Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Boston Tea Party 1773

This was not the sort of do
With a fancy cake or two,
Or the sandwich with a neatly cut-off crust
For the nibbling dainty picker,
And it wasn't "more tea vicar?"
In the fragile cup that someone had to dust,

It was protest and near riot,
That exemplified disquiet,
In a country that felt bitter and aggrieved.
Its folk weren't represented,
And resentment thus fermented
Over taxes which, as unfair, were perceived.

The tea tax - one such levy -
Was symbolic, more than heavy,
And importers had been turned away unpaid.
Now in Boston, one consignment
Suffered major realignment:
It was thrown into the harbour to degrade,

Iconic this event,
Which told of discontent.
The British take some action to chastise.
The Intolerable Acts -
A blockade that soon impacts
On Boston's trade - all this was most unwise.

Our colonies (thirteen)
Were progressively quite keen
To have the unfair British go away.
We'd not done as they demanded,
So together they now banded,
Into what was dubbed a brand new USA.


Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2014

Friday, 28 November 2014

Response to "Dental Implants"

My brother came back with this limerick, after reading the "Dental Implants" post.

A lady from Nether Green,
Had teeth like you've never seen,
But technology's great:
She got rid of her plate,
And now has a grin like the Queen.

Cheers bro!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dental implants

Life was pretty torrid:
My partial plate was horrid.
Not comfy and a source of irritation.
I really couldn't bear it,
And in private didn't wear it -
Which caused a lot of wrinkle-devastation.

My mouth had half-collapsed,
And I knew as time elapsed,
This was something that was surely bound to worsen.
I felt elderly, a crone,
In some tooth-deficient zone.
And lived my life as only half a person.

Maybe implants could assist,
And make good what I so missed?
There were measurements and X-rays now to check.
And of course there'd be a cost,
To replace what had been lost,
But the desperate must think, "Oh what the heck!"

It could work - but only just -
"Pros and cons" were then discussed,
And at last the course of treatment's underway.
I opened wide. I bit,
And for hours on end I'd sit,
Dreaming of the last appointment day.

Aching jaws would be a drag.
"Impressions" make one gag.
In particular, I don't much like injections.
But I really didn't care:
Step by step, we're getting there -
And every process has its imperfections.

Then the final stage arrived.
It seemed we'd all survived.
And the pearly whites were firmly screwed in place.
The future's looking sweet.
I don't lisp and I can eat,
With an unembarrassed smile upon my face.

I was liberated, free -
Fully back to being "me",
I had teeth! - and the effect was quite dramatic
On the summarizing note,
"Patient happy" Stuart wrote.
I told him that he should have put "ecstatic".




With many thanks to Stuart and all his team
at Eckington Dental practice:
www.eckingtondental.co.uk




A warm welcome to our new viewers from Chile. I think yours is the 100th country to visit this blog spot. Felicidades! (Decepcionante, no hay premio.)

Sunday, 26 October 2014

A peaceful hotel in Lisbon

But the view was wonderful
We'd been warned that the centre was busy,
A place where the lager louts riot,
Where the traffic and trams could be noisy,
That a bit further out would be quiet.

Our hotel seemed the perfect location -
It was right by a beautiful park -
We decided to sit on the terrace.
We were tired. It was just getting dark.

A very loud noise then assailed us,
As a jet flew low over our heads.
On the flight path we were, to the airport,
A misfortune that everyone dreads.

But this wasn't all. From below us,
Guitars screeched to amplified boom.
A very bad rock band was "playing".
We retreated then into our room.

We shut doors and windows behind us,
Drew the curtains that these were adorning,
But the sounds of the concert defied them.
We vibrated till two in the morning.


Welcome to our new viewers from Slovenia, Jordan, Vietnam, Paraguay, El Salvador and the Bahamas. Your flags have been added to the "Hello World" blog (April 2013)
http://www.baabaapinksheep.co.uk/2013/04/hello-world.html

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Better together - the Union Flag

The flag of St Andrew
The flag of St George
If Scotland becomes independent,
Will the Union Flag have to change?
Will we take off the cross of St Andrew?
It could end up by looking quite strange.

Our "Union Jack's"* a composite,
But its three crosses could become two,

Which are both red and white - such a pity.
How we'd miss Scotland's smart navy blue.

The flag of St Patrick   

* The Union Flag is only referred to as the Union Jack when it's flying on a ship

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Boy wakes from coma speaking Chinese

Following an accident
A teenage Aussie bloke,
Spent a week in a deep coma,
Then he thankfully awoke.

The signs that he is back with them
His anxious parents please.
But they're very quickly puzzled:
He can only speak Chinese.

He'd studied it at high school,
Where he didn't learn a lot.
Now in Mandarin he's fluent,
But his English he's forgot.

It only took a day or two
For this to reappear.
On his new linguistic talent,
He has forged a new career.

An American "learned" Swedish,
In the self same situation.
And one chap mastered German,
Though he only knew Croatian.

Would that I could be unconscious,
Though a bit of time would vanish.
The trade-off would be worth it -
If I woke up talking Spanish.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cold calls

The phone rings. I foolishly answer.
"How are you ma'am?" - the voice sounds sincere.
"This is just a quick survey," he tells me,
Not quite true, as will soon become clear.

"We have records that show..." he's now saying,
As the script is so slickly resumed,
"That you signed up for payment protection..."
(Admit that he's right and you're doomed.)

Or, "You worked in a noisy environment,"
(Got this call whilst was out in the garden),
"You can claim for industrial deafness..."
The answer a withering "Pardon?"

"Your windows all lack double glazing,
And our UPVC ones are good."
I explain that we've just had some fitted,
All authentic - and made out of wood.

