Christmas Past – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

xmas-eve.jpg

(with abject apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

Throughout this Christmas week, in addition to my normal seasonal posts (on Tuesday and Friday) and in the long-established TV tradition of festive repeats, I will re-post six of my very favourite Christmas offerings from Christmas Past.  The fifth of these reposts is from my very first WordPress Christmas in 2018 and is, I think, my very favourite Seasonal Special to date…


‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
It should have been squeaking away at its wheel
Not laying face down and stiff in its meal.
 
 
There’ll be tears in the morn’ when she comes with his bread
And your dear little daughter discovers him dead,
But still, do not worry, she will not stay sad
When she spots, through the wrapping, that she’s got an i-pad.
 
 
The stockings we hung by the chimney with strings,
Were not for all the extravagant things:
For those they have hanging, at the end of their beds
Two giant sacks with their names on instead.
 
 
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
Whilst visions of smart phones danced in their heads
And mummy and I, with an hour to kill,
Were fearfully reading the credit card bill.
 
 
When out in the street arose such a din,
‘Cos the people next door were trying to get in,
But the key they were trying was turning no more,
Which wasn’t surprising – it wasn’t their door.
 
 
‘If you hadn’t guzzled that last Famous Grouse,
You’d have known straight away that it wasn’t our house.’
Said the wobbling wife as she stumbled for home
And was sick down the back of a small plastic gnome.
 
 
‘It’s four in the morning,’ an angry voice cried.
‘Just shut up your racket or I’m coming outside.’
Then all became silent, except, from afar
The sound of a key down the side of their car.
 
 
As dry leaves start falling from autumnal trees,
So snow began drifting along on the breeze
And high in the sky at the reins of his sled,
A white bearded man with a hat on his head.
 
 
‘Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen.
On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen!’
He cried to the reindeer in tones slurred and merry,
Having just swallowed down his ten thousandth sherry.
 
 
And then, for a moment, I heard from the roof
An outburst of language that seemed most uncouth,
Then a flash by the window – a red and white blur
Of fat man and white beard; of red felt and fur.
 
 
He knocked on the door when he’d climbed to his feet
And adjusted his cloak ‘gainst the cold blinding sleet.
‘Just give me five minutes to sit by your fire
And I’ll see that your children get all they desire.’
 
 
We gave him some tea and both patiently sat
As he talked about this and he talked about that
And then, having eaten the last hot mince pie
He rose and he slapped on his red-trousered thigh.
 
 
He yawned – ‘I must return to my duty
My sled is still packed with a mountain of booty.’
And then, as he turned to the door with a wave
We reminded him of the promise he gave.
 
 
‘Of course, yes,’ he laughed, his jolly face beaming.
‘But quick now, while the kids are still dreaming.
Here, look at this dolly with glass-beaded eyes
And this wig and some glasses to make a disguise.’
 
 
‘A car made of tin and a train made of wood.
This big Snakes & Ladders is really quite good.
An orange, some nuts and a new, shiny penny.’
But electrical goods he hadn’t got any.
 
 
‘You conman,’ we cried. ‘You are not Santa Claus.
If we’d known it we would have left you outdoors.
The real Father Christmas would not carry such tat.
We want top class products – and brand names at that.’
 
 
‘Our kids will go mad if we give them this shite:
There are no soddin’ batteries and no gigabytes.
They don’t give a monkeys about innocence lost;
Just leave them a bill so they know what stuff costs.’
 
 
He turned to us now and his eyes filled with tears,
‘These presents have kept children happy for years.’
We looked at the list of the rubbish he’d got.
‘You silly old fool, you are losing the plot.’
 
 
He sprang to his sleigh crying ‘Sod this, I’m beat!’
And they all flew away to their Lapland retreat,
But I heard him exclaim ‘They are never content.
Now the thought doesn’t count – just the money you’ve spent.’
 
 
And so Christmas morning descended with gloom.
The children both rose and they looked round the room
At the i-phones, the i-pads, the Xbox and games
And they pulled at the labels and picked out their names.
 
