Click, according to mood and taste:

Visual Limericks (they rhyme on paper) ▼


  1. What beasts these jungle men are,
    You'd think they'd show much more care,
    But after a row,
    One might snatch up his bow,
    And shoot his friend full of curare.

  2. An Englishman's home is quite private,
    But some guests inspire only hate,
    If a French guest you chose,
    Your cool you will lose,
    While he's helping himself to your pate.

  3. There once was a young man from Slough,
    Whose rhymes were exceedingly rough,
    The critics all said,
    That his style was too staid,
    But at least all his spelling was thorough.


  • Curare is a type of poison made from tropical tree bark. It rhymes with "you are ray". Supposedly, it works its fatal work by relaxing the muscles of the body. This kills the victim because even the muscles which make his lungs work are relaxed into uselessness. It is therefore possible to save the life of someone poisoned with curare by giving him the kiss of life. After about fifteen minutes, the poison wears off, and you have saved the life of a hunter-gatherer of the jungle, who will then worship you as a god, or something. Now you see, you didn't expect to learn that from a page of limericks.
  • True, the last word is a bit of a cheat because I have left off the accents, but this was an opportunity to have a dig at the French, and such things should not be missed.
  • For American readers, "Slough" rhymes with plough, which you might spell plow, but that's okay, I forgive you.
Ulster Limericks (they rhyme in Belfast) ▼


  1. There once was a salty old tar,
    Whose lady was trapped in a tower,
    Her rescue seems nigh,
    He's tried five times now,
    He's failed, but he'll never tire.


  • If you can't do the accent yourself, then you will have to befriend someone from Belfast and get them to read it out for you. I should get round to writing another one soon. I've noticed that mayor and mirror sound amusingly similar in this mode of speech. Am I being patronising to the good folk of Northern Ireland? Yes.
My Best Friend (proper poem - not a sickly as it sounds) ▼

Watch me perform this on YouTube:

My Best Friend: Alan Outen

Whoever would have thought
that Alan was the sort
to turn and spit such hatred?
I hadn't seen it coming,
Just ambled, smugly humming
that life's progress would be smooth.
This youth was not uncouth,
he had learning and smart ties.
I showed him all my soldiers.
The things I told him were not lies.
We clapped in time, and things seemed fine.
I taught him all my games.

Was he really always the boy
who would take such joy in the misery of others?
I never thought I'd see
such evil glee.
I had thought us more like brothers.
Perhaps I should search myself
to find the fault in this.
I was taller, he was smaller.
Was that all it took to split us two apart?
There was no art in me to make him feel
the lesser of the pair.
Yet his deep-sworn plan of vengeance
was to drive me near despair.

It could not have been my girlfriend,
for I had none,
but the games we played were mine.
Perhaps I was not the cause of malice.
Perhaps that was merely Time.
But did he need to go for the throat?
Was all my trust
a must
to be exploited and destroyed?
So, I could be hurt,
but did Outen have to go spouting spite at every outing?

One school year of woe was mine,
but one now long ago.
The years alone will heal my wounds, they say.
My sister ran into him just the other day,
and told me of the gorgeous girl he had.
Thanks, sis.
You ran into him,
but not on a steamroller.
Now that would have made me glad.


  • I saw John Hegley do a show at the Newcastle Comedy Festival a couple of years ago, and talked to him for some while afterwards. He sold me his latest book. I got a good price. The next day, I wrote this poem. It came to me very easily, and I thought that this might be the start of many. It wasn't. I will agree with any critic who says that this is a rather Hegleyesque poem. I might even agree with anyone who says that this sort of maudlin self-centred rubbish should be kept off the net, but I wouldn't agree with anyone who says that Mike Oldfield can't play the guitar.
Misgivings of a Dance God (it gets better after the first line) ▼
Proper (ish) poem

Watch me perform this on YouTube:

Misgivings of a dance god

I am a dance god.
I stand at the front.

I can honour every beat with every fibre of my body.
And I can flick and move my feet with a cool kick-slide.
With my independent shoulders and perfected body roll,
I can dazzle all beholders and achieve my every goal.

But the class behind me isn't so lucky.
They paid for this.

I see them stumble in the mirrors,
See them hesitate and halt.
I am their instructor,
And I know it's all my fault.

My routine was too ambitious.
I'll have to lose those triple steps.
But this is getting repetitious.
Why can't they get these simple steps?

"So that's now walk, walk, walk, walk,
Starting on the left.
That's it: walk, walk, walk... wa-
No, left, left... OTHER LEFT!"

