It is National Poetry Day today, and I have spent most of it thinking of my dad who loved a good poem. (He loved quite a few bad ones, too, but let’s not dwell on that.)

I realised, rather late in the day, that my dad was probably my main inspiration when it came to deciding to give it a go as a writer. When I was a child, he was the one who would read the bedtime stories (doing ALL the voices – no one else does Gollum like he did). He also helped long car journeys whizz by with renditions of songs and poems to which my sister and I soon learned all the words so that we could join in (much to the annoyance, no doubt, of anyone else in the car at the time).

He was a true wordsmith: a man who loved language in all its shapes and forms and who liked nothing better than the challenge of composing a limerick at the drop of a hat for someone’s birthday or simply to commemorate a good evening with friends. And he LOVED nonsense. In fact, towards the end of his life, it became clear that seeing the absurd in life was what got him through the tough times.

One of my fondest memories of Dad is when he would recite the little ditty below, written by Samuel Foote in the late 18th century. Foote wrote it as a joke for the benefit of an actor, Charles Macklin, who is said to have boasted that he could recite anything by heart after reading it only once. Foote promptly wrote this piece and packed it with made-up words in the hope that he could trip Macklin up. Dad used to recite it regularly when we were kids, and I can still hear him now saying the last line, with particular emphasis, both vocal and facial, on the word ‘heeeeeeels’!

So, this is for you, Dad. With thanks for the love of poetry and language that you passed on to me. Happy National Poetry Day.

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So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie;

and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop.

“What! No soap?”

So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber;

and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies

and the grand Panjandrum himself,

with the little round button at top,

and they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can

till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.

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