One – July 2017 – Normandy
On vacances en famille to Normandy
In jolly gîte au joli paysage,
The in-laws shunned the Bayeux Tapestry.
These prudent English folk d’un certain age
Had watched it, ils declaraient, on TV;
And anyway, who would pay to see that?
A claque of French conquerors, showing off,
And our man with an arrow in his hat?
Whole thing’s as rotten as a mauvais oeuf.
But the beaches? Maintenant you’re talking:
You’ve monuments to good brave boys and true,
And spanking nouveau visitor centre
With toilet genders limited to two.
Summon up the image, while you’re walking,
Of that famous wartime cartoon by Low,
Showing Tommy as a lone dissenter.
Fancy yourself in an Allied landing;
Enjoy the vicarious afterglow.
Border checks hardly slowed our momentum.
We enjoyed free movement in the EU.
This, just a year past the referendum,
Before the rules were all drawn up anew.
Rights would surely never turn to vapour?
Continentals would have to play our game.
This they knew, they’d read it in the paper –
We’d keep our market access just the same.
If not, we’d simply go to court, and sue.
Nous, de l’autre côté, sounded naïve,
Saying “Don’t blame us – we voted Remain”.
After all, no-one could really believe
That any lasting damage would pertain.
So now, we enjoy our sovereign right
To flush our export markets down the drain.
That’s one reason to carry on the fight.
Then, there’s the point of who we really are:
Mere faded empire, or twenty-eighth star?
Two – November 2019 – Yorkshire
Seeking ‘vox pops’, before election day
At the Brontë Parsonage Museum –
The fields behind, with friendly dog at play
And determined owner, seventy-eight.
“Being bossed about by Europeans”,
And her keenness, such to repudiate,
Meant she’d back a Leave-minded candidate –
With passion reminiscent of Jane Eyre –
When she came, between parties, to compare.
How quintessentially English a scene!
Pale winter sun dappled the Yorkstone walls,
With rival-coloured posters in between.
Brontë père sent his daughter, you’ll recall,
To Brussels. Today, they’d all have a claim
To EU passports, through his Irish birth,
As ‘O’Prunty’, their original name.
Just think of the blessings that might be worth,
Compared with being stuck down memory lane.
Ireland now is better off than Britain;
Poland and Slovenia soon as well.
At least we’ve got our cultural glories:
Some of the finest words ever written.
Even ruling out the Brontë stories,
That Shakespeare connection is ours to sell.
His settings? In Denmark, you’ll need Kroner,
And Euros for Athens or Verona.
On that, perhaps, it’s impolite to dwell…
Three – October 2020 – Wiltshire
What did the Romans ever do for us?
An outdoor mosaic at Littlecote House
Depicts Orpheus, charming with his lyre.
Sweep back fallen leaves, to show the seasons:
Grain goddess Demeter’s one to admire.
An Elizabethan red-brick mansion
With autumn garden creates more reasons
To visit in search of mind expansion,
On the Downs of North Wessex (that’s Wiltshire).
Life at the ancient villa overlapped
With the migration period, when folk
Of Pax Romana were forced to adapt
As ‘barbarians’ overran their homes.
To honour mixed heritage now is ‘woke’,
Apparently: but slaves who cleaned the stones,
Even worshippers at the pagan shrine,
Must occasionally have crossed the line
With locals they were eager to uncloak.
Henry the Eighth came courting here, it’s said,
And William of Orange later stayed
At the house, on his way to take the throne:
The second King Billy we imported.
When you hear, “We’ll do better on our own”,
Remember we’ve a gene pool assorted
By comings and goings since time of yore.
Leaving was not supposed to make us poor,
So how can Brexit now be overthrown?
“Only connect”, Forster wrote, in his tale
Of Schlegel sisters – half-German, clever –
And Wilcoxes, classic spoilt English males,
Whose “criminally muddled” endeavours
Ruined others’ lives, while oblivious.
Plus ça change! So, point out the obvious:
Der Tumult is of our fabrication.
Above all, recognise, and be joyous:
We’re bred as a European nation.