Can I make this much more easy,
Short of standing on the spot?
I'm meant to give them all a grading.
Fred Astaires, these lot, are not.

But perhaps I shouldn't panic.
Rehearsals have their troughs, and peaks.
I will laugh about this one day.
But the show is in TWO WEEKS!

I am a dance god.

Oh god.


  • I wrote this poem in a break between two lessons I taught at a community centre in Fenham. The lessons were aimed at 'disadvantaged youth'. In the first lesson, I spent an hour on a very simple routine, and at the end of the hour, absolutely no one had got any of the steps. One lad just stood there, apparently paying heed to everything I said, but never moved at all. No one turned up for the second lesson. This was the circumstance of my inspiration. So, unless you were at one of these lessons, this poem is not about you, nor about me either for that matter.
A New Stage Reached (inspired by a tooth-brushing incident) ▼

You can use this control to hear the poem read out..

Watch me perform this on YouTube:

A New Stage Reached

She brushes her teeth with care.
The strokes are slow and shorter.
I don't know if she is aware,
That in the mirror I've caught her.

But I know her quite well enough now,
To spot the sham of her manner,
To watch her mind quite taken up,
With acting out casual glamour.

"I'm not using this while you're watching," she said,
With brush poised and pasted.
"Why? Might I distract you and cause accidents?"
My efforts at wit were not wasted.
With a sly sense of the adorable, "I'm the world's messiest tooth-brusher," she said.
"Well now I have to watch," was my reply,
And took a big step back instead.

She brushed, and I watched and grinned.
It was the start of something lovely.
Her strokes then were short and careful.
She brushed to impress.
And I loved the way her hair fell from its inadequate perch.

Then later the bathroom became the stage for our squabbles,
Our voices bouncing off tiles.
"I was waiting since six, and you didn't 'phone me!"
She could be in the wrong by ten miles,
But I saw the way that her hand's angry wobbles
Were flicking the froth up her nose,
And I loved that woman, my foam-freckled lady,
And in the next room found repose.

Our trip to the sun has been done on the cheap.
This camp-site has seen better days.
A man in sun-glasses waits his turn at the sink,
And my lady displays her new ways.

She brushes her teeth with care.
The strokes are slow and shorter.
I don't know if she is aware,
That in the mirror I've caught her.


  • This poem was, in common with The Glimmer and Never Meet Your Heroines, written during a fourteen-hour wait in Copenhagen airport in 2010. It was inspired by a lady who did indeed claim to be the world's messiest tooth-brusher, but who then seemed to be far from this when I watched. Everything else is pure fiction. I was very happy with the simplicity of "a man in sunglasses".
  • I think some people have a bit of trouble with the way I vary (and sometimes drop) the rhyming scheme. It sounds fine when I read it out, but perhaps it doesn't always work so well when a newcomer sees it on the written page. Possibly I should regard these poems as performance works only.
  • Yes, I noticed when listening to my reading of it and following the words on the screen, that my performance does paraphrase the work slightly. I've decided against altering the words to match the performance. I'm hoping that this demonstrates that the work is robust.
The Glimmer (lots of things rhyme with glimmer) ▼

You can use this control to hear the poem read out..

Or watch me perform this on YouTube:

The Glimmer

I'm at the event and she's on the way.
It's a year now since last time we met.
The music is good, the company grand.
A better chance I'll never get.

I must choose one day,
Must plump for The One,
Must pick the girl I desire,
But it's party time now.
Don't go over the top.
She's only one iron in the fire.

She enters the room.
She beams, she's in bloom.
Can a smile be more wide than its face?
I stride over to greet her,
My arms thrown out wide,
But of hesitance I see a trace.

"I'm eight months pregnant," she informs me.
I keep my control.
I know that rash acts can be bad.
I'm politeness incarnate,
Recite the conventions,
But am I now happy or sad?

I launch an inquiry,
Must know in what order the feelings arrived one-by-one.
Was the first to appear the chief of them all,
Or was it just jumping the gun?

The brain is just a chemical plant – some hormones take longer than others.
The best of them might arrive late,
But I'm marvelling now that I don't feel much more.
Did they all get jammed up in the gate?

It would be rude to imply that that I just didn't care.
She'd want me to cry for a time.
But I love her enough,
I know,
I'm aware,
That her happiness feeds into mine.

Tradition demands that I now feel the bump.
It is firm, it is large, it is life.
And at such a party it is natural to dance,
So I ask her, though she's not my wife.

