FABLES FROM FONTAINEBLEAU

FABLES FROM FONTAINEBLEAU

BY SIMON R. GLADDISH

FOREWORD

These poems are not all about Fontainebleau but they were all written in Fontainebleau, that unique regal town, during the frenziedly creative
Summer of 2013. Several of them have already appeared on Facebook
Where they received a rapturous reception.

Simon R. Gladdish is also the author of:-

Victorian Values; Back to Basics; Images of Istanbul; Seasonal Affective Disorder;
Original Cliches; Torn Tickets and Routine Returns (with his wife Rusty); The Tiny
Hunchbacked Horse (with Vladimir Grounine); The Poisoned Tunic (with Vladimir
Grounine); Homage to Edward Lear: 250 Libellous Limericks; Hillimericks; Aphorisms After Oscar: Original Aphorisms by Simon R. Gladdish
and Twisted Proverbs.

For my much-missed parents Enid and Kenneth, my brother Matthew and his family, my sister Sarah and her family and last, but never least, my beloved wife Rusty without whom there would have been nothing.

LE CHATEAU DE FONTAINEBLEAU

‘A partir de 1528 Francois I fit reconstruire le chateau. La porte
Doree, inspire de l’architecture italienne, marque l’entree de la
cour Ovale, autour de laquelle se deploient les appartements
royaux et la sale de Bal achevee par Henri II. Cette cour est reliee
a une cour secondaire par la la galerie Francois I. L’aile de la Belle
Cheminee avec son etonnant escalier a double rampe, est un example
accompli de la Renaissance italienne adaptee pour la France.’
(Official Brochure)

Yesterday we visited Fontainebleau Palace
(We thought that after a month here
We ought to take a look!)
And it is very impressive.
Reckoned to be second only to Versailles
It deservedly lives up to its splendid reputation.
Built around 1530 by Francois the first
It certainly compares in size to Versailles and
The vast formal ‘English’ gardens now bright yellow
With sunflowers and marigolds were originally laid out
By the legendary landscape architect Le Notre.
There are some stunning stone steps leading
Diagonally up from one of the entrances
To the first floor wings on either side.
The steeply sloping roof with its grenier windows
Peeping out, is slate grey and typical of the period.
Nearby is ‘le grand canal’ which is over 1200 metres long.
The café is a tad expensive although the waitress was
Pleasant enough and the whole thing is perfectly located
Overlooking the lake where the royal carp were
Leaping, the regal swans were gliding gracefully
And the diving ducks were quacking ‘Je suis Mallard!’
(I wonder how many children realise that the Ugly
Duckling not only became beautiful but
Also jumped the species barrier!)
There was a bouquet of Japanese tourists
Taking endless digital photos of
Each other and largely ignoring the
Incredible historic riches within their midst.
What I love about France is the way they
Endeavour to do everything on a grand scale:
Hang the difficulty verging on impossibility!
Hang the inconvenience and the expense!
It is always ‘Tout pour la Gloire’,
(Everything for glory) and against all odds
Their megalomaniac Grands Projets
Invariably succeed,
The most recent being the epic (British designed)
Suspension bridge now towering above the river Tarn.
(In Britain we are constantly brainwashed into believing
That our useless royal family are a major tourist draw but
No-one ever explains how the French [with no monarchy]
Manage to attract four times as many tourists as us.)
After a captivating couple of hours spent exploring
The picturesque exterior of Fontainebleau Palace
We sauntered back past the sumptuous stone
Statuary and meandered slowly homewards
Through the bustling city streets.

PHILLIPE LE BEL

It’s always dangerous to speculate about
Historical figures but I’m fairly confident
That Philip IV of France (born in Fontainebleau in 1268)
Was one of the biggest bastards that history has seen.
He was responsible for several of the crusades
As well as the Hundred Years War.
In 1306 he expelled the Jews from France and
In 1307 destroyed the Order of the Knights Templar.
Expansionist by nature, he tried to place his relatives
On most of the thrones of Europe and almost succeeded.
Only cripplingly expensive wars with England and
Flanders finally clipped his megalomaniac wings.
Although a fanatic Catholic, he even managed to fall out
With Pope Boniface VII, replacing him with his personal puppet
Clement V and moving the entire papal court to Avignon in 1309.
He was responsible for the slaughter of the Cathars
And the torture and execution of Knights Templar
Jacques de Molay and Geoffroi de Charney who
Were both burnt at the stake in 1314
The year of his own death.
Philip the Fair?
I really don’t think so.

BEWARE OF BANANAS

When they were debating the Bible
At the historic Council of Trent
They had to break off for bananas,
Bananas both yellow and bent.

(Chorus)
Yo ho, wherever you go
Bananas are yellow and bent, yo ho!

And then there was that famous horse-rider
Who brought the Good News from Aix to Ghent.
Right before he died, the poor chap was supplied
With a banana both yellow and bent.

Not to mention the marathon runners
Who strive to complete the event
Before being revived with bananas,
Bananas both yellow and bent.

I’ve just had to see my accountant
To account for the money I’ve spent.
He said I must cut down on bananas,
Bananas both yellow and bent.

I encountered a tramp in Tredegar
Who said ‘Sir, you’re a perfect gent!’
As I gave him my other banana,
The one that was yellow and bent.

My landlord demanded to see me
(I was way behind with the rent)
And said I was wasting my substance
On bananas both yellow and bent.

I went to the local greengrocer’s
(The one near my sister’s in Kent)
There was an embarrassment of bananas
But they were all yellow and bent.

I have wandered this world like a pilgrim
From Timbuktu to Tashkent
But wherever I’ve gone, I’ve sung the same song
About bananas being yellow and bent.

I had a quiet word with the vicar
Who said, ‘Please give up something for Lent.’
I replied ‘Why, that’s easy; they make me feel queasy -
Bananas both yellow and bent.’

You’re much better off using tent pegs
If you’re struggling to put up a tent.
You won’t get too far with bananas
Because they’re both yellow and bent.

I noticed the players at Wimbledon,
One hot July when I went,
Were stuffing themselves with bananas,
Bananas both yellow and bent.

When God made the humble banana
I think I can guess what He meant;
He was tired of the green, needed a change of scene
So He made them all yellow and bent.

CD JUNKIE

There was a makeshift market
Outside the bureau de poste
Where a man was selling CDs
At half their usual cost.

On much closer inspection
Most of it was junk
But that didn’t stop me splashing out
From nursery rhymes to punk.

I maybe bought a dozen
I maybe bought a score
Plus a couple for my cousin
Or maybe even more.

We’re now over our limit
By half a hundredweight.
I don’t know what I’m going to do,
I’ve left it far too late.

The last time we were caught like this
We paid a hundred quid
Which was double what the goods were worth,
We should have just got rid.

