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So many readers still ask 'Where has the Church gone?', that it seems sensible to write something here on the website, rather than take up space in the magazine. You will find it at the foot of the 'About' page from the menu above, or HERE

Poetry in the Land of the Twelve Churches


   CS Lewis certainly saw merit in being straightforward: 'No man who bothers about originality will ever be original. Whereas, if you simply try to tell the truth... you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.'

So come on, word-smiths, bang out some honest copy, but (of course) keep an eye on your publisher, for (as Oscar W said): 'A poet can survive everything except a misprint.' 

   And all that'll do pretty well to justify a page of poetry from 'The Land of The Twelve Churches'...

Through the window

Through the window…

  Looking into the village

  Or out of our houses?


Old George used to say

  ‘We all lived in the village

  And went home to sleep.’


Perhaps now we’re inclined

  To live in our houses,

    And visit the village.

Filkins in The Land of The Twelve Churches

COVID: The Uninvited Guest

by JoAnn Davies  of Bradwell Village

In twenty nineteen

  contented we'd been

But when Christmas was gone

  and the New Year begun

Our happiness left

  and we were bereft

As the uninvited guest

  brought life we'd all detest.

We knew not whence he came

  or what he hoped to gain

As for days, weeks, months and years

  he caused us endless fears.

      -And we didn't even know his name -

      This uninvited guest.

So shoved about, we were,

  by Boris, Sage and Fear

"Go vaccination take

  and all your contacts break_

And keep yourselves inside

  and far from all, besides".

      - And so we tried our best

      to hide from this, our uninvited guest.


But in small but precious ways

  some other plans we made

To avoid our isolation

  and pending desolation.

We'd chose a time to sit and talk

  across the car park, grey and dark.

We'd even have a meal together,

  and these were times we'd come to treasure.

North - East - South and West we'd sit at leisure

  but "social distancing" still measure.


Some had work they could not quit

  but where and how were they to do it?

The orders came to "Work from home",

  and this they had to do alone.

Then suddenly we heard of 'Zoom'

  with 'Meet-ups' made from their front room.


But in the Care Homes sadness fell

  as elderlies became unwell

And fam'lies could not hold their hand

  since meetings, all, were firmly banned.

      - This - all to please

      our uninvited guest.

Our families, across the world

  were "out of reach, for now" we're told.

We missed them badly over there

  with separations hard to bear.

How long? How long would we be blighted

  until we could be re-united?

But then, how fortunate we be

  as thinking back to Wartime we-

(When years of contacts had been broken)

  -had no chance then, for words being spoken.

But now there's Internet and Phone

  to help us all feel less alone.

So silences can now, be broken

  and words of love and care be spoken.

And more than that! - 'Communication'

  enables us to see their faces.

Thus, in this way for moments few

  we can relationships renew

      - And thus escape

      the uninvited guest.

So in and out, then in again

  to 'Lockdown' times through sun or rain.

Keeping our Hope and Expectation

  that soon we'll "out" from this retention.


But - Not at all! Don't you believe it!

  Covid's not ready, yet, to leave it.

He plans to have his evil way

  and take his time - and stilJ delay

And hang around and want to stay

  and with us play

Until, maybe, one happy day

  He'll tire of us and go away.


Then once again we'll smile and be

  relaxed and happy and quite free.

We'll forward move to life renewed

  with Confidence and Hope accrued

From all experiences we've had.

  And what we've learned, both good and bad

Will take us forward hand in hand

      - Far, far away and out of reach

      Of that intrusive,

      uninvited guest.


I've a bottle of Cologne.
The only such bottle I own.
it’s been dabbed behind the ears
Of the clan for years and years.

There is not much left
And I'll be bereft
And miss this potent reminder
Of times, forgiving and kinder.

Now the boredom of old age
is beset by the fury and rage
Of so many self-interested shouters
On history, sex, and God-doubters.

On my pillow I drop a spot
Of the last remainder I've got
And I'm a little girl, Annie
In the arms of my sweet-smelling Granny.

                                Anne Hichens

Christmas as it used to be... And will be again!

Christmas came and Christmas went;

Have you worked out how much you spent?

Did you get what you asked Santa for,

Or did you get the socks and smellies...

Like the year before?


When I was a child, Christmas was fun,

Singing carols with my mum;

Putting up a stocking...

And waiting for Santa to come.

