Dressed to Empress

Laughing, blue-eyed girl

Reconciled to fate

Ermine laced with pearl

Elizabeth The Great

Tudor Suitor

Royal Cradle | Photo

Old King Henry had six wives
Whose days were full of dread
For most of them led tragic lives
Then often wound up dead.
Catherine of Aragon
To whom he first proposed
Could not produce a princely son
So he said Adios!
Then Anne Boleyn, closer to home
Demanded that they wed
So Henry cut off ties with Rome
And then cut off her head.
Poor Jane Seymour was the one
Who finally played her part
When she, at last, produced a son
But died, which broke his heart.
Anne of Cleves, the next one booked
Was regal, young and wealthy
The problem was she didn’t look
Quite like her royal selfie.
Catherine Howard, it was said
No man had ever dated
But rumours spread after they’d wed
So was decapitated.
Catherine Parr, a lively sort
Who wielded her own power
Helped organise his kids and court
Once she’d escaped The Tower.

All Henry wanted was a son
A prince whom he could teach
To rule his people when he’d gone
But this was out of reach.
The irony which overwhelms
This patriarchal scene?
He gave to England and its realms
Perhaps their greatest queen
Because Young Bess, put to the test
Excelled in her employ
And showed the world it takes a girl
To do it like a boy.

Seasoned Greetings

When greeting guests in Tokyo

The custom is to bow down low

While in Tibet both old and young

Say hi by sticking out their tongue.

In France it’s chic to peck the cheek

And friends will clap in Mozambique

Though Greenlanders will sniff your face

Before they help you with your case.

Most Eskimos rub nose to nose

In India they touch your toes

And Zambians will squeeze the thumbs

Of visitors considered chums.

Through handshakes, winks and nods we say:

I’m pleased that you dropped by today!

And bless those friends who always know

The sign for when it’s time to go…

No Fly Zone

Where do storks nest during a war
As spires tumble and towns are no more?
What will deer eat when tanks advance
Over sweet meadows of young, tender plants?
What drives a cub out of the den
Crying alone for its mother again?
Gone is the gold
Dark is the dawn
Ghostly and cold
Best to fly on

Captain’s Log

Sir Francis Drake had what it takes

To sail around the world

And followed in Magellan’s wake

With England’s flag unfurled.

Along his route he plundered loot

Until the hold was packed

With millions from Brazilians

And the Spaniards he attacked.

On his return, the English yearned

To learn of far off places

Of queens and perils unforeseen

And men with painted faces.

Bess knighted Francis on his ship

While desperately hoping

He’d share his tips for crispy chips

And how to blow a smoke ring.

Soon after he was off again

And set sail heading west

But Fortune soon abandoned him

In this, his final quest.

Sir Francis survived cannon balls

And arrows tipped with poison

But in the end, when Nature called

It ravaged then destroyed him

For dysentery killed our man

Then almost caused a shipwreck

That’s why they sealed him in a can

And christened it the poop deck

EU Turn

So we’re out of the EU.

Although I’ve lived in the UK over 30 years, I still play the role of casual observer even during times of great upheaval. This does not mean I’m short of an opinion or two, it simply means I know when to put up and when to shut up. Regarding the national catharsis that is Brexit, something that never fails to amuse me is hearing the British refer to the continent as Europe.

“Why do you want to leave the EU?”

“It’s Europeans… they’re all bonkers.”

“But aren’t you Europeans as well?”

“Are Canadians Americans?”

For some it’s much more straightforward while for others it’s a case of perspective. After years of soul-searching, many British have reluctantly conceded that they have no affinity whatsoever with foreign tongues, Carl Jung and snail croquette in vinaigrette. They genuinely enjoy visiting their European cousins on holiday but also enjoy returning home again, to the UK, where they believe good fences make good neighbours. So the guilt complex and hand-wringing need to end because Britain is no different from anyone else who decides to call time on a relationship that isn’t working.

Growing up in Toronto I had classmates from Italy, Greece, France, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Spain, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and thought nothing of it. Everyone was from everywhere. I myself was the son of immigrants and knew what it was like to be a hybrid kid: Canadian-sounding with accented parents who ate some pretty weird food.

And a large portion of my diet back then was ethnic humour – not racist humour – ethnic humour. There’s a difference and even as a kid I knew an ethnic joke from a slur because I was raised properly in a good community. On TV I’d watch Joan Rivers tell Jewish jokes, Richard Pryor tell black jokes, Dean Martin tell Italian jokes and Don Rickles tell jokes about everyone. And everyone laughed because we all recognised our own cultural eccentricities within them, along with those relatives certain jokes described to a tee.

Tell these same jokes today and you’ll be arrested by the Fun Police.

The referendum was, of course, about more than Polish plumber jokes. There were serious constitutional and inter-governmental sore points between the UK and the EU which neither side could resolve. This, however, doesn’t mean we’re no longer friends who can share a laugh among ourselves.

We’re simply getting rid of the joint bank account and the in-laws.

So then, what about the future?

Well, my guess is that nothing will change because nothing ever does. The British will still holiday in Europe, continentals will still come here to take selfies with the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and the French, as is their way, will continue to dine on creatures we wouldn’t even poke with a stick.

Plus ça change, eh?