My wife says that the ideal thing
Would be to stay outside the shop;
My incontinent purchasing
I cannot seem to stop.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do
In fact I feel quite lost
So tomorrow I’m returning
To the same bureau de poste

With my CDs neatly parcelled
For my various kith and kin.
It’s going to cost a fortune
And I hope to God they’re in.

The moral of this story is
To buy CDs with care
If you want to leave some space to pack
Your shirts and underwear!

ALMOST AUGUST

It is almost August
And already autumn
Is in the air.
I can hear the lime trees calling
That their leaves are falling
And can see the tawny treasure
Strewn upon the emerald lawn.
Every year the earth’s reborn
Yet it is always a minor miracle
(A major miracle would be
Turning water into wine!)
And no, I’m not being satirical
This time.

BUTTERFLY COLLECTION

It’s the butterfly season and
Fontainebleau forest is full of them.
They are as variegated and multi-coloured
As the translucent jars of candy in
An old-fashioned sweet shop.
There are Red Admirals, Dutch Oranges,
Cabbage Whites, Lemon Yellows, Lime Greens,
Bright Blues, Mouse Browns and our old friends
Swallowtails and Birdwings,
Peacocks and Painted Ladies
(Or is that just the women of a certain age
Wandering through the park?)
Because they are so ethereally beautiful
Butterflies have been given lovely names
In almost all languages:
Papillon in French, Mariposa in Spanish
And Schmetterling in German.
They go through endless months of being an egg,
Chrysalis and caterpillar before finally being
Allowed to attend the butterfly ball where they
Flutter in glory and splendour for a fortnight
Before shuffling off their minute mortal coils.
Today there was a tortoiseshell on the tarmac
Which kept hopping ahead of us as we advanced.
Butterflies have been used throughout human
History to symbolise fleeting, ephemeral
And transcendent beauty and I, for one,
Can understand why.

BEES MEAN LIFE

There’s a massive patch of lavender
Not very far from here
With about a million bees on it
(In fact it’s very near.)

We hear so many stories
Of how they’re disappearing now.
The truth is most of them have moved
To sunny Fontainebleau.

You see them busy working
As the sun climbs in the sky;
You won’t find many shirking
And observing life go by.

I love their furry jackets
And their flashy golden rings.
The only thing I don’t like
Is their vicious painful stings.

We don’t know much about them
And I really think we should -
Did you know that their hives’ temperature’s
The same as human blood?

They go way back in history,
Much further than, say, money.
That’s why the holy land of Canaan
Was flowing with milk and honey.

But now they’re dying out
In both Europe and the States
And just not reproducing
At sustainable bee rates.

Pesticides, insecticides,
Colony Collapse Disorder;
It’s not confined to one place
But is crossing every border.

The politicians tell us
That their budgets have been spent.
(They couldn’t give a flying fig
For our environment.)

So write a note to Cameron;
Sign that online petition.
There will only be one loser
If we permit the bees’ perdition.

The food chain will be smashed to bits,
The market will have fallen;
We’ll rush around from bush to bush
With artificial pollen.

It’s not too late to stop the rot
If we all act in unison
To save our friend the bumblebee -
Before the last one’s gone!

TONGUE IN CHEEK

When we meet a stranger
We want to know
Where they were born
Which school they went to
Which university they attended
What kind of degree they got
What sort of job they do
How much they earn
Whether they are gay or straight
Whether they are married and
If they have any children
Where they live, of course, and
With whom and then
We ask our friends
If they know any gossip
About them or these days
Google them in a sustained attempt to
Dig up some dirt.
Dogs, in contrast, meet a stranger
Sniff each others’ bottoms and know
Within around five seconds
Whether the other
Is a trustworthy individual or not.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that
We should adopt the canine method
But on the other hand
It would save us an
Awful lot of time.

MR BEAUJANGLES

Beau woke us both up at 3 a.m. this morning
By kicking and scratching the furniture
Like an angry teenager.
We were incandescent.
On occasions that dog knows how to try the
Patience of an entire squadron of saints!
It took a whole bowl of nutritious food
Plus plenty of petting and caressing
To persuade him back to bed.
This morning my wife and I were
So shattered we could barely open
Our eyes but Beau was as bouncy
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever
Demanding his 7 o’clock daily stroll
Around the Fontainebleau forest
Which wish, of course, was granted.
Going with the flow isn’t always a great idea.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine
That in my mid-fifties I would become the
Abject slave of a capricious and controlling
Alsation but by some curious and unforeseen
Concatenation of circumstances this is more
Or less exactly what has happened.

CREATURE COMFORTS

Beau and I are both creatures of habit
So I suppose we have at least that in common.
He gets me up at seven a.m. for his first walk
Whether I like it or not.
At eight, for breakfast, I tuck into my customary
Plate of tuna, egg and tomato sandwiches.
At twelve o’clock on the dot it’s his turn for
A walk whether he wants to or not.
When we return around one I prise
Open my first frozen beer of the day.
At four I wake him up for his third walk
And about five I pour myself
A generous glass of Beaujolais.
(No wonder I’ve got Beau on the brain!)
I leave the last walk to my wife
Who is the family night owl.
Anyway, just this afternoon
I was trying to write an e-mail
To my sister when he jumped up
Out of a deep slumber and started
Barking at me.
I consulted my watch and it was 3.59 precisely.
I turned to my wife in a state of shock and I said
‘That dog can read the clock!’
‘It would certainly seem so’
She laughed in response.
Always anxious to turn a challenge
Into an opportunity,
I’m going to teach him
Draughts, chess and Sudoku next.

BEAU BUMMELL

When we looked after Beau in the
Fifteenth arrondissement of Paris
(Close to Beaugrenelle) there weren’t
Too many places to promenade with him
So I tended to concentrate on the
Allee de Cygnes and the banks
Of the Seine.
I often used to walk him to
The Eiffel Tower and back.
I also picked up almost every
Single turd that he produced.
His evacuations were so vast that
Monoprix were running out of plastic bags.
(I’ve noticed that they aren’t nearly so
Generous with them as they used to be.)
One day he did an absolute beauty right on
The shiny entrance steps of a posh yacht club.
I wrestled with my conscience for a few seconds
Before leaving it exactly where it was.
Being a bit of a showman, Beau usually
Needs an audience to perform.
Old ladies and young women are his
Preferred spectators whilst I, dying of
Shame and embarrassment, am
Straining at the leash,
Staring in the opposite direction,
Whistling the Marseillaise and
Generally trying to pretend that
I have nothing whatsoever to do with him.
In life we have to face certain facts and
One of the facts we have to face is that
In recent years our main metropolitan
Cities have become gigantic
Canine toilets.