Now, it's how will I find the time...

To get everything done!

What size turkey will I need?

(With so many people to feed.)

My lists go on and on.

Next year I'm going to slow down a bit;

And enjoy Christmas...

Like I did when I was a kid!

What a nice letter (and poem) to get from Ruth Carter of Langford. Just too late to include in the December issue of Parish Pump... But very happy to include here. Thank you Ruth, and an excellent thought, with which many of us would agree. Ed

    The poem 'On Westwell Downes' was written by William Stroud, who was born in Devon in c. 1602, and educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford where he stayed for the rest of his life. Stroud was a well-known poet of his time, finding great favour with the vivid immediacy of his verse.

   The photograph of Westwell Downs, above, comes from the striking website describing the Curtis Clan's new venture, which involves (very appositely) shepherds huts...

   Find out all about it HERE

On Westwell Downes

   When Westwell Downes I gan to tread,
Where cleanely wynds the greene did sweepe,
Methought a landskipp there was spread,
Here a bush and there a sheepe:
    The pleated wrinkles of the face
Of wave-swolne earth did lend such grace,
As shadowings in Imag'ry
Which both deceive and please the eye.

    The sheepe sometymes did tread the maze
By often wynding in and in,
And sometymes round about they trace
Which milkmayds call a Fairie ring:
    Such semicircles have they runne,
Such lynes acrosse so trymly spunne
That sheppeards learne whenere they please
A new Geometry with ease.

    The slender food upon the downe
Is allwayes even, allwayes bare,
Which neither spring nor winter's frowne
Can ought improve or ought impayre:
    Such is the barren Eunuches chynne,
Which thus doth evermore begynne
With tender downe to be orecast
Which never comes to haire at last.

    Here and there twoe hilly crests
Amiddst them hugg a pleasant greene,
And these are like twoe swelling breasts
That close a tender fall betweene.
    Here would I sleepe, or read, or pray
From early morne till flight of day:
But harke! a sheepe-bell calls mee upp,
Like Oxford colledge bells, to supp.

William Stroud

The Philosopher's Lovesong

Existential theory states

   You and I can be good mates,


Shaking hands or swapping juices

   (depends how tight our bond, or loose, is),


And although we’re all related

   In blood, or love, or friendship (sated

   Simply by a friendly nod),

We are also on our tod.


Individual agents all

   Invited to life’s Summer Ball

   To follow through a battle plan

   Or muddle through as best we can,


And whichever path I choose,

   I am the artist and my muse.

   I am the pilgrim and my saint...


... Half a mo though, no I ain’t!


I might be free to cock things up

   (Or strive to win, and lift the cup)


This process needs a you and me

   And where they touch, let's call it...


   ... "WE"!

The Philosopher in The Land of The Twelve Churches

Me and My Cat

Me:   I lost my husband suddenly,

It broke my heart.

Left me bereft,

Alone, comfortless.


You:   A black, fluffy kitten.

Abandoned, scared.

Rescued by Cats Protection

And named Fluffy.


Me:   Wanting another presence in the house.

Longing for something to love,

To cuddle.

Adopted you. 


You:   So nervous of the world,

Scared of the new.

Suspecting harm,

You would not be held. 

Me:   I spent time with you.

Played endless games.

Cared for you and gave you love.

Allowed you time to feel at home. 

You:   Found safe places to hide.

Carefully explored the house.

Cautiously ventured into the garden.

And slowly came trust and affection. 


We:   Now you touch your nose to mine.

A cuddle brings a purr.

We snuggle on the bed,

My head against your side,

The soft brush of your fur against my cheek,

The warmth of your small body,

The rumble of your purr.

A moment out of time,

Of unconditional love. 

Two broken souls healing together.

Chris Hanks



   Perhaps if there is any benefit in this unhinging 'Time of Corona' it will be the coming to a better understanding of what is important to us all as one group, to us in our different groups, and to each of us as an individual...

   ... and the re-acceptance that, as ever... 

“One man’s 'Mystery of The Sacred Water',

is simply the quenching of another man’s thirst.”

The stones are carved with snakes, and dragons’ tails,
The hood is silver-banded oak, and faced
With cedar shingles pierced with copper nails.
And, every day, a vessel-laden priest
Arrives, sets down his burden, genuflects,
Then, looking down, with certainty he’ll dream
The water’s surface far below reflects
All heav’nly goodness in its sluggish gleam.
He lovingly winds down a golden can
And revels in the splashing diamond shower.
He murmurs imprecations on the man
Who does not feel the sacred water’s power.

