Tuesday 24 November 2015

In Mexico

In Britain, November is horrid.
It's cold and it's dark and it's damp.
My friend and I sought to avoid it,
And find somewhere warm to decamp.

To Mexico therefore we've headed,
But here it's so humid and hot.
Tepid baths were a likely solution.
Do they freshen us up? They do NOT.

Mosquitos abound where we're staying.
Conditions for them are ideal.
And fresh English blood is so tempting:
In short, we're their ultimate meal.

We bought for ourselves special bracelets.
We cover bare skin in repellent.
Burn candles that waft citronella.
Nothing works as an insect deterrent.

In crowded locations we've mingled
But these creatures make solely for us.
Their bites may be huge, red and livid -
Or form pimples with gross yellow pus.

We've remedial creams to stop itching,
But a good scratch is sometimes in need.
This may give relief for the moment,
But afflicted parts then start to bleed.

A fly killer can we brought with us.
At bedtime we spray round the room.
But the blighters get in through the air con.
To their targets, they rapidly zoom.

So we're languishing, scratching and itching,
Thanks to pests we can't render inactive.
And those dank grey autumnal conditions
Back in Sheffield now seem quite attractive! 


Wednesday 14 October 2015

The Perils of On-line Surveys

It seemed I'd won a voucher
But must register to claim.
They already knew my email,
And my whereabouts and name.

These details I re-enter:
It seems innocent enough.
But they then ask for my income
And all that sort of stuff.

I complete a few more sections,
And suspicious now I feel.
Surely all this isn't needed
Just for five pounds off a meal?

My task is thus abandoned,
But the damage has been done,
For am instantly bombarded
With junk mail by the ton.

There are holidays to tempt me...
I've been mis-sold PPI.
The plans I need for "later life"
Will cash in when I die.

My home, it needs "upgrading".
I can learn another lingo.
I can play with bonus money
If I sign up with Wink Bingo.

For all manner of insurance
I can get a quick quotation...
I've been injured (so they tell me)
And "deserve" some compensation.

A psychic's seen my future:
"Good luck's due" she advises.
She's right because my inbox
Is jam packed with "claim now" prizes.

I've been "chosen" to receive a bunch
Of great "exclusive" offers.
Buying bags and shoes I do not need
Will drain our household coffers.

Casinos want my custom -
For free spins I've qualified.
Though I'm female and am married,
There awaits a Russian bride.

Wouldn't want to disappoint her,
Which is something we blokes dread,
But that discount on Viagra
Ought to help me out in bed!

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Emergency purchase

We had landed at Malaga airport,
For a fortnight (we hoped) in the sun.
It was there that I mislaid my hoodie,
And our trip, it had barely begun.

Quite clearly I hadn't been thinking,
When I'd done all my holiday packing:
The tops in my case were all skimpy,
And sleeves were decidedly lacking.

No cardigans, sweaters or jackets...
Their absence began to seem silly
When early next day on our terrace,
The climate seemed really quite chilly.

In a village nearby was a clothes' shop.
We'd nicknamed it "Madame Louise".
We should see what she sold, I decided -
To protect from that cool mountain breeze.

The boutique was stuffed full of strange garments -
Brightly coloured and covered in bling.
The owner extolled all their virtues.
I said, "Sequins are not quite 'my thing'.

Nor rhinestones, nor transfers, nor slogans.
Swirls of glitter are not to be relished."
Then I spotted a black jersey item,
And hoped that it wasn't embellished.

It was long. It had very big pockets...
Was three sizes too big, but it draped
And was PLAIN with not even a button.
We paid what it cost and escaped.

"You won't wear it again," said my husband.
"Yes I will!" (I was keen to convince.)
And that desperate "Hobson's choice" purchase,
Is something I've worn ever since.

It's the first thing that goes in my suitcase.
It is lightweight - a traveller's dream.
It's good-tempered - shows scarcely a crinkle.
And I wish I could find one in cream.

Monday 31 August 2015

Ella the Mermaid

The children arrived Wednesday morning,
And Ella had got a request.
Could I make her an Ariel costume?
"Won't be easy" poor Granny confessed.

The girl had looked hopeful, asked nicely,
So Granny was somewhat beguiled.
It's hard to resist such a challenge,
And the pleas of a six year old child.

So out came the big bag of fabric,
Which Aunt Julie had kindly donated.
There was certainly plenty to work with,
For some of what must be created.

The green piece we found had the makings
Of the needed ethereal tail.
It had shiny white spots which were perfect
For the hint of a "here and there" scale.

