Laughing, blue-eyed girl
Reconciled to fate
Ermine laced with pearl
Elizabeth The Great
Laughing, blue-eyed girl
Reconciled to fate
Ermine laced with pearl
Elizabeth The Great
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.
Today the Queen turned ninety-four
Her subjects wish her many more
Except the heir, on bended knee
Who’d hoped she’d go at ninety-three
After work I thought I’d venture into Manchester to check out the city’s annual Mardi Gras shenanigans. Caught up in the spirit of goodwill, I ditched the 4×4 and opted instead for public transport to help save the Himalayan Poop Bat which, I’ve been reliably informed by my 16 year old niece, is hunted to make Poop Soup. This led to my boarding a bus only recently decommissioned by the Pyong Yang Transit Authority and shipped to Britain by sampan in the dead of night. Now glancing down the aisle at the human roadkill sprawled across each seat, I decided to remain standing and endeavoured to engage the driver in lively banter. This, however, proved a non-starter because life had kicked him in the nuts not once, but several times that shift, reducing him to a series of unintelligible expletives and questionable hand gestures. Backing away slowly, I retreated upstairs where I was immediately overwhelmed by an aroma you won’t find in any Laura Ashley candle.
Unexpectedly offloaded at the corner of Kidnap and Tetanus, I happened upon an old timer in a doorway balancing a few coins in his outstretched hand. Well, behind every face there’s a story so I asked him to start from the beginning. What unravelled was a sorry yarn indeed and at its end my raconteur summed up his lot, “I have a wooden crate for a seat, I have to beg to use the toilet, people brush past me as if I’m invisible, I can’t afford to buy myself a hot drink because a brew around here costs £5 and, worst of all, I have no idea where I’ll end up tomorrow. Do you have any idea what that’s like?”
“Yes,” I commiserated, “I’ve flown Ryanair.”
I then cut through the Gay Village where I had a deep and meaningful conversation with a 7ft woman. Thelma Mahogany Jr initially stopped me to ask for a light and yes, I will admit that for a brief moment I was outside of my comfort zone, however I would like to state for the record that it had nothing to do with her station in life and everything to do with the knife down each leg-warmer. I’ll talk to anyone and, as luck would have it, it turned out Thelma just happened to be going wherever I was.
As we strolled through The Village I marvelled at the outrageously extravagant decor adorning every building and asked her to pass on my compliments to the Mardi Gras Committee.
“Oh, those aren’t Mardi Gras decorations,” Thelma corrected me.
“They’re not?” I queried, taking a closer look. “Then what are they?”
“Isn’t your neighbourhood decorated all year round?”
“Then what’s your street like?” she looked puzzled. “Is it just blank space everywhere?”
“Uh, I guess so,” I murmured, now giving it some thought.
“That’s a bit of a waste, don’t you think? Why not jazz it up? Honey, you gotta live a little!”
The lady had a point. And while I might not have gone in for the winged butt-plugs, I was starting to come around to the idea of a themed neighbourhood, in principle.
And our Thelma has dreams. She informed me that she is, among other things, an artiste who will soon be appearing at The Manhole in her one-woman show, a tribute to women of colour, past and present, entitled From Motown To Ho-Town. The production sounds very edgy because in the opening number she appears onstage as a black Elizabeth I, head-butting Pilgrims while twirling fire batons pre-soaked in poppers the night before. Other members of the cast include three Shih Tzus on hoverboards, an ABBA tribute act from Korea and Thelma’s own mother who will be throwing Bibles at the audience during the interval. As for the big finale, a final homage to those who went before her, Miss Mahogany Jr will lip-sync to her self-penned, glitch-hop track Ain’t No Hairdo High Enough.
You’re all invited.
Note From Management: All performances will be matinees only until Thelma’s tag comes off
Prince Harry chose to jet abroad
And start his life anew
Her Majesty had thought it odd
He’d given not a clue.
