Magazine article The Spectator

In a Jam

Magazine article The Spectator

In a Jam

Article excerpt

In Competition No. 2662 you were invited to submit a poem composed in the midst of a travel hold-up. The entry, a magnificent collective letting-off-of-steam, was peppered with exasperated references to apoplectic rage, bursting bladders and bickering children but these were tempered by those who acknowledged that there are benefits in being forced to take things more slowly.

Basil Ransome-Davies was one of them, and he pockets the bonus fiver. The other winners, printed below, get £25 each.

Honourable mentions go to D.A. Prince, Ray Kelley, Gail White, Bill Greenwell and Joan Harris.

When trains are late you wait. There is no choice.

At home you get the ranting Tannoy's voice

forbidding this and that, the Coke machine,

the platform staff's routine dyspeptic mien,

the sodden toilet and that sullen air --

so very Brit -- of muttering despair. . .

The bats are out, a swooping crew. At noon,

chewing my trail mix by a salt lagoon,

I viewed a plankton-tinted chorus line --

those miracles of elegant design,

flamingos. Them, the quiet delta, me;

I savour the recalled epiphany

over a Fundador and a cigar,

the cheerful uproar of the station bar

my comfort zone. The Sitges train is late

by -- ooh, at least an hour now. I can wait.

Basil Ransome-Davies

As dark descends on Ridgeway Hill,

On Ridgeway Hill,

Besunken in this cheerless chill,

Bereft of hide or hut,

With blanket strewn across my lap,

I rue the cruel and mean mishap

That lands me in my pony trap

With wheels stuck in a rut.

Afore and aft more carts are stuck,

Aye, more are stuck,

With wheels bogged down in mire and muck

While I, midst hold-up, rage!

Will hope of Budmouth's bypass wane

Perchance a hundred years or twain

Till those, unborn, its comforts gain

In yon Olympic age?

Alan Millard

Though orphaned of its shading poplars now,

the route from Calais beckons like a trance,

delivering, with the sureness of a vow,

the heady synaesthesia of France.

The country's striped by rivers. One by one

we cross the Seine, the Eure, the Loire, the Creuse,

pilgrims of pleasure, following the sun,

avid prospectors for la vie heureuse.

The relaxation deepens with the miles.

The South means warmth and colour, a rich


of sunflowers, melons, terracotta tiles, CROS WORD

the Littoral, the gently tidal Med.

What clear and present irritation jars

This vision of exotic joys galore?

The fumes of countless other static cars

In Merseyside, two miles from my front door. …

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