RESERVOIR DOG

Where I walk the dog
There’s a shallow lake
Which used to be
Stuffed with hake
For the delectation of French kings.
Now it’s filled with God knows what
But you can still spot the pinging rings
Springing to the surface.
Anyway this morning
I was dragging the hound
Around the park when I caught
Sight of a carp trapped beneath
The transparent tarp
(I was by now seated on a bench)
Or it might have been a tench
Swimming freely
Roughly three feet from my right knee.
The dog didn’t seem to mind
Or even pay a blind bit
Of attention to the fact that the lake
Was stinking rich with subaquatic life
But then I’m afraid that he always was
A rather dozy son of a bitch.

PERDU

Shortly after arriving,
Beau spotted a gate in the park
(A gap in the market?) and shot through it.
I wasn’t unduly worried. I thought
He’s a dog. He’ll know his way home
But he didn’t.
Familiar streets became unfamiliar
And friendly faces more hostile.
Soon I didn’t have a clue where we were
So we carried on walking.
It was sweltering and we were both sweating.
After about an hour I noticed another wood
And aimed for it like an unguided missile.
Of course it wasn’t the same wood.
An old man and his wife were enjoying
A pique-nique next to their shiny new Peugeot.
We lumbered towards them.
‘Je suis perdu’, I said.
‘Where do you live?’
‘Rue Adam Solomon.’
’It’s three kilometres away.’
‘In which direction, Monsieur?’
He pointed back at the road we had just left.
‘Merci, Monsieur’.
I turned dejectedly away when he said
‘Would you like a lift?’
Would I like a lift?
Would I like to win the lottery?
Would I like to make love to Emmanuelle Beart?
Would I like to become Poet Laureate?
‘Oui, Monsieur, s’il vous plait’.
So he bundled us both into the back
Of his gleaming new motor;
First Beau who was covered in mud
And moulting heavily and then me
And drove us right to our front door.
I could have been a mugger, a murderer,
A serial killer but he was as relaxed as
A taxi driver and kindness personified.
Just for the historical record
I hereby formally withdraw
Every single negative thing
That I have ever thought about the French.

LE PRANG (Pour Jim)

The other day we were trudging home
From Leader Price with our weekly
Shopping when we heard an almighty
Bang!
We both looked up.
A grey Renault Clio had rear-ended
A green Citroen and the air was filled
With the sound of tinkling glass.
The Clio had by far the worst
Of the argument and had lost its
Windscreen and most of its bonnet.
The driver, a disgruntled young man
In a baseball cap, spent at least five minutes
Picking pieces of his car off the road before
Attending to the other victims.
The Citroen had suffered minimal
Damage and the mother who was driving
And her two children were shaken but not hurt.
We hung around for a while to ensure that no-one
Was wounded and nobody was so we resumed
Our homeward trajectory.
The funniest thing was that a few minutes
Later we saw a cop car zooming towards the
Scene of the accident but as we watched it
Did a screeching U-turn and bombed off
In the opposite direction.
That’s the French police for you -
Pure Inspector Clouseau!
It was all over in a moment but
Will probably live in our memories
Forever.
One slight mistake
And a boring Monday morning
Had suddenly become less so.

LA MAISON DANS LE BOIS

For years I have dreamt about
A pretty little house in the woods
And I have finally found one
In the forest of Fontainebleau.
Hiding behind a high box hedge
It is charming, compact and oblong.
Ravens perch on the steep tiled roof
And peering between the bars of
The wrought-iron gates I can make out
Around a dozen windows and an
Imposing carriage lamp which illuminates
The gothic garden at twilight.
You can easily envisage the glittering
Soirees of centuries gone by:
The fine wines and delicious dishes,
The witty conversations, the scintillating
Discussions and the sly flirtations.
You fondly imagine that among
The regular visitors and honoured guests
Were luminaries like Voltaire, Moliere,
Diderot and Rousseau.
How times change!
Now the only occupant
Is a surly gardener who stashes
His porn under the four-poster bed
And keeps his blow-up doll
In the regency wardrobe.

MECHANTE MOUCHE

The recent heat wave has really brought
The insects out en foule and en masse.
You see great clouds of them hanging
Around the trees in the forest like
Bored teenagers looking for trouble.
And there simply aren’t enough
Policemen disguised as rooks,
Ravens and crows to keep them in line.
Yesterday I was walking the dog in the
Woods when suddenly I felt a sharp pain
In my right index finger.
I looked down and noticed that a horse fly
Had stapled itself to my lower knuckle.
Try as I might I couldn’t shake it off
So in the end I had no choice but
To pluck it off.
Billions of years of evolution and all
These little bastards can do is syphon
Free Burgundy from innocent suckers
Like me and you.
It’s a crime against humanity!
Last night my right index finger had
Swollen to twice the size of my left one.
I smothered it with Sudocrem and applied
A plaster but it is still bloody painful.
Not to mention the inconvenience!
It’s even worse than having a sore thumb.

TRIBUTE TO BEAU (After James Stewart)

What can I tell you about Beau?
Beau is beautiful. Beau is bad.
He’s a cross between an alsation
And a corgi so a smallish head
Wobbles on a powerful body.
He has some auto-immune deficiency
And is on pills and medication but
Is still as strong as an ox and
Drags me around the park every
Morning at seven o’clock on the dot
With typical Prussian punctuality.
He’s an alpha dog who never
Ducks a fight and sleeps on the
Floor on my side of the bed
Without fail every night.
He’s the most wilful and disobedient
Dog that I know; a worse scavenger than
A crow and gobbles everything in sight.
He has a twin-track mind: food and walks
And also likes the ladies who don’t
Often reciprocate his affections
(Possibly put off by his bog-breath
And the wart on the end of his nose.)
Il est gentil avec les enfants mais mechant avec nous.
He is kind to children but treats other animals
With the contempt that he feels they richly deserve.
To him this house is a large kennel
And my wife and I are his unpaid servants.
Although he can be a monster
We both adore Beau.
He is such a unique character that
It would be almost impossible not to.

BAUDELAIRE

The other day I found a ripped-up piece of paper
In Beau’s basket.
It appeared to be a dog-eared page torn from a book
On which the words were printed:

‘J’ai longtemps habite sous de vastes portiques
Que les soleils marins teignaient de mille feux,
Et que leurs grands piliers, droits et majestueux,
Rendient pareils, le soir, aux grottes basaltiques.’

It rang a few bells but I couldn’t name the church.
Later, when I took him for his afternoon walk in the park
He dug up a freshly planted bed of marigolds.
I reproved him sternly:
‘Beau, sometimes you are pure evil!’
He gave me an old fashioned look.
Suddenly I stopped dead.
These were clues from a Dan Brown novel
Staring me in the face:
Beau, flowers, evil.
Of course, how could I have missed it!
Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil).
I even recognised the dog-eared verse.
It was the first stanza of La Vie Anterieure (My Former Life)
My wife is always saying how spookily human Beau’s eyes are.
And perhaps it was just a trick of the light but
As the afternoon transmuted into evening,
Truculently curled up in his basket,
Beau began to resemble more and more the doomed poet.
I know that by bourgeois standards Baudelaire was not
Exactly a model citizen.
He preferred his hashish and alcohol to hard work and thrift
And at the end of his life, having given up on God,
Regressed to satanism and devil worship but
To reincarnate as a dog who doesn’t know
What day of the week it is and spends
Most of his time chasing his own tail
Seems a peculiarly harsh fate for a
Poet of such sublime genius.

