And so, thus primed for life among the royals
(The greatest threat being ANNIGONI’s oils)
Young BESS BALMORAL learnt to smile and wave,
To pay attention while appearing grave,
To stand immobile travelling in a jeep
-They say she even smiled while fast asleep.
Her sister, MERRY MEG, was not like this
For she could dance and stay up late and kiss
A squadron leader here, an artist there,
But Bess’s duty called her, fair and square,
To give the thumbs down to Meg’s swinging scene
And do her homework as a future queen.
For some of us must forego midnight glory
While others view The Benny Goodman Story.
Bess did her stuff, but now and then she sighed
To have a stout companion at her side,
Or rather right behind her, who would lean
And whisper in her ear, “Well done, old bean”
When she met dignitaries who had bad breath
Or “You look radiant,” when she felt like death.
One day it came to pass. She had been sent
To look at Britain’s naval complement
- Two tiny frigates and a pile of rope
Scrubbed down and dazzling bright with Lifebuoy soap–
When she turned round and met the glittering gaze
Of one with whom she could partake her days.
She swayed and felt as if she scarce could stand,
Till pushed back straight by her equerry’s hand.
“Who is that man?” she heard herself inquire,
“He’s PHIL THE DANE” replied her faithful squire.
(for full text, see current New Review, pp 8-64)
Now that spring is almost here
This vernal hymn we sing
To wish you all the very best
Of things that spring can bring.
The crocuses are coming out
The tulips will be soon,
Preparing to be garnered
Our big day-off in June.
No break for you, alas, for you
Must plunge into the fray:
I hope they let you take a break
And get away next day.
I too know what life is like
In power – no rest, no calm.
But you’ve been there since ‘52
-How do you do it, Ma’am?
So let us hope from idle chat
The gutter press refrains
-VIPs of the world unite.
You’ve nothing to lose but your Haines!
Queensferry – that’s what the road signs said
in the place where I was reared
and I always longed to see this boat
that the monarch in person steered.
I kept me eyes open to see her sail
up the Mersey or down the Dee
so that when she gave me her permanent wave
I’d wave back and ask her to tea.
“Hey Dad, get your feet from off the sofa
put the kettle on quick, Mum.
You said bring some nice friends back to tea
- well you’ll never guess who’s come!”
The biscuits went soft in the royal tin
with her husband and her on the lid,
the scones went mouldy, the sandwiches died
and I sold the Earl Grey for a quid.
For back and forth across the tide
the ferries came and went,
but none of them brought the Queen to me,
not even the Duke of Kent.
Pity, I rather fancied a title.
“Sir Roger McGough” would look nice
on my visiting cards and underwear
and pull all the birds in a trice.
But now that they’ve asked me to write this poem
it’s filled me full of fresh hope
- I’ve spent my weekends attending knight classes
till I talk with me mouth full of soap.
So dear Queen, please send me a second-hand knighthood
For hymning your Jubilee.
If not, don’t forget the invite’s still open,
To drop in sometime for tea.
I’ve seen you on the telly
Riding off to church
But I’ve never much liked horses
Since I was bit by one in the…lurch.
(Grin. Wait for the applause to die down.)
I once bet half a oncer
On a horse called “Lucky Jim”.
Three horses out of four were placed
And not one of them was him.
(Hysterical laughter. Look coy. Smile girlishly.)
The thing I don’t like about horse,
Even when they are young,
Is the way they are so untidy
Still, I suppose what’s dung is dung.
(Collapse of studio. Retreat bashfully and collect cheque.)
Like unwinking barracuda they circle on the grass.
The corgis. Just below some invisible sealine.
Only awaiting the first smell of blood or terror
To pounce and tear the intruder to pieces.
Herself they will not touch. They know her smell,
The tweedy odour which for them is home.
But outside that small circle of loyalty
Nothing moves that does not promise death.
And so those teeth, those rows of savage teeth,
Are permanently poised, those sleek brown legs
Are on day-and-night alert to run, leap and
Rend. What unleashed primeval fury lurks
Within those swivelling, untamed, hunting eyes?
What lust to turn the woods of Sandringham into
A battleground, strewn with the bodies of subjects
Who all innocently came too close or failed to bow?
PUNCH Feb 16 1977