Friday 20 November 2020

"Eliminate" and "The Wish Gift"

Update (12th June 2023)

Many thanks for looking at this post. Unfortunately, neither of the above books is now available on Kindle. I withdrew them as they both needed further editing. I've now completed the work on Eliminate and have just started seeking representation.

However, my novel James the Third (published last year) is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book formats. Please check it out.

Best wishes, especially to those of you in Singapore and Germany who are bumping up the number of views at the moment. I hope you're enjoying the verses!


Tuesday 22 September 2020

Coronavirus - the police ARE on the case

The virus came upon us.

The scenario looked grave.

And so we faced restrictions

As to how we should behave.

But some chose to ignore them,

Their stance one of defiance.

And the police did very little,

In the face of non-compliance.


Where were the disincentives

For "to hell with safety first"?

Was anybody challenged?

Were mass gatherings dispersed?


Maybe law enforcement

Found it difficult to cope,

But, last Saturday, I heard some news

Which gives a ray of hope.


Two people walked along the road,

Both wearing fancy dress.

One looked like a wicked witch,

The other, a princess.


Were they off to some indoor event?

They clearly looked suspicious.

"Are you going to a party?"

Asked a policeman, all officious.


"We're not," replied the older one,

"I hope we're not in trouble.

We're going to our Granny's

And we're in her social bubble."


The PC sent them on their way:

He'd done what he could do.

They weren't about to break the rules,

These girls - aged five and two.

Friday 18 September 2020

Ryanair (again)

We should've gone to Germany, 
At the start of last July, 
But restrictions placed on travel meant 
We sadly couldn't fly. 
Our booking was thus cancelled.
This happened in mid-May. 
I applied to get our money back, 
And did this straight away. 

My request, of course, brought no result, 
Seemed wholly disregarded.
With emails sent by Ryanair, 
Am suddenly bombarded. 
"Here's a voucher for some future flight. 
We've plenty. Take a look. 
You can redeem it instantly. 
We urge you to re-book. 
We have a backlog of requests 
So processing's delayed..." 
(In short, you will be lucky 
If you ever get repaid.) 

I know we aren't the only ones 
Who feel aggrieved and bitter. 
There are thousands out there moaning, 
As evidenced on Twitter.
Of these very many others 
With such issues unresolved, 
Some have taken drastic action 
And got their banks involved. 
Or have claimed via their insurers, 
Or are legally assisted. 
It's rumoured that, by Ryanair, 
Such folk are now black-listed. 

I've just had another email. 
It's about my "recent" claim. 
It's urging "use your voucher" 
So the message is the same... 
..."but should you want your cash instead, 
'Click here' is what you do. 
I complied and my request it seems, 
Is now "placed in a queue."

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Struggling to get my trousers on

I hadn't worn them for a while,
But their style.

Today I would these trousers don,
And started thus to pull them on.

This can't be true! This can't be right!
They never used to be this tight.

I hopped. I sat. I groaned. I swore.
And writhed upon the bedroom floor.

Another pull, another squeeze.
The waistband's just beyond my knees...

I yank them slowly up my thighs.
In secret, have they shrunk in size?

Inch by inch, am getting dressed,
As legs are ever more compressed.

"Just give up now," instructs my brain.
(But could I get them off again?

The force by which this garment edged,
Might render me forever wedged.)

Am sure I haven't put on weight,
So what had caused me to inflate?

A final tug...I reach a hip,
Then note I've not unzipped the zip.

Sunday 7 June 2020

Roman Britain

Welcome to new viewers from Bhutan, Guam, Saint Kitts and Nevis, British Virgin Islands, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.Your flags now appear on "Hello World":

The following recently rediscovered verse is a prequel to "Anglo Saxons, Celts and Vikings".

The Romans eyed Britannia,
Which they coveted with greed.
Caesar tried to grab it,
Though he didn't quite succeed.

But about two thousand years ago,
In 43 AD,
Yet another bunch of Romans,
Set sail across the sea.

To capture this fair island
Was their obvious intent.
Where they landed isn't certain:
It was probably in Kent.

