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:

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