A thirsty traveller happens by anon
Scoops up a cup, drinks deep, and journeys on.

The Sacred Waterr in The Land of The Twelve Churches
Happy Christmas 2020 from Parish Pump in The Land of The Twelve Churches

A Poem for 2020

Fog’s a damned malignant thing,
That drifts and slides, and grips, and hides
And makes a misery of all;
But keep a watch, greet every dawn…
And sure as eggs is eggs
The clear sky comes again.


Maybe it is dark.

Sad, black, grey

In this world of ours.

People struggling,

Struggling to survive.

Jobs lost, people hungry.

Children suffering

Suffering through hunger.

Hunger that’s worldwide,

Hunger for warmth,

Hunger for a hug,

Closeness to someone.

Is all lost?

Is it just because of Covid?

Maybe there is a glimmer,

A glimmer of hope.

A way out of the darkness,

A way out of the grey.

A ray of sunshine

Shining through the trees.

Shining from the good people.

Just a glimmer of hope

Like a dewdrop.

The wistful sound of the wind.

A shining light dimly in the darkness.

Maybe there is HOPE.

    Angela Williams

Hope in The Time of Corona in The Land of The Twelve Churches

Something was wrong

The sheep would not settle.

They moved about in the thorn bushes,

Bleating, calling.

Around the fire all were sleeping

Peacefully, untroubled.

But the dogs were watchful,

Not growling for the best place by the fire

As normal.

Quiet, anxious they padded

Silently. Coming to me

For explanation.


I set off round the thorn enclosure

To check for a lion.

My eyes see well in the dark.

That night we had the comet to help,

Its tail pointing straight down at us.

The dogs all came with me.

Close to my feet, silently.

On other nights one dog might wait

Sleepily for my return.

This must be a pride of lions.

But the dogs looked to me, not away to the hills.

They looked to me.


Then I knew.

Something was about to happen.

Something huge was about to happen.

“Get up. Get up.” I shouted,

No-one moved.

I ran to the fire

Drawing my knife.

I stared at the dark town below,

My heart beating its terror,

With the dogs at my feet, shivering

As the prophesies crystallised

And the sky exploded with angels.

    Anne Hichens

Unquiet Night

The Veg Plot Christmas Bean Feast

On Christmas Eve as the moon shone down,

The Vegetables all gathered round.

Excited chatter could be heard,

Its time to party was the word.

The time had come for their Xmas do,

Their fun and games I’ll share with you.


Late summer and the wise Sage said,

If our Christmas bash is going ahead,

We must plan with some alacrity,

If we’re to avoid mediOkraty.

And so he sent a Runner round,

To see what help was to be found.


We need a committee said Hyssop,

If we’re planning a great piss-up.

They’ll need to know their Onions,

To be our party Champignons.

As fine words butter no Parsnip,

He undertook the chairmanship.


It can’t be Rocket science,

To work out our requirements.

We need aMaizements, games and fun,

Food and booze for everyone.

It was agreed they shouldn’t stint,

Even if it cost a Mint.


We’ll need to get a Christmas tree,

Chimed in excited Savory.

There must be holly and mistletoe,

We’ll Leaf that to you Oregano.

Stout Pumpkin is best qualified,

To play our Santa this Christmas-tide.


Oh and we’ll need some music,

Piped up excited Garlic.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Black Eyed Peas,

Either one of those would please.

What about Wheatus or Prefab Sprout,

They’d Salsify our needs no doubt.


Now party night is Fennely here,

Oh listen to those Veggies cheer.

As they put up the decorations,

For the festive Celerybrations.

And so the party has begun,

A Cornucopia of fun.


Because of the Brexit tussles,

We won’t be seeing the Brussels.

And the Melon-Cauli Swiss Chard,

Thinks the journey’s just too hard.

Guess who has a room at the Savoy?

That’s French Bean, he’s such a playboy!


Soon they were dancing to the Beet,

Basil and Rosemary light on their feet.

The Chervil and the Chive,

Well they liked to do a jive.

And Cumin, cool as a Cucumber,

Asked lady Chamomile to Rumba.


As the dance floor’s quite a Squash,

Some go off to get some nosh.