The music is mellow.
We both know the drill.
We connect on the floor as of old.
We chat as we step.
She laughs when I quip.
We are warm, but I'm feeling cold.

And then I let my mind work a trick,
Fool myself that this child is mine,
That this wonderful woman carries for me,
That I've plumped, and everything's fine.

The up-swell of feeling,
The on-rush of joy,
Cause panic, and I quell the surge.
It's only a mind-trick,
It's nothing,
It's over.
Move along now, ignore the urge.

She was only a glimmer.
I saw her too seldom to hold out rational hope.
I know there are plenty of fish in the sea.
Don't worry, I know I can cope.

Next, I meet "David", the cause of the bulge.
Of course he's a nice enough chap.
And I give him a hearty congratulation,
And add my best manly slap.

She was only a glimmer,
One gleam on dark waves,
A manifestation of hope.
I blinked twice, and then she was gone.
Down-hearted? That would make me a dope.

I'll be off now, David, so good to meet you.
You treat her well now, you hear?
But don't let that baby take over your life.
Oh! What stories we'll all swap next year.

Never Meet Your Heroines (based on a true story) ▼

Watch this performed on video on YouTube:

Never Meet Your Heroines

Never meet your heroines,
Just leave them packed upstairs,
A reference section, an abstract ideal,
The stuff of dreams, not cares.

Long time the manxome foe I'd sought,
While vorpal moves I learned,
Till one day I got our paths to cross,
On one dance the issue turned.

I knew her from the on-line screen,
A pixie-lated bundle of fire-cracking grace,
And in every detail of what I had seen,
I saw a match, inspiration, a dance that must take place.

She was on the floor with Mr Cool,
The music wild, but tacky.
She was laughing as he played the fool,
His moves both slick and wacky.

But it came to an end, my time was now.
If I didn't pounce then, then I'd lose her.
I stepped up to the mark, made my intentions known,
That out of all on the floor, I would choose her.

She looked up and collected herself,
Peered at me as through a steel shutter.
Oh yes! The guy from England!
It was time to dance with the nutter.

Could any dance be expected to bear
The burden of such expectation?
I was bursting with hope, I had better do well –
I was flying the flag for my nation!

It didn't start well, not well at all.
She was famous – I was frightened I'd lame her.
We had no connection, I'd not got her weight,
And could this music be any tamer?

In my mind I berated the (recorded) band leader.
I was giving him kick after kick.
Give me something to work with, you great useless bleeder!
Interpretation is my major shtick.

There are men who spin faster or know fancier moves.
There are those who perform for the Queen,
But give me the music and I'll shuffle hooves,
And dance rhythms that she's never seen.

Adapt or die, adapt or die.
I had to try something new.
I tried to go heavy, but she didn't come with me.
Oh blimey! Now what do I do?

Do I break out my most spectacular move,
The one that I call "The Killer"?
No, there's not enough room on the floor,
And a crash is not going to thrill her.

It's time to get fast and fancy.
Got it – footwork, that's it!
No, no response – I've seen more from a statue.
It's all going pear-shaped. Oh shit!

Her eyes view me mid-shin only,
And the number is ending, I fear.
I stoop to make contact, give a jazz hands wave.
Hello, yoo-hoo! I'm up here.

In parts of the world, they dance just one song,
But here the convention is two.
She smiles, makes her excuses, is so gone,
Neglecting to leave a glass shoe.

Never meet your heroines,
Just leave them packed upstairs,
A reference section, an abstract ideal,
The stuff of dreams, not cares.


  • This is a not-wildly inaccurate account of something that actually happened to me. Fate was on hand to twist the knife when, crestfallen, I had left the dance floor and sought solace in a game of table football. As luck would have it, I found myself playing alongside Mr Cool. In what I am sure was a well-meant attempt at pre-match banter, he turned to me, slowly raised one eyebrow and said "Do you feel like a loser?"

    "Yes," I said.
A poem about stabbing (made for a controversial YouTube video) ▼

A Point About Stabbing

There are two main ways to hold a knife,
One point up, and one point down.
Now, in a knife fight, the prize is your life,
Not just having no slit in your gown.

You've got to get it right, this is a fight,
So, which is the better way?
Well, perhaps it might shed some light,
To read what the treatises say.

They seem quite clear, they favour by far,
The downward or ice pick grip.
True they do not the other way bar,
But they never talk of the flip.

It's of the rondel they seek to teach us,
It's thin and stabby and long,
But what other techniques have failed to reach us?
Perhaps the choice of the rondel is wrong.

