I’ve been sitting in the sun coughing and reading a newspaper article about how the Brits don’t like poetry. Although up to 60% of them can recite this:
The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat
They took some honey and plenty of money
wrapped up in a five pound note.
I have always loved Edward Lear and thrilled to the magic of They sailed away/For a year and a day/To the land where the Bong Tree grows. All I ever needed to learn, I learned from nursery rhymes and nonsense poems. And I imagine the Brits feel the same way as they walk to work alongside the rainy Thames and sway together in the Tube each weekday morning. They dined on mince and slices of quince/Which they ate with a runcible spoon./And hand in hand on the edge of the sand/They danced by the light of the moon. That is daydreaming made art. I have a battered Apostle teaspoon I use for measuring crushed coriander and ground nutmeg which I call my ‘runcible spoon’ and it has never failed me yet. Dancing hand in hand with a loved one by the light of the moon is about as good as it gets.
My housemate the hurse is fed up to see me still bronchial. Like most nurses, she has no sympathy for the sick. She has sympathy for the seriously ill and loves her Aids patients with all her heart but it annoys her to see me wandeing around in crumpled yelow pyjamas and sheepskin slippers all peely-wally as the Scots say, pulling faces over cherry-red cough syrup and reciting poems to cheer myself up. She refuses to talk about the Goose.
‘Go back to bed and don’t move until you are fully recovered,’ she says in a bossy impatient voice.
‘Dear pig are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring? Said the Piggy I will.’
‘Just. Go. Back. To Bed.’ says the Nurse.
‘Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl
How charmingly sweet you sing.!
And so another day of sober but insalubrious bedrest. No doubt the embattled professors of poetry at Oxford, accused of sexual misdemeanors and plotting against one another are also taking comfort in The Owl and the Pussycat as they pen letters of resignation and scheme to chase one another out of those cloistered quads. So undignified.
So they took it away and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill
And one day I shall be able to dance under the Bong Tree by the light of the moon or sail away in a pea -green boat while eating quinces with my runcible spoon. But for now I am just a fluey nuisance.