A Mangetout buffet far from mean,

Agreed the well-stuffed Aubergine.

Thanks to generous Tarragon,

Who’d ordered it all on Amazon.


That Fungi Artichoke,

Sure did like to play a joke.

Picked on Cress-fallen Mustard,

Who proSeeded to get flustered.

Now don’t you cry and make a fuss,

Comforted kindly Asparagus.


Kohl Rabi said; come Lettuce pray,

But everyone else just wanted to play.

Some joined in pass the Parsley,

Others charades or Pictionary.

Meanwhile Calabrese and Cabbage,

Played a quiet game of cribbage.


It’s time to party ho, ho, ho,

Rejoiced the merry Potato.

She’d found her jacket did unhook,

Well there’s a Turnip for the book.

Just look at that hot Tater,

Shakin’ her Moneymaker!


Desiree looked Gourdgeous in red,

She’s Radishing her Sweet Heart said.

I don’t know where she gets her garb,

Mumbled the envious Rhubarb.

Oh come now don’t take umBorage,

Coaxed tender-hearted Lovage.


Said Pea I will not be obLeek,

I’m desperate to take a peek,

Into that Santa’s grotto,

Will you help me please Tomato?

Well I’ve Herb there’s not Mushroom,

But you are only a small Legume.


The saucy Coriander,

Who did like to philander.

Was out to find a Broad,

And would not be ignored.

Oh that’s so imMorel,

Remarked the prudish Sorrel.


Look at prim Miss Marjoram,

Acting like the big I Yam.

Whilst in the corner laid back Swede,

Confessed he’d had a little Weed.

While the Broccoli and the Kale,

Imbibed a little too much ale.


The roly-poly Marrow,

Nodded off in the wheelbarrow.

Celeriac he took a fall,

Saying I don’t Carrot all.

And as for Lemon Grass,

He fell flat upon his arse.


This party’s Bean the best one yet,

Don’t let it end bemoaned Courgette.

Oh yes, twenty-four Carrot gold,

A really Sweet Success all told.

Chicory, Spinach and Dill,

All agreed it had been brill.


Now the party’s winding down,                       

And the Veg are homeward bound.                

Endive run out of Thyme,                                  

I must end my little rhyme.

So here’s my parting shot;

Merry Christmas, that’s Shallot!        


Chris Hanks, December 2018

n in the Land of the Twelve ChurchesVegetable ma
Vegetable man in the Land of the Twelve Churches
Vegetable man in the Land of the Twelve Churches
Vegetable man in the Land of the Twelve Churches
Vegetable man in the Land of the Twelve Churches
Vegetable man in the Land of the Twelve Churches
Vegetable man in the Land of the Twelve Churches

Today, I had a bonfire

 Today I had a bonfire.
A clear, sunny autumn day,
High white clouds drifting across the sky.
The breeze swirling the sweet smelling wood smoke
Out across the fields.
  I listened, 
To the hiss, spit, crackle of the fire,
Watched the dancing flames.
Above, a solitary buzzard circled
Mobbed by one brave skylark.
  Somewhere a wren 
Issued its warning cries.
Peace and quiet.
No noise really
Just the bird song,
The bonfire,
The breeze rustling the almost leafless branches.
  Only the occasional car on the farm track,
A reminder that there is another world.
Beyond my garden.
The gentle labour of tending the fire,
The satisfaction of the task.
As the day headed towards sunset,
A cup of tea and a biscuit, 
Watching the last embers of the fire wink out.
  I am at peace with this world of mine,
This world of mine is at peace with me.

   Chris Hanks

Apple Juice

Eve paused-

The unfamiliar juice 

Running over her tongue,

And she glanced away into

The future.


The scale of the cruelty-

How much suffering,

And all unnecessary-

Her jaw fell open.

The apple bite fell to earth.

Found by ants

It taught them to make 

Fantastic mushroom farms.

She threw the apple

Into a pond.

God quickly gave the fish

A fifteen second memory....

   Anne Hichens

Apple Juice poem in The Land of the Twelve Churches
Apple Juice poem in The Land of the Twelve Churches
Apple Juice poem in The Land of the Twelve Churches


Cat Sutherland's terrier in The Land of The Twelve Churches

One of Cat Sutherland's 'terrierific' portraits.

Look in any issue of Parish Pump for contact details.

