Friday, 30 December 2011

Recent Compositions

Sarkozy (to the tune of “This Old Man)
Nicolas Sarkozy
Acts tough though he’s five foot three
When he talks to Cameron all he does is moan.
Someone give the Frogs a loan.
and prompted by the recent storm which took out electricity for much of Scotland.. 
No Power in Scotland (to the tune of “Flower of Scotland”)
No Power in Scotland
When will we see the lights again.
They packed up and died when
Storms hit wind turbines but then
Whoever thought up
That system is barmy.
It’s bound to soon be on
The blink again.

My law partner Stella has had a tough time recently.  Her husband Jeff is undergoing a long battle against Leukemia, and although, thank God, he’s generally better than he was at the beginning of the year,  he still has setbacks, and he is currently undergoing treatment for graft v host problems. Stella found out, on the same day (a) that Jeff would have to remain in hospital for two weeks to receive a course of antibiotics intravenously and (b ) her 18 year old cat, Nerd, was in poor health and may need to be put to sleep. I did suggest to Stella that things could be worse, especially of Jef and Nerd’s positions were reversed, but that crumb of comfort was not particularly well received…. Nerd received a temporary reprieve as the result of a blood test, and Stella was more cheerful when she spoke with me the following day.
Here is a poem I composed as a result: 

Her cat, Nerd, was so sexually active
And running around having fun
That with little regret
She took him to the vet
And said that she wanted him "done".
So off came the promiscuous knackers
And the lady at last could rejoice.
To the vet she said "Thanks.
Now my cat's shooting blanks
And he mews in a very high voice."
Some years later the cat was quite poorly
Which caused his dear owner to frown.
So back to the vet,
Who said, with regret
"You may have to have him put down."
But then Nerd was given a blood test
Which caused vet and owner to smile.
With some dedication
And much medication
It seems that he'll live for a while.
Now our heroine had a sick husband
Who was feeling quite fed up and pale
And while he was bored
In the hospital ward
He heard her recount the whole tale.

She showed him the results of Nerd's blood test
Which she left at the side of his bed;
And there it was found
When the surgeon came round,
Which caused him much scratching of head.
"Mrs A", he said. "I am quite baffled.
The results of this blood test are strange.
It says on our computer
That your husband's been neutered
And now has a bad case of mange."

Nerd died under surgery a few days later, but Jeff only has to attend hospital as a day patient whilst he has his injections.

Coming soon:  a Blog post about Limmud conference and some poetry I composed there.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Recent stuff

We have just finished an intensive period of Jewish Holy days.


One of the festivals was Succot (“Tabernacles”), at the end of which is Shemini Azeret (The eighth day of solemn assembly). On this day, we pray for wind and rain, traditionally because of climactic conditions in the middle east. I am not sure this prayer would have been included in the liturgy if Moses had led the Children of Israel to the UK.


Anyway, here is my take on it.


Prayer for Rain

Make the rain to fall and the wind to blow

And in deep winter, crisp white snow.

Lord, spread your moisture on the earth.

Give next year’s crops a healthy birth.

Precipitation now despatch

On football, golf and cricket match

And let it rain down cats and dogs -

But not till I’m home from Synagogue.


It seems the Greek economic situation is sending all Europe into a tailspin.  Here are the lyrics the Bee Gees might have used if they were writing their songs today:



We’ve got big problems. Things are really tight.

They’ve got a massive debt. They’ve got to put it right.

There’s a big danger it has gone too far

if they believe they can go back to the Drachma

Greece is the word.


They think our bail-out plan’s a major pain.

Why don’t they understand?  Their government is to blame.

Their leader’s lyin’, only real is real.

We’ll stop the handouts soon, if they back out of the deal.

Greece is the word.  


(Greece is the word, is the word that you’ve heard

It’s got debt. It’s got meaning.

Greece is the time, is the place of commotion.

Greece is the country we’re feeding.)


We take the pressure and we throw away good banking policies, and all of Europe must pay.

There is a chance that we can make it so far

if they pay back the debt, but at a high APR. Greece is the word. 


(Greece is the word, is the word that you’ve heard

It’s got debt. It’s got meaning.

Greece is the time, is the place of commotion.

