Hello. You may be new to this (very occasional) blog, but have come here as a result of seeing me do poems on Countdown. The lovely folk who make that show have said that the lovely folk who watch it have been asking for copies of them. This, as you can imagine, is very flattering.
I’m not known for poetry, but having been raised on Countdown by my Nan (see poem #2 ‘Let’s Play’) I’ve always felt that the great Dictionary Corner guest’s all do a bit of a party piece. So, I wrote some poems. I’ll do four this week and a short story. You’re very welcome to all of them. If you’ve enjoyed them, thank you. If you haven’t, well, you’ve really come to the wrong place.
[sidenote: I just couldn’t have enjoyed filming Countdown any more than I did. They are a truly lovely bunch, all of them; the production, the crew and the faces on screen. They say ‘Never meet your heroes’, but Countdown exceeded all expectations. Truly, a life’s ambition well met.]
Salvation is a nine letter word
In ancient texts, since time began
In carvings, wax and scrolls,
In the dreams of Homo Habilis
And the yearning of our souls
Forever has there ever been
In mankind’s expectation
Promises of beings who
Will bring with them salvation.
But who are these leviathans,
These long awaited saviours?
What are their races, faces, places
statuses and flavours.
I’ve trawled the universities
I’ve asked and binged and googled
I’ve poured through dingy libraries
With sniffer dogs and poodles.
It’s been like the Da Vinci code
‘cept with me – and not Tom Hanks
I’ve searched for answers ceaselessly
Stopping not for food or w…hatever else one might stop for.
Then, finally, I found it!
The answer to my prayers
Descriptions of our rescuers,
Of three deific heirs.
The first is tall and fair of face,
But judge her not on beauty
The mistress of Mathmatics
Undivided and square-rooty
She solves the kind of sums that leave
Mere mortal brain cells broke
When Grandad first clapped eyes on her
Nan said he had a stroke.
The second of this trio
Is a mighty lexicographer
You could try to steal her special books
but you’d never get them off of her.
The picture of serenity
And when you’re sitting there with five,
She’s sitting there with nine.
The last of them’s distinguished
And the leader of this clan
Not O’Connor, Lynham, Stelling
Whiteley, Carr or Vorderman.
A wit dry as the Gobi,
A classy sort of geezer
A puller of great faces
And a total teatime teaser.
Once apprentice, now the master
Argent locks upon his head
He’s the man that Nanna thinks of
On the stairlift up to bed.
But where can these three Gods be found
These thwarters of the humdrum
I’ve no idea! I’m at a loss!
It’s a real ruddy conundrum!
I don’t want to sound terse
But I’ve written this verse
As a way of my trying to tell
you the reason yours truly
is sat here all cooly’s
because of my Nan – Isabelle.
“I’m back off to work!”
My mum said with a smirk
In – I think – about – um – ‘85?
“And while I’m away
After school, every day
It’s your Nan’s job to keep you alive.”
So, off went my mother
And me and my brother
Got picked up by Nan from then on
She was kind, she was fun
the Mum of our Mum
and a chain smoker second to none.
She made tea with two bags
And smoked blue Rothmans fags
(Which thirty years back was less rare)
Her guitar was acoustic,
She was champion at Pooh sticks
And her ashtrays smelt just like her hair.
When we got home each day,
Before we could play
We’d do home work whilst she cleaned her dentures
But once we were done
It was time then for fun
And Nan made up brill’yant adventures.
There were dinosaur hunts
And BMX stunts
And football and cricket and tag
We got taught how to knit
And never to hit
though if we got hit, to hit back.
But no matter how dirty
we got, at 4:30
On went the telly – fourth channel
And while Nan put a brew on
We’d get pencils to chew on
And wait for that vision in flannel.
Mid-forties, but sprightly
The host – Richard Whiteley
With ties that were bad as his jokes
He’d welcome the presence
Of gathered contestants
Then Nan’d be back with her smokes.
And we’d silently sit
As the letters were picked
“An I, N, a G… oooh, that’s good!”
And once there were nine,
Whiteley started the time
And we each made the best word we could.
The numbers, with sums
solved on fingers and thumbs
If we got one we’d sing Hallelujah!
Then letters once more
“I think I’ve got a four.”
“Well, I’ve got an eight!” “No way! Do yer?!”
Our vocabularies grew
And the new words we knew
Meant that each time we played we did better
And I remember with love
My Nan and my bruv
Daily playing ‘Des Chiffres et des lettres”
Five years later, she died
And I cried and I cried
And I miss her, still do to this day
But each afternoon
When I hear the theme tune
I can still hear my Nan say “Let’s play.”
So, wherever you are Nan – let’s play.