Saturday 30 December 2017

Guest blog

My friend Viv, whom I've known for sixty plus years, wrote this verse for her friend Kay, after discovering the nightly ritual involving Kay's husband Bill. Sadly, Kay died four years' ago d is much missed.

I know a house in Ashley Park.
And things go on there, after dark.
Time always brings a change of fashion,
But lessens not the bedroom passion.

The hour draws nigh. The clock strikes ten.
You say to Bill, 'I'll go up then.'
You do your very best to hide
The urge that's rising up inside.

As Bill sips Horlicks, by the hearth,
You languish in a bubble bath.
Exciting thoughts grow ever stronger.
You can't contain yourself much longer.

You've slipped between the cotton sheets
And ponder on the coming treats.
Has Bill prepared and got things ready?
You wet your lips, your heart unsteady.

Adrenalin! Exhilaration!
Such pleasure in anticipation.
You hear his footstep on the stair,
And suddenly, your Bill is there.

Now real indulgence can begin.
You settle to your nightly sin.
It starts with something hot and steamy.
The next is fruity, smooth and creamy.

'Magnificent,' to Bill you say,
'Thank heavens for my chocolate tray.'
The empty mug and empty plate
Speak volumes: that was worth the wait.

Your finger gets a final lick.
'Goodnight...and, Bill, I'm feeling sick.'

Thursday 7 December 2017

Operation Frankton - "The Cockleshell Heroes"

Today, 7th December, marks the 75th anniversary of the start of Operation Frankton, one of the most daring and imaginative sabotage ventures of World War Two. There is a commemorative monument in Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, near Royan.

France was occupied and so,
The harbour of Bordeaux
For the Germans proved a valuable location.
Britain came up with a ruse:
Royal marines in small canoes,
Would plant limpet mines and thus cause devastation.

They would sneak up the Gironde,
To the port that lay beyond.
Five "cockles" and ten crew - all highly trained.
Dropped off-shore by submarine,
In a bid to stay unseen,
They'll hide by day, so secrecy's maintained.

One pair drowned, (it is assumed).
Two other pairs were doomed.
They were captured by the enemy and shot.
Though they must have been afraid,
Their comrades weren't betrayed.
Four paddled on to carry out the plot.

In line with what was hatched,
The devices they attached -
(Each one of these had carefully been primed).
Then they slip off undetected.
The explosives they'd connected,
Later detonate at 9pm as timed.

The effect was as predicted,
Much damage was inflicted
On the half a dozen ships that had been mined.
The exploits of the four
Helped abbreviate the war
By six months, as Churchill later on opined.

© Maggie Ballinger 2017

Monday 9 October 2017

Breast feeding problems

My new born babe has lost the plot.
She won't latch on. My boobs are hot.
They've gone all hard, feel very sore.
It's sad, because there's milk galore.

I'm very tired. It's most depressing.
I have the kit. Have tried expressing.
From bottles, she will blithely drink,
But not from me. My spirits sink.

'Try skin to skin,' the midwife said.
'Don't sit. Try lying down instead.
You've done so well, at least so far...
And stuff a cabbage down your bra!'

This strange advice must be well meant,
So off to Tesco's hubby went.
I waited, trying not to panic.
He brought the veg. Savoy. Organic.

The very best, it seemed, he'd chosen.
Two leaves were chilled till almost frozen.
Round where my baby once had sucked,
The soothing greens were duly tucked.

I'm not serene. I'm not all smiles.
The iron tablets gave me piles.
I feel a mess. A mess I'm looking,
And now I smell of cabbage  - cooking.

Sunday 16 July 2017

Facial hair removal (again)

Facial hair was the problem to tackle.
I've tried those wax strips, as you'll know.
Then someone suggested a lotion,
And I thought I would give it a go.

The "sensitive" type was then purchased.
Its "gentleness" seemed just the thing.
It was trowelled on my face as instructed.
Then the telephone started to ring.

The cream had been on for five minutes:
So not long till it must be removed.
"I'll answer that call," I decided:
Unwise, as events later proved.

"Hello," said a friend of my husband,
(Who had seemingly now disappeared).
I swiped at the cream and went searching.
My mouth in the process got smeared.

"Keep him chatting" was then the instruction.
A request I could hardly ignore.
As I spoke, what began as a tingle
Had revved up and was horribly sore.

My lips were not pink. They were scarlet!
Puffed up from their normal quite thin.
They had started to fray at the edges,
So were bordered by flaky raw skin.