In September 2020's issue of Parish Pump, we published a great poem from Anne Hichens

Said God.
A billion tails slowed,
A billion noses twitched.
‘My master’ yelped an Alsatian.    
Joyous rolling on the marble floor.
God smiled.

Which I took to mean that even God enjoys the love of his dog. A excellent thought, especially if God was choosing a dog (’next’), and in fact the Alsatian chose him!

And then Anne emailed to say that she had left out a line, and the poem should have read:

Said God.
A billion tails slowed,
A billion noses twitched.
A man appeared.
‘My master’ yelped an Alsatian.    
Joyous rolling on the marble floor.
God smiled.

So, it’s the dogs that are judging the men... An equally felicitous thought. Two poems for the price of a missing line!


Dan Denby lives a double life...

By day a jobbing builder,                      

But home at five, and scrubbed till pink,
He sashays forth as Hilda.


In Sunley Cross we know the score:
When buildings face disaster,
Our Dan's the man to hammer nails,
and no one lays bricks faster.


But equally, when evening sees
The back-bar at The Compass,
Our comely Hilda whoops it up:
The 'Mistress of the Rumpus'.


We love our Dan throughout the day
In dusty, half-mast trousers,
And then again, when Hilda’s out,
Her scarlet satin wows us.


We seek our solace where we may,
Some bowl, and others garden.
But who’s to say, of all of us,
The Gods of Life blow hard on?

Dan Denby in The Land of The Twelve Churches


Why are our villages called what they are? A bit of nonsense saluting the founders of thirteen villages in the Shill & Broadshire Benefice.

Can you identify each village?

(This first appeared in Parish Pump 15 years ago.)

‘Tis well-known that Broughton Poggs
Is named for Pogeys (as in Stoke),
But what of ‘Phil’ who lived next door?
He sounds a family-minded bloke.

Further down the road there’s Ken
Who looks to to be a lie-a-bed
And nearby throve a comely wench,
All hale and hearty? Enough said!

Two more chaps seem in the pink
Although it’s tricky, I’ll allow...
For one looks to be a goner
and t’other’s en vacances for now.

Three Jocks next: tall Mr Ford,
A blind Scot oddly named (to tease?)
for Turkish carpets, and a third...
A semi-’illsman, if you please!

Here’s a curious eponym...
Reservoir dog or coal-mine pig?
Either way he’s a deepish man
But wet or dry we can’t now twig.

A fit American-looking guy,
(but maybe tacky, none the less)
Insists we know he’s not a town
and wears his label proudly, bless!

A pocket gypsy Spanish gent
Planted his village down the lane.
And lastly a casino stooge,
a hundred pounds did sharply gain.

What a harum-scarum crew!
But sans these village founders we
Would have no place to call Our Home,
So to them all we bend our knee.

Louis Renault

Question mark in the Land of the Twelve Churches

No Fishing


Not a lure on the water by Dee or by Don.

A mere ripple of wind moves the surface upon

The cool calm eddies that turn the trout over,

Already confirm that these fish are in clover.

Jockey Fife, Upper Fontie, Stobbs and the Lawn:

These pools left in peace from the hook and the prawn.

I wonder just when will the fishers return…

Until then all is rested, the Loch and the Burn.

James Gervers


  It is easy at the moment to see the world closing in, everything getting smaller and tighter. Here is Anne Hichens (churchwarden in Langford) reminding us that there are bigger things... In our memories, our imaginations, and to come:

Hottentots Holland Benefice Shill Valley Broadshire Land of 12 churches


I'll stare at the mountains

And burn them into the back of my eyes

So that I can plant them firmly

Into the cold mists

Of the Thames valley.

Devil's Peak, the Outeniqua,

Hottentots Holland, Franschoek.

Hot rocks will burn through

The cloud above Lechlade

And the white summit stones

Will fade into the pale sunlight.

My eyes will roam

Unclimbable crags

As close there as here.

Hottentots Holland, SA

Chris Hanks' Mother Poetry Benefice Shill Valley Broadshire Land of 12 churches


This is a poem that I wrote for my Mother, who has now reached the grand old age of  96 and is still living in the house she was born in. (As was I.)
Chris Hanks 


When I awake I take a stock,
Of any aches and pain.
I really do not want to go,
Back to the Doc's again.
He might give me more tablets,
Or send me for a test.
I'm fed up with being poked around,
All I want to do is rest.