Greece is the country we’re feeding.)


You’re the one that I want

I got bills, they’re multiplyin’ and I’m losing control

‘Cos the pressure you’re applying, it’s electrifying.


Better pay up, cos I need a man

Who can show his word is true

Better cough up, you gotta understand

By the banks we’re getting screwed

Nothing left, no more dosh for me or you


You’re the one that I want

You are the one that I want

Ooh Ooh Ooh, Honey.

The one that I want,

You are the one that I want

Give me back my money

TYou’re the one that I want

You are the one that I want

OOh ooh ooh,  your cash I need

Oh yes indeed.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Boys and their toys

We're in the Isle of Wight, as we often are at August Bank Holiday, staying with our friends Ian and Janet Marsh.  Ian runs a company called Fighting 15's, which sells miniature wargames figures. Ian and I have been playing wargames for years. Our favourite period is the Napoleonic Wars, and last night, we played a game using Ian's rules called "Huzzah!", which have been in development on and off for about 10 years.  My French army won, simply because we managed to persuade Ian's Prussians to retreat before we did.

Here are a few photos of some of the miniature figures, showing off Ian's exquisite painting skills.

These are French troops , deployed to defend the village of Schlitz.

French infantry in 1806 uniforms. Ian bases his army on 40mm square bases, 4 figures each in two ranks of figures. You can see the superb quality of his painting. Each group of 4 bases represents one battalion (approximately 600-800 men).

Saxon Chevaulegers (light cavalry), still wearing 18th century -style uniforms in 1806. Ian's cavalry is based on 40mm square bases, two or three figures per base. A cavalry regiment typically has 6-8 bases.

Prussian Dragoons, supported by the Saxons.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Still cruising..

Thursday, 18th August.


We docked at Malaga at 0700. Ruth and I were booked on an excursion to see the Alhambra Palace at Granada. Our tour left at 8.05, so we had a very early start. After a two-hour drive into the Sierra Nevada mountains, we arrived at Granada.  Entry to the Alhambra is by timed entry via pre-booked ticket.  The Alhambra was a castle/palace fortress built by the Nasirid sultans of Granada, commencing in 1238. Granada was the last Moorish kingdom to be reconquered by Catholic Spain in 1492, and was the capital of Spain until Philip II moved the capital to Madrid half-way through the following century.

The Alhambra, and the neighbouring Generalife Gardens, are absolutely beautiful. Here are a few photos..


This is a reflecting pool leading to the Sultan’s meeting rooms at the far end. It is said to have been the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.



  Note the decorative tiles, the carved woodwork on the walls, the Moorish Arches and the gardens beyond.



A view of the Alhambra from the Generalife Gardens.




A courtyard in the Generalife Gardens, the Sultan’s pleasure garden.


Back at the ship, we continue to lead in the daily trivia quiz series which lasts until the end of the cruise.


Friday, 19th August.  Gibraltar.

The schedule for the day is a tour of the newly-opened (to the public) World War II Tunnels, followed by visiting various members of Ruth’s family who live in Gibraltar.



One of the apes on the upper rock took a shine to Ruth. [Ruth is the one in the glasses]




This is a 5.25” naval gun, originally from a British World War II battleship, placed in battery in Gibraltar in about 1950, but never fired.




Here is one of the apes looking towards our cruise ship.  Royal Caribbean’s tag line is  the nation of “why not”, and I am torn between titling this photo “Why not” and “Maybe next year”.


Ruth cousins treated us to dinner in the Kosher restaurant in Gibraltar – it was nice to eat meat again for the first time in nearly a week.




We’re now back on the ship. A day of rest tomorrow at sea, then we fly home on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Just cruising

We’re on holiday this week, cruising in the western Mediterranean.


We flew from Gatwick at 6am Sunday to Palma, in Majorca.  In the airport at Palma, the following poem came to me.


“The Traveller’s Prayer”

We hail you, airport baggage carousel.

We crowd around you and to you we pray.

“Deliver all our luggage safe and well,

And pref-erably some time soon, today.”



We had a tour of Palma before being taken to our ship The Grandeur of the Seas.