A small bolt of purple was pounced on,
But we had to ring up Auntie Star,
Who confirmed that she had lots of buttons,
To decorate Ariel's bra.

Though the project was coming together,
The section from tail up to waist,
Presented a bit of a problem:
This conundrum now had to be faced.

It must provide room for manoeuvre,
But in parts must be quite snuggly fitted.
Rigid fabric could not be the answer,
It was wondered, "Could something be knitted?"

The wool drawer proved ever so boring.
Granny started to feel rather jaded.
She had to find some inspiration,
So her wardrobe was thoroughly raided.

In there were some grey harem trousers,
Which were clingy and showed "VPL".
Would she wear them again? Quite unlikely.
So she cut off one leg! May as well.

At this point proceedings were halted,
For a trip to the tip - such a thrill.
Then we visited seamstress friend Carol,
Who provided an unwanted frill.

The bra bit (mark one) had been strapless -
Slipped down and refused to comport.
So Mummy produced matching ribbon,
To lend it a bit of support.

The components were somehow assembled,
(Though the stitching at times wasn't neat).
And Ella's a great "Little Mermaid",
Now her very own outfit's complete.

Friday 21 August 2015

NatWest again

Welcome to our new viewers from Kazakhstan and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Your flags have been added to the Hello World blog:

My branch, of late, was somewhere
To which I rarely went.
Transactions would be done on line,
And cheques were always sent.

But the last two that I posted
Didn't reach their destination.
I rang the Natwest helpline.
Did they have an explanation?

The man said that they didn't.
Though we had a pleasant chat,
The bank was not responsible
And that, it seemed, was that.

Then my piggy bank I emptied:
Though the notion seemed quite strange,
In person I must now pay in
Some heavy bags of change.

But the building that was once my branch
Was functioning no more!
There were boards across the windows
And a chain across the door.

Natwest had not informed me.
With rage, I'm incandescent.
An address is on my cheque-book,
So is this now obsolescent?

My sort code's still relating to
A place that's disappeared.
I'm a branch-less homeless customer,
Which all seems very weird.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

The perils of autocorrect

Autocorrect is useful,
If your spelling's not so good:
Errors will be rectified,
Words written as they should.

But the daughter of a lady
Who resides north of the border,
Was due to have a birthday,
So Mum texted through an order.

Atop the whole confection,
To complete the decoration.
A "wee blonde girl" should feature -
A clear specification.

But autocorrect knew better
And detected a mistake,
So what the mother wanted,
Didn't feature on the cake.

What sat there looking pretty
On the smoothly iced terrain,
Was a little dark haired lassie,
Who was blind and held a cane.

The cake was viewed with disbelief.
The whole thing seemed incredible,
But at least the girl was fondant,
So the sightless child was edible.

Friday 14 August 2015

The Labour Party Leadership Election

In the fight for Labour's leadership,
How will the voting go?
A survey says the favourite,
Is someone called "Don't Know"!

Coastal Erosion - Part Two

Another place that thrived,
Has also not survived.
It was once the seat of Anglo-Saxon kings.
Dunwich was a port,
Where wool was sold and bought.
Now it's from the deep a sunken church bell rings.

When its river northwards wended,
It's raison d'etre ended:
As a major centre, Dunwich ceased to be.
Though its buildings still remained,
The defences weren't maintained,
And the town was at the mercy of the sea.

The North Sea's stomach's hollow;
Yet more land it seeks to swallow
To assuage what seems a never-ending thirst.
But schemes of reclamation
Can effect an alteration,
And the balance of the struggle is reversed.

When the Romans here were reigning,
In the Fens they started draining:
The area was sogginess and slosh.
Now there's solid fertile ground,
In the counties that surround
The square-mouthed shallow bay that's called The Wash.

What the sea seeks to purloin
Can be thwarted by the groyne,
A structure that projects out from the land.
It can act as an impediment,
By trapping drifting sediment.
Its height must be meticulously planned.

Aim at lengthening the odds
Of success, when tidal forces come a poaching.
"Hard" methods such as these,
(Plus the walls that block the seas),
Have all been tried to stop the waves encroaching.

But they can look quite unsightly,
So aren't undertaken lightly,
And by engineers aren't favoured as they were.
Sand dune augmentation
By the growth of vegetation,
And reshaping beaches: they're what some prefer.

Different methods man might juggle,
In this never-ending struggle:
Global warming has a lot to answer for.
With water levels rising
Clever measures need devising,
To repel the sea that's knocking at our door.

Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2015

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Coastal Erosion - Part One

Our coastline isn't static
And the change can be dramatic,
Durdle Door, west Lulworth, Dorset
For whole chunks of cliff can suddenly collapse.
Many factors are in play,
Which can cause rock to give way -
Like how soft it is and whether there are gaps.

Pounding waves can be invasive,
And churned up sand's abrasive,
The acidity of water can liquesce.
Any stone containing lime
Will dissolve if given time,
Which is why our seaboard's often under stress.

Attrition and corrosion
And corrasion cause erosion.
Old Man of Hoy, Scotland
All are mainly due to how the sea behaves.
Its habitual predation
Can result in the creation
Of landforms - arches, tunnels, stacks and caves.

England's North Sea coast
Is affected more than most:
Holderness is just soft boulder clay.
Winds create a longshore drift,
Which material will shift.
Five millimetres vanish every day.

Mappleton's a village
Which the sea had sought to pillage:
Clashach Cove, Moray Coast
The erosion rate just there was even faster.
Two million was expended
So the place could be defended:
Its inhabitants no longer face disaster.

But an engineered creation
Aimed at damage limitation,
Will often have the caveat "Beware!"
One location it protects
But there may be side effects,
By aggravating what occurs elsewhere.

So where the coast is battered
Land is worn away or shattered,
And human beings too have played their part.
Sand and gravel from one bay,
By the ton was dredged away
To extend some docks, which didn't prove that smart.

With its ever lowered beach,
Now Hallsands is in reach,
And its residents are driven to complain.
They fear their homes are fated
But the digging's unabated:
Only later does the company refrain.

There's a strengthened new sea wall,
But this doesn't help at all
And proves itself quite easily traversed.
Now there's not much to be seen,
For in 1917,
The elements combined to do their worst...

Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2015

Thursday 2 July 2015

The weather's never right for Brits

The summer's been a washout.
It's been windy. We've had rain.
As always, at the cold and cloud,
Were driven to complain.

In June, the central heating's on
At full-strength winter mode.
We've dressed in boots and hoodies,
For a walk along the road.

We should have eaten salads,
(Or the dreaded barbeque).
But we sadly stuck to comfort food -
Our cottage pie or stew.

We've longed for warmer weather,
Just a few nice days the hope.
Then the sun came out. We sweltered.
And we found we couldn't cope.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Happy Birthday to our leek

How time does fly,
A year's gone by -
That's fifty two whole weeks,
Since a friend bestowed
A hefty load
Of little seedling leeks.

They were small granted,
But duly planted
They should have grown and thrived.
But sad to say
Most passed away
And only one survived.

We were aware
It needed care,
Lest this should slump and rot.
Dug out and lifted,
That plant was shifted
From veg patch into pot.

Through rain, through snow,
That leek did grow:
It's thin but doesn't droop.
It's ONE this June!
And maybe soon
We'll turn it into soup.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Sort of swimming with dolphins

Welcome to new viewers from Uganda and Lebanon. Your flags have been added to "Hello World".

Dolores and Brenda saying goodbye
Some people have a bucket list
Which may be small or vast,
Of things they want to see or do
Before they breathe their last.

Like to spend a night in Vegas
And to visit all the bars,
Or to sleep out on a sandy beach
Beneath the moon and stars.

Travelling is popular.
The same applies to learning.
Whilst others seek adventure,
For excitement clearly yearning.

I've no desire to parachute,
Am not the daring sort.
I don't want to shoot the rapids
In the name of thrills or sport.

I've a notion to get fitter
(And at one time joined a gym),
And although I'm scared of water,
Thought with dolphins I would swim.

In Cuba last November,
On an organised excursion,
This experience was offered
As a safe-ish sounding version.

So we braved a gritty pathway
(Not conducive to bare feet),
To a shallow large enclosure
And the creatures we would meet.

To the downward steps edged nearer...
Group by group folk took their turn,
Two dolphins were performing
For the fishy treats they'd earn.

They knew commands in Spanish.
("More than I do!" someone joked).
They kissed faces and flipped over
So their tummies could be stroked.

At last we're in the water,
And submerged quite deep enough.
One critter then approached us
And began to do her stuff.

Though I'm not sure I enjoyed this
It's a tick off my agenda.
And I won't forget the day I met
The dolphin who's named Brenda!

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Billy the ghost sniffer dog

Freddie had been dreaming
And was feeling rather scared.
He thought a ghost was in his room,
But Mummy was prepared.