Our property may be Victorian,
But it needs plastic fascias and soffits.
My annoyance is steadily rising,
(But not so his company's profits.)

It would seem I am ever so lucky.
There's a rep quite nearby who will call
To talk us through foam insulation,
Though we don't have a cavity wall.

A "show kitchen's" now being offered.
His firm many discounts will lavish.
(His accent is strangely un-Scottish,
But he's told me his name is MacTavish.)

We don't want their bedroom or boiler:
The ones that we have are quite new,
But these "records" are not to be questioned,
So that voice keeps insisting we do!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A poem for football addicks (2014-2015 season)

To herald the start of the new English football season this weekend, an updated blog on the 92 clubs that are taking part.


Team nicknames in the Premier, and other football leagues,
Can be obvious, or one of those whose origin intrigues.
Each of them is mentioned in these rhyming acrobatics,
We'll start off rather mystified - just what the heck are latics*?

There is a range of colours, mostly patriotic hues,
Sky blues, whites and lillywhites*, three reds, three more plain blues.

Toffees...cherries...tangerines don't make for balanced dinners,
Though to fend off indigestion, those fine clarets may prove winners.
(No "shots" now of the stronger stuff - so tempting for a few,)
But guess the vast majority drink what the brewers brew.

When it comes to animals, enough for sev'ral zoos...
Stags, shrews...sheep aplenty, for the rams have got three "U"s.
Black cats, lions, tigers all fit into feline boxes,
Whilst the terriers are canine types, along with wolves and foxes.
There are shrimps and a cod army, which in water all survive,
(Though they wouldn't if they couldn't breathe: their gills keep them alive).
Of primates there's a shortage and this will tell you why,
The monkey hangers killed one (it was judged a foreign spy).

For budding ornithologists are lots of birds to pluck,
To start a brace of magpies (for just one would bring bad luck).
We have the sharp-clawed eagles, which have preying on their minds,
Whilst the swans and soaring seagulls are both webbed or swimming kinds.
Next canaries, bluebirds, bantams, three robins and the owls:
We'll add flying bees and hornets, though they're insects and not fowls.

We can classify the workers, who perform their chosen task,
The millers mill, the potters pot, the cottagers - don't ask.
We've tractor boys and railwaymen, we have the awesome gunners,
And as "goffers", we have trotters and three rovers but no runners.
Another pair of crafstmen both relate to types of seating,
Though the chairboys and the saddlers won't for custom be competing.

Of seasiders, a handful, as befits an island nation,
Pirates used to buckle swash, shrimpers nab the odd crustacean.
The mariners have sadly sunk to where the fish get caught,
Though Pompey must mean something of a nautical import.

And if the right accessory's the sort of thing that matters,
We've cobblers, glovers, baggies and we've now regained some hatters.
The royals can afford such things (and mansions with a 'pool),
And posh citizens go shopping just to make themselves look cool.
Through forest, dale and boro they will sport their trendy clothes:
Silkmen did once make their stockings (whilst the poor man dons* plain "O"s).

The right tool spurs the will of those in heavy metal trades:
Thus the iron and the hammers and those ever-steely blades.
That we put in handy Stanley knives (once opened and rescrewed),
Or the daggers (to be kept away from those in murd'rous mood.)

There is a bunch of villans, crooked spireites and some tykes,
We've a couple of red devils and their mischief-making likes.
But on the side of righteousness, some movers and some shakers:
Pilgrims, saints and minstermen, the valients (no quakers).

Were they settlers? Were they exiles? Did they just dream up the name?
Do the Grecians have connections with a land from whence they came?
The Cumbrians, however, is a very pointed clue.
The super hoops (or sometimes "R"s) complete our ninety-two.

*2 teams with same nickname


Also, welcome to our new viewers from Zambia, Azerbaijan and Costa Rica (who did so well in the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer).



Saturday, 2 August 2014

Mutiny on the Bounty 1789 - (Final) Part Two

Bligh now finds himself afloat,
In a little open boat,
With those whose strong allegiance hasn't wavered.
Thus the Bounty's launch departs -
No chronometer, no charts,
Not much to eat - the prospect isn't savoured.

There's a stop to find provisions;
Not the wisest of decisions
The Tofuans soon grow hostile. What a scrape!
They've provided little food,
And are now in murd'rous mood.
Norton's stoned to death whilst trying to escape.

"Men are tastier than animals" -
The view of Fiji's cannibals -
Meant landing there just wouldn't be astute.
But on Restoration Isle,
There is refuge for a while.
Here are oysters and supplies of native fruit.

To the west the boat now sails,
Through rolling seas and gales.
They ate little, due to stringent limitation.
Somehow, everyone survived,
And at Timor they arrived:
An extraordinary feat of navigation.

And for this, Bligh must earn praise:
After forty-seven days,
He had brought his men to where they could be safe.
His log's there for posterity,
But he did write with verity,
When how he dealt with some began to chafe?

Back home the tale was told.
The "Pandora" was enrolled,
To search for the dissenters of the time.
On Tahiti, some were found,
Then the vessel ran aground.
The survivors later answered for their crime.

The remainder were meanwhile,
On a (then) uncharted isle.
Pitcairn was the place they chose to stay.
As things soon turned acrimonious,
It may have been erroneous,
To burn their ship in what's called Bounty Bay.

Most were far from Fletcher-phylic,
So his life was not idyllic.
All was factiousness and drink-fuelled discontent.
Christian's dreams were unfulfilled:
It is likely he was killed,
But many now can rightly claim descent.


Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2014



Friday, 1 August 2014

Mutiny on the Bounty 1789 - Part One

She'd had a modest role:
The carrying of coal.
Now "The Bounty" is a name we've come to know.
She sailed with the entreaty
"Collect breadfruit from Tahiti,
Then take it to a place where it might grow."