While chess has always been about
The move that’s unforeseen
No pawn has ever taken out
A well-defended queen.
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?
The last of the dishes put away and with both dogs farting up a storm after polishing off the unwanted sprouts, everyone gathered in front of the TV for Her Majesty’s Christmas message to the nation. At 95, The Queen appeared staid and resolute, a safe pair of hands to see us through the next 12 months.
She’s actually doing just fine, it’s the rest of the family that’s the problem.
Her Madge described the last few years as “quite bumpy” but that’s just how Philip drives after he’s had a few. Not only does he ram cars off the road, Philip’s a ticking time bomb who will say anything to anyone, especially if they’re foreign. Quite rich considering his father was Prince Andrew of Greece & Denmark, his mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, Granny was a Russian and he was born in Greece but educated in France, Germany and England. Between them, they cover more countries than EasyJet.
Harry put the boot into his brother, the future king, admitting they hate each other’s guts, so good luck with the British media when they follow up on that juicy tidbit. Wills then hit back saying he’s “worried Harry might be bonkers,” which Harry then proved by announcing he’s making a documentary on mental health with Oprah. Then rumours that Kate and Meghan can no longer stand living in the same kingdom became evident when the Sussexes vacated Kensington Palace for an enchanted cottage guarded by poisonous frogs in the grounds of Westeros Castle. Then after spending millions to make it look exactly the same, the Sussexes let it go and fled to the icy Kingdom of Canadia. Bored after two days by the solitude and sheer beauty of their surroundings, and running low on Manuka Elbow Moisturiser, the pair then fled to California to… erm… escape the royals (which they’d already done), Britain (which they’d also already done) and the media (whom they’d asked to film their honeymoon).
It’s gonna be epic.
To cross over to the Dark Side completely, however, requires an examination of Princess Anne. And yes, she’s hard working but so are fire ants. For her Duke of Edinburgh Award, it’s rumoured a young Anne commissioned a wind-up Prince Philip doll capable of killing lesser royals. Often mistaken for an Amish horse hand by members of the Household Cavalry, an awkward Anne clung on to the fact that she remained the only princess in a stable of princes.
And then in walked Diana.
[the sound of a toy chest opening followed by some sort of wind-up mechanism]
Crossing her off their list, father and daughter then turned their sights on the next interloper. Rumour has it that during her initial stay at Kensington Palace, Prince Philip presented Kate Middleton with a Diana doll sans tête. While examining it thoughtfully, if not warily, their guest made a mental note of her nearest exit.
“She was pretty like you,” Princess Anne remarked. “She’s not pretty now, though… I’m the pretty princess now.”
“Isn’t she missing something?” Kate asked, pointedly.
“My bad,” Anne apologised, crushing her can of Pilsner and flicking it at her. “There’s the car.”
I’m Mr Ormsby and thank you very much for dropping by.
Each of us has our own guilty pleasures: Chocolate Blackout Cake, slot machines, staying in our pajamas all day, seeing a stranger walk into a lamp post, etc.
Mine is words. Whether I’m at work or walking the dog, words are constantly ricocheting around my brain. For example, whilst writing this I’ve been wondering what the word is for that little piece of plastic on the end of shoelaces.
[for what it’s worth, we call it an aglet]
Sometimes I like to chew words and blow bubbles with them just to see where they land. At other times, I’ll painstakingly place them in regimented rows where they’re not allowed to move until given the order. Most days, however, I rely on words as ammunition in a world where I’m increasingly expected to explain my actions to others. And I must admit that it’s during these encounters when, for me, the fun begins. This is especially true when the occasion calls for returning swimwear without the receipt or spicing up one’s court testimony.
And so, this blog.