I learned my knife fighting with a dagger like this,
It's shorter and fatter and cutty,
A foe using this is just taking the piss,
Against me with this he'd surely be putty.

I'd learned through re-enactment and kung fu,
And not from late medieval sources,
I know that complacency will never do,
So I took some HEMA courses.

I went along with I hope an open mind,
With a wooden dagger for safety's sake,
Tried out their moves to see what I'd find,
And boy! The next day I didn't half ache!

Anyway, my first suspicion proved true,
The ice pick grip limits your angles,
There's really just one thing you can do,
I'd like more options when my life dangles...

... by a thread. I'm this close to death,
I can hear my heart beat's hard drumming,
This could be my last pain-free breath,
With just one opening move, he'll see it coming.

It's a good stab I'll grant you,
Hard and downward and deadly,
But one stab is many too few,
Hold this way, and you've got a medley.

Try this: try to stab ice-pick on the outward side,
You get here and you're weak and in pain,
If half-decent force here is applied,
Down you go, unlikely to rise again.

It's feeble and slow, and so easy to block,
To attack this way spells doom,
Look, you've nearly got me in an arm-lock,
And you're not even in the same room!

The treatises do show some attacks,
Coming low and then up like so,
But try that and I'll feel relaxed.
A big move like that is so slow.

If you offer your elbow like this to your foe,
One push exposes your back and your head,
And so, I know, you won't land your blow,
Before that thththththp! Forget it: you're dead.

So almost everything starts from here,
And after the block well, what next?
Assuming you can overcome your fear,
You can carry out what it says in the text.

Typically, you grab hold of the blade,
It's long so it makes a good lever,
It's length serves as a disarming aid,
And it's thin so not much of a cleaver.

But it's often at least a bit sharp,
So mightn't you cut your finger?
The alternative is you start playing the harp,
So grab it, there's no time to linger.

But I'll choose something shorter and sharper,
And I'll hold it my way, and we'll see who's the harper,
And while you try to go in for a twist,
I'll slash, it's quicker, and put a gash in your wrist.

I'll cut through your tendons in elbow and underarm,
Reduce your limb to so much slack rope,
I have faith in the speed I do harm,
You dope to pin to ice-pick grip your hope.

There are other ways, as shown by the likes of Fairbairn-Sykes,
Of stabbing and slashing in a hundred strikes,
So, come our dagger duel, I'll grip this way,
You grip yours, we'll see who carries the day.

Ah – but having taken pause to reflect,
Maybe I wouldn't – 'cos that's just what you'd expect.


  • This was written for a YouTube video I made. I thought it would be amusing to do a video in which I discussed some aspect of medieval fighting techniques - something my channel is known for - but did it in verse. I deliberately performed it without drawing attention to the fact that it was all in verse, but was still a bit surprised to learn that many viewers had watched the entire thing without noticing. I had imagined that by at the latest the third or fourth stanza pretty much everyone would have twigged.

  • Because of its intended use, it has in it things such as "like this", which were intended to accompany my showing the camera something. It is very much a performance piece.
  • The video turned out to be my most controversial ever, and I ended up having to do a second, much longer, video to clarify my position to those who seemed to feel that I was saying that HEMA or re-enactment were rubbish. It's almost as though ABAB rhyming scheme verse isn't the clearest way to discuss combat skills. Who knew?
An Incomplete Life (sad story poem) ▼

Watch this performed on video on YouTube:

An Incomplete Life

He first saw the sun when it rose over the bell of a French horn.
Tuning up for school orchestra, she had attempted an F sharp.
The result put approximation to shame and resounded off wood-block floors.
She felt his levelled gaze and turned, and he beheld the dawn.
Embarrassment sent scattering by the humour in wrinkled eyes,
Her beaming face seared the lad who left by the awkward flappy doors.

Tuesdays and Thursdays he would go to see the back of her head,
To feel the infinite charm of that messy hair held up with an old HB,
To slide his trombone close, toying as the timpanis pounded, but never to touch.
Then there was the day when she said "Shall we go for a cup of tea?" She led.
That dismal cafe remains a beacon in his passing life.
To Aberdeen's stone academe she went.
How much did he miss her?

The telephone is a marvel, but it cannot compete
With the Martins and Davids who are actually there,
And the lad had no right to demand that they meet,
The lad had no right to demand that she care.

