Monday, May 26, 2008

I am the official poet for Shed Week 2008. You can share your shed, beach hut, though not your hide, here.

The Rhyme-Botherer’s Garden Shed

Shedspla! my shed:
Just once, let me find shortbread
In the shortbread tin, not screws;
Let the bolts in the jam jars bruise
Is white spirit as mild as the moisty
Mizzle of morn, when supped
From the gowpen of two hands cupped;
As scant in the mouth, as faint,
Ill-equipped to thin paint,
Though it thins the thirst well enough?

The Hide

In the dark, dark grounds of Birch Grove, Harold Macmillan’s Sussex home, there was a dark, dark hide, which was used for observing badgers. And in that dark, dark badger hide there was a dark, dark bench. And under that dark, dark bench was a little refrigerator, with a white, if somewhat grubby, door. Its interior light had been sabotaged so that the badgers were not disturbed whenever the door was opened.

The fridge made a slight buzzing sound, but the badgers were fine with that, apparently. There were two receptacles stored therein: a jar of peanut butter and a bottle, which contained Charles de Gaulle’s blood.

The French President had been terrified of an assassination attempt, and so, before visiting the Prime Minister in 1961, he bottled some of his blood as a contingency for transfusion.

Lady Dorothy Macmillan was squeamish. The kitchen fridge was “full of haddock and all sorts of things for tomorrow”, and so the President was forced to store his blood in this makeshift fridge. Its buzzing kept the foxes and hedgehogs away, but, as I say, the badgers were apparently fine with it.

When the President left without his blood, the Macmillans decided to keep it in the fridge, as a jolly thing to talk about over dinner. Just before dusk, when the light was still conducive, Harold would lead the male guests down to the bottom of the garden for cognac, to smoke cigars, and to see the blood.

The buzzing may not have disturbed the badgers, but the increasing cigar smoke and the sniggering of the guests eventually did for the sett. The last generation of Birch Grove badgers left, and then in 1974 the hide was dismantled.

Around this time, 250 miles away at Port Quiggiligus in Cornwall, the pilchards failed, and then all the men were drowned at sea. The women abandoned the village and their houses fell into disrepair.

Also around this time, 250 miles in another direction, my father sat in a deckchair watching my mother, who was nine months pregnant, assemble their first garden shed.

Cover point, stow of shud;
A badger hide and de Gaulle’s blood!

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Creeping Sync of Sinkininny Church

St. Enodoc churchyard, I am standing beside the grave of Sir John Betjeman. The gravestone just visible to the left of the picture belongs to Herberta Blanche Bone, also buried in 1984.