Alternative Anthem

By John Agard

Put the kettle on
Put the kettle on
It is the British answer
to Armageddon.

Never mind taxes rise
Never mind trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
and that’s the kettle, mate.

It’s not whether you lose
It’s not whether you win
It’s whether or not
you’ve plugged the kettle in.

May the kettle ever hiss
May the kettle ever steam
It is the engine
that drives our nation’s dream.

Long live the kettle
that rules over us
May it be limescale free
and may it never rust.

Sing it on the beaches
Sing it from the housetops
The sun may set on empire
but the kettle never stops.


Dance Hall

Dance Hall Scene. Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson. c. 1913-14

Dance Hall Scene. Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson. c. 1913-14


Waiting For You

Bar Italia by Hugo Williams

How beautiful it would be to wait for you again
in the usual place,
not looking at the door,
keeping a lookout in the long mirror,
knowing that if you are late
it will not be too late,
knowing that all I have to do
is wait a little longer
and you will be pushing through the other customers,
out of breath, apologetic.
Where have you been, for God’s sake?
I was starting to worry.

How long did we say we would wait
if one of us was held up?
It’s been so long and still no sign of you.
As time goes by, I search other faces in the bar,
rearranging their features
until they are monstrous versions of you,
their heads wobbling from side to side
like heads on sticks.
Your absence inches forward
until it is standing next to me.
Now it has taken a seat I was saving.
Now we are face to face in the long mirror.


You Want, You Eat, and Afterwards You Have Eaten

British poet Mandy Coe makes a good argument for cheese and pickle sandwiches over men. I think I’m with her on this one.

Go To Bed With a Cheese and Pickle Sandwich

It is life enhancing.
It doesn’t chat you up.
You have to make it.

A cheese and pickle sandwich
is never disappointing.
You don’t lie there thinking:
Am I too fat?
Too fertile?
Too insecure?

Your thoughts are clear,
your choices simple:
to cut it in half
or not to cut it in half,
how thin to slice the cheese
and where you should place the pickle.

From a cheese and pickle sandwich
you do not expect flowers,
poems and acts of adoration.
You expect what you get:
cheese… and pickle.

You want, you eat,
and afterwards you have eaten.
No lying awake resentful,
listening to it snore.

Safe snacks.
It comes recommended.

Mandy Coe, from Pinning the Tail on the Donkey (Spike)
and 101 Poems that Could Save Your Life
Edited by Daisy Goodwin, Harper Collins


Great Australian Bight

Great Australian Bight. Philip Sutton. 1966

Great Australian Bight. Philip Sutton. 1966


Her Voice Sings to Me Out of the Past

A beautiful poem by Hugo Williams, his words ring true

Siren Song

I phone from time to time, to see if she’s
Changed the music on her answerphone.
‘Tell me in two words,’ goes the recording,
‘what you were going to tell in a thousand.’

I peer into that thought, like peering out
To sea at night, hearing the sound of waves
Breaking on rocks, knowing she is there,
Listening, waiting for me to speak.

Once in a while she’ll pick up the phone
And her voice sings to me out of the past.
The hair on the back of my neck stands up
As I catch her smell for a second.


Today Is The Tomorrow You Were Promised Yesterday

Today is the Tomorrow you were Promised Yesterday. Victor Burgin. 1976.

Today Is The Tomorrow You Were Promised Yesterday. Victor Burgin. 1976.

The early morning mist dissolves. And the sun shines on the Pacific. You stand like Balboa the Conquistador. On the cliff top. Among the last of the Monterey Cypress trees. The old whaler’s hut is abandoned now. But whales still swim through the wild waves. Sea otters float on the calmer waters. Cracking abalone shells on their chest. Humming birds take nectar from the red hibiscus. Pelicans splash lazily in the surf. Wander down a winding path. Onto gentle sands. Ocean crystal clear. Sea anemones. Turquoise waters. Total immersion. Ecstasy.