TONNERRE

Sheet lightning and serious thunder all
Night long keeping us wide awake.
This morning the dog was shaking
So violently I could hardly get his lead on.
And during our customary walk in the
Woods he was, unusually, staying as
Close to me as a sticking plaster
Only breaking off for a brief
Chat with Mother Nature.
Beau will happily beat up beasts twice
His size but for some strange unknown
Atavistic reason a bit of unexpected
Thunder always scares him witless.
He’s now twelve years old and
Must have endured plenty of
Thunder in his time but it
Seems to make no
Difference whatsoever.

HORSE POWER

Where I walk the dog in the woods
There’s a horse-drawn carriage
Which is always trying to run us over.
It’s like something from a fairy tale
Or a dream or a royal wedding and
You half expect to see Princess Di
Or Cinderella come gliding down the steps.
Pulled through the linden trees by
An impressive pair of chestnut cobs,
It is always full of fat laughing tourists
Who seem to have far more money than sense.
The driver is a lean handsome devil in his late
Forties with a wicked grin and a whip in each hand.
The funny thing is that wherever I am in the woods
I can always hear the ominous rumble of thunder
Directly behind me and Beau and I have to dive into
The bushes before we’re both broken on the wheel.
Frankly, it’s all getting a bit too much.
Fabulous coach, though.

GOTHIC FOREST

French forests are rather like cathedrals
(Or should that be French cathedrals are rather like forests?)
The towering tree-trunks standing in for
The colossal columns:
The chestnut doing duty for Doric,
The horse-chestnut for Ionic and
The linden for Corinthian.
You may observe the avuncular bishop
Strolling serenely around with his St Bernard
And chatting to his parishioners
Whilst the anxious verger is visible
Collecting litter from the verges
In time for the evening service.
The architectural style is, of course,
Profoundly Gothic with the cool translucent
Canopy serving as a massive stained glass window
Admitting only special afternoon light in a million
Different shades of green and gold.
The French don’t get everything right but
They are entitled to bang on about their boulevards
Because, frankly, their boulevards are bang on.
Museums and women, cathedrals and forests.
Who would wish to relinquish
Any one of them?

POLE MISSIONNNAIRE DE FONTAINEBLEAU

Right opposite Monoprix,
The orange brick amongst the stone
Betrays its Victorian origins.
Somebody had spread out a red carpet for me -
Possibly because I’m the biggest sinner in Fontainebleau.
Inside was the usual Catholic paraphernalia:
Uneven flagstones, stunning stained glass windows,
Azure statues of Mother Mary and the fourteen
Stations of the Cross.
What on earth is that all about?
(I was the only person paying homage.)
I read a pretty postcard from the priest inviting
Us all to mass in the forest in early October but
Unfortunately we will have left by then.
I also squeezed two euros into a collection box and
Lit a couple of candles for the souls of my late parents
In a ludicrous attempt to help them into Heaven
If they are not already there.
I finally bowed low before the altar
Before making my way home.
I am not even a Catholic but
I do enjoy their churches.
Would I ever consider converting?
Not really.
After all it never did Tony Blair much good.

DREAMS OF MY FATHER

Last night I dreamt of my father again.
I thought that he looked pretty good
Considering that he’s been dead
These last ten years.
We were both staying at my sister’s house in Kent
When suddenly one morning he appeared
At the foot of the stairs
With a vast array of antiquated luggage.
‘You can’t possibly carry all those on your own
Kenneth, please let me lend you a hand,’
I ventured. He slowly nodded so I continued
‘Are you heading for Reading or Birkenhead?’
‘Both’ he answered. ‘Neither’ he said.

DEATH OF MY FATHER

When my dad was dying of cancer
My sister telephoned me and begged me
To spend some time with him whilst I still could.
I caught the next train down to Reading
Where my father was confined to bed.
After the pleasantries were over
I pointed out that my rail ticket
Had been rather expensive.
To my astonishment he produced his
Credit card, gave me his PIN number
And told me to recoup the fare.
I realised something was seriously amiss!
I could easily have emptied his account
But limited myself to fifty quid.
I said that I was gravely concerned
About his health.
’Don’t worry about me, Simon.
I’m not going anywhere!’ he laughed.
His weight had halved to six stones.
A week later he was dead.
I wasn’t with him at the end (my brother was)
But apparently, although a lifelong atheist,
He had faced death with all the imperturbability
Of a Protestant martyr or a Buddhist monk
And I will always respect him for that.

WALKING WARNING

Walking in the town
Will bring you down.
The pavements are grey
And the dog turds are brown.

Walking by the sea
Is fabulously free.
Lose the blues
With some sea-weed in your shoes.

Walking indoors
On white marble floors
Is only for the wealthy
Who don’t need to be healthy.

But walking in the greenwood
Will really make you feel good.
If you don’t want your muscles to soften
You should do it more often.

HOUR GLASS

As the river flows
The water boatman rows.
The sands of time depose
The sound of human woes.
The band of time imposes
Mortality on Moses.
The wand of time discloses
Far more than one supposes.
As everybody knows
The dandelion blows
And the hand of time soon closes
The weeks of wine and roses.

ADVICE TO A BUDDING YOUNG POET

Coleridge claimed that a good poem
Was one with all the right words in the right place
Which is an exceptionally tall order.
Perhaps that’s why the ‘Establishment’
Made the definition broader.

Thomas reckoned he could shit them
But I am unconvinced.
You may slay a sacred cow
And still end up with rotting mince.

So scribble down some nonsense
And don’t take a second look.
Send it off to Seren
And they’ll put it in a book.

Enter a competition
(Make sure your mates are on the panel!)
Compose a short acceptance speech
And polish your enamel.

The Queen’s Award for Poetry
Will soon be yours by right
And if you keep your trousers clean
You might be made a knight.

You find yourself at Hay-on-Wye
Chatting to some hack
And later on at Ledbury
You’re leader of the pack.

You arm yourself with witty quotes
From poets of the past.
You’re enjoying the attention
And you’re praying it will last.

A brass plaque with your name on it
Is fastened to your doors;
You pen a poignant sonnet
And then wait for the applause.

A Nobel may take longer
But never give up hope.
Stranger things have happened
So don’t sit around and mope.

The thing you must remember
Is you have to play the game,
Keep your nostrils pristine
And make others take the blame.

It’s hard to make a living now
(They’ve made damn sure of that!)
But don’t be too discouraged -
Simply pass around the hat

And if it comes back with some coppers in
Accept them all with pride
Because if life’s a game, my friend,
You’re on the winning side.