A view of Palma from Bellver Castle


Bellver Castle is very impressive. It is a circular castle, built by the Knights Templar in the early 14th Century, overlooking Palma.



Main entrance to Bellver Castle


It was originally built with one surrounding moat, then a second moat was added later to protect it from these new-fangled cannon things.


Here is a picture of the Cathedral of Palma. It has beautiful stained-glass windows which survived a major earthquake intact. It took about 300 years to build, and by the time they’d finished, the original Gothic style was now out of fashion so it was given a Baroque fascade.




On board ship, we were shown to our cabin, and then had to attend lifeboat muster drill.


Here is a poem I composed about that.

Lifeboat Drill

“It’s lifeboat drill, but no-one is flustered.

All hands are on deck, ‘cos we’re keen to be mustered.”


We arrived in Barcelona on Monday morning. It was Feast of the Assumption, so all the museums were closed, (boo!) , likewise most of the shops (hurray!).

We took a bus tour round the city, which took s past the Olympic Park from 1992, the Nou Camp stadium, the beaches, the Segrada de Familia Church designed by Gaudi but still unfinished when he died several decades ago [What is it about Spanish builders and Churches? It makes British road-building programmes look positively dynamic.], and we ended the trip by strolling down the famous pedestrian market La Rambla,


The Olympic Flame thingy

The Olympic Flame thingy.



A view from near the harbour.


Torre AGBAR  -Barcelona's version of the Gherkin


Torre AGBAR – Barcelona’s version of the Gherkin building. I’m not sure whether it’s pickled.


Front of la Segrada de la Familia


The front of la Segrada de la Familia






A street performer in La Rambla.

(This is what happens if you don’t use sun-screen).


Today (Tuesday), Ruth had a reflexology treatment, so both my wife and my son have an “ology”.   The ship docked in Ibiza and we walked around the old town for a while  Smile and did some shopping Sad smile.

Here are a few photos


Ibiza town




Ibiza at sunset


Tonight, there was a  party in the Windjammer cafe on the ship, where there was a late-night buffet, and various ice sculptures and food sculptures were on display.   I explained to Ruth that when the Captain announces “Take in the main course”,  he means “pull down one of the sails”, not “have another dinner”. 

Here are a few of them..

Fruit sculpture on the ship

A parrot made from a pineapple…


vegetable sculpture on the ship

What breed of dog? Clearly it’s a caulie..



Tomorrow, we’re at sea all day.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Whilst driving home yesterday evening, I was struck by the vividness of a rainbow which appeared.

Armed with my trusty mobile phone,  I took the attached two photos of it, and I'm rather pleased  with them, particularly since I was stationary in the car at the time, as opposed to being outside with time to compose the shots in more detail.

When I attended a biblical poetry class last year, we studied a poem by William Wordsworth called "My heart leaps", and the teacher asked the class to compose poems about rainbows. Here is a poem I composed, which is an alphabetic acrostic, i.e each line commences with the first letter of the successive colour of the spectrum. The rhyming scheme also follows that of Wordsworth's poem.

My poem touches on the theme that the rainbow is the sign from God that after the Flood (Noah's ark etc), God promised Noah that  he would never again destroy the world.

Since there are seven colours in the spectrum, and Wordsworth's poem has nine lines, the last two lines of my poem are the acrostic for Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet.  This poem will also appear one day as the Shir Hashavua for Noach.

"When God sees Red
Rumbling of thunder, flaying of rain.
Oh, no; howling wind as well.
You'd better watch out. prepare to repent.
God's on the warpath. Listen to him vent
Bolts of lightning. He's really angry again.
In case you forgot, God, your rainbow will tell.
Vengeance must be tempered with merciful intent.
I respectfully remind you that the rainbow is the lid on your anger.
Unfailingly, when you see red, the rainbow stops the danger."

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

English Heritage Festival of History

Michael Morpurgo talking about his book "War Horse"

We attended the Festival of History last weekend, and really enjoyed it. There was something for everyone; talks by famous writers such as Michael Morpurgo and Simon Scarrow; music; historical pageants and demonstrations; wargaming; shopping opportunities; wargaming; and more historical re-enactors of various periods of history than one could shake a stick at. What follows is a poem, and a selection of photos of various historical re-enactors.