Of subsequent resistance
There are many thrilling tales,
Like the stance of King Caratacus
(Of what we know as Wales).

Or the valiant Iceni tribe,
Whose leader showed no fear.
They knew her as Queen Boudica,
(Oft misnamed Boadicea).

The Romans' skills in battle
Eventually prevailed,
Then they tried to conquer Scotland -
Where, initially, they failed.

In time, they got to Inverness,
But then came to their senses:
What they stood to gain would fall far short
Of garrison expenses.

As the Scottish Picts were deemed a threat,
Defence was thus a need.
"We must build a wall to stop them,"
Emperor Hadrian decreed.

The Romans, whilst in Britain
Imported much of merit.
What exactly was the legacy?
Just what did we inherit?

They brought the modern calendar,
Complete with Leap Year trick...
The amazing quick-fire catapult...
And concrete, glass and brick.

They brought turnips, grapes and carrots,
Pears and apples... apricots.
They had strange new ways of cooking food,
By using separate pots.

They constructed mighty aqueducts,
In which clean water flowed.
And, between each major settlement,
A long straight Roman road.

On a small spot named Londinium,
They made an early start.
It developed very quickly
To become the nation's heart.

They were very fond of bathing
But it seems, once they had gone,
That their rituals of cleanliness
Had never quite caught on.

They left us in 410 AD,
And headed straight back home.
The soldiers perhaps were needed,
To defend their native Rome.

Or economic gloom here
May has caused them to withdraw.
Why they went is still a puzzle.
Historians aren't sure.

The Brits were never viewed as tamed,
They'd not quite thrown the hat in.
They were not completely docile,
And they never mastered Latin.

Until post the Norman Conquest,
When French proved to our liking,
Old English was a mixture,
Of Celtic/German/Viking.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Smart Shop at Sainsbury's

Am standing in the Sainsbury's queue,
And see a youth, with basket, who
Is handing out "remote controls".
Their benefits, this lad extols.

"Smart Shop's simple," now claims he,
Whilst proffering technology.
"The system's easy as can be!"
Except, of course, when used by me.

"You first must scan your Nectar card,
To register. It isn't hard."
And therefore this I duly tried,
To find that access was denied.

Some red lights flashed with true persistence...
No option but to seek assistance...
It all worked fairly well then on.
The gizmo beeped. A green light shone.

Was feeling chuffed. So good, so far.
I then picked up a mustard jar.
But something's wrong! There were no signs
Of zebra coloured little lines.

None at the bottom, nor the top.
I stood bewildered in the shop.
Another jar proved just the same,
No stripes. I'm tiring of this game.

Be sensible, I told myself,
And scanned the barcode on the shelf.
This action, which I'd thought astute,
Resulted in a "Can't compute".

With rapid plummet of my mood,
I realise the system's screwed.
"Ask a colleague for advice"
My screen suggests. I don't think twice.

I wander and I look around.
There is no colleague to be found.
The service desk...the queue is long...
In time, they sort out what went wrong.

I thus resume the merry dance,
But feel as though I'm in a trance.
The checkout looms. I know I've missed
A few key items on the list.

I won't go back. I've almost done.
I've had my fill of gadget fun.
There's just one hurdle left to clear.
I'll pay, and then I'm out of here.

A message at this final stage,
Suggests the store needs "proof of age".
The reason, and my latest folly?
Alcohol was in the trolley.

"I bought some wine. Was that so wrong?"
I ask the chap who comes along.
I care not what this man might think,
And only know I NEED A DRINK.

"I've reached eighteen," I reassure,
"And fifty and the rest years more."
At last, "Transaction is complete,
Please wait, and take your till receipt."

I stand until my brain goes numb.
The till receipt? It does not come...
This can't be right. This can't be proper.
I'm clearly not a Smart Shop shopper.

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Shopping at Tesco

At the start of lockdown, there were queues to get into supermarkets and some, like Tesco, operated a one-way system. Everyone shuffled round in one direction - or was supposed to...