FACEBOOK (For Jane)

Facebook is basically
Two billion egos all
Clamouring for attention
Which is beyond comprehension.

If you have a book or a picture
Or a painting or poem to sell.
You might as well stick it on your page
And try to make a living wage.

The fact that two billion other people
Are doing exactly the same thing
Means you probably won’t get very far
But hey – God loves a trier!

Within around a decade
There won’t be any books made
But for all our various ages and stages
We will still have our Facebook pages.

If I sound faintly cynical
Rather than rabbinical,
It’s possibly because I am.
By the way, when’s the next poetry slam?

FRENCH LETTERS

I’ve friends who’ve lived in France for years
And they can’t even play French bingo.
The reasons for this are crystal clear -
Frog is a difficult lingo.

In contrast Spanish is facile,
In fact it’s a piece of pisse.
French is more like an electric eel,
Slippery and sly and easy to miss.

First there’s the question of gender,
Even a Frenchman won’t know
Why some nouns are female and others male,
He’ll shrug and say ‘Eez just so!’

Then there’s the vast vocabulary,
Illogical and unwieldy;
Making foreigners look ridiculous
And giving the frogs a field day.

Then there’s the pronoun ‘on’
Which can mean ‘one’ or ‘I’ or ‘we’.
Give us a frogging break -
It’s as claire as boue to me!

Then there’s the pronunciation
Which is all done through the nose.
(It helps to be smoking a Gauloise
If you want to perfect the pose.)

Then there’s the past historique
Which is only found in books
So it isn’t much use for haggling
In sweaty Algerian souks.

I’ve studied the language for forty years
And my conclusions amount to this:
That French is a fiendish practical joke
Devised by an evil genius!

WIFE AND MOTHER (For Rusty)

I can’t always remember
Whether I’ve dreamt of my wife
Or my late mother
Which isn’t a problem for me
Because I love them both equally
(Although Dr Freud may have
Something to say on the matter.)
Sometimes when my wife is irritatedly
Lifting my clothes off the floor again
She will exasperatedly mutter:
‘You just think I’m your mother!’
Which I angrily deny.
However when we settle
Down together to consume yet
Another delicious meal lovingly
Prepared by my wife’s busy hands
(My mother was also a marvellous cook)
I think that maybe perhaps possibly
Arguably conceivably she might
Somehow be right.

GOD DOG

God is an anagram of dog
And both are very good friends
And sources of unconditional love
But there the similarity ends.

Dogs eat, drink, sleep, urinate and defecate
And God does none of these things.
He has no need to eat, drink, sleep or urinate
And he certainly doesn’t defecate.

So whether you’re wondering about birds’ wings,
Bee stings, Uranus, Neptune and Saturn’s rings
Or the life of the humble frog.
It’s because God has so much
More time on His Hands
Than your average family dog.

THE TWELVE

I need to lay my hands on another dozen poems.
I know they have to be out there somewhere.
Hiding in the forest probably underneath
The rocks, stones and abandoned leaves and litter,
Jealously guarded by the rooks, ravens and crows.
I took the dog out for a long walk this afternoon
In a concerted effort to enlist his assistance
In my systematic search.
But all he managed to unearth
Were a few truffles and an
Awful lot of rubbish.
Still I’m not discouraged;
I’m not easily defeated or deflated
And I wouldn’t be here now if I were.
In fact I’ve just been online
Using my seriously overdrawn credit card
To order a brand spanking new
Poetry Detector!

DISORDER IN ARCADIA

Early this morning
Walking the dog in the park again
I encountered a huge pile of rubbish
Underneath one of the rustic benches.
Some adolescents had clearly had a party
And forgotten to clear up afterwards.
There were tin cans and tissues,
Plastic and glass bottles, pizza boxes
And polystyrene containers containing
God knows what – French fries and
Mayonnaise by the looks of things.
Luckily they had also left behind
A plastic bag so I was able to stuff
Most of the rubbish into it and carry
The remainder home in my left hand.
Why do certain people feel the need to
Leave a trail of detritus wherever they go?
Scattered on the lush green grass beneath
The towering linden trees, the debris looked
As incongruous and out of place as the average
Human being does on planet earth.

ORDER IN ARCADIA

Every day I amass roughly half a hundredweight
Of rubbish from the Fontainebleau forest.
Why do I do it?
Because I loathe litter,
Because I hate witnessing the beauty of nature
Being soiled and despoiled by human detritus,
Because I’m stupid and
Because nobody else seems to want to -
Not even the guy who gets paid to do it.
This morning I noticed a cache of
Broken beer bottles lying in wait
For some small children or
Dumb animals
Under a bucolic bench so
This afternoon I returned with a large plastic bag.
The courting couple writhing on the rustic seat
Were less than pleased to see me
Rooting around them trying
To pick up the spiky glass shards.
They looked at me as though
I was completely mad
And maybe they were right.

REFLECTIONS

When the light is right you can see
Fish moving beneath the transparent
Surface of the park lake.
Even more astonishing is that as
I stand at the water’s edge they
Swim towards me rather than away.
(Perhaps they recognize a fellow Piscean.)
Fishing is prohibited here and
Over the years they have become as
Tame as trout or goldfish or dolphins.
I’m still not certain what they are but the
Largest are roughly eighteen inches long.
I went fishing as a kid although
I was never particularly skilled and
Hated it when the hooks got caught in
The fishes’ throats and they died
Which they often did.
When I turned fifteen I renounced
Fishing for good.
You wonder what the world would be like
Without hunting, shooting and fishing -
A far better place for sure!
Watching fish swimming in clear water is
A genuinely mystical experience so I stood
There transfixed for almost an hour
(The dog growing impatient)
Before trudging home to a plate
Of tomato, egg and tuna sandwiches.

LA PATRONNE

Now, I’m no stony-hearted capitalist but I reckon
That the French could use some extra
Education in customer relations.
I remember one boiling afternoon
In Rochechouart, a party of six of us
Realised we were desperate for a drink
And chose a charming antique café
On the banks of the local river as
Our preferred watering hole.
It was run by a redoubtable woman
In her mid-sixties who didn’t seem
Overly pleased to see us.
As I was ferrying the beers to our
Outside table she explained:
‘You can only have one round
Because it’s lunchtime.’
I couldn’t begin to see the connection
But didn’t bother arguing.
The six beers were small and quickly
Drunk so I soon returned for a refill.
As I approached the bar the landlady’s face
Closed and her flat eyes scanned me with contempt.
’I’ve already told you that you can only have one round
Because it’s lunchtime,’ she repeated.
I vulgarly tried waving a fifty euro note
In front of her nose but it didn’t make
The slightest difference.
What passed for her mind was made up.
In desperation I turned to Marie, a Frenchwoman
In our group, and pleaded, ‘Why don’t you try talking some
Sense into her?’ Marie shook her head sadly.
Although married to an Englishman
She had spent most of her life in the Limousin
And knew the mysterious customs
In these peculiar parts.
And so we departed, dying of thirst
But with our fifty euro note still intact.
Talking it over afterwards
I grudgingly admitted that
There was something vaguely noble
About preferring petty rules and regulations
To legal tender and cold hard international cash.