In charge was William Bligh,
He had been around, this guy.
He'd been master on Cook's sloop, the Resolution.
He liked everything kept clean,
Was on science very keen,
And he now set sail to make his contribution.

Near Cape Horn, the trip was thwarted.
That route had to be aborted.
He turned eastwards to collect his leafy freight.
Seedlings had to grow a bit
To make them travel-fit;
For the crew, this meant an unplanned five month wait.

So pots were duly tended,
And the natives were befriended,
Here, a sailor could be struck by Cupid's dart.
Fletcher Christian (Bligh's old pal)
Even wed a local gal,
But all too soon, the time came to depart.

Goodbye hedonistic life.
Farewell girlfriend. Farewell wife.
The loyalty of some began to shift.
Although Fletcher took the lead
Eighteen other men agreed.
They mutinied, and Bligh was cast adrift.

It's alleged that he was cruel.
That, his vanity he'd fuel,
By humilating those who caused affront.
Though it's hard to comprehend,
He targeted his friend:
Poor Christian always seemed to bear the brunt.


Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2014



Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Pretentious menus

Stuff is "delicately balanced",
Or it "nestles" on a bed.
It has something "drizzled" over it
(Or sprinkled on instead.)

You can guarantee such toppings
Have been "shaved", or perhaps "infused",
Or "tossed", "chopped", "lightly toasted" -
Or otherwise abused.

The courgette flower's a "beignet"
(Which means it's fried in batter),
And the sea bream that's "sustainable"
Lies lifeless on a platter.

One sausage has been "orchard reared".
Another's "outdoor bred".
It's good that once they frolicked,
But this "duo" are both dead.

"Sumptuous mouth watering"
Describes what you might nibble.
Let's hope the linen napkin
Can accommodate the dribble.

The "prime cuts" are cooked skilfully,
And also with duplicity,
On apple wood and elder,
And with what they call "simplicity".

The "cow's milk mozzarella"
Has been "carefully hand torn"
There's "seedling veg", and "pureed peas"
And "toothsome baby corn."

The scallops have been "hand dived",
The olive oil's "cold pressed"
It's also "extra virgin" -
And, to boot, divinely blessed?

The "lamb" has been "sourced locally",
For you especially "chosen",
And the crushed ice in your cocktail
Is the only food that's frozen.

There's something with a "beurre noisette".
"What's that?" you may well mutter.
I think it's what we used to call
A little knob of butter.

The spinach has been "foraged".
It is never ever picked.
If this makes your greens taste better,
Who am I to contradict?

I'll have a plate of anything
That doesn't come with "foam",
Or "sprigs" or fancy trimmings.
And I'll wish I'd stayed at home.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Stephanie's Hen Party

Steph is getting married
So we organised a bash.
The challenges we set her
Earned badges for a sash.


Drinking through straw spectacles,
A gallop (minus horse),
First aid with no bandage,
And accosting men (of course).




Making stylish outfits
With tatty stuff that clashes.
And finding blokes with facial hair,
To match six false moustaches.




Eating dangling donuts
(Use of hands was not allowed).
Pole dancing round lamp posts
(Thus attracting quite a crowd).




Stuffing flumps into the mouth,
And saying "chubby bunny".
The Selkirk Grace in Scottish
Making Rabbie Burns sound funny.



A portrait of fiancé,
Brush between the teeth - how loony.
The likeness would have been quite good,
(If due to wed Wayne Rooney).




A quiz about her childhood,
Not as easy as you'd think,
With we hens no longer sober -
All had far too much to drink.







One challenge was to write a limerick about her intended, as follows:

At a party one warm summer's night.
I met Paul. It was love at first sight.
Now look where we've got.
We are tying the knot,
Which is good: he's a bit of alright!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

After Dinner Speech

It's a long story, but I was recently asked to give the after-dinner speech at the Greenwich Maritime Institute's annual event. The theme of the evening was fishing, a subject about which I know very little. This verse was penned for inclusion in the speech.

I have four good friends I grew up with.
None of them lived far away.
Somehow we never lost contact,
And we're all very close to this day.

Two are now based in America,
But the wonders of email are "neat".
We're in touch on a regular basis,
Even though it's not often we meet.

When asked to come here as guest speaker,
I shared this peculiar news,
I told them the subject was fishing
And, to boot, I must seek to amuse.

Diana now tried to be helpful,
With advice on tonight's celebrations,
Turns out she was active with Green Peace,
And said, "Mention the plight of cetaceans."

Chris's Gran gutted fish for a living
Near Lowestoft, so it appears.
Her memories might have been useful
But the old girl's been dead forty years.

"Live bait or lure?" queried Karen,
Then explained all - with great expertise.
It seemed that my old pals from Morden,
Considered this subject a breeze.

Would Viv now pipe up and surprise me
With some knowledge of bays, coves and creeks?
Would she offer to send me her thesis,
On demersal long line techniques?

Her name soon appeared in my inbox.
I took three deep breaths to prepare.
She wished me good luck, and she asked me,
"What are you going to wear?"


Also, welcome to our new viewers from Belarus, Lithuania, Haiti and Antigua & Barbuda.
Your flags have been added to the Hello World blog of April 2013: http://www.baabaapinksheep.co.uk/2013/04/hello-world.html

Monday, 26 May 2014

Maggot racing

When my brother and I were little,
We used to go fishing with Dad,
Who didn't allow us to wander,
So there wasn't much fun to be had.

But we noted a boxful of squirming,
And the old tartan rug we had brought.
We decided to try racing maggots.
Thus developed our own unique sport.

