Play Me



By Maggie Clutterbuck


Once in a while I wave into the forest

To your ashes that have mixed with the earth

Alongside dead flowers placed by human hands

With marked dignity.


Often I smile at your humour

The power of instilling laughter.

But it doesn’t matter: you are gone.


But are you?


I see you clearing snow off the roads in the bad winter

Where you trudged to meet your son, number one,

Born post war - a splinter off the old block.


You cycled to school and picked fruit for jam,

Blackberry juice oozing from the bag tied to your handlebar.


The pub doorway shields your ghost

And footballs bounce on fields that most

Have never known existed.


Last week they flattened the garage walls

And your vehicle is at the breaker.

We joked about it, mum and I,

That it was the car and not you

That is finally with its maker.


Christmas Poems
Play Me


The Oxen

By Thomas Hardy


Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.

‘Now they are all on their knees,’

An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.


We pictured  the meek and mild creatures,  where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.


So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years!  Yet I feel

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

‘Come, see the oxen kneel,


In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know’,

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.


‘Twas the Night before Christmas

by Clement Clarke Moore



Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet!  On, Cupid!  On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Christmas Poems
Play Me
Unmentioned in Dispatches
Play Me


Unmentioned in Dispatches

by Peter Wyton


Some of them never come home to fanfares,

they dump their kitbags down at the door,

kiss their wives and let their children

wrestle them down to the kitchen floor,

switch the telly on, pour out a whiskey,

search for the local football score.


Some of them skip the quayside welcome,

dodge the bunting and cannonade,

make their landfall in silent harbours,

nod to the coastguard, but evade

the searchlight of public scrutiny

like those engaged in the smuggling trade.


Some of them land at lonely airfields

far removed from the celebration,

hang their flying gear in a locker,

cadge a lift to the railway station,

make for home and take for granted

the short-lived thanks of a grateful nation.


Some of them miss the royal salute,

the victory parade along the Mall,

the fly-past, the ships in formation passing

the cheering crowds on the harbour wall.

Remembered only by friends and relatives,

some of them never come home at all.

Vicky Hampton's biography plus another poem can be found

on our Poetry Page - just follow the link above.

In a Ruardean Field
Play Me


In a Ruardean Field

©Vicky Hampton, 2014


From this height, at the top of Eddy’s Lane,

the Malverns’ Easterly tops submit

to North West Pen-Y-Fan’s masculinity.

Between their silence, the sleight dot

of a buzzard slides across an impossible blue

mewing into infinity.


One eye cocked to the ribboning Wye,

a chiffchaff chases flies while

a pigeon’s flight claps appreciation of the day

and noon’s tensile stillness rips.


Below the Viewing Point, where sward dips

to touch ragged heads of thorn,

miniscule red spiders strum gossamer

hung on lava flow of cow pat,

and a cricket’s sudden thrum

sends a rabble of Meadow Browns

up, off cocksfoot and rye, out

across four counties.


On a hill nearby, July blends

a playing field’s dust-mud browns

its pavilion’s greying white

some buttercup pollen; stripes

its parched periphery. And, all about,

between the green-black geometry

of undulating hedges, a thousand

golden buttons squat in the heat, sewn

on faded mattress ticking.


Diary of a Church Mouse
Play Me


Diary of a Church Mouse

by Sir John Betjeman


Here among long-discarded cassocks,

Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,

Here where the vicar never looks

I nibble through old service books.

Lean and alone I spend my days

Behind this Church of England baize.

I share my dark forgotten room

With two oil-lamps and half a broom.

The cleaner never bothers me,

So here I eat my frugal tea.

My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;

My jam is polish for the floor.

Christmas and Easter may be feasts

For congregations and for priests,

And so may Whitsun. All the same,

They do not fill my meagre frame.

For me the only feast at all

Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,

When I can satisfy my want

With ears of corn around the font.

I climb the eagle's brazen head

To burrow through a loaf of bread.

I scramble up the pulpit stair

And gnaw the marrows hanging there.

It is enjoyable to taste

These items ere they go to waste,

But how annoying when one finds

That other mice with pagan minds

Come into church my food to share

Who have no proper business there.

Two field mice who have no desire

To be baptized, invade the choir.

A large and most unfriendly rat

Comes in to see what we are at.

He says he thinks there is no God

And yet he comes ... it's rather odd.

This year he stole a sheaf of wheat

(It screened our special preacher's seat),

And prosperous mice from fields away

Come in to hear our organ play,

And under cover of its notes

Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.

A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I

Am too papistical, and High,

Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong

To munch through Harvest Evensong,

While I, who starve the whole year through,

Must share my food with rodents who

Except at this time of the year

Not once inside the church appear.

Within the human world I know

Such goings-on could not be so,

For human beings only do

What their religion tells them to.

They read the Bible every day

And always, night and morning, pray,

And just like me, the good church mouse,

Worship each week in God's own house,

But all the same it's strange to me

How very full the church can be

With people I don't see at all

Except at Harvest Festival.



Over There
Play Me


Over There

by Peter Wyton



I’ve been to foreign parts. They’re gross.

The populace is comatose

Or round the twist. They whip themselves

And ululate at funerals.

There’s not a sanitary loo

Between Boulogne and Katmandu.