Like Gormley statues, living stones,
We shuffle forwards, eye on phones,
Until we reach the double door,
Are granted access to the store.
The system then is all one way.
We grab our goods. We hope and pray
We don't commit the greatest folly,
And miss an item for our trolley.

Forgotten stuff from any section,
Means going in the WRONG direction.
It takes some doing, don't you think?
That surreptitious backwards slink?
Progressively, the trudge round goes,
With dodging, and with dosey does,
With shrugs, and all those rueful smiles,
As people traipse along the aisles.

And always, on this slow commute,
Is someone who has taken root.
She's stationed where we want to be.
She scans the shelves but cannot see
Whatever she is looking for.
Will this do? Hmm. She isn't sure.

She reads the label on the pack.
She frowns a bit, then puts it back.
We're waiting there, six feet behind.
In time, she'll move - a great relief -
But, like some tiresome leitmotif,
This ditherer who's such a pain,
Will pop up time and time again....

At last, we're out, and freedom sense,
And won't return till two weeks hence.

Monday 18 May 2020

Coping with lockdown

We've cleaned nooks and crannies, and rolled back the rugs.
We've polished the silver, and bleached tea-stained mugs.

Sorting out drawers was a chore we once dreaded.
Now our paperwork's filed, neatly labelled or shredded.

These days, we have time for those long-postponed tasks.
We've stitched those old headscarves, and made ourselves masks.

We've dusted down boxes, and what they contain
May have prompted a wander down Memory Lane.

We've weeded and mowed. Now all's tidy al fresco.
And we've mastered the system for shopping at Tesco.

Every cough has brought panic, in case we are ailing.
Our hair has grown long, and our teeth need de-scaling.

We've all been alert, as the rules now require us.
And we pray that there'll soon be an end to the virus.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Teaching vowels and split digraphs

We've been attempting to home educate a four year old, which includes introducing new sounds. All the Phase 3 and Phase 4 phonics, involve two or three letters together e.g. "oi", "er", "ow", "oa" or "air". (Phase 4 is, incidentally, mainly blended letters, such as "cl" or "st".)

We eventually got to the more complicated challenge of split digraphs. This is where the vowel sound changes if an "e" is added after an intervening letter. For example, add an "e" to can (to make cane). Or add an "e" to not (to make note) etc. They are expressed as a-e, i-e, o-e, u-e. (e-e does not appear to be covered at this stage, though it does, for example, work with "her" and "here").

This added "silent" e turns the short sounds to long sounds. The long vowel sounds are exactly as would be spoken when reciting the ABC alphabet.

Before these could be learned, the concept of vowels first had to be introduced.

To make all this easier, I came up with a song, to be sung to the tune of "1,2,3,4,5. Once I caught a fish alive..." It seemed to work!

These are vowels. We know that's true.
Here's a trick, the best trick yet,
To make vowels sound like the alphabet.

It's easy as can be.
Add a SILENT magic "E".
Practise so you don't forget
How to make vowels long, like the alphabet.

Copyright Maggie Ballinger

Friday 10 April 2020

Teaching phonics

In these stay-at-home times
Which affect the whole nation,
Many thousands are struggling
With home education.

How we all learnt to read
Is a mystery because,
The skill isn't taught
In the way it once was.

These days, there are phonics.
They form words when they're linked.
Sometimes they're quite subtle
And far from distinct.

Different sounds are produced
If you join up two "o"s.
"Food" and "good" do not rhyme.
Why is this? No one knows.

Digraphs and trigraphs
Most clearly abound.
These are two or three letters
That make just one sound.

It's not always easy
To get these things right,
Like the "i" "g" and "h"
In the middle of "night".

"Cr", "cl" and "br"
Are some sounds that one "blends".
Whereas "ch", "sh" and "th"
Are all deemed "special friends".

Silent letters appear in
A difficult word.
They creep in unbidden.
Are seen, but not heard.

A "k" starts off "knee".
"B" ends the word "dumb",
And it's got into "debt".
There is no rule of thumb.

