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Friday 29 May 2020


The moment they said that we couldn’t go out
I thought of the strictures that I could now flout;
the sartorial rules that no longer held true
and the gross misdemeanors that I could now do.

The second they claimed that we had to stay home
I abandoned my brush and discarded my comb.
The hair on my head’s now akin to a mop,
my attempts at decorum are simply a flop. 

I now wear my t-shirts for three days at least
and I no longer care if my trousers are creased.
My baths are infrequent, my pants are well-worn.
My garments are crusty from looking at porn. 

I started off fresh and I started off groomed,
but as things unravelled my face got subsumed
by a jungle-like growth from my ears to my throat. 
I started to look like an ape or a stoat. 

And as these vibrissae continue their yomp
my profile, once proud, is now losing its pomp. 
The wiry tendrils are staking their claim;
the wife who once loved me recoils in shame.

I walk with a shamble, conversing in grunts.
I burp and I snort and I fart all at once.
My semblance of rectitude has been destroyed:
I now am that bloke that you’d want to avoid.

But do I regret it? I couldn’t care less.
I’ve seized on this moment to fully regress.
From the instant they said that we can’t mill about,
the wild man within me just had to come out.

Thursday 28 May 2020


Over the last few weeks, I have set my Twitter followers the task of coming up with some 'Coronavirus Kennings'. A kenning is a figure of speech in which an object is described using circumlocution - you can read more about them here. Kennings were frequently employed on old Icelandic poetry, and the task I set was for writers to use them to describe either the virus itself, or some aspect of the current predicament. Here are some Coronavirus Kennings that I came up with to kick of people's ideas:

Using this as a basis, Anthony Parker came up with the following ideas:

Dan Page didn't describe the virus itself, but used the kenning format to describe the role of the homeschooler:

The famous writer Tony Bradman came up with the following kennings to describe the virus:


If anyone else feels like giving this idea a go, I would be more than happy to add your ideas to this blog post. Get writing!

[update: 06/06/20: I am delighted to say that Twitter users @missszbutt1 and @HeadOnTheHill got in touch with a wonderful kenning poem written by students in their Year 6 class. Here it is!

Wednesday 27 May 2020


It’s getting late, we’re stuck indoors,
no trips to pubs or clubs or stores,
but someone had a bright idea
to rescue us from gloom;
a way to help us pass the time,
connect with friends and chat online
a quite fantastic novelty:
we’ll have a quiz on Zoom!

At first it helped to entertain us,
nourish, feed and to sustain us,
but it seems the innovation
wore thin long ago;
now I do it every night,
no longer fun, it’s now a blight
upon my life in lockdown
yet another quiz? Oh no!

My world is now a constant stream
of trivia, my self-esteem 
is growing lower by the day:
I never seem to win.
And even if I did, I think
I’m being driven to the brink;
alas, there’s sod all else to do
but take it on the chin. 

So let us quiz and quiz some more!
Relentlessly, we will keep score,
waiting for the time when we
can step outside again.
We’ll quiz all evening, quiz all day,
we’ll quiz the quarantine away
the pubs will soon be open
so we’ll quiz on Zoom ‘til then.

Sunday 24 May 2020


When talking on telly there’s no better look
than standing in front of a case full of books,
but the question to ponder, whenever you do, 
is “What does your backdrop convey about you?”

Are you plebby and common, or posh and well-heeled?
Which tomes do you own? Which texts do you wield?
You can preach and pontificate all that you like,
it will all go to pot with that stray David Icke.

Have you gone and committed a terrible blooper
by leaving in plain sight an old Jilly Cooper?
Chuck out the trivial! Ditch the chick-lit,
and think of the vibes that you wish to transmit.

Perhaps you might think that your liberal credentials
are bolstered and buttressed by trusty essentials
like Engels and Chomsky and Bentham and Marx,
but a stray David Irving will dampen such sparks.