CAFE FERME

This morning we were gearing up for an
Ice-cold beer and a coke at our favourite
Café when we realised that something
Was radically wrong.
The tables and chairs had all been withdrawn
And there was a sad sign in the window saying
‘Ferme pendant l’aout pour les vacances.’
What an unmitigated catastrophe!
What on earth were we going to do?
The second time we went there the waiter
Placed our drinks on the table before I
Had even opened my mouth.
That certainly deserved a tip and if I’d had
Any loose change on me he probably
Would have got one.
And then there was the strange customer
Whose profound curiosity about us
(I assume that’s what the intense stares meant!)
Almost put me off my beer which
Doesn’t happen very often.
And the elderly woman who was amicably
Chatting to us (in French) about how thoroughly
Unwelcome immigrants were (tourists were tolerable)
Especially gypsies who should all be put on
The next plane to Romania.
Sarko had the right idea but regrettably
Hollande was just a wimp.
No prizes for guessing which political party
She supports (Bonjour, Marine!) or which
Newspaper she reads (La Poste Quotidienne).
And the sweet old boys reading their papers
And doing their crosswords or playing
Crapette with their mates.
Sartre said of waiters: ‘When his café empties,
His head empties too,’ which was pretty patronising.
Were you aware that the average busy waiter
Walks nearly twenty kilometres per day?
Waiters have wives and lives and children and
Worries and merit holidays every bit as much as
The rest of us – even if it is damned inconvenient!
Fortunately, as fate would have it, there are
Plenty of other cafes in Fontainebleau.

CLASS ENVY

My wife and I travel a lot but
We always travel economy class
Except for one glorious occasion
When we were unexpectedly
Bumped up to business class on
A long flight to Kuwait.
It was fantastic.
We had free drinks, free nuts
And nibbles and, if I remember
Rightly, free newspapers and
Magazines to read.
The only problem was that
The free booze soon got to a
Young Kuwaiti seated nearby.
He started chatting up the
Prettiest air-hostess who was
Icily polite but clearly uninterested.
Rebuffed, he became argumentative
And abusive and when the largest steward
In the vicinity sternly informed him that he
Was no longer allowed any alcohol he really
Turned nasty: effing, blinding and cursing all
The way to Kuwait City where he came extremely
Close to being escorted off the plane by the
Kuwaiti police.
It spoilt the flight for everyone -
Especially us who were sitting right next to him.
And I remember thinking:
Why is there always
A fly in the ointment,
A stain on the carpet,
A bruise on the apple
A cloud on the horizon,
An arsonist in the timber yard
And an arsehole on public transport!

FEMININE LOGIC

My wife accuses me of never listening
To her. Which isn’t true. I do.
The trouble is that she talks roughly
Five times as much as me so I have
Five times more information
To process and respond to.
We both have active minds and
Our thoughts are invariably elsewhere.
However I intrude on her private world
Far less frequently than she invades mine.
Then there’s the issue of the lavatory seat
Which she accuses me of seldom lowering.
I patiently point out that as I have an
Enlarged prostate and a weak bladder
I need to micturate around three times
As often as she does so it makes sense
To keep the seat raised.
Then there’s the question of the telephone.
She accuses me of rarely lifting the receiver.
Again I quietly reply that she knows I don’t
Enjoy using the dog-and-bone and ninety-nine
Per cent of the calls are for her anyway.
That’s what I find so endearing about women -
Their idiosyncratic use of logic which isn’t really
Logic at all in the strict Aristotelian sense of the term
But which somehow seems to work for them.

FROM FONTAINEBLEAU TO AMSTERDAM

At night the drunks cluster in the park
With their litre bottles of vodka and
And their tins of full-strength lager.
Their zigzag trail always gives them away.
This morning I picked up a rusty can that read:
‘Amsterdam Navigator, Extra Intense , 8.O %
Brassee en Holland depuis 1275,
Biere Riche En Ingredients
Issue D’un Brassage Prolonge.’
On the front is a simple sketch of a sailing ship
Similar to the sort of vessel that Peter the Great
Must have sailed in when he trained as a shipwright
In Holland during the seventeenth century.
We spent ten days in Amsterdam last May and
I was instantly transported back there to:
The canals and the women who are often
Six feet tall with blonde hair and blue eyes.
They are not always beautiful but they definitely
Have something even if it’s purely
Radiant health, strength and vitality.
And the huge bicycles everywhere
Which nearly knock you over but you
Never mind if only because the pilots
Are so invariably polite.
And all the gay bars and hash cafes.
Apparently in Amsterdam you can do
Almost anything you want so long as
You don’t tread on anybody else’s toes.
And the big black bartender of our local
Watering hole who was always cracking
Terrible jokes in English.
And the girl at Schiphol Airport who was
So endlessly friendly and helpful. It was her
Birthday and her cards were perched on her
Counter like a flock of brightly-coloured songbirds.
Other countries could learn an awful lot from the
Dutch about courtesy, civility and customer relations.
We left with a pair of heavy hearts and
A pervasive feeling of sorrow,
Vowing one day to return.

DON’T START!

Today I picked up an empty cigarette
Packet in the park which bore the legend:
‘Fumer nuit gravement a votre santé et
A celle de votre entourage’ and
‘Fumer provoque une viellissement
De la peau.’
I have nothing against smokers;
Indeed my late father was one
And I loved him unreservedly.
And I myself smoked at university
Until in a rare burst of clarity
I realised that I couldn’t afford it,
Didn’t especially enjoy it and
Most importantly of all,
Having inherited a dicky heart
From my mother, the last thing I
Needed was a set of dodgy lungs to match.
My hero, Christopher Hitchens, wrote a
Profound and prolonged panegyric to nicotine
Roughly a decade before succumbing to throat cancer
And millions of other tobacco fans and weed inhalers
Have suffered a similar fate.
I am the ultimate libertarian and firmly believe
That people ought to be free to do whatever they want,
Within reason, so long as they don’t hurt or harm others
But the freedom to gradually and systematically undermine
Your own health whilst simultaneously poisoning the
Atmosphere of everyone around you is
Arguably a freedom too far.
To quote from one of my own aphorisms
(Did you notice all the smoke rings in that sentence?)
‘We live forever but we only live once.’
Last night I dreamt that Prince Andrew had
Offered me a Churchillian cigar which
I accepted with great gratitude
And didn’t smoke.

