The Roman Calendar

Before the time of mighty Caesar,

The Roman year posed quite a teaser.

In ancient times ten months were named.

For lack of two cold Winter’s blamed.

 

The year began on March the first,

When Winter’s storms had done their worst.

‘Twas left to wise men when to start,

So Time and Seasons came to part.

 

Janus came to guard the door,

But still they needed one month more.

And so to seek a fresh new year,

The februa’s lash was brought to bear.

 

The score of days for each month’s due

Was twenty-nine for all save few.

Twenty-eight was Februa’s lot,

And thirty-one four others tot.

 

March was one and May another,

Quint’lis third, and last October.

Their Ides and Nones fell two days on,

To try to catch the fickle moon.

 

But still the year was ten days short,

And priests were called to mend this tort.

Mere mortals, they were seldom right,

And Spring oft winced with wintry blight.

 

Once more this battle Caesar won,

While beauteous Cleo bore his son.

For Egypt’s wisdom held the key,

To Time’s elusive mystery.

 

Sixty-five and hundreds three

Were now the days a year should be.

But Cleo’s curse says every four,

Februa must bear one day more.

 

Thirty days now hath September,

April, June and bleak November,

While thirty-one have all the rest,

Twenty-nine is February’s best.

 

Quint’lis bears the hero’s fame,

Fifth month no more, July’s her name.

Augustus sailed in Caesar’s wake

And Sextilis his honours take.

 

Two thousand years his measure stands

Still marking time for modern lands.

Yet few now honour Caesar’s name …

Another moth to Vulcan’s flame.

 

Our year’s ordained twelve stanzas long

And so, dear friend, must be our song.

It would be shame to play the miser

When Caesar made us so much wiser.

 

 

Syston, Jan ‘94

A Beach Idyll

I wrote this little poem after I found a desktop image on my computer that reminded me strongly of a stroll on a beautiful silver-sanded tropical beach in Brunei near the British Army Gurkha base at Seria many years ago. I was a long way from home, wife and growing family and missing them.

**********

Sun dips over sandy beach, setting the sky ablaze.
Its golden orb flirts with mackerel clouds in the west,
Heralding change – tomorrow’s rain-swept haze –
But now the stage is set at its glorious backlit best.

A freshening wind stirs the sparkling wavelets.
They tumble onto golden sands with the ebbing tide.
White horses prance far out as the restless sea frets,
Impatient to shed their golden bits and cast their reins aside.

Apollo has paused to admire his golden tresses as he drives
His gilded chariot on to its haunted nightly flight,
East beneath the waves to where the new dawn strives,
Where now black velvet foreshadows approaching night.

Scenes of such beauty etch themselves on the mind,
Cherished memories – barefoot lovers hand in hand,
Lost in happiness, careless of the world – true love is blind.
Blissful moments. Paradise found in sun and sand.

Winter Walks With The Dog

November Walks

It started wet!
I heard the milk float swishing by at seven.
Oh, never fret…
For dog, just getting soaked is heaven.

The Sun is up,
But rain clings doggedly to darkness still.
Bedraggled pup!
Our dawn patrols are growing dank and chill.

The field’s awash
And surface water glitters in the grass.
Dog loves a splash…
That sunbeam came and went as bold as brass.

The spray flies high
As pounding legs fling droplets in the air.
Stub tail is high,
Tongue waving wild – go near him if you dare.

Infectious grin,
Who dares to say our canine friends can’t smile?
This one can.
A smile miles wide, without a trace of guile.

White socks now black
Liquid mud turning beauty into beast.
Dog paddles back,
Innocence and mischief mingled – what a feast!

Now homeward bound,
Ears cocked, eyes wide, ever spoiling for a fight.
Oh, happy hound.
High stepping, nose quivering, breakfast now in sight.

Syston, November ’94

Winter Walks

Translucent Glow,
Eerie quiet follows sudden silenced radio alarm.
I sense the snow,
Cosy still – reluctant yet to rise – so snug and warm.

He’s there, of course!
Dog’s clock is never foxed by weather’s tricks.
I must perforce
Get up or else…proverbial ton of bricks!