The "track" was a red square of blanket.
A white line was where to begin.
A thicker green stripe was the finish,
And the first one to reach it would win.

We picked out our chosen contestants,
Then discovered our plan had a flaw:
We cheered and we shouted instructions,
Which the creatures would always ignore.

Though these larvae were not always helpful,
We persisted and collected some data,
The yellow ones seemed to be faster,
But the pink ones would wiggle much straighter.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Sport of Kings

King James brought one passion to England -
The organised racing of horses -
And near Newmarket set up a palace,
Plus the first of a number of courses.

Of the next Stuart monarchs who followed,
Charles the Second was perhaps the most keen.
This delight in competitive gallops,
Has been passed to our present day queen.

"Sport of kings" is the name that's been given
To the running of gee gees round tracks,
And the presence of blue-blooded punters,
Is something no big meeting lacks.

For the Newbury races next weekend,
We bought tickets, and did this online.
The stuff to fill in was amazing -
To the posh kind of person a shrine.

The section "About You" as always,
Included some details deemed vital.
It started with name, as expected,
Then we got to the bit headed "title".

In the box that dropped down there were options:
"Lord", "lady", "viscount" and "sir"...
"Colonel", "professor" and "sergeant" -
On all these we had to demur.

We went for a simple plain "mister",
In our heads then placed some sort of wager.
Would we qualify, thus gaining entry?
Or should we have opted for "major"?


Thursday, 8 May 2014

Tattoos

Welcome to our new viewers from Puerto Rico, Pakistan and Georgia. Your flags have been added to the Hello World blog from April 2013:

http://www.baabaapinksheep.co.uk/2013/04/hello-world.html


It was recently grandson Fred's birthday.
To a party his friends were invited.
This was held at a miniature railway,
With which Freddie was wholly delighted.

His Dad, for the small ones' amusement,
Was busy applying tattoos.
The motifs were all of small creatures:
The kids were invited to choose.

The method was some kind of transfer,
A wet sponge ensured they would stick.
I'm a grown-up, but wanted to try one,
And Richard said, "Please take your pick."

The smiley-faced snail was quite tempting,
And the butterfly, spider and worm.
But the ladybird seemed most appealing:
The "tattooist" made sure it was firm.

It was only at that point I queried,
How long this adornment would last.
"A day or two perhaps," was the answer.
But it seemed to be stuck pretty fast.

The bug that I wear isn't tiny:
It's not life-size and cutely to scale.
Its proportions are those of a fifty pence piece:
All attempts to remove it would fail.

I started with soap and a soaking,
With a pumice stone then did a tussle.
Next I went to the household stuff cupboard,
For the product they call "Mr Muscle",

Which didn't live up to its promise.
Cillit Bang couldn't deal with the "stain".
Am beginning to think that this critter and I
Forever, as one, will remain.

Several days on, am still searching,
For what might just possibly work.
Or acceptance that folk view it kindly,
As a senile old lady type quirk.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Hair dye

My hair's sort of brownish, but to my dismay,
There were more than a handful of strands that were grey.

My birthday arrived - I had turned sixty-three -
And was feeling in need of a more youthful me.

The "greys" really bugged me - they just didn't suit.
They were not only white, but were wiry to boot.

In the car's rear view mirror, whenever I glanced,
They seemed to be multiplied, strangely enhanced.

Some colour was called for, but which one to choose
From the massive selection, in various hues?

And what type of product? The permanent stuff?
Or the sort that would go, if you washed it enough?

I selected the latter, although it might fade,
And "medium brown" seemed a safe-sounding shade.

What to do wasn't tricky - quite simple in fact.
I complied with instructions, my timing exact.

I rinsed off the gunge, like it said in the pack,
Which was when I discovered my hair had turned black.

I should have expected to meet with some hitch.
My husband observed that I looked like a witch.

My daughter advised, when I asked what to do,
"Use washing-up liquid, instead of shampoo."

So that's what I tried, but my locks are still risible.
They are still very dark - and the grey's once more visible.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Cadbury's creme eggs

I didn't gain weight over Christmas,
No increase to bum, tum or legs,
But for three months or more, I've been piling on pounds,
And it's all due to Cadbury's crème eggs.

At the start of the year, these appear in the shops.
I am drawn to the tempting displays.
The message is "Easter is not far away,
And we'll help through those long winter days."

I load up the trolley with cartons galore,
By impossible cravings afflicted,
(There are folk who say that they find them "too sweet",
And thus happily stay unaddicted.)

Then I sit by the fire, and I unwrap the foil,
And bite off the top to begin.
Fondant filing's revealed, and to make my egg last,
I scoop and I eat - with a pin!

Though you have to be careful you don't prick your tongue,
This method's less mad than it seems:
I've been using it ever since childhood,
When I started with peppermint creams.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Spanish Armada 1588 - (Final) Part Four - Going home

A blow for Spain's been landed,
And the fleet is somewhat stranded.
They wonder now, "Whatever's to be done?"
In the midst of the North Sea
Isn't where they'd planned to be:
They're far from home, pursued, and on the run.

They are chased much further north,
Up to the Firth of Forth.
They're using chains to hold ships' hulls together.
They struggle on and on.
Too far leeward they have gone.
And now they're at the mercy of the weather.

For Spain, the men all yearn,
But there'll be no quick return:
Round Scotland and round Ireland is their route.
Their vessels - worse for wear -
Need attention and repair,
And some are minus anchorage to boot.

Strong and chilly gales,
Are filling Spanish sails.
Ships are wrecked. There is no water and no food.
King Philip is sent word,
Of all that has occurred,
Which puts him in a pretty awful mood.
Spanish ship off Ireland
Those who made it back still die,
(Disease the reason why).
There is no happy ending to this story.
It's tedious. It's war,
And though both sides try to score,
Neither wins the triumph or the glory.