I’ve followed eighty camel routes

But never found a branch of boots.

If you display your Union Jack

In former colonies, they whack

Your wife with elongated canes,

Which rarely happens back in Staines.

In the future, me and Anne’ll

Stick to the Discovery Channel




Ladies of the Charity Shop by Peter Wyton
Play Me


The Ladies of the Charity Shop



The ladies of the charity shop

Were given a brand new till.

They never got the hang of it

And now they never will.

They only approached it in groups of three,

With expressions of loathing and pain,

One to push buttons,

One to have kittens

And one to try again.


The ladies of the charity shop

Were a most harmonious clique.

They all popped in on a rota system

At least three mornings a week,

To drink gallons and gallons and gallons of tea

And have a good chinwag about

Cardigans, ornaments, wrestling tournaments,

Gall-bladders, goitres and gout.


The ladies of the charity shop

Maintained, with no hint of apology,

That they never expected to find themselves

At the forefront of till technology.

The old model suited them down to the ground.

When they wanted to put in some cash

And the drawer got jammed

They said "Bother" and "Damn"

And gave it a good old bash.


The ladies of the charity shop

Have been in darkest mourning

Since a quarter to ten last Wednesday

When, without the slightest warning,

They opened the new till to put in a pound,

The contraption showed its teeth,

Gave a frightful roar like a carnivore

And swallowed Jemima Moncrieff.


The ladies of the charity shop

Phoned divisional headquarters,

No repair man came, but a TV crew

And a posse of press reporters.

One asked the ladies a question

With a tabloid glint in his eye.

"Was the victim nude?"

They said,"Don't be rude,

This isn't the W.I."


The ladies of the charity shop

Have sold off all their stock

To a nice young man with a Transit van

And a stall on Camden Lock.

At their manager's suggestion

They all went on the spree,

Got merry on sherry

On the Brittany ferry

And buried the till at sea.




A Subaltern's Love Song

by Sir John Betjeman


Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,

Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,

What strenuous singles we played after tea,

We in the tournament - you against me!


Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,

The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,

With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,

I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.


Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,

How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,

The warm-handled racket is back in its press,

But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.


Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,

And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,

And cool the verandah that welcomes us in

To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.


The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,

The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,

As I struggle with double-end evening tie,

For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.


On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,

And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,

And westering, questioning settles the sun,

On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.


The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,

The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,

My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair

And there on the landing's the light on your hair.


By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,

She drove to the club in the late summer haze,

Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells

And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.


Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,

I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,

Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!

Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!


Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,

Above us the intimate roof of the car,

And here on my right is the girl of my choice,

With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.


And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,

And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.

We sat in the car park till twenty to one

And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.



A Subaltern's Love Song by John Betjeman
Play Me
Play Me



Meg Merrilies



Old Meg she was a Gipsy,

       And liv'd upon the Moors:

Her bed it was the brown heath turf,

       And her house was out of doors.


Her apples were swart blackberries,

       Her currants pods o' broom;

Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,

       Her book a churchyard tomb.


Her Brothers were the craggy hills,

       Her Sisters larchen trees—

Alone with her great family

       She liv'd as she did please.


No breakfast had she many a morn,

       No dinner many a noon,

And 'stead of supper she would stare

       Full hard against the Moon.


But every morn of woodbine fresh

       She made her garlanding,

And every night the dark glen Yew

       She wove, and she would sing.


And with her fingers old and brown

       She plaited Mats o' Rushes,

And gave them to the Cottagers

       She met among the Bushes.


Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen

       And tall as Amazon:

An old red blanket cloak she wore;

       A chip hat had she on.

God rest her aged bones somewhere—

       She died full long agone!


And a special one from Forest Bard George (Dick) Dunkley


A poem I wrote to my brother Albert, in relation to 'Old Meg She was a Gypsy'

(Meg Merrilies by John Keats - see below)


At Brafield, Northants


Old Albert


Old Alb he was a loner.

And lived upon the brink.

His food was the bare essentials.

But he survived on fags and drink.


His caravan home was modest;

With no mod cons; as such.

And he often had it vandaled,

By yobs, and drug addicted mucks.


He had no mains, gas or electric.

He only knew day or night.

And had to turn in at nightfall.

But rose again at first light.


He also had no mains water,

That would only be a dream.

But he made a bore hole convenience,

From the nearby running stream.


He lived in what’s called a Spinney,

A small and gladed wood,

He sometimes shared a rabbit,

Or a pheasant if he could.


He had drifted from his family,

Many moons ago.

To choose a life of independence.

At leisure to come and go.


There’s always another side to a story.

Which sometimes is never told,

Which some people have another impression

When you are growing old.


For Albert worked in the Forest Coal Mines.

As all his other Kiff and Kin.

Leaving school at 14 years

In the mines a life to begin.


When war broke out in the thirties,

Albert was still a young boy,

And thought he’d do a bit for his country.

Against his parents pride and joy.


So he left the mines to join the navy.

Which his young age would hardly endorse,

So he put a few years on respectfully,

To join the Naval force.


So like Albert have always forcast,

When the time, comes to take his rest,

To make sure it is old Albert.

All the people of Brafield will try to attend

Or do their very best.


George (Dick) Dunkley