So he went to uni too, but not to Aberdeen,
Met Charlottes and Megans, danced to "Come on Eileen",
But the Megans and Charlottes all stood in the shade
Of the shadow that dawn over French horn had made.
His brain had been altered and now set in its ways.
Love was defined, love set in stone.
Love involved teas and HBs and those things alone
Oh - apart from heartache, frustration, and an unringing 'phone.

Winter set in. This one was to last
For the lad, then the man, mind nailed to the past.
He might glimpse the sun, perhaps once a year,
But he understood, had knowledge, not fear
That the shadow was with him, would be every hour,
And his life would be simple: bitter and sour.
He would plod through the tunnel, eat, sleep, and shit,
Bear in mind he was British, and show some true grit.
He harboured no hatred, they would always be friends.
She now lives with another, and this story now ends.


Tunnels have two ends, and both let in light.
For our hero, now ageing, remembers the night
His heart proved adaptive, could love more than one.
For there, in the library, shone a second sun.

Introduction was easy - she was reading his favourite book.
In short time, despite their whispers, they drew officious glowers,
And adjourned to the cafe for coffee
(Coffee? Can coffee work? Yes, coffee is fine).
It didn't matter a jot that she had a different look.
Their coffees went cold. They talked there for hours.
Finally - this was the one that he'd sought.
Soulmates exist! She even agreed with his rather unusual take on Dostoyevski.
She felt the same weird way!

"World," he thought, "I've made my choice. I want this one!"
Her hair wasn't messy - it was short and neat and perfect.
She wore glasses, and they were adorable.
But meetings in libraries, they weren't enough.
He'd waited too long, he wanted more of this stuff.
It was pleasant enough to give coffee a stir,
But dammit and blast it, he wanted HER.

The blaze of her light made his old shadow turn pale,
But he was now older, had no time left to fail.

"I'll be back in five months. We can carry on then."
"Oh yes? Going anywhere horrible?"
"Ha ha. Fossil-hunting trip to Kenya. My ex-boyfriend organised it ages ago."
"Ah. Might that prove awkward?"

Telephones are passé - now it's e-mail and better: Skype.
The images can freeze sometimes, but it doesn't do to gripe.
Late night long sessions of get-to-know-me chatter.
Should he keep it light? Is that right? Or cut to the heart of the matter?
The calls got rarer, then rarer still.
He began to get concerned.
Little news, then less, until,
After she returned...

Her smile was sympathetic, as the too-long pause did linger,
And his civil gaze dropped down to see the ring upon her finger.

His sun set over the train that left the station with the girl he couldn't win,
And he saw that he had his old shadow back, but now, he had its twin.


  • Before you imagine me on my way to some distant and precipitous spot, writing a note to be found some while later by dog walkers, please bear in mind that this story is made up. I wasn't in the school orchestra, drink neither tea nor coffee, had no old flame who went to Aberdeen University, have no pet theory on Dostoyevski, do not pick up women in libraries (apart from once), and don't know if there is even such a thing as a fossil-hunting trip to Kenya.
Pay Now, Dammit! (comedy poem) ▼

Watch this performed on video on YouTube:

Pay Now Dammit!

The ground would not swallow him up.
They were on the second floor.
He took a slow sip from his tea cup.
This couldn't go on for much more.

She rummaged again through her biggest bag,
Then emptied it out on the table.
His Christmas spirit had started to sag.
He pretended to read the wine label.

The day had started so well.
He had lined up all sorts of treats.
He'd awoken her gently with a tinkly bell.
Now he was sucking on awful free sweets.

He'd cooked a good breakfast, with sausage and toast,
Then they'd gone for a walk in the snow.
He was determined to be the most excellent host.
Was it all going swimmingly? No.

Quick description of her:
She would do as a working definition of the word 'sweet'.
Tiny, blonde, cute dimples, high voice.
He, meanwhile, was trying to pull off the feat
Of being a boyfriend like a Rolls Royce.

The waiter, waiting, shifted his weight.
He didn't know where best to look.
She formed one-pound coin piles - so far: eight,
And do you know how long that took?

Was she a 'modern woman'? Perhaps not,
But he'd still played the contemporary game.
They are independent - disrespect them not!
And treat them all exactly the same!

He was not a wealthy sort,
But it didn't matter - she didn't mind.
He made do by giving things thought,
Fared well by just being kind.

His few gifts were all well-chosen and fitting.
He'd carved her name into her toothbrush's handle.
He hid little surprises just where she'd be sitting.
When she shivered he'd warmed her with a great roaring candle.