The following poem came to me:

"The Re-enactors"
In costumes first worn long ago, they bring to life our history
With artifacts original, they dispel many a mystery
Their search for historical accuracy has infinite capacity
They'll tell you of their character with passionate sagacity.
They replicate what past folk wore with perfect authenticity
And camp in tents on wet weekends. Such zealous eccentricity!

Edwardian self-defence demo. Lady 1, Ruffian 0

                                                      So which of you guys is Norman?

Shir Hashavua - Mattot


(to the tune of “In the Navy” by Village People)
‘Book of Numbers tells us that the tribes of Reuben and Gad and Manasseh, too
Said to Moses “we don’t want to cross the Jordan.” (Check out Chapter 32).
Moses said “Now hang on, that might be a problem. Our chance of victory it might harm.”
“Okay” said those tribes. “Our men will march before you, every man equipped and armed.”
(Chorus )
In the army, River Jordan we will ford.
In the army, every man will bring his sword.
In the army, we’ll be fighting for the Lord.
In the army. In the army.

In the land of Gilead, we will build new cities, for our wives and little ones.
Then our men will march with all the other tribes. We’ll stay until the job is done.
After that we’ll come back and we’ll settle down, and to the Lord we will give thanks.
While we’re fighting with the Lord God on our side; we don’t need any planes or tanks.
In the army, we must face up to our fears.
In the army, we’ll be gone for seven years.
In the army, we will fight with shields and spears.
In the army, in the army.
In the army, we will be in many fights.
In the army, we’ll see lots of gruesome sights.
In the army, we will beat the Canaanites.
In the army, in the army.    

Friday, 15 July 2011

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Shir Hashavua - Pinchas

This week's Parasha is named after Pinchas, Moses' great-nephew, who halted a plague by skewering two lovers with a spear.  

(to the tune of Battle hymn of the Republic [John Brown’s body])

The daughters of Zelophehad went to Moshe and said
We don’t have any brothers and our father now is dead
We will have a major problem when we want to become wed
If we marry outside our tribe.

We don’t want to lose our money
In the land of milk and honey
We don’t think that it is funny
If we marry outside our tribe.

Moses scratched his head and said “I haven’t got a clue.
I have never faced this problem yet so here’s what I will do.
I will ask the Lord for guidance and I’m sure he’ll answer you
When the question  I describe.  

God came back to Moses and these are the words he spoke.
Each girl is free to marry any eligible bloke
But only from her tribe for  in the wheel it puts a spoke
If she marries outside her tribe.

We don’t want to lose our money
In the land of milk and honey
We don’t think that it is funny
If we marry outside our tribe.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Shir HaShavua - Balak

This week's Parasha is about Balaam, a non-Jewish prophet willing to be hired by Balak, king of Moab, to destroy the Jewish people, yet his eloquent language in praise of them is still part of the Jewish liturgy today.


“Attack, attack” to Balaam said Balak.
“Curse me these people. Get them all back.
They’re all over my land like a great infestation.
Help me get rid of this Israelite nation.”
Said Balaam to Balak. “I’d like nothing more
Than to be the great hero in your forthcoming war.
But before I can curse , and you may think it odd,
I first need to check that it’s okay with God.”

As he slept God appeared to Balaam in a dream.
“You may go to Balak   but I’m not very keen.”
Next day he set off on his faithful donkey
Till they came to a roadblock Balaam couldn’t see.
God’s Angel stood there and said “You shall not pass.”
Balaam’s mount crushed his leg, what a pain in the ass.
Balaam’s anger was kindled and made him see red.
“If I had a sword, Ass, you now would be dead.”
The ass laughed. “You plan to kill people by word.
But to kill me you need a sharp blade?  How absurd”.
Balaam fell to the ground and to God he did pray.
God said “Go to Balak, only speak what I say.
This nation is blessed, and I won’t let you curse
No matter how much Balak fills your purse.”

Well you know what came next. How the hill he did climb,
Saw the whole camp of Israel which he thought was sublime.
Then Balaam built an altar and praises did sing
Which really upset his employer the king.
Balak said; “To curse Jews is why you were hired.
You have failed in this task, so Balaam, you are fired.”