 
Then at last they had finished, all presents unwrapped,
And we sat down for breakfast all energy sapped.
‘This is lame,’ they exclaimed.  ‘This day is a bore.’
‘We’ve only got what we asked Santa Claus for.’
 
 
Then they saw on the floor where the old man had stood
A doll made of cloth and a train made of wood
And happily, low-tech, they played all the day
Whilst we packed all of their i-stuff away.
 

Originally posted 22nd December 2018

Zoo #52 – My Last Word on the Subject

The beast that shakes the tiger’s cage
And stirs gorillas into rage,
Who loads the straw on camel’s back
And goads the lions to attack.

Who throws the dregs of KFC,
Pulls faces at the chimpanzee
And finds in every petting zoo
The chance to pinch a chick or two.

Who locks away in fenced-in void
The species that it first destroyed.
The beast that
should be in a pen
We call it Homo Sapien…

The zoo is now closed.

Zoo #51 – Monkey

A monkey screamed with righteous rage
At those who locked him in a cage.
So sad for him, he didn’t know,
They’d chopped his home down long ago.

This was one of the very first Zoo Rhymes that I wrote, but it seemed so melancholy that I sat on it until now.  It emanates from the films of the last Orang Utan climbing to the very top of the only tree left standing in the middle of a burned out forest.  The pictures are excruciatingly sad,  particularly as the Orang is pretty much as close as we get to a family in the wild.  The real selfishness of the human race is that it puts its own needs so far above the needs of every other species, whilst it salves its conscience by preserving the last of the line in a zoo…

NB I do know the difference between a monkey and an ape, but it’s just a little rhyme after all, isn’t it…

Shameful bloody humanity…

Zoo #50 – Rhinoceros

The short-sighted rhinoceros
Is known to try and charge a bus.
If you were driving, would you dare
To ask a rhino for his fare?

A short nonsense rhyme again this week about a rhinoceros because, well… you see I was watching a television programme about fish.  The fish were blind cave tetra, and they were being introduced into a zoo’s aquarium.  These little chaps wile their lives away in pitch-black caves where eyesight is of no value to them at all, so evolution has equipped them instead, with what is more or less, a highly tuned sonar system and a sense of smell that could detect a Stilton cheese in the Sahara.  In return, it has taken their eyes.  Now, the tank which was to become their new home was nicely dressed, very cave-like, except for one distinctly incongruous feature: in order that the fish were visible to the glass-tapping multitudes, it was very brightly lit (not, of course, that the fish would have known it).  Well, it just occurred to me, if they were kept in such conditions for long enough – year after year, generation after generation, eon after eon – would evolution give them their eyes back?  Is evolution reversible?  Moreover I wondered, if this poor benighted planet of ours should survive long enough with us on it, would evolution start mitigating our effects on other species?  Would it, perhaps, rob the elephant of its tusks given that tuskless elephants were much more likely to survive to old age without becoming part of a piano?  Would it rob the sharks of their fins, because on balance, what was lost in agility might be gained in stealth (eg not being spotted off the beach by troubled town sheriffs) and the liability not to wind up in noodle soup?  Would whales cease to be slaughtered by the Japanese if they could monitor their own stocks?  Could the leopard change its spots?  Would rhinos evolve without horns; shorn of the fearsome ability to charge, but far less likely to be consumed by some ancient idiot with erectile dysfunction?  Could the human race begin to realise that it is merely part of a whole, and not the entire reason for its being?  I’m not sure, but I shall keep a very close eye on the tetra…

Zoo #48 – Red in Tooth and Claw

Nature executes her duties,
Fills the world with savage beauties
Sharp of tooth and fierce of claw –
Mighty is the carnivore.

Creatures which are most beguiling
Merely furnish stomach-lining:
Nothing in the world as edgy
As animals both small and veggie.

This earth was never meant to be
A place of equanimity:
Reality, it seems, is bleak
The strong will always eat the weak

Might and muscle, fast and sleek,
Feast on fluffy, cute and meek.
Fortunate the favoured few
Nature paints in vivid hue.

Red provides a broad suggestion,
‘Eating me gives indigestion’ –
Always saved a savage mauling
Anything that tastes appalling.

