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Spectator competition winners: Sonnets containing household tips

1 October 2017

9:30 AM

1 October 2017

9:30 AM

The latest challenge, to compose sonnets containing household tips, saw you on sparkling form and there were plenty of stylish, inventive entries to choose from.

I was riveted by your recommendations and hope to put some of them to the test, though I might just take John Whitworth’s word for it: (‘Prick sausages and they will never burst./ A pint of piss will slake a raging thirst.’)

Commendations go to David Silverman, Joseph Conlon, Jennifer Moore, Fiona Pitt-Kethley and A.H. Harker. The winners earn £20 each. Basil Ransome-Davies trousers £25.

Basil Ransome-Davies
A healthy dose of vinegar will clean
Your windows and wipe porn smears off your
      screen.
A saucer makes a handy weapon if
You need to finish a domestic tiff.
You overdo the vodka or the gin?
Dump all the empties in your neighbour’s bin.
Old copies of the Daily Mail will do
For visitors who badly need the loo,
And anti-orthopaedic chairs for guests
Whom you regard as knuckle-dragging pests.
Save money by not buying cutlery,
Just nick it from the local KFC,
And if you want to be your granny’s heir
Much sooner than expected, soap the stair.

George Simmers
Your eyes, my love, are chilly as the ice
With which you shift unwanted chewing-gum;
Brisk as your toothbrush when you clear the
      crumb
From toasters are your words, which are not nice.

The vinegar with which you clean the glass
Is not more acid; and the potent meths
Which gives to ballpoint stains deserved deaths
Does not in virulence your glare outclass.


You would be rid of me, my household queen.
(Much as with cedar you deter the moth.)
Yet I too have a microfibre cloth;
So might not we together live and clean?

Would you but spill the red wine of your love,
I could, like salt, absorb it from above.

Max Ross
How to be thrifty? Let me count the ways:
Use what you need when making cups of tea.
Don’t fill the kettle like the Arctic Sea
But just enough. Eventually it pays.
Observe how much you buy on shopping days
And what you throw away, then learn to be
Less profligate. Buy one instead of three;
Then what you’re saving weekly will amaze.
Why light a room when nobody is there?
Why leave the TV on when no one’s viewing?
You’re spending cash on nothing, so take care;
The road to thriftiness is worth pursuing.
And even though you be a billionaire
It’s wise to ponder what your pence are doing.

Brian Murdoch
Shall I compare thee to a household tip?
Thou art more worth to me than being told
That rough winds get in through the tiniest chip,
And chewing-gum in holes can thwart the cold.
Sometime too hot, the water in the sink
May harm your skin, as hot detergent scalds.
Your hands are perfect as they are, I think,
So put some talcum in your marigolds.
But thy eternal beauty drives out grime
As water does in a stained coffee cup
If you are going to wait a little time
Before you come to do the washing-up.
So long as men shall breathe or kiss with lips,
So long I’ll love thee more than household tips.

Frank McDonald
Don’t go forgetful into your goodnight;
Check, check that you have left no switches on.
It isn’t hard to make an oversight
And let disaster rage when you have gone.
Before retiring to your bedroom keep
A mindful eye on windows, doors and keys
Lest mischief-makers enter while you sleep
And flee away with anything they please.
Then if you feel each part is well inspected
And all is like a fort when you retire
Sleep soundly in the knowledge you’re protected
From foreign guests, from flooding and from fire.
If circumstance has placed you on your own
It’s wise to sleep beside your mobile phone.

D.A. Prince
To whiten grimy grouting, an old toothbrush
and lemon juice will clean where dark mould thrives.
The same juice freshens worktops, mugs and loo
      flush
(the lowly lemon leads so many lives).
Combined with salt it’s good for scouring rust off
or scrubbing marble, with a cotton rag.
You’ll get the vacuum cleaner’s smell of dust off
by slipping a few drops inside the bag.
Dried rinds, when buried, will protect the garden
from furry diggers — squirrel, say, or cat.
Remember that old paintbrush left to harden?
A soak in boiling juice will soon cure that.
And all homes need it — sliced, and not too thin
       —
with ice and tonic and an inch of gin.

Adèle Geras
A lemon cut in half, beside the sink
will stop your hands from having fishy fingers.
Sprinkled with salt, the lemon’s other half
will banish from your fridge a smell that lingers.

And if you iron sitting on a chair
the task is not unpleasant. You are free
to listen to the radio, watch tv
each hankie pressed into a perfect square.

White vinegar cleans all things, more or less
And soda water’s good on red wine stains,
but should blood mark a t-shirt or a dress
hot water will ensure the mark remains

forever brownish. Everybody oughter
know that blood yields only to cold, cold water.

Your next challenge is to submit the formula for a successful marriage courtesy of a well-known husband or wife in literature (please specify). Please email entries of up to 150 words (providing a word count) to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 11 October.

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