Thursday, 10 November 2011



Four score years and ten, her age,
But to Mary it all seemed the same;
An ordinary day, another blank page
That fate is waiting to claim!

‘I’m not one for sleeping all day, my dear,’
Mary said with a shake of her head;
‘Four hours a night keeps me of good cheer –
You’ll get plenty sleep when you’re dead!’

No birthday cards, no gifts and no cake,
In the hallway she fell like a stone!
A minute to eight – frail bones break,
As she struggled to the telephone!

She called the Doctor, a Doctor Bull
Who swore he’d be there in ‘two ticks’.
Her breakfast: something sensible –
A bowl of ‘weetabix’!

An hour she lay upon the floor,
Her face flecked with flakes of wheat;
Her head had struck the kitchen door
And a broken bowl lay at her feet!

She pulled herself up in tremendous pain,
To the ingled window seat
Where she could see old Bull in the lane,
In his slippered feet.

She saw him talking to a man
Known local as ‘blind McVie’,
A gardener who lived in a caravan,
As blind as blind could be!

On the table, Juniper sat,
Mary’s silly wretched cat
With its torn ear pricked to hear
Mary cursing this and that!

Doctor Bull with his dog Macoon
Laughed and joked, and someone’s died
And he’s gone and left his medical bag
On a hilltop, open wide;

He was out collecting butterflies:
Bambury Blue and Speckled Red,
Motionless in his medical bag
In jars of ether – dead!

In her room Mary felt forgotten
And so she began to pray.
In pain, creased-up something rotten
Was Mary, that day!

The morning was cold, she was covered in milk
That Juniper lapped-up with love.
Still in her nightgown – cotton not silk,
Poor Mary was unable to move!

Mary, dear Mary, ninety today –
She found her face in a jar;
A floozy from the ruined days
When she haunted every bar!

On her hands and feet she wept;
The sandwiches curled away,
While her cat Juniper slept
Unaware of her birthday!

Still, nothing could keep old Bull from McVie
While Macoon led a merry dance;
Pawing and nipping blind McVie’s boots
And wetting his rotten plants!

And still the doctor gossiped on
All morn it seemed in the lane,
While Mary lay curled-up inside the house –
He showed off his golf swing again!

He talked of rope-making, beer and bells;
The death of Nelson and the General Strike!
Lepidoptera, tunnels and abandoned wells;
Churchill, Hitler and the murderous Third Reich!

Of tea-cups and monsters and facial hair;
Corsetry, carnivals and coprophagia;
Stamps, the beauty of birth, and glassware;
Carrots, composers and catastrophies, etcetera!

And on he went, he would not stop
While McVie, poor chap, blind as a bat
Sought an excuse to get away:
‘’I’ve forgotten my gardening hat!’

So inside he went to hide away,
Must have waited ten minutes or more!
Came out thinking the coast was clear, when:
‘Have you heard this one before?’

‘Did you know that Doreen’s eldest son
Is courting the widow Grimes?
They say love’s blind! Don’t you see! Don’t you see!’
‘Takes all kinds’ said McVie, ‘takes all kinds!’

And inside the house with both legs in a stocking
Poor Mary had nothing to say;
In pain, creased-up something shocking
Was Mary, that day!

‘There’s Lyn’ said Bull, ‘with her one eye:
Have you heard about her Tom?
They found him in the park, dear boy
With Jeremy and his mom!

God knows what went on McVie,
I heard say fondlin’ and foolin’,
And him just a lad, wicked young thing –
It’s what comes o’ public schoolin’!

Then young Tom was seen with a gentleman;
A fine man, well to do,
Till his father took a stick to him
And beat him black and blue!

Now he’s seen the light, they say,
He goes out with ‘’Bible Jane’’;
He takes his prayer book each Sunday
With her down lovers’ lane!

And do you know him that’s airs and graces?
Him that’s as queer as the world?
The one that took his anger out
On some slip of a religious girl?

Well I heard he’s thinking of leaving these parts
And seeking pastures new;
He’s left Lizzie ruined in the boarding house
And now he’s shootin’ through!

He says he’s going to ‘’find himself’’
Though heaven knows what for!
A man like that should stay hid away
For a year or two, or more!’

And in her room the clocked ticked
As Mary continued to pray;
In pain, creased-up something wicked
Was Mary, that day!

Tears filled her eyes – ninety today!
Her nose hair curled over her lips –
‘Doctor! Doctor!’ as her teeth flew out,
‘I can’t feel my finger tips!’

Then the vicar, drunk as a Lord, poor lamb,
Banged on the door with his fists:
‘There’s Typhoid at number seventeen –
They’re cutting out the bits!

It seems I’m needed in the village now
That harvest’s here again!
Now that the east field’s quarantined
And Typhoids taken ten!

Miss Olsen nearly had her lot,
I almost gave up hope!
Till she cursed god, the bible and Christ
And then cursed me and the Pope!

So I clasped my hands around her neck
And almost smashed her head!
But then I had a revelation
And this is what I said:

‘’There’s nowt to doin’ this vicarin’ lark,
A word or a prayer will do;
Then it’s off to the Smokin’ Hare, for a pint
And a bowl of rabbit stew!’’’

And then his holiness hobbled off
Swearing and cursing down the path;
He slammed the gate and thought to himself –
She’s probably in the bath!

And in her room, all miserable,
Mary continued to pray;
In pain, creased-up something terrible
Was Mary, that day!

‘Morning Doc!’ said the biblical fiend;
‘Morning Vicar’, Bull said,
‘Did you hear about the district nurse
Getting me out of bed?

Trouble up at Heathmore Farm,
Seems ‘’mad cow’s’’ set in;
I took my bag and lucky charm –
My pebble in a tin!

Old Jonno’s took a dose or more,
He’s chewing-up the turf,
Tied by some string with a bell round his neck,
Mooing for all he is worth!

But Sal the nurse, she made things worse,
She smiled and split his groin in two:
‘’You’ll never moo again!’’ she said,
‘’And no maid will want to milk you!’’

But give her some credit; she cured the poor man,
She told him a cow’s much too big
To have in the house, on a length of string:
So now he thinks he’s a pig!’

‘Well, sorry Doc, I must be off,
The Lord’s work and all that, you know!’
But inside in her little room
Poor Mary was as cold as snow!

The fire crackled as she lay on her back;
Juniper squeezed under her legs
As Mary’s heart gave a final attack
To a craving for ham and eggs!

Bull knocked on the door ‘are you in! are you in!
Sorry I’m late, the vicar’s gone spare
And upset my lucky stone in a tin,
So I pulled out some of his hair!

Mary! Mary! are you there?
It’s me, Doctor Bull, c’mon,
I haven’t got all day, you know,
The Smokin’ Hare shuts at one!

So off Bull went as it started to rain –
‘Wasting my time! Old cow!’ he said,
So he went and bothered McVie again
While inside poor Mary lay dead!

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