At odds, we would remain,
Throughout Queen Bess's reign,
The breakthrough in the struggle proved elusive.
Hostilities would cease,
When James the First made peace,
But, as things turned out, it wasn't that conclusive.

What we'd learned from the Armada
Was "We really must try harder",
Though our sailors had proved skilful, shown such pluck.
Our way of life could vanish:
We might all be speaking Spanish,
If we hadn't had a massive dose of luck.


Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2014


Friday, 11 April 2014

The Spanish Armada 1588 - Part Three - Battle at Sea

Welcome to our new viewers from Kenya, Hungary, Angola, Luxembourg, Mauritius and the Dominican Republic. Your flags have been added to the Hello World blog from April 2013:

http://www.baabaapinksheep.co.uk/2013/04/hello-world.html


The English, in the night,
Set some ships of theirs alight,
(These aren't "hellburners", but give the same illusion.)
The trick is all that matters.
Spain's defence now quickly scatters:
As sailors cut the anchors in confusion.

Their ships are well dispersed,
The weather does its worst.
A south-westerly is blowing, right on cue.
Not the strongest type of storm,
But the Spanish can't re-form,
In spite of all their efforts so to do.

Thus, in fortune's fickle tide,
The fates seem on our side,
Near Gravelines the English ships close in.
In a bloody eight hour fight,
We get our tactics right,
And, in battle, just about achieve a win.

In large part thanks to Drake,
We'd known that it would take,
Too long for all their guns to be re-packed.
The English do just fine:
Aim below the waterline -
Which weakens ships whenever they are whacked.

As each English shot connects,
Our foes are thinking "decks".
They plan to fight according to tradition.
It's a scheme that's badly flawed
For they cannot get on board.
This in part expains the failure of their mission.

With success within our reach,
Our monarch makes a speech.
Great victory her navy soon will bring.
A brave queen's at the helm,
Telling all, "Hands off my realm!"
That she has "the heart and stomach of a king."


Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2014


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Spanish Armada 1588 - Part Two - Action along the English Channel

Spain's fleet was slow to start,
(For the weather played its part),
Two months later, all the hype was slowly sapping.
Then in Plymouth (for supplies),
We were taken by surprise:
The Armada very nearly caught us napping.

Along the Channel chased,
Our speedy ships made haste.
There were inconclusive skirmishes en route.
Guns fired to no effect:
Abject failure to connect,
For no one's ships came near enough to shoot.

The Rosario was lost,
Which would prove to Spain's great cost.
With another Spanish ship, it had collided.
Not the blithest of collisions:
It was loaded with provisions
"We'll go and loot it!" Francis Drake decided.

In doing so, he'd find
How such ships had been designed.
He knew their guns weren't easily reloaded.
(Very soon, in battle proper,
When Spain's fleet comes a cropper,
Its ammunition's mainly unexploded

For its era quite "high tec",
An Elizabethan wreck
With cannons - all of standard sizes kitted -
Has been found. Now some allege
That our gunners had the edge,
As they didn't have to seek a ball that fitted.)

The Armada we'd been dreading,
To the Isle of Wight is heading.
To settle in the Solent is the aim.
Safe, an army to await -
Invasion, England's fate! -
We do our best to spoil this little game.

Our sea dogs soon hold sway,
Drive the Spanish ships away.
In Calais, they hole up in strong formation.
This crescent shape holds steady,
But their troops are not yet ready,
Which causes them a lot of consternation.


Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2014



Monday, 7 April 2014

The Sheffield Half Marathon

Five thousand or so had prepared for this day,
Five thousand folk steadily training.
And conditions have not been delightful:
It's been windy, or freezing, or raining.

They had psyched themselves up with one date in their minds,
They'd been through all the blood, sweat and tears.
Some had chosen odd costumes to run in,
Like a cow, or the three musketeers.

Some were sponsored and hoped that they'd raise lots of cash,
For a charity dear to their heart.
And others, en route, would be collecting as well,
Even though they were not taking part.

Lots of friends had turned out to encourage and cheer,
And tell loved ones to "keep up the pace"
Then a rumour spread through all these mystified crowds:
The word was they'd cancelled the race.

Next we heard, "They've set off! And the calls to come back
The competitors clearly are shunning
They've ignored barricades and refused to divert,
And most have just carried on running."

The problem, we learnt, was the water supply -
Or rather that water was lacking.
The good folk of Sheffield are not to be fazed,
And to solve this, supporters got cracking.

By the time the first runners had come into view,
(The ones who were going full-throttle),
Dozens of people were holding out drinks,
In a beaker, a cup or a bottle.

Whatever it was that went wrong on the day -
And quite clearly the plans didn't work -
You can't beat a person determined to run,
Or the spirit that won at Dunkirk.




Friday, 4 April 2014

The Spanish Armada 1588 - Part One - Spain prepares for war

                                                                                                               Queen Elizabeth I's "Sea Dogs"

Martin Frobisher
English privateers
Had, for very many years,
Been stealing from the treasure ships of Spain.                    
The hoards each "sea dog" offers,
Help to swell Queen Bess's coffers,
So our monarch is the last one to complain.

Because of royal backing
For the looting and attacking,
(And because we'd helped the Netherlands as well),
The Spanish king got tough -
He said, "Enough's enough!
England is a nation we must quell."

Sir Francis Drake
Though war was undeclared,
He had to be prepared,
(And making ready didn't take that long.)
His shipwrights worked with speed,
To provide what he would need,
And soon his fleet was sixty carracks strong.

