Stocking fillers (4)

Feeling under the weather. Again. Not up to doing justice to a guest poet who I admire greatly. In the meantime, more stocking fillers. Sometimes in a workshop someone may ask you to write a poem about an imaginary event. Invent a bit of history, but, if possible, treat it with great seriousness. When I think about it, a great deal of the ‘history’ I was taught in school was actually of this sort. Kings burning cakes. Noblemen drowned in butts of malmsey. England being ‘founded’ by descendants of Aeneas. Richard the Second being a monster. That sort of thing. Who knows, if you’re deadpan enough, it might just get some leverage, like urban myths. This one was triggered by a starter poem by Billy Collins.



1470. Annus mirabilis

(after Billy Collins: ‘Nostalgia’)

1470. We’ll not forget that in a hurry;

the year they invented Jam. 


We’d hear rumours,

folk passing on the turnpike,

a shout on the wind 

from the back of a lathered horse.

‘Jam’ they’d shout. ‘Jam’.


We’d sit in the Tarred Pheasant 

at the end of a day’s slurry-shifting, 

or fettling capons, or stooking hares,

and speculate.


Change was never good. 

The moon had been a funny colour

all through Martinmas,

the vicar’s wife had lost her arm to croup,

mice took to midnight swimming in the dewpond

by the mandrake patch in Cotton’s Bog.


All sorts of tales were rife.

Jam would bring back sight to the goitred.

Jam would take off a murrain,

make a slack-twisted pigman smell sweet.


It was more than that.

Fruit that didn’t roll off tables.

Fruit you could stick your hair down with..

No good would come of it. Devils’ work


Alternatively, you could make up your own historical figures. Lord knows, ‘history’ has edited out 99% of the people who actually made it. By a pleasing synergy, jam features in this one , too.


Unsung Heroes


Let us remember them.


St. John Chatsworth Grace:

inventor of the reversible umbrella,

serviceable in jungle and in desert

to deflect, or conserve, rain


Enoch Waterman of Burslem

who patented a fruitless jam

and a device for getting blood from stones


Frederick Jagger, the Pennine Penitent

Who, daily, walked barefoot to his work in Rochdale

from Todmorden to mortify the flesh 

and save on cobblers’ bills

and once walked backwards for a week

to see the future unfurl in his wake


Remember Benjamin Hardwick of Haworth

who patiently engraved the Book of Genesis

on the obverse of a halfpenny

that he accidentally put,

with a handful of loose change,

in a collection tin for

the Overseas and Colonial Society

for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge,

and who shortly after died,

consumed by irony   .


Next week, I promise, there will be a proper post with proper poetry. And who knows, the country might have accidentally stumbled into sanity by then. Go well. Wear a mask. Keep a safe distance.  

2 thoughts on “Stocking fillers (4)

  1. Never underestimate the value of jam. And thanks for the frivolity. We don’t even talk about Freedom Day here in Wee Ulster
    – that nonsense is for Westminster and we have our own nonsense. XX


  2. Those poems are a tonic, John 🙂 And I wish you well, that is keeping more well than you are. Take care. I shall be too.


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