With caution, I stared in a mirror.
What had happened left no room for doubt.
My pupils had deadened in horror,
And I looked like a very sick trout.

Approach depilation with caution.
Most mouths aren't inherently hairy.
Mine went scabby...took days to recover.
If I try this again, I'll be wary.

Thursday 1 June 2017

NatWest (yet again)

My account has certain "benefits" -
If by plane you are embarking,
One such perk is money off
The cost of airport parking.

I tried ringing "travel services".
They answered me anon.
There were four "press key pad" options,
But parking wasn't one.

I hit a random number,
Was to someone then put through.
Asked him how to book a car park?
Was told, "Haven't got a clue."

I tried logging into "membership"
And wasn't much surprised
When the email that they always use
Was bounced "unrecognized".

But another means was offered
And, determined to persist,
I typed in all my details....
Got "account does not exist".

I ventured into "web chat",
(Wearing thin now my endurance,)
Tracey told me that she couldn't help:
Dealt only with insurance.

I wrote a careful email.
It got sent! The system worked!
But responses take "around two days" -
A fact which really irked.

Though some money off our parking
Would be really very nice,
We've ignored NatWest and booked it -
And we've had to pay full price.

Thursday 25 May 2017


That lady - just called to consulting room "D"
Arrived more than ten minutes later than me!
In hospitals, hanging round's what people do...
But from here, looks like somebody's jumping the queue.

If I dared, I would ask but there seems little use:
They'd just make up a reason, some half-baked excuse,
Like "There's lots of rooms running, and some move through faster."
Why is waiting, for me, such a total disaster?

Of the lines in a bank, why do I choose to join
The one where they're counting a suitcase of coin?
As for airports, they're guaranteed sources of stress:
Approaching the check-in, one tries to assess
Which passenger's passport is just out of date?
Whose luggage will be half an ounce overweight?
I opt and I know as I shuffle along
That, despite all that care, my decision was wrong.

So here, in this clinic, there's surely no doubt
Mine's the room no one goes in - or never comes out.

I could do with the loo or, for certain, I'll burst
But can't leave, in case someone goes sneaking in first.
Those magazines all look so dog-eared and dated,
Thumbed by those who, before me, have sat here and waited;
The recipes torn out, e'en now being cooked
By the bored, the frustrated...the great overlooked.

Still, there's one on the pile and it seems fairly new.
I'll just have a quick glance: nothing better to do......
Drat! They're calling my name! Now I'll never discover
If Sue stayed at home, or eloped with her lover!

Friday 19 May 2017

R.I.P Billy

No more white hairs on the duvet.
No more "What's today's treat?" plea.
No more woof-and-tail-wag greeting,
No more, "Get off the settee!"

No more noises on the staircase
Of the softly leaping paw.
Now no company at bath time
Will come nudging through the door.

No more nuzzles for attention -
("I just want a bit of fuss.")
No more shadowing his people
'cause he needs to be near us.

No more bounding through the woodland...
Stops for sniffs along the street...
No more taking in the evening scents,
Nor licking someone's feet.

No more frenzy of excitement
Of a pal who's overjoyed...
Just an empty bed, an empty bowl,
An awful senseless void.

He was loyal. He was loving.
He was everybody's friend.
He was handsome. He was gentle,
And did not deserve his end.

Oh for one more chance to stroke that head,
Say, "Love you, little guy."
He was special. He was Billy....
....and we never said, "Goodbye."

Billy Penn, part of our family for more than 13 years, was
tragically run over yesterday afternoon. RIP best dog.

Monday 20 March 2017

Facial waxing

We five friends all go way back to childhood,
We are sticking at "late middle age".
We're in regular touch and swap stories,
Of the "hold back the years" fight we wage.

Plaiting eyebrows and other such measures...
Our struggles to keep nicely thin...
Moustaches that seem to be growing,
Plus the stray wires that sprout from the chin.

We ask ourselves, "Does all this matter?
Does it bother us? Why should we care?"
But I knew that I had to try something,
To get rid of my fine facial hair.

So I went to the chemist's this morning,
Scanned the shelves and the stands and the racks,
Found a product that promised an answer:
It was boxed, and contained strips of wax.

The instructions were somewhat perplexing,
Though some drawings were there as a guide.
One lot fell in the bath and was useless,
But one length was duly applied.

I pressed this down gently but firmly,
Under nose and along upper lip,
Then got hold of the small tab of paper
Which, as promised, was "easy to grip".