Thrown into the mix,
(And where things can get sticky),
Some words don't conform,
And such words are called "tricky".

They crop up quite often:
Require recognition.
Children don't like them -
They're viewed with suspicion.

Take "we" for example,
It drives us all dotty,
(Unless it means "small",
Or what's done in a potty.)

Our language lacks logic.
It's complex. It's daft.
And mastery needs
Concentration and graft.

A small girl aged four
Longs to don pretty dresses...
To abandon the phonemes...
And play at princesses.

Thus Granny, at times,
Has her bouts of frustration.
(Though she's found chocolate buttons
A great motivation.)

Saturday 21 March 2020

Getting a refund from Ryanair

We'd booked with Ryanair,
And had duly paid our fare,
But our trip to Spain cannot now go ahead.
As they'd cancelled both our flights,
We were well within our rights,
To claim a refund of our cash instead.

This proved very complicated,
And I soon became frustrated,
As I entered details time and time again.
All those squiggles I'd reload,
From the "not a robot" code,
But my efforts were consistently in vain.

Then I finally succeeded,
Done the things the system needed.
To confirm, they'd send an email. This seemed fine.
In my inbox one was there.
It was from Ryanair...
Demanding that we now check in on line!

Just to update everyone. The following day, another Ryanair email appeared, entitled "Top tips for a speedy take off" !

A third email arrived a few days ago, hyping the fantastic low fare deals on offer and urging us to book.

Almost three weeks on, there is still no sign of the refund...…..

Update - 26th May (2020)

Still no sign of a refund for the flights that were cancelled in March. Our flights to and from Cologne in July have also now been cancelled. We have applied for a refund, and been told that we're in a queue! Earlier emails suggested that the queue might be lengthy, as priority was being given to "vulnerable" passengers. How do they know who these vulnerable passengers are? 


In this crisis, we know our best hope,
Is to hand wash with plenty of soap.

We must take our time with this, since
It takes more than a casual rinse.

Speed, when applying this stuff,
Means we're not being thorough enough.

Thus, performing our self-cleansing missions,
"Happy Birthday" we sing - two renditions.

Or one "God Save the Queen" will suffice:
There's no need to be anthem-ing twice.

Monday 16 March 2020

A strange response to coronavirus

In the USA, outside some shops,
Folk form a lengthy queue.
So what is it that they hope to buy,
To see this crisis through?

Is it loo roll? Is it canned goods?
Is it pasta, rice or soap?
Are they after medications,
Or for sanitizer hope?

The tiny bugs are everywhere,
Give everyone the jitters,
So these citizens are after GUNS -
Do they plan to shoot the critters?

Saturday 7 March 2020

Twinkle twinkle

Twinkle twinkle little star,
I see you nightly from afar.
You shine so brightly in the west,
And there out-sparkle all the rest.
You're Venus, and your glowing ball's
A planet - not a star at all!

Thursday 27 February 2020

Signing up to Tesco Clubcard Plus

A supermarket promo
By the name of Clubcard Plus,
Offers ten per cent off two big shops,
Which sounded fine to us.

We go there fairly often,
And we always fill the trolley.
It costs eight pounds a month to join,
And would save loads of lolly.

Signing up on line was daunting.
Could I do this? Yes I could!
Computers can confound me,
But it seemed "so far, so good".

I have my piece of plastic,
Which is readily to hand.
I present this at the checkout,
And it's always duly scanned.

But to get this scheme to operate,
I must install "the app".
Get my phone out... go to Play Store...
And herein lies the trap.

When I search for Tesco Clubcard,
What I need just isn't there.
I find Sainsbury's, Aldi, Lidl,
But the Tesco apps are rare.

There is one for eastern Europe.
I could shop there with some ease.
But I do not live in Poland,
And nor am I Portuguese.

If my home's in Kuala Lumpr,
I can order stuff on line.
Ditto if I dwelt in Mali,
But not Newcastle on Tyne.

I've now cancelled my subscription,
Despite what I could save.
But maybe I will think again -
IF my phone starts to behave.