Perhaps you aspire to be avant garde?
So pose with some Beckett, it’s surely not hard. 
But does the whole edifice topple straight down
with that old Mills and Boon you’ve left lying around?

And does your collection give watchers a basis
for chalking you down as a whacking great racist?
No matter your wit and no matter your verve,
it will all be undone by Charles Murray’s ‘Bell Curve’,

for when talking on telly there’s no better look
than standing in front of a case full of books.
But the question to ponder, whenever you do, 
is “What does your backdrop convey about you?”

Friday 22 May 2020


Beware the man
who tells you to smile;
who says “cheer up, love”;
whose gait is suffused
with the spring
of never having suffered. 

For what does he know of your life,
your thoughts and fears?
What rights has he
to pierce your balloon
with his prick of positivity?

Yes beware the man
who tells you to smile;
whose laugh is the bray
of a simpler beast;
whose brow is unfurrowed
by the plough of failure.

What does he know
of your reality?
Has he heaved
the stones that you have?
Has he sifted
the sludge of your being?

Beware the man
who tells you to smile. 

Thursday 21 May 2020


It is so rare that children of any age produce a rhyming poem that is nearly flawless. I was so delighted when Mollie's teacher got in touch with me to share a poem that Mollie had written, based on my poem 'Tell It To The Dog', which is published in my book I Don't Like Poetry. Here is my original poem;

And here is Mollie's version, 'Tell It To The Cat':

This poem is all the more special and amazing given the fact that Mollie is only in Year 2. I hope you will all agree that this really is a remarkable achievement for someone her age!

Tuesday 12 May 2020


I’ll go head to head with a grizzly bear
I’ll dance around in my underwear
I’ll sit in an electric chair
But I’ll never, ever fly Ryanair

I’ll drink ten vodkas for a dare
I’ll face a dragon in her lair
I’ll pluck off all my pubic hair
But I’ll never, ever fly Ryanair

I’ll have an affair with a French au pair 
I’ll cross the road without due care
I’ll worship the devil and offer a prayer
But I’ll never, ever fly Ryanair

I’ll display my arse with great fanfare
I’ll download dubious software
I’ll choke to death on a prickly pear
But I’ll never, ever fly Ryanair

Yes they fill me with utmost disdain
I flew with them once but never again
There’s only pain, there is no gain
So I’ll never step foot
on a Ryanair plane. 

Monday 11 May 2020


As a teenager I was seriously into music. In fact, I was into music throughout the whole of my youth. My dad had ties with the entertainment industry, and when I was young he used to bring huge boxes of CD's back from work, several hundred of them in fact, which he still keeps in his study. My first gig with my dad was Oasis at Earl's Court when I was about ten, closely followed by the slightly less cool Lighthouse Family at the same venue. I remember listening to Simon and Garfunkel in the car on the way to school, and being intrigued when my mum told me how special their lyrics were, and how much more meaningful than the anodyne trivialities churned out by the current pop stars. Music was a regular feature of my childhood.

It was towards the beginning of my teenage years when music became deeply fused with my sense of identity. When I was in Year 8, nu-metal was becoming big, and lots of my friends got into bands like Slipknot. However hard I tried I couldn't really get into it. It was too noisy, growly and, well, unlistenable. Luckily a ready alternative was available: bands like Green Day and Blink 182 that were satisfyingly heavy yet tuneful and catchy at the same time. When I was fourteen and fifteen most weekends would be spent trawling the markets of Camden Town, looking for band t-shirts that we could display in order to tell the world who we were and what we stood for. And what I stood for, for a time, was punk music.