A cunning plan we hatched,
And "El Drago" was despatched,
To do something which might thwart, or cause delay.
No wonder he was feared,
For Drake "singed King Philip's beard",
By sinking lots of ships in Cadiz bay.

John Hawkins
This tactical attack
Had set preparations back:
Destroying all those ships and their supplies
Now Philip is to lose
His commander, Santa Cruz,
When this admiral unfortunately dies.

The Duke who takes his place,
(Must feel sorry for His Grace),
Is a soldier, whose experience is lacking
For a mission of this kind,
But Philip doesn't mind:
He's confident the Spanish have God's backing.

Sir Walter Raleigh
By our antics merely flustered,
His resources he re-mustered,
One year later, the Armada would set sail.
Our country - with breath bated -
Gathered vessels and then waited...
In this contest, would we win or would we fail?







Philip II of Spain
Queen Elizabeth I



Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2014











Sunday, 23 March 2014

More "helpful banking"

My account hadn't paid any interest.
When this happens, I ring to ask why.
Then I noticed a service called "web chat",
And thought that I'd give it a try.

I carefully typed in the query,
The response was from someone called Faye.
She instructed, "Log in." But I couldn't.
The "web chat" box got in the way.

It obscured all the small password boxes.
I explained that these couldn't be seen.
"Make the web chat box smaller," Faye offered.
I clicked. Now it filled the whole screen.

Then the log-in page suddenly vanished.
It seemed it had got tired of waiting.
I'd been "timed-out" and still had no answer,
And was starting to find this frustrating.

"I know it's not your fault," I told her,
"But this is not "helpful" at all.
Can I take down your telephone number?
And then I can give you a call."

"I'm sorry," she wrote, "But I cannot.
That service stopped ages ago.
We don't actually talk to our clients."
Well at least this was "helpful" to know!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Dunking

McVitie's of late have been trying,
To find out which biscuit is best,
To dunk in your tea or your coffee:
Several types have been put to the test.

A Hobnob is worst, their conclusion,
Because it is made out of oats.
It quickly becomes very soggy,
(They don't say if it sinks or it floats).

Digestives survive slightly better,
Researchers have proved this is true.
"Coated" are better than naked,
As the choc acts as some sort of glue.

They suggest that their packs feature info -
A warning is needed perhaps? -
Re: the time each variety lingers,
Before its predictable collapse.

We are told the best way of presenting,
Their product in coffees and teas.
Forget all the myths about angles,
And submerge it at ninety degrees.

What you're dipping will last a bit longer,
If your drink is allowed to cool down.
All sensitive souls ought to know this,
As they won't want their bikkies to drown.

Rich teas win out. That's official.
Their staying-power truly amazing.
A boon, I am sure, to all snackers
Who while away tea-breaks by grazing.

But why has the firm paid for boffins,
Who have studied for ever no doubt?
The folk in your average office,
Would have done all the testing for nowt!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Baa Baa Gold Sheep

Baa baa gold sheep,
What is in your case?
Stuff I take
From place to place.
I'm going to the seaside
With my bucket and my spade,
And a camera to take photos
Of the castles I made.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Rapunzel - (Final) Part Two

Then one day, (as always),
A prince comes along.
He hears the poor girl
Who is singing a song.
It's a beautiful sound
And he wants to know more.
But he cannot get in,
As there isn't a door.

He returns oft to listen,
Enchanted no doubt.
Then sees the routine
And the secret is out.
He calls to Rapunzel,
Who lets down her locks.
He is thrilled when they meet,
From his crown to his socks.

She is gorgeous, a stunner,
Her looks are ethereal.
He decides striaghtaway
That she's princess material.
He asks, "Will you marry me?"
She says, guess what?
But she needs to escape:
They devise a neat plot.

He will bring her some silk,
And a ladder she'll weave,
But before she completes it,
Well would you believe
The enchantress discovers
The devious plan,
And is seeking to thwart it
However she can.

The prince can't prevail:
All this has to be stopped.
Those lovely gold tresses
Are instantly lopped.
The girl is cast out -
To the desert she's taken.
She must fend for herself,
Is entirely foresaken.

The long length of hair
To the window's been tied.
Our prince now ascends
But does not see his bride.
He instead meets Dame Gothel,
The awful truth dawns,
He's thrown out of the window
And into some thorns.

These prick both his eyes.
The result is, he's blind.
He has only one quest,
That's his true love to find.

(But the hair that he'd clutched
Came away when he landed.
It's a kind of revenge,
For Dame Gothel is stranded.)

Our prince stumbles around
As he can't see a thing,
Till the magical day
When he hears a girl sing.

He knows that clear voice!
It's the girl he adored.
She weeps tears of joy
And his sight is restored.

With his love reunited,
A new life begins.
He also finds out
He's the father of twins!






Friday, 7 March 2014

Rapunzel - Part One

A man and his wife
Are completely beguiled
By the thought that, one day,
They would have their own child.

The months turn to years,
And a long time has passed,
Then the wife gives the news,
"I am pregnant at last!"

They live in a cottage,
A garden's nearby,
Surrounded by walls
Which are sturdy and high.

It belongs to a woman
The locals find scary.
They keep well away,
And are right to be wary.

The enchantress grows flowers,
And the wife has a craving.
"Get me some rampion now!"
She is raving.
"I'll die for the want of it!"
Plaintive her voice.
The husband decides
That he has little choice.

He braves the high wall
And he takes what he needs.
Wife gobbles it up.
"I want more," she then pleads.

Her husband's a man
Who's both stupid and plucky.
But this time he's caught
By Dame Gothel - not lucky.