She went and woke up Billy
For the small boy knows full well
That terriers are hunters,
With a well-honed sense of smell.

The dog was told quite simply
What his mission was about:
To investigate the bedroom,
And to sniff the blighter out.

The search was then conducted.
Tail a-wagging off Bill went.
He examined every corner,
But of spooks there was no scent.

Any spectre that was hiding
Could not remain un-found.
But no wraith was slyly lurking
As Bill wandered nose to ground.

There simply were no phantoms
In the places he explored,
So Freddie could go back to sleep,
Completely reassured.

Friday 22 May 2015

I've had it with Orange email

The address I had been using
For a dozen years or more,
Was sadly now "not valid"
Like it used to be before.

I'd had enough of Orange
And did not know what to do...
Tried ringing several numbers...
Kept on hold and not put through...

Heard the same old wretched "music"
As my ear stuck to the phone...
So I joined a helpful chat room,
And no longer felt alone.

"What's going on?" folk queried -
Without doubt a valid question -
Then "try this" a kind chap posted,
And it proved a good suggestion.

I hung on for just ten minutes...
A real person DID respond,
He understood the problem,
And he waved some magic wand.

He said he'd changed my password,
(But not by very much).
The new one seemed to function,
And I now was back in touch.

But I wouldn't stay with Orange...
Had suffered for too long...
I would switch and write to everyone...
How could this scheme go wrong?

I would work through all addresses:
The task would be a breeze,
But my "Contacts list" then vanished,
And I'd only reached the Cs.

Friday 10 April 2015

Ella and Freddie's day at the zoo

The children had no school
And we thought it would be cool,
To go out for the day to Chester Zoo.
All the world, it would appear,
Has the very same idea,
And just to park, we face a lengthy queue.

But our spirits soon revive,
Once we finally arrive,
With our bag of what we needed to subsist.
Through a crowd not yet dispersed,
The elephants are first,
And the Monkey House is next upon the list.

"Funny bottoms" cause some glee,
But then Ella needs a wee,
And a toilet-quest begins at her insistence,
There's a cage along the way,
With one hunched up bird of prey,
And we glimpse giraffes, but only from a distance.

Next on pumas we're deciding,
But they've all gone into hiding.
Other creatures, too, seem wary of exposure.
Have they somehow been diverted?
All the compounds seem deserted,
As we pass yet more one critter-less enclosure.

But at last there's a "hurray!"
A snack bar saves the day.
It sells lollies and we can't believe our luck.
Then, much to their delight,
Something waddles into sight.
The kids are both entranced. It is a duck.

A lioness lies snoring,
Which admittedly is boring,
And we soon get tired of motionless big cats.
Freddie has a scheme in mind,
Which proves difficult to find,
But at length we're in the Forest of the Bats.

It is dark. The fake sky's inky.
"I smell poo! It's really stinky!"
Above us, swooping shadows we can see,
'neath an artificial moon,
I long to get out soon,
Before one of those black things lands on me.

No matter how we tried,
Our map still mystified:
The zebra and the bears we cannot spot.
Of some cheetahs, just a peep,
Then the children find a jeep.
It's for playing on, and this they do - a lot.

Rhinos don't have what it takes.
We view tigers, turtles, snakes,
Orang-utans and varied types of pig.
With a few they are impressed,
But the creatures they like best,
Are some ants which carry leaves along a twig!

Wednesday 1 April 2015


The New Year never seems quite right
For making resolutions,
For looking at the way we live,
For life-style type ablutions.

Then heaven-sent, along comes Lent:
Some folk new vows are taking,
To give up what they most enjoy,
Their pleasures thus forsaking.

No doubt the whole experience
Could prove a double winner:
An empathy with sacrifice,
And becoming somewhat thinner.

But early spring's undoubtedly
The best time for review,
When nature is awakening
And all is fresh and new.

A small green shoot...the sun's brief warmth...
Can kick-start self-inspection.
Now everyone must surely feel,
The power of resurrection.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Getting out of debt

Spend more than your income and you'll surely end up broke.
The effort to get solvent is a very heavy yoke.

If you borrow what you can't repay, you're on a downwards spiral,
And the only real solution is a lot of self-denial.

Anyone who's been there knows you really feel the pinch,
But you have to keep on going, though it may be inch by inch.

Buying what you can't afford will only make things worse,
When you owe a lot of money, and there's nothing in your purse.

You practise your economies. You lie awake at night.
The tunnel may seem very dark, but at the end there's light.