Hunters know that prey dressed kitschy
At very best will leave them itchy
And those that wear a peacock suit
Are seldom worthy of pursuit

Creatures written most prosaic
Merely join this earth’s mosaic
Fate and future clearly wrote;
Listed under Table d’hote.


A few double entendres and a scattering of preposterous rhymes.  I look out of my window as I type this and the countryside is currently beyond beautiful.  Everything is in full leaf, most is in colourful bloom; everything that bloomed in early spring is full of fast-ripening fruit.  Nature provides the most stunning backdrop to the most gruesome of fates…

Zoo #47 – Unicorn

The Unicorn was no bright spark,
He missed his place on Noah’s Ark
While looking at his own reflection,
Trying to find some imperfection
In the flawless beauty he
Supposed that he was meant to be.

Admiring each and every feature,
Mother Nature’s favourite creature
Buffed his horn and groomed his coat…..
Sad to say, he missed the boat.
Perhaps if he had been less vain,
We might have seen his kind again.

(The moral of this story’s simple:
Don’t get worried by a pimple.
You should always view with scorn
The story of the Unicorn.
He worried over every flaw
And now, alas, he is no more.
So, if you have to be like him
Perhaps you ought to learn to swim.)

Another poem aimed directly at children and at my two granddaughters in particular, but this time with a slightly more melancholic air.  As I know that patience has a limit, this will probably be the last mythical creature to find a place in my zoo, which is anyway nearing closure.  The unicorn had to be male because my granddaughters know that no girl would be so vain…

Zoo #46 – It (2)

It’s red and green

         and in between

                 its spots are sometimes yellow.

Its head is red

         its feet instead

                 are something much more mellow.

Its beak is white

         except at night

                 when some of it is dotted.

It’s fair to say

         that anyway

                 it’s rarely ever spotted.

Clearly a part two to last week’s ‘It’ and just as much of a ‘children’s’ rhyme.  My three-year olds don’t get the joke, but they still think it is funny – and that will definitely do…

Zoo #45 – It

Continuing the rather more fanciful little spate of zoo poems aimed more directly at children.

This thing is like two balls of string
With half a horse between.
Its head is like a cream éclair;
Its feet like butter beans.

A tail of green, a mane of blue,
With spots along its back –
A cheerful disposition
Although its mood is black.

It could be `He’, it could be `She’,
It could be `Them’ or `They’
(I think it knows the answer
But is not inclined to say).

Its eyes are green, like tangerines,
It hasn’t any hair.
It’s really very common
Although extremely rare.

In fact, I’ve never seen one,
I promise you, it’s true,
And if you stay awake all night
You’ll never see one too!

Q.    What is it?

A.    I haven’t the faintest idea.

I’ve always written ‘children’s poems’ (even when I’m trying to do otherwise, my output seldom rises above the infantile).  The absence of any call for logic is incredibly refreshing and saves hours of time in Wikipedia research.  Spike Milligan had the greatest gift of writing for the child in all adults.  It is something to which we should all aspire…

Zoo #44 – The Rhinohippoeleraffe

Having spent a few days writing poems for my grandchildren, the zoo poems have taken on a rather more fanciful air.  I hope you will forgive this temporary lack of cynicism…

Once-upon-a-long-ago
When all the world was cold as snow.
And ice-cream grew from carrot trees
And camels fluttered on the breeze
There came along a fearsome beast
A creature who, to say the least,
Would not be happy should you laugh;
The Rhinohippoeleraffe.

His eyesight was so very poor;
He had a horn upon his jaw.
He lived in water, eating weed
To satisfy his massive greed.
You may have guessed, I must suppose,
He had a trunk where you’ve a nose.
His fur was filled with blotchy spots.
He looked like he’d got chickenpox.
A neck so long he touched the sky
(He never ever wore a tie)
Completed this ungainly creature.
(In fact it was his nicest feature.)

He had, as you may well conclude,
The disposition to be rude.
His temper frayed so very fast
No wonder that his days have passed
No longer does he walk upon
The greenish land where he belonged.
But then, it couldn’t last for long,
He always was the only one.

If a zoo is going to hold any attraction to a child, it surely has to include a creature or two that only otherwise exists in their imagination…