Taking all these tablets, 
Is really quite a bore.
At least now with my dossette box,
I don't forget them anymore.
Little things that once seemed easy,
Nowadays seem such a chore.
But I've lots of helpful gadgets,
To make things easier than before.

There's a thing for taking lids off,
Grab rails help me get up.
I don't have to lift the kettle,
My machine makes just one cup.
No need to bother cooking,
Just microwave a ready meal.
And with my lovely stair lift
The stairs are no big deal.

I have a panic button,
To summon help if I feel queer.
My dentures fit me perfectly,
So of dentists I've no fear.
Now with my new glasses, 
I can see both far and near.
And if use my hearing aids,
I can hear you loud and clear.

Though in my heart I am still young
My body's elderly.
My get up and go has got up and gone,
Replaced by lethargy.
Ironic, now I have the time,
I don't have the energy.
So I'll sit and have a biscuit, 
And another cup of tea.

Sometimes if I'm a little sad,
Think the whole world's gone to pot.
I only need to look around, 
And count the blessings that I've got.
Though I may not be wealthy,
I can recall past pleasures.
Family, friends, a happy life, 
My memories are my treasures.

Now in my hair there's silver
And in my teeth there's gold.
So perhaps I'm worth more,
Now that I've grown old. 
For there's titanium in my hip,
And metal in my knee.
If I was not a human,
They could recycle me!

Leaves poetry Benefice Shill Valley Broadshire Land of 12 churches

A boy is chugging through the leaves.
Maybe a train, maybe a ship.
Or just the happy rarity of power
Of small over big on an autumn day.


The leaves weren’t there, and now they are…
Tomorrow? Who knows or cares.
For there’ll be stones to throw in the stream,
And a sandcastle to build in the sun.

Now, forward thirty years, and here’s the man.
Those leaves again. Covering his lawn.
And, as he rakes them to the compost heap,
He shivers at the sleep of winter coming on.

He stops to run though happy summers past,
And shrugs at maudlin autumn thoughts.
For his best summer’s still to come.
No need to note the falling glass quite yet.

An old man huddles on the bench,
Watching the leaves swirl roundabout.
He looks at the dryness of his hands.
He thinks on autumn, and feels his winter comes.

The year and his years are marching on,
Bound as single pages in a book:
Spring, summer, autumn, and the end.
He hears a sound and, looking up, he smiles.

The boy is chugging through the leaves.
Maybe a train, maybe a ship
Or just the happy rarity of power
Of small over big on an autumn day.



Slither about

Looking for something

To torture.

Like aging actors

With enormous stage presence

Stand the round straw bales.

I'm lying in bed

My fingers tapping, counting

I'm thinking haiku.


Anne Hichens, who inspired our first (and hopefully not the last) Poetry Stomp in St Matthew's Church in October 2018.

Inglesham Church poetry Benefice Shill Valley Broadshire Land of 12 churches

Bred in the bone

There’s been a church at Inglesham
A thousand years or more,
Since Saxons walked the Roman roads
And Alfred made the law.    

Full forty generations,
Have marked their age in stone
And plastered walls. The very air
Seems now bred in the bone.

Accreted, careful layers,
Serendipity sublime…
Madonna carved with Saxon axe,
To pews from Cromwell’s time. 

There’s not much gilt or silver,

Nor venerated saint.

No benefactor’s masterpiece,

Just timber, glass and paint.

So nothing special, nothing grand.
But I know to be the case,
That those who chance on Inglesham
Find comfort in this place. 

Reach up high and touch the moon

Moon poetry in the Land of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley and Broadshire Land of 12 churches
Moon poetry in the Land of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley and Broadshire Land of 12 churches

Reach up high and touch the moon.
You'll fly there soon in the bowl of a spoon.
You'll slip and dip along the way
Until you reach the moonbeam highway.

So reach up high and touch the moon.
He'll be winking and blinking and singing a tune.
He'll flash you a smile and give you a grin,
Then wave you in to land on his chin.


Now reach up high and touch the moon.
Give us a blast of your spoon's va-va-voom.
It's time to drift down and show us your mettle.
Settle in the dust, but watch out for nettles!


Reach up high and touch the moon.
Where the lunar café serves cheese until noon.
Please don't dawdle cause the next stop is Mars.
Fire up your dreams on the way to the stars.