But this day was his one great splurge of indulgence.
He'd paid for the ice-skating and hire of ice-skates.
He wanted to see her full gleeful effulgence.
(She's found a fiver! This is so tense)
He tried hard not drum his nails on the plates.

He'd paid for the museum, and the cinema, and the funfair.
There was no local zoo, but he'd have paid for that too.
So, Society - was it really so unfair
To ask her to pay for one cheap meal for two?

Now she was checking the inside of her hat,
And every coat pocket, each one by one.
He should pay. He could - in four seconds flat,
Then this would be over. This would be done.

The situation peaked perhaps when the waiter spoke.
"You're a very lucky man, sir."
"Yes I am." He spoke truly. "I am, I am, I know. I am a very lucky man."

He was wishing right then that she didn't look so young for her age.
Did the waiter think he was there with his kid?
He had secret tickets for her first panto on stage.
Oh - no he didn't.

She paid. They left. They would both see the funny side.
Out onto cool streets, by decorations lit.
More seasonal fun now - only lightly-punctured pride.
It was a perfect day
             ... Just apart from that bit.


  • Yes, all right, this one is based on a true story.
Ode to Hope (bleak comedy poem) ▼

Ode to Hope

An isolated officer, whose men have left their posts,
Stays put, and prepares to hold out against the hosts.
He'll take his chance, then he'll feel the bayonet,
Dancing Hope's dance, he'll not abandon Her just yet.

The fame-seeking auditioner, whose style is out of fashion,
Who keeps turning up, to impress them with great passion,
Will fritter away a good prime to no use,
For Hope has a head and brain in Her noose.

The love-sick torch-bearer, waits year after lonely year,
Convinced of having found the unique and perfect peer,
And while the idealised partner tries out so many others,
Hope, with Her ally Patience, the bearer's happiness smothers.

The gambler now feels it is worth just one more spin,
Knows in his heart that at last this time he'll win.
For Hope has made him feel so, and Hope has her cost,
And this time, his infant daughter's home will be lost.

Faith has been discredited, we're all rational atheists now,
And Glory died in World War One, is no longer a sacred cow.
Charity has been out-sourced to governments and NGOs,
But Hope is still on Her plinth, in comfortable repose.

Why do we let Her get away with it?
She's no friend of ours, She's just a git.
Put Hope on trial, read Her Her rights,
Or better still, punch out Her lights.

Hope makes us fools, uses us like tools,
Her game is cruel, so let's change the rules.
The next time you feel Hope push you along,
Don't say "Oo, that's lovely", start bashing this gong.

We'll all come running – the police to your aid,
Surround all the suspects, shout "This is a raid!
Nobody leaves 'til this felon is found.
We'll have Her at last, now She's gone to ground."

"We'll question them all, to dig out our quarry.
Those free of Her curse can go – the rest of you, sorry.
It'll take many hours, but it's time well spent.
If you are Her victim cast Her out now – repent!"

"Right, let's get on with it,
You come here, and sit."

[Suspect number four, interview tape]
"I take a homeopathic remedy for my elbow, so,
I'm hoping that the pain will go.
It still gives me gyp sometimes, although,
I could double the dose of my placebo."
[Suspect held for further questioning]

[Suspect number eighteen]
"Play the national lottery? Are you having me on?
Fourteen-million-to-one odds? No, my senses aren't gone.
Viewed using statistics, good reason, and facts,
It's clear it's just a stupidity tax."
[Suspect released]

There are many who will say that strength comes through Hope,
That She helps us endure, that Hope helps us cope.
She gets you to love Her, that's Her strength, you dope!
Once She's won you over, you're on a slippery slope.

"No, I don't like chemical vaccines,
And you can't trust anything made by machines,
But I'll throw good coinage into the waters below,
Of a wishing well, because, well, you never know."
[Suspect sectioned for the good of humanity]

If you want to survive, or succeed in reality,
It's better to have a firm grip on causality.
Foster hardiness, learn a skill, eat well, try not to die.
Indulging the mirage of Hope is preferring a lie.

"Most of my friends where I go to school,
Just swat a few topics, 'cos they think that's cool,
But I've looked at past papers, the syllabus is broad,
I'm not that gifted, so it's a risk I can't afford."

We nearly had Her once – trapped on a great ocean liner.
The captain, convinced that no ship was finer,
Used Hope to navigate, at night, at speed, through the 'bergs, didn't think,
Then Hope left him standing, as his liner started to sink.

If those people had just kept their heads, but there was panic.
There were too few lifeboats aboard the Titanic.
It took just one to pray for Hope, instead of Calm,
And Hope was hosted, then rescued, to continue Her harm.

