Slamming Doors Can Lead to a Messy End

When I was a child, my family owned an LP of Stanley Holloway (I think) reading Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales For Children. It would send a delicious shiver through me every time I listened to it, as it didn’t feel like the normal watered-down namby-pambiness that is designed for children’s consumption. It felt as though I shouldn’t be listening to it – too much bluntness about death and naughtiness. It was obvious, even to a child, though, that they were designed by an adult to keep kids under control 🙂

I had a couple of ‘tales’ that were particular favourites, and this was one of them:

(Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably)
A trick that everyone abhors
In little girls is slamming doors.
A wealthy banker’s little daughter
Who lived in Palace Green, Bayswater
(By name Rebecca Offendort),
Was given to this furious sport.

She would deliberately go
And slam the door like billy-o!
To make her uncle Jacob start.
She was not really bad at heart,
But only rather rude and wild;
She was an aggravating child…

It happened that a marble bust
Of Abraham was standing just
Above the door this little lamb
Had carefully prepared to slam,
And down it came! It knocked her flat!
It laid her out! She looked like that.

Her funeral sermon (which was long
And followed by a sacred song)
Mentioned her virtues, it is true,
But dwelt upon her vices too,
And showed the deadful end of one
Who goes and slams the door for fun.

The children who were brought to hear
The awful tale from far and near
Were much impressed, and inly swore
They never more would slam the door,
— As often they had done before.

Hilaire Belloc


Travel Nightmare

Sigh, going nowhere
New Zealand trip is postponed
Passport expired

My parents were supposed to be in NZ today. They got to the airport and were informed that my dad’s passport had expired. Fortunately everybody was very nice; the passport office hustled and organised a new passport within 4 hours, and the airline rescheduled their flight for tomorrow morning, so, not too much of a loss, but, boy, that is a literal nightmare for me.

He felt awful

I studied Robert Lowell in Senior English when I was at school. He was one of the first poets I had studied whose poems needed to be unpacked to be understood, and I found their complexity fascinating and their content somewhat disturbing. We focused on Life Studies, and one of the facets that intrigued me was how open Lowell was about family failings. While my family, growing up, was a very open and welcoming one, it was still very private and loyal, so, to watch the Lowell family dissected and their insides laid out for inspection was a discomforting thing.

Terminal Days at Beverly Farms
At Beverly Farms, a portly, uncomfortable boulder
bulked in the garden’s center
an irregular Japanese touch.
After his Bourbon “old fashioned,” Father,
bronzed, breezy, a shade too ruddy,
swayed as if on deck duty
under his six pointed star-lantern-
last July’s birthday present.
He smiled his oval Lowell smile,
he wore his cream gaberdine dinner-jacket,
and indigo cummerbund,
His head was efficient and hairless,
his newly dieted figure was vitally trim.

Father and mother moved to Beverly Farms
to be a two-minute walk from the station,
half an hour by train from the Boston doctors.
They had no sea-view,
but sky-blue tracks of the commuters’ railroad shone
like a double-barreled shotgun
through the scarlet late August sumac,
multiplying like cancer
at their garden’s border.

Father had had two coronaries.
He still treasured underhand economies,
but his best friend was his little black Chevy,
garaged like a superficial steer
wtih gilded hooves,
yet sensationally sober,
and with less side than an old dancing pump.
The local dealer, a “buccanneer,”
had been bribed a “king’s ransom”
to quickly deliver a car without chrome.

Each morning at eight-thirty,
inattentive and beaming,
loaded with his “calc” and “trig” books,
his clipper ship statistics,
and his ivory slide rule,
father stole off with the Chevie
to loaf in the Maritime Museum at Salem.
He called the curator
“the commander of the Swiss Navy.”

Father’s death was abrupt and unprotesting.
His vision was still twenty-twenty.
After a morning of anxious, repetitive smiling,
his last words to Mother were:
“I feel awful.”

Robert Lowell


None is traveling
Here along this way but I,
This autumn evening.

Matsuo Basho

God is…?

I saw Cameron Semmens recite/perform his poetry about 15 years ago and I was entranced.