"How dare you!" she's saying,
"You trespass and steal!
But I am prepared now
To offer a deal.
Have the leaves that you want,"
She continues with scorn,
"But I'll take your child
Just as soon as it's born."

The man, he is quaking
And down on his knees.
He's afraid for his life
And he therefore agrees.

A daughter is born,
But that very same day,
The enchantress turns up
And she whisks her away.

Just to prove that Dame Gothel's
A silly old bag,
The child's named Rapunzel,
An odd sort of tag.

When she's twelve, she's locked up
And spends hour after hour
Alone in a forest
High up in a tower
With no entrance or stairs,
So she cannot get out.
(How she ever got up there
Remains much in doubt.)

The nasty Dame Gothel,
Who grows ever madder,
Pays visits - but doesn't
Invest in a ladder.
She climbs up the hair
On her prisoner's head.
(Rapunzel complies,
Or she wouldn't get fed).

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel,"
The crone cries with glee,
"I want to come up.
Let your hair down to me."



Sunday, 2 March 2014

Ella and Freddie's bus trip

The schools were on holiday. We had the kids.
They have energy, thus need diversion.
A bus trip, we thought, was a lovely idea
So we planned out a little excursion.

They'd already had breakfast, which wasn't enough:
We decided to feed them another.
Then we packed up a bag with the things that we'd need,
For Ella, and Freddie her brother.

The bus came and both of them raced up the stairs -
Our adventure had truly begun.
We all sat at the back for a couple of stops
With Fred shouting out, "This is fun!"

He decided to try out alternative seats,
(With the vehicle lurching, not prudent).
More people got on. We explained who they were,
Which caused Ella to ask, "What's a student?"

Now youngsters have very loud voices which carry,
A sad but immutable fact.
Fellow-passengers proved of great interest -
And children aren't noted for tact.

We barely had travelled a fifth of the way,
Neither child would sit still in their seat,
When, as one, they declared themselves hungry.
"Is there anything nice please to eat?"

We got out the picnic - and bottle of juice,
Which we hoped they'd be happy to share.
Freddie heartily swigged, but there soon was a cry:
"He's drinking it all. That's not fair!"

After what seemed like hours, we arrived at our stop.
The kids sensed that freedom now beckoned.
They charged into the crowds - for the place was quite packed -
Which was something on which we'd not reckoned.

So we gave them some coins, (as a "Poundland" we'd seen),
And they each chose a toy from the rack.
Then we made for the exit as fast as we could,
And got on a tram heading back.

There was nowhere to sit, but Fred played with his truck -
"Broom-brooming" in everyone's way.
Ella's Barbie-type doll started falling apart,
Nylon hair all in wild disarray.

We got off at the station with buggy and bags,
And now limbless dolly as well.
A taxi returned us from whence we had come.
Thus ended the outing from hell.

Friday, 28 February 2014

The alphabet backwards

Welcome to our new viewers from Macau. Your flag has been added to the "Hello World" post of April 2013.


When I was a very small person,
Great Grandma was old, but alive.
(She was then very nearly a hundred,
And I was a long way off five.)

We visited her fairly often,
Whenever we travelled up north.
She recited the alphabet backwards,
As she rocked in her chair back and forth.

"ZYX..." and the rest she repeated.
"ABC..." I'd not learnt, but instead
I heard the reverse way so often,
That it solidly stuck in my head.

This, for many a year, has caused problems:
I must think very hard to this day.
I struggle to get the right order
In the region of "H K I J"!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Gregory's Girl

One's "first" is always special,
It's something girls remember,
And so it was with Greg and I.
We hooked up one November.

Good looking, slightly scruffy,
He set my heart alight.
I adored him from the outset,
It was true love at first sight.

This was in the sixties.
All was "fab" and "in the groove".
Mum assessed him as 'reliable'.
And did not disapprove.

I was young and inexperienced;
You might say quite naive.
I thought he'd never let me down,
A mad thing to believe.

He needed more attention.
He needed much more care.
I denied him these essentials:
Things were soon beyond repair.

He'd been my staunch companion.
We'd travelled near and far.
Then his engine over-heated,
And I cursed the wretched car.


My first car was a green and black Austin A40, whom I called 'Gregory' because of his "PEX" number plate.



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A poem for football addicks (updated team nicknames 2013-2014 season)

Welcome to our new viewers from Austria, Qatar and Macedonia (FYROM).
Your flags have been added to the "Hello World" blog (April 2013).


The nicknames of the teams that play in England's football league,
Are sometimes very obvious, and sometimes may intrigue.
Each one of them is mentioned in these rhyming acrobatics,
We'll start with one that mystifies - just what the hech are latics?

There is a range of colours, mostly patriotic hues,
Sky blues*, whites and lilywhites*, one red, two more plain blues.

Toffees...cherries...tangerines don't make for balanced dinners,
Though to fend off indigestion, those fine clarets may prove winners.
No "shots" now of the stronger stuff - so tempting for a few -
But guess the vast majority drink what the brewers brew.

When it comes to animals, enough for sev'ral zoos...
Stags, shrews...sheep aplenty, for the rams have got two "U"s.
Black cats, lions, tigers all fit into feline boxes,
Whilst the terriers are canine types, along with wolves and foxes.
There are shrimps and a cod army, which in water all survive,
(Though they wouldn't if they couldn't breathe: their gills keep them alive.)

For budding ornithologists are lots of birds to pluck,
To start a brace of magpies (for just one would bring bad luck).
We have sharp-clawed eagles, which have preying on their minds,
Whilst swans and gulls and seagulls are all webbed or swimming kinds.
Next canaries, bluebirds, bantams, three robins and the owls:
We'll add flying bees and hornets, though they're insects and not fowls.