All right, sergeant, let's run the next test,
We'll get the bitch one day, or I'll never rest.


  • I am not a fan of hope. It is a human emotion that is consistently presented as a good thing, and this is my way of arguing against this stance.
The Day of Insignificance (a true story of a missed flight and a day wasted) ▼

Watch me perform this on YouTube:

The Day of Insignificance

If I'd woken up sooner, I'd have a day, a whole extra day,
To live to the max, discover new facts, and work on my tan.
If I hadn't tried to check the timetable on-line,
I wouldn't have arrived just in time
To see the back of my bus, pulling away.
I'd have had twenty-four more hours on my project to become a proper man.

If that git at the station had just let me through,
And not insisted I pay some 'supplement' too,
Or if he'd taken a few seconds to explain
I needed to keep the receipt, I'd have not felt the pain
When I got to the airport, nor the need to complain
And argue, and not ended up paying all over again.

If the signposts for Terminal Two had included the stairs,
And not herded the sheep all into the lifts,
I'd have kept precious minutes spent pulling out hairs,
And stabbing dumb buttons, while those void of gifts,
Such as brains (oh you should have seen them)
They spewed out when they saw light twixt the doors,
Neglecting to note that we hadn't changed floors.

I escaped them, I ran, in my rather warm coat,
Got to check-in, passport scanned, but hope was remote
That they'd let me board. They called up the gate,
Quite a long talk in foreign, so... no.
I was just this much late.

My first ever missed flight.

"You could have just walked through security if you'd checked-in from home,"
Said the nice lady at the desk, "Someone you'd like to 'phone?"
Good point - there was the small matter of my hostess's house keys
That I'd put through her letterbox, so "Yes please."

Now I'm back at main station, and I'm writing this
Instead of living the useful day I'll now miss.
If I were back home, I'd be forging ahead,
Filling each second with another book read.
I'd be finishing symphonies, curing cancer,
And in World of Tanks improving my panzer.
This wasted day - oh! The things I could do!
Still, I suppose I could eat up your tiramisu.


  • I missed my flight in Stockholm. I called my hostess from the airport, and we arranged to meet at Gamla Stan tube station so that she could give me her keys. I finished the poem in the central station, and in the time it took to walk from there to meet her, I learned it by heart. When I arrived she was already there, and I launched into the poem without an intro or even making it clear that it was a poem at all. I think it did the trick. I've also bought her a bottle of mulled wine with saffron.
  • The night before I was due to leave, we ate supper together in the kitchen and a guest joining us had brought round a large packet of tiramisu which we didn't finish. My hostess had wanted me to finish it, so that she wouldn't end up eating it all herself, but I was stuffed. This explains the last line.
I'm Amazing ▼


"You're amazing!" was her opening line.
I looked down to find its source.
But should I believe these ears of mine?
I could be mistaken, of course.

Two young eyes beamed up at me.
Their beauty felt like a punch.
But when they looked, what did they see?
Did I pass muster, when it came to the crunch?

I've never been good at guessing age.
Was she twenty, or thirty-five?
Does it matter? Should it matter? Do I need to be sage?
Who cares how long she's been alive?

Society cares. There are rules. People judge.
Careful now - you stand at the brink
Of disgrace, social ruin, a pariah - they won't budge.
Yes, it might matter what some people might think.

But look at me now - talk about 'jumping the gun'!
She's likely just here to say 'hi'.
Perhaps she's an out-of-uniform nun,
Who doesn't want me, but was just passing by.

Contradicting these thoughts is her whole body's pose.
Every part is pointing at me.
Tingling hope, right down to her toes.
She's keen - that's plain now to see.

But how keen? What's the extent of her hope?
To say we talked at the conference - just that?
No! Just look at those eyes! Don't be a dope.
She's fast-bowling. I must swing the bat.

So, what do I say? Help me. What do I do?
There were no lessons at school about this.
I'm conscious that these chances are few.
Is there any way this can end in a kiss?

I am... gracious, and ask where she's from.
Oh! Italian Swiss - how delightful!
Not the way to impress the Cimmerian Crom,
But that Conan's technique was quite frightful.

I truly have no ambition to be
That guy - the creepy sleazy cad and the bounder.
I'm not him. That just isn't me,
But in fleeing him, I find I just flounder.

What about that guy - can't I be him?
He gets the girl, treats her well, and it's fine.
I gave a great presentation, and I want to cash in,
But this is the end, every time:

We talk a bit more, 'til the moment has passed.
Her eyes look away, and the light in them dies.
She rejoins the crowd. I feel tied to the mast.
Well, I suppose that was not a surprise.


