Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ode to Spring

AnElephantCant stop looking out of the window
At the cold when he is cosy inside
As long as he stays in
The outlook’s amazing
Three miles across the great River Clyde

When it’s bleak - which is pretty much always -
Rain and hail swirl thick as fish stew
Clouds hanging low
Wind-driven snow
A combination to obscure any view

Then he sees the ferry come round from Kilcreggan
And the subs heading up to the base
Gulls on the wing
The first hint of spring
And crocuses bring a smile to his face

Sunny Helton-upon-Sea is a fun spot
You can easily pop down for a day
By car or by train
Or a boat o’er the main
And Loch Lomond is just minutes away

There’s a pier and a beach for the kiddies
There are places to go for your tea
Abandon your regime
And have a wee ice cream
In sunny Helton-upon-Sea

But there is a cloud for each silver lining
Trepidation makes AnElephant’s knees knock
A tear comes to his eye
When sunshine brightens the sky
He can see all the way over to Greenock!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Spurious Apostrophe Donation Society

AnElephantCant get the confusion
With apostrophes - why where and when
So let us set out a few simple rules
So they are never misused ever again

An apostrophe lets you know something is missing
Let’s all be quite clear about that
It also indicates the possessive
Cat’s pyjamas are the pyjamas of Cat

No apostrophe in a possessive pronoun
Yours ours his hers or its
But you will see it’s appearing in this word
To show that the ‘i’ is missing from ‘is’

Now you do have to understand one thing
We’ll make it as big and as clear as a mural
An apostrophe can be used for a good many things
But it is never to be used in a plural

Now there may well be pedants among you
Who question this extraordinary rant
When there is clearly an apostrophe missing
Which just proves that AnElephantCant

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Haiku Tribute to Japan

One great tsunami
Brings grief and death to many
Our hearts are heavy

Not a Banker

AnElephantCant disagree with this good man
Who tells us all he is not a banker
We have to agree
For was it not he
Who made our finances drop fast as an anchor?

As chief exec of a large institution
Which he says is a big secret now
Is he being disloyal
To something so royal
Having slaughtered the sacred cash cow?

A bank pays him £342,500 pension per annum
So he is obviously not a banker
We must not sell him short
Or he will drag us through court
And take the rest of our cash without rancour

He is just a wee buddy from Paisley
Who got a knighthood for services to banking
We must not demur
We must call him sir
Though what he deserves is a really good tanking

Monday, 14 March 2011



AnElephantCant write verse like Oor Rabbie
In comparison he’s just a big fake
They have one thing in common
They prefer embalming
To suffering the dreaded toothache

Now Rabbie was never a doctor
He couldn’t cure colds coughs or sneezes
But pain in the night
Tells you he was right
Cursing thou hell o' a' diseases

Some folk like to soak it in whisky
But maybe that is just an excuse
AnElephant can
Enjoy the odd dram
But il prefere a wee glass of Pastis

Modern dentists are really quite painless
They are nearly as nice as your gran
The needle’s ok
A drill’s child’s play
Just don’t go and see Marathon Man

With our thanks to Mr Robert Burns, poet and inspiration.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

School Closures

AnElephantCant understand politics
When it means that they’re closing down schools
He isn’t too bright
But he thinks that this might
Be a good time to think over the rules

When children are young they learn quickly
They don’t dip in a toe they just plunge
They hear Mummy talk
They see Daddy walk
They soak it all up like a sponge

A century ago it was realised
By Montessori and Adler et al
A child can learn better
The younger you get her
Or him it is quite fundamental

AnElephant has got this suggestion
Which you may think is somewhat loony
Let’s develop these tools
Keep open the schools
With the cash saved by closing the Unis

We’ll teach primary kids nuclear physics
And Mandarin Latin and French
If it all goes as planned
Their brains will expand
Their thirst for knowledge will never be quenched

The colleges will be sold to buy play dough
And we will have to retrain all the workers
Predict what they’ll want
But why not Holyrood - or maybe the Circus?

* * *
Bertrand Russell said: "After pupils have left school they will be incapable .. of thinking or acting otherwise than their schoolmasters would have wished."

Old Jesuit saying: "Give me a child..... until he is seven, and I will give you the man”

Sunset Song

And now for something completely different - a book review and a criticism of school-teaching in the 60's.

I have just finished reading Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. This was recently voted 'The Best Scottish Book of All Time'.

Now, this is a considerable accolade, given that classic Scottish authors include Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir James Barrie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. More recently we have Alasdair Gray, Muriel Spark and George Mackay Brown as well as the popular Banks, Brookmyre, Rankin, Kennedy, McCall Smith and a million others.

Sunset Song deserves the praise.

It is a work of art and a thing of great beauty.

It tells the tale of life in rural Scotland during the first 20 or so years of the 20th century.

It is funny, it is sad, it is stunningly real.

It is beautifully written, and an intriguing tale.

I found myself caring for the characters as I did for those in Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, willing them to survive their hardships, hoping for their survival, praying for their happiness.

We follow Chris Guthrie from when she is a young girl, through her teens, marriage and widowhood.

She is one of the great heroines of modern literature.

If you have not read it, please do.

I say I have just finished reading this book, but I should say 're-reading', as I first came across it at school in the 1960's.

I went to Ayr Academy, a very good public (which in Scotland actually means public i.e. NON-fee-paying) school, prior to the Comprehensive fiasco a few years later. I then went on to Glasgow University, so I was not an academic illiterate.

I have no fond memories of Sunset Song from then - actually no memories at all, except that it was a prescribed work.

But then Shakespeare at school was also a chore, a dull, unpleasant, unentertaining bore.

I love Shakespeare on stage, so why was his work not presented to us in that way?

Do teenagers today face the same deadly approach to our literary heritage?

Or was it different in your school?

I love books, as I am sure many of you do.

I can be enthralled by the intellectual stimulus of Hermann Hesse, the understated story-telling of Kent Haruf, the beautiful writing of Sebastian Faulks or the exciting roller-coaster thrills of the too-close-to-truth Stieg Larsson.

But I learnt this pleasure from my father, not at school.

I would like to think that things have improved in the last 40-odd years, but is this the case?

Or are we still failing our children?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Taxation vexation

AnElephantCant fiddle his taxes
He is honest as his trunk is long
He doesn’t earn much
A few peanuts and such
But he knows tax evasion is wrong

He understands we all must contribute
To fund things like the National Health
To cure flu and rabies
Deliver healthy babies
Is worth a fraction of everyone’s wealth

Now most folk pay out of their wages
Small companies must follow the rules
We pay old age pensions
Keep crooks in detention
Put out fires and send children to school

But the problem lies with our most successful
Big companies who make money in stacks
Out of our top seven hundred
One third can’t be scunnered
Our biggest businesses pay no UK tax

The elite fly around in their choppers
They call Monaco or Switzerland home
They don’t care for the old
Or if children are cold
Their cash gets channelled tax-free to their gnomes

One quarter of all wealth on this earth
Is held off-shore in numbered accounts
No interest in famine
The rich keep on scamming
Our money to make their world go round

When our Davie has got a wee problem
The money keeps slipping away
He deals his best card
It isn’t too hard
A retailer knows just how to play

AnElephantCant provide a solution
To the iniquity inflicted by these
But here’s a wee thought
Why not tax the whole lot
On the cash their wives ship overseas?