PATRICK

The first time that we flew to Paris
We were carousing in a café when
A man at the adjoining table began
Conversing with us in perfect English.
He introduced himself as Patrick
And gradually became a good friend.
He was tall, handsome, warm, witty
And funny (one can be witty without
Being funny and vice versa!) and an
Indefatigable gossip. He worked for
Air France and told us some
Hilarious stories about the cabin crew.
He knew Paris like the back of his
Hand and claimed to be a marquis -
A fact later confirmed by his wife.
Every time we went to Paris we looked
Him up and spent at least one evening
With him. He took us on multiple guided
Tours such as the memorable evening we
Passed in the Latin Quarter where he led
Us around all the old haunts of Jean Paul
Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir including the
Legendary café Les Deux Magots. The following
Year he fell out with his wife and moved into
A ‘squat’ owned by one of his aristocratic
Friends which had an original Rembrandt
Casually hanging on the living room wall.
Then one year we simply couldn’t find him.
Shortly afterwards his wife emailed to explain
That he had been diagnosed with Korsakoff’s
Syndrome (a variant of Alzheimer’s) and was
No longer able to live independently. For his
Own safety she had signed him into an Old
People’s Home. He was just sixty. We visited
Him a couple of times and took him out to his
Favourite bar. He would expatiate at enormous
Length about French history, culture, language,
Art and architecture exactly like a university
Professor. However when I asked him if he
Knew the date he wouldn’t have the slightest
Clue about the day, the month or even the year.
And when we got up to leave he would start
Walking in the wrong direction although he
Had lived in Malmaison for most of his life.
Funny old black box the human brain. Even
Neuroscientists don’t properly understand it,
Let alone ordinary mortals like the rest of us.

A TALE OF TWO SIMONS

Last night I dreamt that I had been
Chosen to accompany Simon Armitage
On a poetry tour of North America.
I was as nervous as a nuthatch
But he was as cool as a penguin.
‘Have you been to the States before?’ I asked.
‘Couple of times.’
’What’s it like?’
‘Vast!’
We had to catch a bus
Then a train to the airport.
The bus came in so we ran for it.
Hanging on to the straps I looked down
And noticed that he was sporting a pair of
Glowing brogues and a smart new suitcase
Whereas I was barefoot and had no bags
Whatsoever.
‘Do you always travel without shoes
And luggage?’ he asked.
‘Mostly.’ I answered.
‘Hey, I think this is our stop!’
He leapt off and whilst I hesitated
The doors slammed shut on me.
I couldn’t persuade the driver
To reopen them and was forced
To disembark at the following halt.
When I finally found the railway station
Our train had gone and with it all my dreams
Of stardom.
I stood on the deserted platform
Railing against my pathetic fate
And then I woke up.

A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

How long is a human life -
As short as a heron’s wing
Or as long as a piece of string?

Will we reach three-score-and-ten
Or maybe even more
Or slither off the wobbly perch
Before touching a score?

And when the curtain closes
And we have to leave the stage
The days of wine and roses
Become the years of youth and age.

The wine has turned to vinegar,
The cider tastes like piss;
The champagne’s flat as pancakes
And the beer has lost its fizz.

Will our bodies be dismembered
And tossed into the air
Or will we be remembered
In sermon and in prayer?

Will any of it matter
A hundred years from now
Amid the wheeling of the starlings
And the clatter of the crow?

No, it won’t really matter;
The only thing that does
Is how we spend our time on earth -
This life that we call ours.

TREE STUMPS

One morning as I was walking the dog
In the woods I noticed that a huge
Horse chestnut tree had been felled
And chain-sawed and was now a
Horizontal parody of its former self.
It had been sliced into sections
Roughly two feet long which were
Lying on their edge like a chopped
Cucumber, carrot or stick of celery.
I tested their weight. They were heavy,
Very heavy, but when I was at university
Many moons ago, I spent my summers
Loading and unloading lorries and
Luckily still have plenty of raw strength.
I stood the first one up, then the second
And the third and only stopped when
I had reached the seventh.
I claimed my reward about a week later
When I found a shy little note pinned
To one of the logs. It read:
‘Voulez vous laisser dans le Parc
Quelques billes de bois pour pouvoir
Nous asseoir? Un tres grand MERCI!’
Judging from the faint shaky handwriting
An elderly person had requested:
‘Will you please leave some of these logs
In the park so that we can sit down?
A great big THANK YOU!’
As I dragged the dog home for breakfast
An unaccustomed smile began
To spread across my face.

RUSSIAN DREAMS

Last night I dreamt that I was back in Russia.
My Russian was pretty rusty but still functional.
The people were very friendly
Though the food was terrible.
And the place itself was so spartan and remote
Miles from anywhere with
All these roads leading nowhere
It simply had to be somewhere in Siberia.
And everyone was so serious -
Earnestly discussing poetry, politics,
Literature and the meaning of life.
I was chatting to an attractive young woman
Called Olga and I honestly thought that I was
Going to score until somebody suddenly
Tilted the pitch and removed the goalposts.
And there didn’t seem to be any public toilets
Which were open.
(When I woke up I was bursting for a pee.)
It must be that Andrei Makine novel
I’ve been reading recently, the one
About his grandmother. What’s it called?
That’s right! ‘Dreams Of My Russian Summers.’

MELUN

We spent the morning in Melun
Which is about thirteen kilometres of
Solid forest away from Fontainebleau.
The bus driver didn’t have enough
Change for a twenty-euro-note so
We got a free ride – our first free
Gift since setting foot in France
Seven weeks ago.
Melun turned out to be a bit down
At heel and extremely culturally diverse.
We had lunch at a small café near the
Station where a pretty little waitress
With startling green eyes served us.
She had, as Martin Amis said, her
Car keys in her left cheek and her
Door keys in her right.
I watched the women walking past
And saw the loveliest pair of legs
On a young woman that I have seen
On anyone for a very long time.
We promenaded towards the centre
And paused in the Jardin Romain which
Had almost nothing to recommend it
Except for a weeping pine tree.
My wife’s knees were hurting so we
Wandered back to the same café for
Another round of drinks whilst waiting
For the return bus which arrived on time.
I tried the old twenty-euro-note trick
Again but this time a different driver
Was awash with change.
Melun is definitely Fontainebleau’s
Poor relation, financially embarrassed
Neighbour and impecunious cousin
Although property prices there are
Surprisingly expensive almost certainly
Due to its convenient proximity to Paris.
It used to be a swanky royal town but with
The slow eroding passage of the centuries
Has subsequently gone steadily downhill.
However it is still well worth visiting
Once.