However before we continue any further, some context…
I recently started teaching in a new school so I haven’t had time to get to know everyone. On top of that, it has been pointed out to me more than once that I have replaced a very popular member of staff who left “before he was ready to go” (I don’t even want to know). This, now I’m only guessing here, might explain the slights I received in the form of gifts from my Secret Santa: a Yankee candle (they’re fully aware I’m Canadian), a voucher for 10 free tanning sessions (I’m ginger) and Maltesers (choking hazard). It’s the anonymity, of course, which is the appeal of Secret Santa but if I had to wager money on it I’d ascribe these unpleasant undertones to Jerry, our racist librarian.
Needless to say, I now keep the small talk to a minimum when checking out books.
In my blog you’ll find humorous poetry, vignettes, characters and outrageous word play along with the odd sober moment. And you can join me in my quest for the perfect rhyme because to me, and you purists are going to hate this, poetry needs to rhyme. Well, mine does anyway. I mean, could it be worse reading free verse?
See what I just did there?
(they hate that)
In any case, Dear Reader, I hope I make you laugh ’til you fart.
P.S. Here’s an online interview with yours truly, if you’d like to know more:
March 19th, 2021
I grew up in Toronto where upon graduating university I landed a job as a copy editor for a legal publisher. The work was poorly paid and mind-numbingly forensic with no room whatsoever for any creativity; we were basically word accountants. Upping sticks, I moved to the UK where I’ve ended up teaching high school. It can be a tough gig some days but the kids are insanely creative and there are always lots of opportunities for laughs with them. Often what I hear during the day inspires my writing.
What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?
My greatest accomplishment to date would be starting my blog and sticking at it. I wrote loads when I was a kid, edited the newspaper at university and almost went into journalism so writing’s definitely in the DNA. And then finally, I got off the pot and started my blog. To date, I’ve posted a collection one publisher has called ‘eclectic’- it’s a mixture of humour, horror, poetry, prose, essays and opinions – which has attracted an equally eclectic readership. I’m proud of my efforts and honoured that others consider it worth reading.
Why do you write?
I guess I’ve got lots to say. Sadly, few of us are gifted orators and writing offers me the chance to get my points across without being interrupted. I’m not a very brave sort but when I write I become a superhero who’s unafraid to pull out the creative big guns and tackle anything. I use different styles and voices I wouldn’t normally get away with at home or at work; it’s very liberating being a homicidal demon one moment, then a camp Martian in hot pants the next.
What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? etc.)
I’m writing this on a laptop with my dog snoring next to me on the sofa. Years ago I used to rise early at weekends and write until noon, after which I spent the rest of the day making revisions. These days, however, I can write day or night. I’ll often write and then take the dog for a walk so I can mull it over without seeing it. Usually by the time we’ve returned home I’ve ‘pictured’ what I need to do and make the necessary changes. And I revise constantly, often searching days for the right word until I find it. It sounds tedious but not for me because I love hunting them down, day and night. For me, constant editing is essential because I rarely do anything right the first time.
Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?
As more friends read my blog they’re becoming braver with their criticisms which is invaluable when it comes from those you trust. They’re catching everything from typos to non sequiturs which is surprising because a lot of them were raised outdoors.
Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?
My blog contains the prologue of The Abomination which revolves around the First Nation peoples of Canada, the Church and a lot of cultural rituals we perform without knowing it. It’s a thriller and I’ve written about half of it so far. Right now I need to kill a character to further the plot and I can’t bring myself to do it. I would have made a terrible vet.
What do you hope to achieve as a writer?
I would like every one of my students to have to read my work and then sit a three-hour exam on it. That would be poetic justice after having had to read all of their stuff over the years. Other than that, like most authors I simply wish to become widely-read because I’m not writing a diary. That’s it, really.
What advice do you have for novice writers?
Write about what you know and research what you don’t know before writing about that. And don’t be intimidated because someone’s already covered what you were going to write about – what you have to say may spin the whole thing on its head. In this life, we have few opportunities to break rules without ending up before a judge; writing has no rules except those you impose upon yourself, so impose as few as possible and go for it.
What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?
Honesty: draw ideas from all around but don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.
A decent vocabulary (or a thesaurus): make every word count because the readers deserve it.