Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Summer Poetry Party chez Rathbone.

Posted in Poetry Party by sheelanagigcomedienne on August 14, 2012

We held a Poetry Party on the 12th August – the last day of the Olympics. It was to celebrate the space afforded by the removal of the air raid shelter and Dave’s 75th which we didn’t mention in the invitation.

As ever, people came along to read a lovely mix of poems and told why they resonated with them. We had the newly penned paeon to the Olympics by our first female poet laureate which included the salutory reminder of the reality of the fierce cuts in government spending caused by politicians and bankers and demands for the return of school playing fields which very much resonated with us as Wandsworth Council force Elliott School to sell off half of its playing fields.

We’ve had our pockets picked,

the soft, white hands of bankers,

bold as brass, filching our gold, our silver;

we want it back.

A Torygraph reverend called Mullen slated it. She is, after all,  only doing what her job description demands unlike the former rector of  St Sepulchre-without-Newgate defender of bankers and scribe for the Wall Street Journal as part of his Christian calling.

We had some old school favourites – De la Mere’s  The listeners  spooky and mysterious. Masefield’s Cargos when some remembered the first line Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir and most of us the ending and cheap tin trays. Maureen read Betjeman’s London Sketches – a tribute to our street which is in Battersea!

Lavender Sweep is drowned in Wandsworth,
Drowned in jessamine up to the neck,
Beetles sway upon the bending grass leagues
Shoulder-level to Tooting Bec.
Rich as Middlesex, rich in signboards,
Lie the lover-trod lanes between,
Red Man, Green Man, Horse and Waggoner,
Elms and sycamores round a green.
Burst, good June, with a rush this morning,
Bindweed weave me an emerald rope
Sun, shine bright on the blossoming trellises,
June and lavender, bring me hope.

Later by request we had his A Subaltern’s Love Song known to us all as Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

We had Pope, BrianPatten, Roger Mc Gough, Sheenagh Pugh’s SOMETIMES and Wendy Cope’s sad poem on old age.

Names – Wendy Cope

She was Eliza for a few weeks
When she was a baby –
Eliza Lily. Soon it changed to Lil.

Later she was Miss Steward in the baker’s shop
And then ‘my love’, ‘my darling’, Mother.

Widowed at thirty, she went back to work
As Mrs Hand. Her daughter grew up,
Married and gave birth.

Now she was Nanna. ‘Everybody
Calls me nanna,’ she would say to visitors.
And so they did – friends, tradesmen, the doctor.

In the geriatric ward
They used the patients’ Christian names.
‘Lil,’ we said, ‘or Nanna,’
But it wasn’t in her file
And for those last bewildered weeks
She was Eliza once again.

And the wonderful Ogden Nash whch resonated with us all and read by Annette wearing her glasses.

Peekabo, I Almost See You

Middle-aged life is merry, and I love to lead it,
But there comes a day when your eyes are all right but your arm
isn’t long enough to hold the telephone book where you can read it,
And your friends get jocular, so you go to the oculist,
And of all your friends he is the joculist,
So over his facetiousness let us skim,
Only noting that he has been waiting for you ever since you said
Good evening to his grandfather clock under the impression
that it was him,
And you look at his chart and it says SHRDLU QWERTYOP, and
you say Well, why SHRDNTLU QWERTYOP? and he says one
set of glasses won’t do.
You need two.
One for reading Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason and Keats’s
“Endymion” with,
And the other for walking around without saying Hello to strange
wymion with.
So you spend your time taking off your seeing glasses to put on
your reading glasses, and then remembering that your reading
glasses are upstairs or in the car,
And then you can’t find your seeing glasses again because without
them on you can’t see where they are.
Enough of such misshaps, they would try the patience of an ox,
I prefer to forget both pairs of glasses and pass my declining
years saluting strange women and grandfather clocks.

Fingal and Laura gave us Auden’s Night Mail as they had a recent railway holiday to Scotland by rail. We had Yeats and Keats and finished with Ogden Nash.

I Do, I Will, I Have

How wise I am to have instructed the butler to instruct the first footman
to instruct the second footman to instruct the doorman to order my
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered into by a
man who can’t sleep with the window shut and a woman who can’t
sleep with the window open.
Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between flora and fauna
and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people one of whom
never remembers birthdays and the other never forgetsam,
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or the gas pipe
and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the windowsill,
it’s raining in, and he replies Oh they’re all right, it’s only raining
straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it’s the only known example of the happy meeting of the
immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and combat over
everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life, particulary if
he has income and she is pattable.

We did have a jolly time, with food, drink , laughs and chat on a balmy sunny afternoon just right for us sophisticated folk of a certain age who prefer the afternoons and leave the night time revelling to the young.


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