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Medical poetry

In 2010, I needed surgery for bowel cancer. Fortunately, the surgery appears to have been successful, and with no adverse consequences apart from some occasional uncomfortable effects on my internal plumbing works, on which I choose not to elaborate. I found that writing poetry helped me to cope with the challenge of my medical treatment. Not all of it is appropriate for those of a squeamish disposition, but here are a few which avoid detailed examination of my plumbing problems.  Despite various whinges one hears about the NHS, I can only say that with a few minor exceptions, all the treatment I received at the hands of the NHS was excellent, and it was a truly humbling experience to encounter so many wonderful health workers, some of whom earn a very modest living for doing a superb job in a dedicated fashion.

  Fizzy Drinks
When a nurse brings you a fizzy drink
Be afraid, be very afraid.
Despite what you may initially think
It's sure as hell not lemonade.
It could be Kleen-Prep; God help you
Which tastes both fizzy and foul.
It makes you burp on its way down
And does nasty things to your bowel.
If it's not Kleen Prep, it could be Potassium
Which looks like Alka-Seltser.
Hold your nose and drink it slow
Or you'll bee the world's best belcher.
I must go now, and disappear
And look as if I'm busy.
'Cos here comes the nurse with a glass, I fear,
And it looks as though it's fizzy.

St. Patrick’s Day
It’s a grand day at St. Mary’s, St Patrick’s Day is here
So take us off the saline and put us on the beer.
Seventeenth of March is a day which should be lively,
So get hold of some Guinness
And let’s have it on the I/V.
The Irish patients and the nurse, Carleen the Dublin dolly,
Will have a Paddy’s Day parade.
Our float will be a trolley.
We’ll whiz around the corridors.
There’ll be no end of fun.
And then, to have some extra craic
We’re off to Cheltenham.

St Mary’s Finest
The famous Florence Nightingale was Lady with the Lamp.
She nursed the British soldiers in their foul Crimean camp.
Now one-five-five years later, and I’ve had my reversal,
But for the grief it caused my bottom I had no rehearsal.
One Friday night the pain was bad. For respite I was yearning.
A great nurse gave me Sudocrem, which stopped my bum from burning.
So thank you, Tracey Myers. You really are a star,
And you’ll  go down in history as the Lady with the Jar.

Catheter Tube     (“to the tune of “Blue Suede shoes”)

Well I’m feeling unsteady
But here’s the physio.
He says to get ready
So go, man, go.
But don’t you
Step on my catheter tube.
 Well you can do anything
But stay off my catheter tube.

Well you can march me around
With an oxygen mask
And within reason
I’ll do what you ask.
You can make me walk all the way to the loo
But stand on that tube and I’ll swing for you
And don’t you
Step on my catheter tube.
 Well you can do anything
But stay off my catheter tube.

Well you can trash my bed
Make me hike for hours
Drink my squash
And steal my flowers
You can make me walk ‘cos that’s your job
But I’m gonna squawk if you hurt my knob
So don’t you
Step on my catheter tube.
 Well you can do anything
But stay off my catheter tube.

G-I  Joes

There’s a  ward at St Mary’s, I’m pleased to report
Where the standard of care is phenomenal
For Gastro-intestinal  (called “G-I” for short)
And all other ailments abdominal.

Each G-I Patient is given a bed
Though he’s  not  fought for U.S of A.
Where he’s cared for and watered (but may not be fed)
While his State is improved by his stay.

The doctors and nurses and their back-up team
Come from several different nations.
With care and devotion they keep the place clean
And deliver superb ministrations.

So if you’ve the misfortune to be struck down low
By an ailment for which you didn’t plan. It
Will help you if you are a new G-I Joe
In the ward which is known as Charles Pannett. 

Back catalogue - Shelach Lecha

I will periodically "backfill" the weekly parasha poems.

Here is the poem for Shelach Lecha - the week before the Blog was created.  This week's theme is the twelve spies which Moses sent to spy out the land of Canaan.

Shelach Lecha
I spy, with my little eye,  a land full of people all twenty feet high.
If we attack them we’ll surely all die. We’re too weak and puny. Let’s not even try.