I took some deep breaths for a minute
(As, for what lay ahead, one must brace,)
Next, I tugged hard - a single swift movement -
In that quest for a perfect bald face.

I winced at the burning sensation...
Checked the strip for the whiskers therein...
What I held now appeared to be empty -
With the residue stuck to my skin.

I opened an "aftercare" sachet -
One of four that my small kit supplied -
But the oil on the wipe was quite useless,
On the wax that had clumped up and dried.

Should I purchase my own special razor?
Shave each morning, in common with men.
Where I waxed is now sore, red and sticky,
And the verdict is "never again"!

Thursday 2 March 2017

Anyone know what this kitchen appliance does?

We cleared our kitchen cupboards,
Their contents to assess,
And found a strange appliance:
What it does we cannot guess.

This "thing" was made by Bauknecht
And, it seems, was rarely used.
We examined its components,
And they left us quite confused.

We checked on sundry retail sites.
Our gizmo can't be found.
It's a processor of some sort,
As a motor drives it round.

It contains a sort of basket,
In a top which has a spout.
There's a funnel (used to feed stuff in?)
But what on earth comes out?

There are sadly no instructions.
The machine was in no box.
And, until we find its purpose,
It will only serve to fox.

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Operation Chariot - the raid on St. Nazaire

This month marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most daring raids of all time. It was an attack on the heavily fortified German-held port of St Nazaire in occupied France. This was the only Atlantic place large enough to accommodate German warships for repair : the damaged Bismarck had been heading there when she'd been sunk in May 1941. Meanwhile, the powerful Tirpitz was lurking in Norway...

Though the Bismarck is no more,
There's another man of war:
The Tirpitz just off Norway has remained.
There she stays, a fleet in being -
Our navy stops her fleeing,
But must tie up ships to make sure she's contained.

If she ventures from her lair,
She'd be shot, and need repair:
In just one Atlantic place she might be mended.
She would certainly head there:
It's the port of St Nazaire,
With its huge dry dock, all heavily defended.

Do the Brits have the ability
To strike this fine facility?
Soldiers manning massive guns are standing guard.
The entrance, closed and gated,
Cannot be penetrated...
Unless, maybe, it's hit by something hard?

This port must be attacked,
So the Campbeltown is packed
With explosives in a steel and concrete case.
By this heavy load encumbered,
This vessel's days are numbered.
It is hoped she will obliterate that base.

The Germans must not know
Of our plans to land a blow.
It's essential they are taken by surprise.
So the funnels she now bears
Make her look like one of theirs:
She will travel to her target in disguise.

Those who'll see this mission through
Have a lot of work to do.
They practise laying charges in the dark.
Once on land they will disperse
But beforehand must rehearse
Until, finally, they're ready to embark.

Those involved are highly skilled,
In their roles have been well drilled,
And courage isn't something that they lack.
Everyone could change his mind -
An offer all declined -
Although most of them would fail to make it back.

Five miles up the Loire...
All is going well so far
In what's shaping up to be a wartime thriller.
By a feat of navigation
They will reach their destination -
One big ship and an eighteen craft flotilla.

The whole schedule has been timed
And, with fuses duly primed,
The Campbeltown  now slams into the gate.
Once the entrance has been rammed,
Our ship is firmly jammed -
According to the plan, four minutes late.

Things have not gone undetected.
There's resistance, as expected.
Under fire, there is a tragic human cost.
They're in something of a scrape,
With no means of escape.
Almost every single little boat is lost.

Those who make it onto land,
Lay their charges, as was planned.
Some are captured and are out for the duration.
But the job has been well done.
Adolf Hitler this will stun,
So complete was the resultant devastation.

Once our big ship had impacted,
Local interest was attracted...
And occupying soldiers came to view.
On her decks, these Germans strode,
Unaware she would explode:
A massive bang the last thing that they knew.

This tale's a shortened version
Of a dangerous excursion,
And the full account is certain to enthral.
So meticulously planned,
By the bravest it was manned
And, in short, was dubbed "the greatest raid of all".

HMS Campbeltown prior to explosion

Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2017

Sunday 19 February 2017

Grace Darling

Grace, aged 24
Midst the North Sea's chilly water
Lived a lighthouse keeper's daughter,
Her home a rock full six miles from these shores.
Grace Darling was her name
And she found unwanted fame,
For her courage, and her skill with boat and oars.