We can classify the workers, who perform their chosen task,
The millers mill, the potters pot, the cottagers - don't ask.
We've tractor boys and railwaymen, we have the awesome gunners,
And as "goffers", we have trotters and three rovers but no runners.
Another pair of craftsmen both relate to types of seating,
Though the chairboys and the saddlers won't for custom be competing.

Of seasiders, a handful, as befits an island nation,
The pirates buckle swash, and shrimpers nab the odd crustacean,
The mariners have sadly sunk to where the fish get caught,
Though Pompey must mean something of a nautical import.

And if the right accessory's the sort of thing that matters,
We've cobblers, glovers, baggies (but we've now lost both the hatters.)
The royals can afford such things (and mansions with a pool,)
And the posh with dosh go shopping just to make themselves look cool.
Through forest, dale and boro they will sport their trendy clothes:
Silkmen used to make their stockings (whilst the poor man dons* plain "O"s).

The right tool spurs the will of those in heavy metal trades:
Thus the iron and the hammers and those ever-steely blades
That we put in handy Stanley knives (once opened and rescrewed),
Or the daggers (to be kept away from those in murd'rous mood.)

There is a bunch of villans, crooked spireites and some tykes,
We've a couple of red devils and their mischief-making likes,
But on the side of righteousness, some movers and some shakers:
Pilgrims, saints and minstermen, the valients (no quakers).

Were they settlers? Were they exiles? Did they just dream up the name?
Do the Grecians have connections with a land from whence they came?
The Cumbrians, however, is a very pointed clue.
The superhoops (or sometimes "R"s) complete our ninety-two.

* 2 teams with same nickname

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Stillborn

We wanted you with us.
We wanted to know
The person you'd be,
Into whom you would grow.

But there'll be no first smile,
No first step, no first word,
These milestones imagined,
Unseen or unheard.

No sleep-deprived nights
That we all might have shared,
No chances to demonstrate
How much we cared.

No applauding your triumphs,
No wiping your tears,
No helping you learn,
No allaying your fears.

No annual party...
Our child's happy face,
Just a date when you left us
For some other place.

You are loved. You are precious,
Are cherished and yet,
We bade you goodbye
On the day we first met.

You were dreams. You were hopes
Time can never fulfil.
Though our arms cannot hold you,
Our hearts always will.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Depressed Humboldt penguins

At Sea Life, in Scarborough, they've penguins,
Which need something to lighten their mood.
The problem first came to attention,
When the creatures seemed rather subdued.

When these cute flightless birds lived in Chile,
Of the weather, they never complained.
It was cold there but, unlike in Britain,
The damp and the gloom weren't sustained.

So the keepers administer tablets,
Which are craftily hidden in lunch.
The penguins appear to be cheery,
And are now a much happier bunch.

The treatment, it's said, was essential.
There are risks when a bird is depressed.
The immune system isn't efficient.
It gets ill if it's glum or feels stressed.

The same thing applies to all humans.
We're in need of some Prozac-type fare.
The government can't stop it raining,
But they could at least make us not care.

Pronunciation: the north/south divide

I can rhyme plant with aren't,
Which the northerners can't.
(Here it's plant as in ant,
Or scant, pant or rant.)

They won't pair laugh with half,
Or with words such as scarf.
Laugh and naff for them work,
But for me they just irk.

I can ryhme farce and glass,
Ditto pass, class and grass.
Gas...lass...pass even so,
In the south will not go.

A southerner's pasta
Rhymes solely with aster.
In the north, there is master,
And plaster and faster...

I can rhyme put with foot,
And with soot and caput.
Although but, hut and nut,
Would all have to be cut.

In front of the hearth,
Folk would put their tin bath.
But - you do the math! -
It's a slippery path.

It would be understood
To pair wood, hood and good.
But mud, flood and blood.
(In the south would be dud!)

The above is a guide
To the north/south divide.
Must take care when I choose
Which rhymes I might use.


I was brought up south of London and moved north in later life. My southern accent still persists and I need to be aware of the differences in pronunciation when attempting to compose verses.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

What is that German doing?

There's somebody living in Germany,
Who looks at this page once a week
In the very small hours on a Sunday,
When the stats show a rather big peak.

Either that, or large numbers in Deutschland,
All decide they will visit this spot.
I haven't a clue what might prompt this,
An so ever-thickens the plot.

Is it something they're watching on telly,
That suddenly causes the urge
To research or to browse on computers,
And thus cause my figures to surge?

By the time I am happily blogging,
There's no snapshot of what they are doing.
The stats have moved on, so I wonder:
What it is my German's been viewing?

One of these Sundays I'll catch them,
If it means I must sit up all night.
But I'm tired and am feeling quite sleepy,
So it's time now to switch off the light...

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Ginger Bear - (Final) Part Three

Next she went to the store that sold wool by the packet.
She had it in mind to make teddy a jacket,
And perhaps a hat too.

But what colour to choose? Something dark? Something light?
The green was too dull and the orange too bright.
She bought navy blue.


Then she went home and knitted and wondered who'd come
A girl or a boy? With a Dad or a Mum?
She'd just have to see.

She put on some lipstick and tidied the place,
And baked lots of cakes for whomever, in case
They stayed for some tea.


She waited and waited for two weeks or more,
Each day was expecting a knock at the door,
But nobody came.

"Well, teddy," she said, "no one's coming, that's clear.
We've become such good friends, you can have a home here.
We must give you a name."


"Now what shall it be? Are you Ella? Or Freddie?
I had no experience naming a teddy,
When I was a child."

"But my fish was called "Goldie"... my white dog was "Snow"...
My brown cat was "Brownie". You're ginger and so..."
And The Ginger Bear smiled.