“He’s wrong” shouted Caleb, through booing and jeers. “The Lord God is with us. Forget all your fears.”
The people said “no” and it came to God’s ears.  He said “Stay here and rot for the next forty years. 

Today you shed tears and for no valid reason.  For all years to come this will be a sad season.
You fail to acknowledge the good things you have.”  And that’s why we still cry on Tisha b’Av.

Shir Hashavua - Chukkat

This week's Parasha is called Chukkat. The opening part refers to a mystifying law relating to a red heifer. The Jewish people are instructed to find an unblemished red heifer, burn it and use the ashes to purify sinners.

Chukkat, Chukkat, is doing in my head.
Where can I find a heifer that’s red
And without any blemish? Then burn it with wood.
They tell me its ashes will do me some good.
The ashes are holy and work like a cure
But the folks who prepare them are rendered impure.
I can’t understand it – and I’ve got a degree.
If cows think about it they get BSE.
Most attempts to explain it just end up in failure
But I know that these ashes can’t be lost to Australia.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Shir Hashavua - Korach

"Shir Hashavua" means "song of the week".  The Five Books of Moses; the first 5 books of the Old Testament, are split into 54 Parashiot ("sections" in Hebrew). In the Jewish religion, we read a different successive Parasha in synagogue every week. I am gradually trying to compose a poem or parody about each Parasha.

This week's parasha is Korach (Book of Numbers; Chapters 16-18 inclusive) . The central theme is a challenge to Moses' authority by his cousin Korach and his followers. We are told that Korach and his followers were swallowed by the earth as proof of God's appointment of Moses as the leader of the Children of Israel. The text lists some of Korach's followers by name, and one of these is On, son of Peleth, His name is mentioned as one of the initial rebels, but when Korach assembles his followers later in the story to challenge Moses, On's name is omitted.

Various commentators refer to this omission, and several Midrashic (=extrapolated stories) explanations indicate that On's wife managed, by various means, to prevent his continued participation in the rebellion. Her behaviour is contrasted with Korach's wife, who encouraged her husband in his challenge to Moses. We are not told the name of On's wife, but this poem is about her.

On, son of Peleth, was a pious Jew.
On, son of Peleth, rebelled without a clue.
Threw in his lot with Korach. How far would he go?
Not that far, hints the Torah, because his wife said No.
Moses or Korach, who would be his boss?
The answer is Mrs On, and she don't give a toss.
So hearken to me, rebels, before ye stir up strife.
Remember On Ben-Peleth, and listen to your wife.

Friday, 17 June 2011


My son Nathan received his exam results yesterday, and earned a 2:2 grade in his Zoology finals at Nottingham University.

This is a tribute to him.


My son has got his first degree, a 2:2 in Zoology
He says he'll do a PHD, but is that just codology?
He won't say what he wants to be
Though we're giving him the third degree.

The Generals


My main hobby is miniature wargaming. I attend the Central London Wargames Club which meets in a pub in central London every Monday night (and now also on Thursdays. However,I am only allowed out once a week to play toy soldiers).


Here is a poem, inspired by Seigfried Sassoon’s poem “The General” , which I composed today.


The Generals

“Good evening there, Andy” the General said

When I met him last night on our way to the pub,

And we carried in holdalls our legions of lead

As we both made our way to the wargaming club

Where we led our lead armies to glory or death

On a 6 x 4 table of green mdf

Against generals called Simon or Alan or Geoff.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The first Poem

Ruth was born a Moabitess
But her status these days is a mess
And the US* Beth Din
Might not let David in
If he wished to attend JFS.

* United Synagogue, not United States

Most of my poetry is what I call “experiential”; i.e it is inspired by events I have witnessed or experienced. One of the regular themes of my poetry is varying aspects of the Jewish religion and scriptures.
Last week was the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) when we read the Book of Ruth.
This is a poem which came to me in Synagogue last week, which of course I could not write down until after the festival ended. It it dedicated to my wife, partly because she shares the name of the heroine of the poem. It is essentially a politically-incorrect comment on a vexed topic in Anglo-Jewry.

First scribblings

Thank you for reading my blog. It will be the home for my poems. As I compose new ones, I will post them here.

Please feel free to comment on them, and if you like them, please tell your friends and family.