After one wild stormy night,
She had seen a steamer's plight.
It was tossed by waves and lashed by howling gale.
It had broken quite in two,
Risking passengers and crew.
Grace knew the local lifeboat wouldn't sail.

Though conditions were so bad,
This brave girl and her Dad
Launched their small boat, which was always at the ready.
All the dangers they ignored.
Dad hauled stranded souls on board,
While Grace made sure she held their vessel steady.

Her fearless act was feted.
Grace was famous, which she hated.
The world knew how courageously she'd rowed.
Some cash from Queen Victoria...
Grace at the Forfarshire, 1838
And a RNLI* medal were bestowed.

* Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Grace Darling (1825-1842) is a subject which features on the UK school curriculum and the topic is studied by 5/6 year olds.

Ⓒ Maggie Ballinger 2017

Sunday 5 February 2017

My (now insomniac) computer

Unlike me, my laptop
Didn't have a cold and cough.
But clearly it was ailing
For it kept on nodding off.

I cajoled it very nicely
And remembered to say, "Please".
I pressed F1, I pressed Escape
And sundry other keys.

I tried very hard to rouse it.
It was sworn at, hit and shaken.
I clicked the mouse both left and right.
But it did not reawaken.

I took it to our local geek.
The trick he tried was neat:
Three buttons held down firmly -
Control plus Alt, Delete.

My computer then sprang back to life,
So good this magic touch.
His expertise cost just five pounds.
I thanked him very much.

The narcolepsy problem
Had been down to Windows 10,
So he'd tweaked its inner workings.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Cows, hens, sheep and pigs

The cows in the field
Say, "Moo" and yield
Their milk for the farmer to sell.
Some is made into cheese
And, for all to please, butter and yoghurt as well.

The hens in the yard
Work very hard  -
Lay eggs for the farmer to sell.
Boiled, poached, fried,
If you really tried,
You could whip up an omelette as well.

The sheep in the field
Say, "Baa" and yield
Their wool for the farmer to sell.
It's used for knitting
And, it's only fitting,
Some is turned into suits as well.

The pigs in the sty
Say "Oink" and cry,
"It's US that the farmer will sell.
Pork, ham, bacon:
If we're not mistaken,
We'll be made into sausage as well!"

Sunday 15 January 2017

Natural childbirth

Being pregnant was really uplifting,
All rounded and smug "Mother Earth",
With my thoughts sort of dreamily drifting,
To the wonderful climax of birth.

When things started, I'd happily potter,
Each twinge braved with scarcely a quiver.
Once the pace speeded up and got hotter,
I'd prepare then to stand and deliver.

Well "stand"? Second thoughts maybe not.
There were plentiful options to ponder.
I could lie. I could kneel, I could squat.
I could simply continue to wander.

I could sit in a water-filled pool,
As the sun set and day became dusk.
Wafted scents in the air would be cool -
Maybe lavender, jasmine or musk.

I could crawl round upon hands and knees,
In the background, a tape of whales singing.
I could hang on a circus trapeze,
Alternately pushing and swinging.

As night deepened, a few candles glowing.
My partner there, equally stoic.
The pride in his face clearly showing,
As I coped - all serene and heroic.

But it's time now. As push comes to shove,
It hurts badly. I'm feeling quite sick.
And my wonderful "labour of love"
Has become, "Get it over with quick!"

Did I once think this one of life's pleasures?
All that beauteous stuff is for mugs.
What I want now (and not in half measures)
Are some extra-strong painkilling drugs.

All that planning no longer finds favour,
Though it probably works out for some
Who can find it a process to savour.
But not this particular mum!

Tuesday 3 January 2017


From somewhere I've caught a tenacious type bug.
My energy levels are those of a slug.

My nose may be blocked - or else, it's free-flowing.
Soggy tissues abound in a mountain that's growing.

My joints seem to ache. Can't get comfy at night.
Yet sometimes I rally and feel almost right.

Could I be on the mend? No: deceptive such gaps,
As it isn't that long till I once more relapse.

The virus regroups and attacks once again.
Of sneezing and snuffling am forced to complain.

I frequent local chemists' (a cure is the mission),
Hitting each one in turn to avoid their suspicion.

(Though the claims of the tablets are often pure fiction,
Am fearful they'll think I've acquired an addiction.)

Other people, it seems, have been equally "off"
With a headache, a fever, a cold or a cough.

These germs can mutate, so to none we're immune.
If you're languishing too, hope you feel better soon!