God is not a red crayon…

God is not a Westpac deposit slip…

aluminium foil…

God is,
n’t a bayberry…

God isn’t a gas fed Bunsen burner…

God is something else…

Cameron M. Semmens

I’m still trying to figure out what God is.

I ate those plums…

This is just to say, Williams Carlos Williams

This is just to say, William Carlos Williams

I’ve been looking for this poem for a long time. I could remember neither the poet or which fruit it was. I came across it yesterday, by accident 🙂

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Our bathroom has been a piece of crap structurally for a very long time – broken and cracked sink, every single tap corroded and leaking, vanity shelf rotted away, bathtub spout running constantly (2 bathtubs full a day), shower walls wet and rotting inside the wall…

It has caused much unhappiness and annoyance, watching our bathroom collapse in on itself, but, as the house belongs to my parents (it used to be my grandmother’s and was inherited by my dad when she died), it’s not really in our power to ‘make thing happen’ to help the situation, other than minor cosmetic fixes.

Today – hooray! We had a contractor in and WE NOW HAVE A MOSTLY WORKING BATHROOM! The complete tear-down and replacement of the shower is on the back-burner, but just about everything else is in perfect working order.

It feels luxurious to be able to store toiletries on a shelf without a huge rotted hole in the middle, to be able to fill the sink without having it drip through to the vanity underneath, to use taps that turn on and off easily and that aren’t corroded so badly at the base that they constantly pool water, and to go to bed without having to shut the bathroom door to stop the sound of gallon after gallon of water pouring down the drain. I say again – hooray!

(And, in honour of the author of the words that make up the title of this post, here’s an extract from Jabberwocky:

Extract from Jabberwocky
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll   )

Or else he will not

The Yak
As a friend to the children commend me the Yak.
          You will find it exactly the thing:
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
          Or lead it about with a string.

The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Thibet
          (A desolate region of snow)
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet,
          And surely the Tartar should know!

Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
          And if he is awfully rich
He will buy you the creature – or else he will not.
          (I cannot be positive which.)

Hilaire Belloc

Even though this poem is obviously dated, I like the silliness, and the rhythm, and the wry humour (“He will buy you the creature – or else he will not.”). I think Belloc would have been a fun person to know.

Quicken Me

A Better Resurrection
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall–the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Christina Rossetti

There is such weariness, and such hope, here.


An earlier post made me think of this poem which has always sent delicious shivers through me:

The Naming of Cats

 The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
   It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
 You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
 When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
 First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
   Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
 Such as Victor or Jonathan, or George or Bill Bailey –
   All of them sensible everyday names.
 There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
   Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
 Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter –
   But all of them sensible everyday names.
 But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
   A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
 Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
   Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
 Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
   Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
 Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum –
   Names that never belong to more than one cat.
 But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
   And that is the name that you never will guess;
 The name that no human research can discover –
   But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
 When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
   The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
 His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
   Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
     His ineffable effable
 Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

Elehop and Telephunk

     Once there was an elephant,
  Who tried to use the telephant –
     No! No! I mean an elephone
  Who tried to use the telephone –
   (Dear me! I am not certain quite
   That even now I’ve got it right.)

     Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
  Entangled in the telephunk;
     The more he tried to get it free,
  The louder buzzed the telephee –
   (I fear I’d better drop the song
   of elehop and telephong!)

           Laura Richards

Not any great philosophical reason for posting this, I just like it 🙂 

Ever unreeling

A Noiseless Patient Spider
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launched forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

Walt Whitman

Ceaselessly musing…


Table Manners
The Goops they lick their fingers,
And the Goops they lick their knives;
They spill their broth on tablecloths –
Oh they lead disgusting lives!
The Goops they talk while eating,
And loud and fast they chew;
And that is why I’m glad that I
Am not a Goop – are you?

Gelett Burgess

(Confession: Sometimes I’m a bit goopy…)

Truth and Beauty

Of Dissembling Words
Throughout the world if it were sought,
Fair words enough a man shall find;
They be good cheap, they cost right nought,
Their substance is but only wind;
But well to say and so to mean,
That sweet accord is seldom seen.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

To say good things and to mean good things – this is worthwhile.


small and amusing
grandiosity faded
quite content now thanks