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.

Hue and Cry

On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone

Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone

Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not

Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot

Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet

I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot

Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long

Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?

Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave

Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?

I come into my garden for the colours and the light

A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.

Soviet Reunion

I’ve not written for some time but I’m now posting again.

The thing is, I have friends in Ukraine whom I’ve known for a great many years. I visit them once, sometimes twice, annually so it’s been tough watching recent events in the news. I travelled there in October when the signs of war were increasingly ominous and I’ve not stopped worrying about them since.

I’m a teacher and during the recent Easter break I journeyed to Ukraine to see these same friends. This time, however, the trip wasn’t so straightforward as it required flying into a neighbouring country, taking trains, boarding buses then crossing the border on foot.

I didn’t go there as a mercenary. My sole mission was to deliver medicines and other necessities whilst checking on the wellbeing of my friends. Given the circumstances, most are holding up quite well but I’m sure there’s loads they’re not telling me.

That’s because they don’t want me to worry.

Can you imagine that?

After an unforgettable week followed by some tearful goodbyes, I made my way back across the border and flew home.

Back to teaching.

Back to writing.

Back to normal.

Lucky me.

Model Behaviour

The Gods Must Be Crazy: Movie Classics

“I’m being sued by the Catholic Church again,” Laverne announced in the midst of reorganising her purse.
“I have no words for that.”
“How unlike you,” she mused.
“Hold on, I thought you were working on a piece about the East African Lion,” I suddenly remembered.
“Turns out all they do is sleep. My son can do that.”
“Have you ever been to Africa? I haven’t.”
“Yeah, with my sister for her fortieth. We went on safari in Malawi.”
“So is that where …“
“… my people come from?” Laverne zipped her purse and placed it on the chair next to her. “Couldn’t tell you; the furthest back I’ve been able to trace our roots is to The Shirelles.”
“Ha, ha. Very funny. I was actually going to ask if that’s where your sister went with the Peace Corps.”
“Oops, sorry,” she giggled. “No, that was Mozambique.”
“I’d like to ask you another question though: when you were there, did you feel any connection to it?”

“Funny you should ask that,” she became more pensive. “I expected to feel ‘African’ from the moment I arrived but the whole time we were there I felt like just another tourist. People are people wherever you go so we had that in common. Culturally, however, I struggled to make a connection and that bothered me. I think maybe we’ve been gone too long.”
“I felt the same when I met my Scottish relatives for the first time,” I concurred. “We shared the same name, same sense of humour and some even looked like me but culturally we were raised in two very different worlds.”
“Not even close!” Laverne screamed with laughter. “Honestly, are you kidding me with that? Your parents emigrated using their Air Miles!”

“But their journey to The New World was horrific. First, they ran out of headphones and then they gave my mum’s gluten-free meal to someone else,” I explained. “Anyway, cut me some slack – you’re my only ethnic friend.”
“Hey, I’m your only friend. I’ve got more in common with those lions than I do with you.”
“How so?”
“They don’t like to cook either.”
“And we have our connection!”
“Okay, but back to this business with the Church,” Laverne lowered her voice. “It’s over a certain someone I told you about at Christmas.”
“Is this the same someone with the thing?”
“Yup.”
“And are you telling me they’ve now found the thing?”
“Oh yeah, they found it alright,” she confirmed.
“Was it on him?”
“No, up him.”
“Whoa!” I leaned back in my chair. “And the monkey?”
“Still missing,” she arched an eyebrow.

I love secrets and Laverne knows plenty. A freelance journalist, she moved to the UK from Seattle over thirty years ago after meeting and marrying Elliot, a sound engineer at the BBC. The three of us first met at The Pu Pu Pot, our local Chinese restaurant, after she’d overheard my accent.
“I need some human conversation during our stay on this island! I need someone who doesn’t talk about Bobby Charlton in his sleep!” she blubbered into her chop suey.
“Who’s Robby Carlson?” I asked.
“Exactly!” she cried. “And do you know where I can score some Fruit Loops because the last people to eat porridge were the Vikings.”
That was twenty years ago.

Image result for beautiful spring china

Tonight we were out for our weekly meal at The Pu Pu Pot but without Elliot, who begged off to attend a Bolton Wanderers match.
“What’s the viral load of the Szechuan Chicken today?” Laverne asked.
“Slightly elevated I’m afraid, so I’d be happy to pee on it for you. We Chinese believe that urine possesses magical properties,” our waitress took her on.
“Is that like chlorinated chicken?” I asked.
“Well, if you’d prefer you can bring in a pet and we’ll cook that for you,” she smiled, sweetly.
“We’re gonna need a few more minutes,” Laverne smiled right back at her.
Just then, the kitchen doors swung open to reveal a tiny, sinewy man lifting the lid off a huge cauldron. As he did so, he stepped back to avoid the rush of steam.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“We’ll be cooking shrimp in it once we take the shirts out,” our waitress stated matter-of-factly. “Would you excuse me for just one moment? I need to inform on my neighbours.”
“She’s good,” Laverne nodded her approval, as she watched the diminutive figure disappear behind the bar. “Is she still in med school?”
“Fourth year.”
“She’ll have them in stitches.”

At one point during the evening Laverne made a visit to the Ladies’. While she was gone, a young woman breezed into the restaurant and joined a waiting friend at a table nearby. Tall, elegant and stylishly attired, she quickly attracted the attention of other diners.
“I’m back,” Laverne announced, resuming her seat. “They have the nicest hand lotion here.”
“Uh huh,” I replied, looking past her at the young woman.
“What’s up with you?” she shot me a quizzical look.
“It’s what’s behind you.”
“What’s behind me?”
“A girl walked in while you were gone and she’s got to be a model. She’s absolutely stunning. Definitely a model.”
“On a scale of 1 to 10?” Laverne asked.
“Ten.”
“Hair?”
“Lustrous.”
“Make-up?”
“None.”
“Height?”
“NBA.”
“She’s got to have a flaw, everyone has a flaw.”
“If she does, I can’t see it.”
“Maybe it’s hidden,” she chewed on her bottom lip. “Slug feet?”
“Killer farts.”
“Fifty bucks says she uses disconnect as a noun.”
“Another fifty says she has plans to name her first daughter Chandelier.”
“Hmm… not even a split end?” Laverne wasn’t having it.
“Turn around and see for yourself if you don’t believe me.”
“Have I taught you nothing?” she reached for her purse. “Watch and learn, my friend… okay, which shoulder?”
“Left.”
She took out her compact and opened it, angling the mirror until she caught sight of her quarry over her left shoulder. At that same moment, the young woman put on her reading glasses and picked up a menu. Closing the compact with a snap, Laverne chuckled to herself, then leaned across the table and whispered, “Four-Eyes.”

It Started When You Farted

It Started When You Farted: Witty Rhymes For Playful Minds by [John Ormsby, Andrea Benko]

It’s taken a lifetime to get here but it’s been worth it; I’ve just published my first book of poems.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

You can find It Started When You Farted: Witty Rhymes for Playful Minds on Amazon.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to support Teenage Cancer Trust UK.

Thank you for your support.