Barbara Johnson-Browne

Archibald swung from tree to tree

(‘Tis natural for a chimpanzee)

But as he swung, Old Archie’s thoughts

Reflected he was out of sorts.

(Indeed the swing he swung was slow,

Brought on by melancholio.)

Though Africa has lots to offer

For Archie, ‘twas an empty coffer.

He really did not like the heat:

Constant sun was not a treat.

‘Twas not a case of ‘not a lot’,

He did not like the sun one jot.

From early doors, to late at night

The searing heat, the burning light…

And what made dealing with it worse

The constant, nagging, hateful curse:

However hot it was today

Come tomorrow, come what may,

Another cloudless sky, more sun,

More prickly heat… ‘It is no fun’

Thought Archie, ‘I must find relief

Before I boil and come to grief.’


And so it was that Archie Ape

Set off across the parched landscape;

He headed North, and round the Med,

And further North again he fled.

And gradually the sun shone less

And less and less, and then, Oh Bless!

A pitter here, a patter there

Chilling rain was everywhere.

Archie laughed with bright-eyed glee,

And crossed, at last, the cold North Sea.


He’s ‘Happy Archie’ nowadays,

So when you hear that well-worn phrase

That talks about it being cold

Enough, if I may be so bold,

To freeze the sack-like under-part

Off a brass monkey, take to heart

(Though strictly I’d allow the claim

That apes and monkeys ain’t the same):

For Archibald this scrotal-tightening,

That comes with cold, and storm, and lightning,

Is something he would never swap…

But, at this point I’d better stop.

If there’s a moral of our tale

Remember, when life makes you wail:

                   One man’s rained off cricket match…

… is another man’s opportunity to go swimming.


Rain in the Land of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley & Broadshire
William Wordsworth in the Land of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley & Broadshire

What are country words worth?


  “So, once again… You ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’?

And saw, what… Daffodils, you say? ‘On high’?

  "Well, William, High’s the right word, sure, to shout out loud,

But not, I think, on daffs... But dope… Now, look me in the eye…

  "Yeah, as I thought: romantic poet! Poppy-head, more like.

Just as your mate, Sam Coleridge, the Laudanum King.

  "See this, now? ‘Twinkle on the milky way’. You’re all alike:

You lay a line, right? Roll a note, and hear the white stuff sing.

  "Now, this bit here.… ‘A poet could not but be gay’,

Well, that line’s true: you are a friend of Dorothy for sure.

  "But come: ‘I lie in vacant or in pensive mood’ you say.

That’s doper’s talk, I’ve heard enough... no need for more,

  "Book him, Sergeant, take him down, and throw away the key.”


Inspector Tennyson picks up his poet’s pen, and thinks: ‘Now me.’

The Puzzled Fellow


Some years ago, I met a chap

Who stood with puzzled frown, and map

Outside the railway station bar.

He asked me: "Is it very far

To where the flying fishes leap

To why the wolves devour the sheep

To where giants stride across the land

To how elves dance upon the sand…"


The fellow’s list went on and on

Mermaids, reindeer, cheese, the sun

Princes, peanuts, football teams

Roses, music, sex, and dreams…

‘Who? How? Where? What? And more beside

“There is so much to learn” he cried.

“Show me your map” I said at last

“We’ll find a route, be not downcast.”


But when I looked, his sheet was blank

No road, no town, no church, no bank

No school, no pub, no anywhere

The page was absolutely bare.

He had the words, and questions too

But not a clue of what to do.

What could I say to help a man

Who has no path, no goal, no plan?

How could I help him on his way,

To make sense of life’s cabaret?


Then all at once I realised

The things above all else I prized

To help me populate my chart

With matters both of head and heart.

I took an object from my bag

And said “I do not like to brag

But this will help you understand

And lead you to your promised land.”


He took it, slightly mystified,

And asked me, as he looked inside:

“What if it doesn’t do the trick

And straightaway things still don’t click?”

“There’s plenty more to fill life’s gaps”

I said “One day you’ll find your maps

Unfold full-drawn, and plain to view,

Based squarely on my gift to you.”

At last, he asked, with grateful look,

“What is it called?”

              I said: “A book!”

Books, books books in the Lando of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley & Broadshire
Books, books, books in the Land of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley & Broadshire
Books, books, books in the Land of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley & Broadshire
Books, books, books in the Land of the Twelve Churches in Shill Valley & Broadshire
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