Of course I was never a punk, in the Sid Vicious, mohawk, safety-pin-through-the earlobe sense. I was a little, middle-class Jewish boy. But between the ages of fifteen and eighteen almost every Saturday night would be spent in the mosh pit at a punk gig. Places like The Underworld in Camden and The Garage in Islington were where we would get our doses of loud, fast, shouty guitar music. Of particular interest to me at the time - we're talking early to mid-2000's here - was the Household Name record label, which spawned bands such as Capdown, Lightyear and the phenomenal Ye Wiles (a kind of violin-led ska/folk hybrid that, I am firmly convinced, could have gone on to become absolutely massive under different circumstances). One of my proudest moments as a callow teenager was managing to blag a toke on Capdown's bassist's joint, on a balmy summer night outside a venue in Kingston (London, not Jamaica). Ska punk was my favoured genre, and for me the leading light was the American band Less Than Jake, whom I have very fond memories of skanking along to at The Forum in Kentish Town.

At around this time, myself and a couple of friends formed a band, which we called Communication Problem. I played bass and attempted to sing, and my best mate Adam played guitar and really did sing. We were both passably decent at our instruments (Adam more so than me), but the truly good musician was the drummer, who was classically trained and who, weirdly enough, went on to become a religious fanatic and now lives in Israel. We probably amassed a repertoire of around twenty songs, recorded a demo, and performed around six live gigs. A couple of them were at the school Battle of the Bands contest, but we did manage to get a gig at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town. We were second on a bill of three bands, and the place was entirely packed out with our friends, who promptly left after our set, leaving the headliners performing to an empty room. Good times. Here is a song from the demo we recorded. The song is called 'Every Day's The Same', a title that is particularly apt given the current situation. I am playing bass and singing:

Slowly, however, punk music started to become less cool among my peer group. For one thing, we were in the Sixth Form and looking to apply to university, so had less time to go to gigs or write songs. Another thing was that bands like The Libertines were in the ascendancy, and the associated indie image was what all the cool cats and kittens were lapping up. My school consisted of a couple of members of a band called Les Incompetents, who had a few minor hits, and whose lead singer, Fred Macpherson, was in my RE class. For my part, I just kind of drifted away from my interest in music full stop. Sure, I went to a couple of gigs, every now and again, but the indie scene was not grabbing me in the way the punk scene had, and I had no one who was willing to go with me to punk gigs any longer and, well, other things in life just sort of took over. I still listened, every now and again, to perennial favourites like The Clash and Dead Kennedys, but I no longer traipsed around the dens of London on the coat tails of the lesser known bands. 

And so a couple of decades intervened, in which I paid no attention whatsoever to anything that happened in punk rock post 1970's. Until now, that is. For in the lockdown I have found myself trawling YouTube for punk music, and have unearthed some amazing music in the process, which I would like to use this opportunity to mention. One of my favourite individual songs that I've discovered recently comes from Screeching Weasel, a band that have been going since the 80's and that I've always been dimly aware of, but never paid much attention to. The song is called 'Dingbat', and is insanely catchy. I've even learnt to play it - all four chords of it - on the guitar, but I will not subject you to that, don't worry:

In terms of full albums, there are many gems that I've unearthed. Honourable mentions go to 'Death By Television' by The Lillingtons, in which every song is an absolute banger, and 'Dork Rock Cork Rod' by The Ergs, which is likewise brilliant, and all the more impressive for the fact that the drummer is also the main vocalist. The album that I'd really like to use this opportunity to mention, however, is 'Metropole' by The Lawrence Arms, a Chicago-based band. This album really blew me away when I heard it, and I think it could aptly be described as a kind of punk rock Springsteen, with amazing lyrics that tell gritty stories. Here is the album; I hope you enjoy it is as much as I do: 


Tuesday 5 May 2020


During the lockdown I have been recording several videos in which I read a short poem, and then suggest a very quick, easy and fun poetry writing task. So far I have made seven such videos, and you can watch them all on my Instagram channel here. One of the videos involves me reading my poem 'Don't Go To The Cake Shop', which is published in my book Little Lemur Laughing from Bloomsbury. The challenge was very simple: create a list poem involving weird, wacky and disgusting foodstuffs, and then give the list poem a funny title! I am delighted to report that the fantastic children of St Lawrence CE Primary School in Hampshire gave this activity a go, and it is an honour for me to be able to share a selection of their wonderful poetry on my blog. Here you go!