Remember when
A year old pup, he gingerly took stock of that first fall?
New game then!
We laughed until we cried…he had a ball!

He licked it first,
Then tossed fresh nosed-up chunks to left and right.
I thought I’d burst
When he pounced upon a snowdrift – what a fright!

He loves it still.
The joy that lights his eye as each winter glows.
Oh what a thrill!
A child’s delight for us each time it snows.

Remember how
He ducked when snowflakes fluttered down?
No novice now,
He takes that in his stride – still plays the clown.

He bounds straight out
And charges off to mar the virgin field,
Then turns about
And rushes back to see if I will yield.

I stand my ground.
He leaps towards my out-stretched arms in glee.
I spin around
And miss my footing, falling on one knee.

He lands astride,
Full of fun and game for rough and tumbles any day.
A truce denied.
It’s play or freeze – no fear of growing old this way

Syston, December ‘94

“Bloody January Again!”

(With title acknowledgement to Flanders & Swann, if I remember rightly)

(The weather seems right for a belated repeat)

“Snow on high ground, turning to sleet; rain later…”
‘Twas never thus where I was born on lion-isled equator.
‘Fifteen hundred words’ I read … all blackness, gloom … how dire!
Do I need to write such guff – a tale of rime and mire?

Abandoned by the Muse again – no one can tell you why.
Dark clouds like crows wing westward, a lonesome flake whips by.
Now there’s a thing! Could this portend new inspiration?
A chance perhaps to tell that tale of sore humiliation.

If memory serves ‘twas a day like this, though several years ago.
The weather man was warning then of ‘pending sleet and snow.’
Yet another death knell warning – they never get it right.
Let’s find his lead and dig out hound before we lose the light.

“Turning to sleet …” Already? I thought, braving those icy blades
Rattling angrily on waxen coat – pleasure swiftly fades.
No, not for dog; he’s weather-proof, puddles and mud his joys,
It’s me – I’m getting crotchety – no longer one of the boys.

I turned for home and took a path through reeds and swampy scrubs.
Well booted I scorn’d the frozen pools … no probs!
Two pretty schoolgirls squealed their ‘hi!’s as bouncing hound they greet.
Crabbily I point to their trainers and warn of cold wet feet.

What did I do; what did I say to deserve so cruel a fate?
Why did the sprite of this footpath Pick on me to practise his hate?
Was it something I thought; was it something I wrote that provoked his baleful ire?
Did his spark of spiteful vengeance have to be quite so dire?

Treacherous legs, so solid once, took leave of my control.
The icebound pool I blithely robbed of its icy, frost-rimed soul
Received my courderoy-trousered seat with undisguised mirth…
Was that him laughing? Ice-wet fingers probed my girth.

In dignified discomfort I headed home, frozen to the quick.
A corpse could not feel colder when called to meet Old Nick.
Then, flash! “TGIF! I have an excuse to go and drown my sorrows!
“Welcome back sense of humour! Here’s to some warm tomorrows!”

Winter 1994

Drinkies Time!

(For a Whisky Company’s Competition)

Gee an’ tees is for sippin’ not guzzlin,
So the wife says, an’ she ought to know.
But somehow I find it real puzzlin’
How ’ers last till mine’s gone… then, cheer-oh!

Whisky Mac! Now there’s a fine taster!
Warms the cockles, as they say down in Kent.
Now, good whisky’s a real penny waster,
But good ginger is money well spent.

Brandy sour, there’s a cocktail to master,
One to conjure the tropical sun.
A tip – take lemon and a rough sea salt caster,
Rim your glass before mixing this one.

Singapore Slings are a wonder
From Raffles they come, so they say.
I’ve forgotten the secret – a blunder
I’ll rue till I’ve found the right way.

Pink gins are a naval man’s tipple…
He’ll drink ‘em from sundown till dawn.
On his composure they’ll scarce make a ripple …
Till you tell him the pinker’s all gorn.

Now beer for the lads may be healthy,
But the ladies don’t often imbibe.
Perhaps a lager for those that aren’t wealthy,
Port and lemon for the commoner tribe.

Composed inLate 1999