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Spectator competition winners: ‘By Waterloo Station I sat down and…’

10 November 2019

9:30 AM

10 November 2019

9:30 AM

The latest challenge called for a poem that begins ‘By Waterloo Station I sat down and…’.

Some of you begged, some swore, others slept. But most, in a pleasingly sizable entry, took their lead from weeping Elizabeth Smart. There was a welcome influx of newcomers this week, alongside the familiar names, and the tone ranged from the comic to the poignant.

Honourable mentions go to Paul Freeman, Gloria Brown, Ian Barker, Tim Raikes and Alan Mil-lard. The winners below pocket £30 each and include George Simmers’s natty twist on Matthew Arnold’s friend Arthur Hugh Clough’s ‘Dipsychus’ (‘How Pleasant It Is to Have Money…’).

Nick MacKinnon
By Waterloo Station I sat down and prayed
that the 2.10 to Bruton would not be delayed;
it’s beastly at Eastleigh, it’s tangled at Wool,
and lately at Grateley the toilets are full.
The shambles at Hamble’s a blot on the line,
and folks down at Pokesdown have started to
      whine;
they’re surly at Earley and grumpy at Fleet,
and from Havant they haven’t a standard-class
      seat.

It’s simple at Whimple: the network’s a hash,
it’s choking at Woking, it’s smoking at Ash;
at Oxshott the clock’s not in time with the trains
which are filthy at Hilsea and squalid by Staines.

At Clandon abandon all hope for the day
for the track’s bent at Bentley and buckled at
      Sway;
from Wareham to Fareham there’s been a
      malfunction,
so I’m walking from Dorking to Effingham
      Junction.


Bill Greenwell
By Waterloo Station I sat down and glued
My hands to the walls, my eyes to the street;
I was nauseous, noxious and totally nude.
But never for sale like your ailing élite.
The change in your pocket is jingled at will;
The change in your head is too distant to hear.
I’ll stay on this road till you pick up the bill
And see what it costs when our worlds disappear.

By Waterloo Station, I made my insurgency,
Urgent and angry and candid and cold,
Tattooed with the legend ‘Our Climate
      Emergency’,
For you say you won’t listen and won’t be cajoled.
I am your pipsqueak, grotesque and appalling,
A clown who comes round with a bucket of bile,
A baby who’s proud to be squalling and bawling,
But I will be here for a very long while.

Mike Morrison
By Waterloo station I sat down and reckoned —
‘By’, notice, not ‘in’, ‘on’ or ‘at’:
My timing was perfect, spot-on to the second
(I’ve long been a stickler for that.)

I went through my anorak pockets: a toffee
Appeared, somewhat hirsute with fluff,
Plus a fifty-pence coin; ‘I quite fancy a coffee,
That’s sure to be more than enough.’

I’m one of those fellows who don’t mind a wait,
Within reason, ten minutes or so;
She’d said quite emphatically, Meet me at eight.
I muttered, She’s not going to show.

I seethed as I breathed: I’d been chucked, stood
      up, bounced,
My feelings now bitter and rancorous;
Inside the concourse the Tannoy announced:
‘Welcome to King’s Cross St Pancras.’

Hugh King
By Waterloo Station I sat down and cried,
Displaying the bitterest grief,
When a smartly dressed woman appeared at my
      side
And with fervour declared her belief
That suffering frequently serves to redeem,
And may generate truly great art.
A rascally poet named George, it would seem
Had wantonly broken her heart
Yet so spurred ambition that she had composed
A work that won widespread acclaim.
Pretending an interest in verse, I proposed
To my comforter (Liz was her name)
We repair to a boozer that stayed open late,
But fearing it sounded mundane
I disguised the true cause of my lachrymose state:
I had missed the last Basingstoke train.

George Simmers
At Waterloo Station I sat down and preached
That climate change targets can only be reached
If you ordinary people are each and all fired
By the values for which I’m so rightly admired.
How pleasant it is to have virtue, heigh ho! How
pleasant it is to have virtue!

We’ve blocked crucial roads and caused chaos on
      rail,
Which has greatly disgruntled the male, pale and
      stale,
So we lecture them fiercely — they must take the
      pledge
To exist on a diet of sermons and veg.
How uplifting it feels to have virtue, heigh ho! How pleasant it is to have virtue!

Some carpers have snarked that I came here by jet
(It was Amal’s and George’s) but that’s been
      offset,
By planting fine trees to replenish the Earth
And to advertise my quite incredible worth,
For I can afford to have virtue, heigh ho. How
pleasant it is to have virtue!

In Holy Tango of Literature, the puzzle writer and editor Francis Heaney rearranged the letters of the names of poets (e.g., T.S. Eliot: ‘toilets’), then wrote poems of that title in the style of the poet concerned. Your next challenge is to do the same with the poet of your choice. Please email entries of up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 20 November. The closing date for Com-petition No. 3125 is 13 November, not 20 November as was incorrectly printed in the magazine.


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