more days like this, so I’ve marked the occasion with a sea-shanty. There’s a first time for everything!

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!