  • Is this based on a true story? If I said it were, would that be boasting or modesty?
Tough Love - ignoring Hugh Grant (about the difference between rom-coms and real life) ▼

You can use this control to hear the poem read out..

TOUGH LOVE (learning to ignore Hugh Grant)

There's a thing they don't tell you – your teachers at school,
That they leave you to find on your own.
They same thing they won't tell you – your friends, all so cool,
They can't – they won't know 'til they're grown.

There are no lessons in love between history and art,
At college it's vocational courses.
Bachelor of happiness? That's not university's part,
For this stuff, we need different sources.

Your parents won't help you,
Though of course they mean well,
But to speak truths like this takes some grit,
And they wish it were true,
They don't want to dispel,
The myth that being teenage isn't shit.

So we turn to the rom-com,
To lessons from the silver screen,
To Hugh Grant, to see how it's done.
This is where our knowledges is from,
Illustrated scene-by-scene,
And with Hugh, it's bound to be fun.

We see our hero, perhaps cocky, perhaps shy,
We watch as he meets the main girl,
See him fall for her, and then to win her he'll try,
But how does it always unfurl?

The heroine, of course, will melt at his smile.
She has to – we've paid her to do this,
But this bliss will last only a while,
And why? Because he was remiss.

We are shown that it was his fault.

He forgot her birthday, yelled out the wrong name,
Or haplessly murdered her cat.
He didn't deserve her – it's the rules of the game.
The point is, that he was the rat.

The reason she leaves him – it's all perfectly fair,
This is justice, and logic, and fact,
His actions lacked love, showed he just didn't care,
So he's lonely at start of third act.

The popcorn's now eaten, though we're left with the smell.
Oh Hugh, Hugh! Now what will you do?
You can't let her marry that lawyer chap.
She could love you, really, we know, we can tell,
Even though she gave you that slap.

The writers apply the formula, the one we all know,
Our whole culture teaches us this.
Hugh reads out his lines, does everything so,
It inevitably leads to that kiss.

He just has to prove that his love is deep,
Then she has to surrender, it's written.
The rules state that she's his now to keep.
He wins her because HE is smitten.

Oh, my culture, my culture you lie.
That's not how it works, that is cruel.
Dear emoing teen, with resent in your eye,
Ignore Hugh – he was just acting, you fool.

Romantic love casts a powerful spell,
Via hormones, synapses, and – well – Hugh.
Believe it, and you're not mentally well,
And you're not going to like what is true.

The hex makes you feel an illusion, no more,
"If she knew the depth of my love, she'd love me."
No. I'm afraid, that's not what love's for.
It evolved for a purpose, you see.

But that function was not to fill you with joy,
Or to give great composers all the best notes,
Guide the hands of the painters into perfect brush strokes,
Boost the feet of the dancers, so that every step floats.
No, boy.
The function of love is mundane and flat.
It's for passing on genes – no more than that.

It blinds us to the faults of others,
So that fathers stick around with mothers.
It binds a family, so that babes in arms,
Get nurtured despite their lack of charms.
They poo, and cry, and dribble, and cry, and keep this up for years.
Love is the drug that parents take to cope with all the tears.

You have a sex-drive, and an aching desire,
To find your perfect match,
And if you find her, she might stoke passion's fire,
But I said "if", and there's the catch.

In your confused misery you may wallow,
Or I've a pill for you to swallow.
It's bitter, yes, but it will do you good.
You'll be less morose, once you've understood.

What works for Hugh, won't work for you.

If you like her, fine, you might win a friend.
If you love her, that could well spell the end.
Don't prove your love, don't start sky-writing yet.
Don't show her you're tongue-tied, when you've hardly met.
For bumbling Hugh, it' a love-dart-shooting fairy,
But coming from you, she'll just find it scary.
Love makes your speech stutter, not sharper,
Hearing that, she'll think "nutter" and scarper.

Yes, it's pain. Take it, or it will get worse.
Love at your stage is only a curse.
Come the day you are with her, love will be good,
Every day bring her flowers, as the good husband should,

But you hold no stock.
Your love market is tanking.
I don't mean to mock,
But have you tried wanking?


  • My favourite films are not rom-coms. They are too predictable. This poem points out one rather major flaw in their logic. We shouldn't look to the cinema for lessons in love.

And here is my full YouTube playlist of poetry videos

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