Saturday 2 May 2020


It’s no good. 
I just can’t write
about flowers. 

In the park
my wife says to me
“look at those beautiful bluebells,
you should write
a poem about them.”

I tell her
that it’s just no good
however hard I try
that Wordsworth shit
refuses to capture my soul;

I need to write
about dirt and grime
and loneliness and real people
and the grit of their lives.

It was then
that I looked into her eyes
and saw the tiny bluebells of her pupils
surrounded by
moats of brown. 

“Let’s go home”,
I upped and said. 
“I just can’t write
about flowers.”

Friday 1 May 2020


Mr Scott Williams, a teacher at Catton Grove Primary, got in touch recently with a batch of poems his pupils have written. The poems are based on my poem 'Would You Rather?'. If you want to read this poem you will have to buy my book I Bet I Can Make You Laugh, which was the recent winner of the 2020 Laugh Out Loud Book Award. Anyway, it is my pleasure to be able to share these fantabulustic poems!

Amer’s innovation:

Would You Rather…

Eat everyday 10 kg of banana
Or live forever in Ghana?

Go back tomorrow to school
Or stay at home and be a fool?

Live in a shed forever
Or don't be clever?

Never change your socks anymore
Or eat your dinner from the floor?

Be a bug
Or everyday give a pig a hug?

Home school for an hour a day
Or eat pizza everyday?

Ethan’s poem:

Would you rather:

Stay awake for a year
Or sleep on a log?
Eat a baboon
Or fart on a frog?

Lick a cactus
Or live off coffee?
Only eat lettuce
Or survive on toffee?

Live on a ship
Or fly to the moon?
Not hear again
Or listen to the same tune?

Swim for a month
Or go to the fair?
Lay in ants
Or hug a bear?

Malak’s poem:

Would you rather…
a seagull poop on your head

Or swoop in and nick your 99?

Be a living statue for a day

Or for 24 hours be a mime?

Kiss a blob fish

Or sleep with a naked mole rat?

Have a break

Or have a kitkat?


Or do the bleep test?

Pee in a swimming pool

Or fart in front of a guest?

climb Mount Everest in a hotdog costume
Or walk along the Great Wall of China singing ‘Don’t stop me now’?

Have a rabbit drop something with a scent on your bed

Or Be patted on the head by a cow?

wait for your delivery from amazon

Or hear this poem go
On and on
And on and on
And on and on.

Leyton’s poem:

Would you rather..

Cuddle a tiger
Or ride on a lion?
Pounce at prey
Or lay there crying?

Play with a hedgehog
Or stand with ants ?
Roll in mud
Or stink like pants?

Fly like an eagle
Or own a pet lizard?
Shave all your hair
Or have a blizzard?

Never go to school
Or always eat fish?

Vilte’s poem:

Would you rather…

Skydive off a helicopter

Or bungee jump off a plane?

Never eat sweets

Or go to school again and again?

Go to the future

Or go to the past?

Sit at home all-day

Or go to school and have a blast?

Get eaten by a chicken

Or be a piece of cheese?

Be friends with a snake
Or be chased by a swarm of bees?
Sleep in water
Or live on a dish?

Twirl round and round
As you count up to ten,
Or hear this poem
Again and again
And again and again
And again and again?

Mrs McDowall's poem!

Have hair like spaghetti
Or a face like Rooney.
Drive your mum crazy
Running around like a looney.

Clean your teeth
With a wire brush
Chew on your food
Till your gums turn to mush.

Dance with a giraffe
Or fight a gorilla
Have a massage
Or get face filler.

Go for a walk
With nothing to wear
Run for shelter
When people point and stare.

And Stare, And stare, And stare.

Fagin's Poem (below)

Julia's Poem (below)