In time you reach the sunshine (that assumes you've kept on track).
Then you know the pain was worth it: there's no way you would go back.

This applies to individuals, and also to a nation.
But Labour landed Britain with this self-same situation.

Our debt was quite enormous just a government ago.
"Did you spend too much?" the question. And Ed Miliband said, "No"! 

Thursday 19 March 2015

Royal baby names

As you probably knew:
A royal baby is due,
A prince or princess we're getting.
But which will it be?
We must just wait and see.
Until then, there's a flurry of betting.

On events that are major,
We all like a wager:
Will the infant be fair, dark - or bald?
And the odds can be checked,
On returns to expect
If you've guessed what the child will be called.

Elizabeth? Mary?
The bookies are wary:
What you'd win for such choices not great.
Ditto Arthur or James,
Both historical names,
And forget about Charlotte or Kate.

You could win sums with zeros,
For Great British heroes:
Horatio, Winston and co.
Of our small island nation,
Both proved the salvation.
One died half a century ago.

To remember Wills' mum,
Sounds appealing to some,
As a tribute that's fitting in manner,
To bestow such a label,
He may not feel able,
And choose Frances, instead of Diana.

If you want to be savvy,
Steer clear of the chavvy:
Though you'd get decent odds, think again.
And I don't rate too highly
The chances of Kylie,
Nor of Tiffany, Royston and Shane.

All the lists are omitting
A name that's quite fitting
Why it's not there just serves to bewilder.
The girl should have been
Our country's first queen...
Which is why I'll be backing Matilda.

Sunday 15 March 2015

More problems with Orange

Once more my spirit droops,
As I see the message "oops"
And wonder at this Sunday morning sport.
Things clearly are not right:
There's an "issue" with their site,
Which accessing my emails serves to thwart.

A message I'm awaiting
So this really is frustrating,
The replies I need to write are incomplete.
Orange needs to sort it out -
Of that there is no doubt -
Or else I shall be voting with my feet.

Monday 16 February 2015

Orange email problems

Just what's going on please with Orange?
(A word with which no other rhymes),
I can't seem to access my emails:
This keeps happening too many times.

Last week, and again on a Sunday,
My messages were not displayed.
The service was back in the morning,
So I wasn't unduly dismayed.

But the problem recurred only yesterday,
And today it's the same sorry state.
It is Monday. I need to get going,
And the glitch only serves to frustrate.

"Oops sorry" the words I am seeing.
"We're trying to fix..." it's insisted.
"Contact us," I am invited,
"Choose your subject..." but email's not listed.

In time I discovered some numbers,
On which callers could ring with their moans.
But not one related to email:
They were only for broadband and phones.

"How to get round this?" I wondered,
"When the service from Orange is rotten?"
I've another account I remembered,
The password for which I'd forgotten.

So I told "Live" I needed reminding.
We'll email a new one's imparted.
But they're sending the details to Orange,
Which leaves me right back where I started.

Saturday 7 February 2015

The mystery of Mary Celeste 1872

A merchant brigantine,
Sailing all alone is seen,
Those aboard a passing vessel note she's *yawing.
So they go and take a look.
There's no first mate. There's no cook.
There is nobody at all - not reassuring.

Her cargo seems intact -
With alcohol she's packed -
There's sufficient food to see the journey through.
The ship's condition's fine.
Of a struggle there's no sign.
So what's happened to her passengers and crew?

Have they sailed off? Have they jumped?
This has all the experts stumped,
And no one has been able to explain.
It seems - a cause for worry -
They departed in a hurry.
And none of them was ever seen again.

Possessions left behind
Mean investigators find
It unlikely pirates went on board to plunder.
Had alcoholic fumes,
Pervaded "Mary's" rooms?
Empty barrels give inquirers cause to wonder.

For our vessel, what comes next?
It seems she might be hexed.
In an accident, her owner's father drowned.
Yet another life she's claimed.
The famous ghost ship's blamed.
She's sold, as bad luck follows her around.

She changed hands plenty more.
Her condition now was poor.
The last to own her did a thing he shouldn't.
Worthless cargo he insured,
(His objective's being fraud)
Then tried very hard to sink her, but she wouldn't.

In a courtroom he appeared,
And of barratry was cleared,
He is guilty but the jury won't convict.
The verdict had arisen -
He faced death instead of prison -
As the penalty was thought unduly strict.

*twisting or oscillating about the vertical axis of
  a moving ship (or aircraft)

Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2015