Street Scene

Stroll down any dusty thoroughfare
From Maida Vale to scruffy Shepherd’s Bush
They’ll ambush you on pavement then and there
Relieve you of your digits, prod and push.

Foot soldiers, armed with clipboards and ambition
Will tug at strings that tie the heart to purse
Their target: the conversion to commission
Of less-than-living wages as you curse.

The haves that make up half the knotty problem
Are touched for cash by those who live below
Embarrassed by their wealth, some may endure them
While others just ignore them as they go.

With one foot on the ladder of ascension
The other in the bucket of distress
They’ll tell you of the horrors one won’t mention
To try to hold attention and impress.

The passers-by whose means are independent
Whose social conscience privilege must prick
Are rarely found donating rent or pension
Confronted daily, skin must be quite thick.

While those who swallow pride and do the needful
Are debited directly for their pains
Their duty to society a creed. Full
Of charitable empathy and claims.

My Uncle Fred Flew

This poem is written based on a familiar family anecdote from my great uncle Fred, who was a pilot in the First World War (RFC) and absolutely hated flying, but tolerated it as the lesser of two evils.

My Uncle Fred said
There are few things as crazy
As teaching a man how to fly

But nevertheless
He felt fresh as a daisy
While soaring around in the sky

For he looked at the ground
Through the canvas and wood
And was sure that his way was the best

He insisted it sound
If not ethically proved
So the Flying Corps flew on his chest

For it’s better by far
He would whisper to Nan
To be perched in the lap of the Gods

And be laughed at and scorned
In each pub, club and bar
That be shot at and drowning in mud

So when given the choice
To be burned to a crisp
By a passing balloon and cigar

He had taken his chance
Floating up in the clouds
With the birds and the air and the fear

And he swore a strong oath
At the powers that were
Irresponsibly running the thing

For he must be a fool
To be choosing to trust
In a glorified tent, wheels and wings

Yet he couldn’t deny
While his faculties ruled
That it made far more sense to steer clear

Than be ‘trenched in a war
In a hole in the ground
With the other poor buggers down there

My great grandfather was also involved in the First World War. He joined the Canadian infantry under age and came home full of shrapnel, having been promoted very fast for a seventeen year old, twice left for dead on the battlefield, and stripped of his dog tags by mistake, so his family got quite a shock when he returned from war as they had been told he was among the fallen. He married a nurse as was relatively common (and sensible in his condition as he had to live with the shrapnel all his life). I never knew him personally, as by the time I came along he was no longer with us, but by all accounts, he was a man of relatively few words and infinite patience.