DOVE-GREY MOURNING

This morning, walking Beau in the park, I
Spotted a patch of pale grey among the green grass.
When I got closer I noticed that it was
A double bed of feathers – hundreds of them.
(I picked one up for luck then quickly threw
It down again.)
And about thirty yards away, lying inert
On the dirt path was a headless bloody dove.
A furtive Fontainebleau fox had obviously
Had a field day!
The dog didn’t seem particularly bothered
And was far more interested in the mound
Of horse manure nearby.
Nature led by hoof and paw,
Nature spread with blood and gore,
Nature red in tooth and claw.
Later, Beau provided the only light relief
Of the morning by falling into the lake
And having a very early bath.
I had to drag him out by his collar but
He didn’t seem to find it nearly as funny
As I did, wasn’t especially grateful and gave
Me a baleful stare for laughing at him.
Just to ring the changes somewhat
We came home by a different route.

PARADISE REGAINED

Where I exercise Beau in Le Parc du Chateau
I see extended families picnicking together,
Tiny children bombing up and down on their
Bikes in their multi-coloured crash helmets,
The world and his wife out walking
Enjoying the fragrant evening air
And above all
Attractive young women
Ensconced on the grass
With their novels or textbooks
Cramming hard for the next exam.
When I wander past them trying
To rein in my fierce Alsation,
They never turn a hair.
And I think to myself
That although the French
Are rightly renowned for their rudeness,
There is seldom any real malice behind it
And France in general still
Possesses a profound innocence
That Britain sadly lost
Several decades ago.

GRAND PARTERRE

Yesterday we paid an informal visit to
The formal gardens of Fontainebleau.
We took two tins of bitter, some tuna
Sandwiches and a bottle of Coke for
My better half.
As we filed through the park, a noisy
British nuclear family tucked in behind us.
The father was an outrageous show-off
Shouting to his kids at the top of his voice.
We both pretended to be French
(My wife with her Spanish ancestry
Managing much more successfully than
Me with my chestnut hair, green eyes and
Anglo-Saxon bearing.)
We found a shady bench under an old oak
Tree in a perfect position to observe the
Fountains playing and the people splashing.
The formal ‘English’ gardens laid out by
Le Notre in the seventeenth century were
Now ablaze with aubretias, sunflowers,
Marigolds, lavateras and daisies.
The box hedges had all been clipped into
Cones and the privet hedges afforded a
Certain measure of privacy.
There were plenty of Japanese tourists taking
Pictures of themselves and each other and
Every twenty minutes or so a caleche with
Its full cargo of fat laughing sightseers
Went spinning past.
We stayed there for a couple of hours in a
State of relative bliss and it’s fair to say
That a fine time was had by both.
And purely for a change, we came
Home an alternative way.

TWO WORD POEM

Ouvre-bouteille.

FRENCH CLERIHEWS

Joan of Arc
Had a divine spark
Which rose even higher
On her funeral pyre.

Louis Fourteen
Was busy sortin’
The wheat from the chaff
Among his personal staff.

Louis Fifteen
Was busy siftin’
The pretty from the plain
And the drowning from the Seine.

Louis Sixteen
Was busy textin’
His beloved wife Marie
To say ’There’s no need to worry!’

Marie Antoinette
Was quite a pet
Or so they said
Until she lost her head.

Rene Descartes
Was a man of parts
Who became much leaner
After meeting Queen Christina.

Jean Jacques Rousseau
Had a superb trousseau.
He was famed for his impressions
And his startling Confessions.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Had a small body but a big heart.
He led millions to their doom
And wept over every tomb.

Honore de Balzac
Was a lowly hack
Until he dipped his pen
In La Comedie Humaine.

Guy de Maupassant
Wrote short stories by the ton
Until syphilis carried him off in
A mahogany coffin.

Marie Curie
Was in a tearing hurry
To discover radium
And possibly palladium.

Jean Paul Sartre
Lived for his art.
He stayed up all night
Simply to write.

Simone de Beauvoir
Nicknamed ‘The Beaver’
Was his constant companion;
He swore he’d never leave her.

Albert Camus
In goal was a kangaroo.
His fame grew wider
When he wrote ‘The Outsider.’

General de Gaulle
Was extremely droll
Though he got it in the neck
After visiting Quebec.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Is quite a one,
Getting laid (I’m afraid)
With a chambermaid.

Nicolas Sarkozy
Was overly nosy
About what Carla
Was up to in the parlour.

Jean-Marie le Pen
Fought in Algeria then
Led the chants
For a fortress France.

Jean-Marc Ayrault
Was chewing his biro
As he tried to stop Paris
Becoming like Cairo.

Francois Hollande
Is rather grand
And a serial smiler
Despite Valerie Trierweiler.

Segolene Royal
Was a loyal pal
Who put herself forward
Without any reward.

Christine Lagarde
Was reputed to be hard
So her every suggestion
Was accepted without question.

David Pujadas
Likes to wear Prada.
He enjoys working out
And keeps a lock on his larder.

Laurent Delahousse
Is my wife’s pamplemousse
And (to stay on the level)
He is a handsome young devil.

Stephane Bern
Hadn’t much to learn.
He was preaching to the choir
In Les Secrets de l’Histoire.

Julien Bugier
Is hitched to Claire Fournier
And according to his aunts
Is the coolest guy in France.

Marie Drucker
Is a real looker
And could easily have been
A high-class hooker.

Michel Drucker
Is a boring fellow
Who bores the pants
Off the whole of France.

Isabelle Huppert
Is a major star
Though her characters are mad
Which is slightly sad.

Brigitte Bardot
Liked to stage a show
Until she got too old
For the leading role.

Line Renaud
Drove a Peugeot.
She was way too thespian
To be a pedestrian.

Catherine Deneuve
Does not deserve
Anything less
Than a plot in Pere Lachaise.

Sandrine Bonnaire
Had to say a prayer
To win the leading part
In A Simple Heart.

Emanuelle Beart
Likes to play a tart.
Naked or clothed,
We all suffer for her art.

Gerard Depardieu
Was just a blur.
He claimed he still felt fine
After a crate of wine.

Daniel Auteuil
Was just a boy
When he played first-string;
Now he’s in everything.

Serge Gainsbourg
Was a charming rogue
And a melancholic
Alcoholic.

Jane Birkin
Used to wear a jerkin
And still never wants
To depart from France.

Charlotte Rampling
Needed pampering
But Jean Michel Jarre
Refused to go that far.

Kristin Scott Thomas
Made herself a promise
On her old school bench
To one day become French.

LA FIN

(Copyright Simon R. Gladdish 9/8/13)

The right of Simon R. Gladdish to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

FABLES FROM FONTAINEBLEAU

Rusty  Gladdish

Swansea, United Kingdom

  • Artist
    Notes
  • Artwork Comments 4

Artist's Description

These poems not all about Fontainebleau but they were all written in Fontainebleau, that unique regal town, during the frenziedly creative Summer of 2013. Several of them have already appeared on Facebook Where they received a rapturous reception.

Artwork Comments

  • sandra22
  • Rusty  Gladdish
  • Susan Rolfe
  • Rusty  Gladdish
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