The latest challenge, a mournful nod to the recently defunct 178-year-old travel company, called for poems about Thomas Cook. The firm may have hit the buffers, but many entries featured its eponymous founder’s original offering — railway travel and Temperance tours — which would be just the job in our clean-living, climate change-challenged times.
In a large and excellent crop, which had echoes of Keats, Kipling, MacNeice and Thomas Hood, the six below stood out and earn their authors £25.
James Cook explored, and met the end
But Thomas Cook began the trend
For organising tours.
He was dynamic, fired with hope,
And thus the business boomed,
Though nonetheless its moral scope
Was tragically foredoomed.
They started out as Temperance jaunts,
Those earnest early treks.
Now low, disreputable haunts
Draw mobs for drink and sex.
That Spanish coast which once for some
Was vividly romantic
Is foreign-Yahoo playground from
Cebère to the Atlantic.
When Thomas laid on special trains
for groups who spurned the demon drink
he said, ‘there must be greater gains,
the world’s my oyster, now I think
I’ll take more people for a ride’ —
he saw a chance and so he took it,
‘here’s to tourism,’ he cried,
then said, ‘don’t book it, Thomas Cook it.’
With happy hols, the profits rose,
no hint of hopes that would be dashed,
but when old Tom turned up his toes
the firm was sold; in time it crashed.
Said all the fat cats (getting fatter)
‘stranded passengers who’ve booked,
and loyal staff, you scarcely matter,
screw you all, your goose is Cooked.’
Like crocuses the brochures came,
A sign of winter’s loosening grip,
And starter of the annual game
To book ourselves a summer trip.
Pictures and words so glossy bright
They made a dazzling sunlit scene,
A winking promise of delight
With nothing dull beneath the sheen.
In store, brisk Mandy claimed to know
Just what we wanted, worked the phone,
And clinched things in a way to show
We could not manage on our own.
And so we travelled out and stayed
In search of little more than sun,
With Cook’s our holiday nursemaid,
The sort that helps you walk, not run.
I’ve travelled much, at first to serve the Lord
Delivering Baptist pamphlets close to home,
Then venturing further, called by God to roam,
The villages of Derbyshire I toured
Till thoughts of touring occupied my brain
And, knowing God on strict abstainers smiles,
I planned a Temperance Trip, eleven miles,
To Loughborough from Leicester on a train;
And thus my empire grew in scope and scale.
By God’s good grace more travellers chose to
Their annual holidays through Thomas Cook,
The name to trust, the firm that could not fail
Nor ever would. So, travellers, rest assured,
With us you’ll have no reason to complain,
We’ll take you off and bring you home again,
Since Thomas Cook was founded on the Lord.
It’s no go the continent, it’s no go the riviera,
We’ve got a blue passport again but it won’t much
help the bearer,
It’s no go the booze cruise, it’s no go my honey,
It’s no go the travel agent, now that Cook’s are up
Old Thomas Cook was a clever chap, we need his
He’ll take us on holiday again, but in the right
And all we want is north-west Wales on a Cook’s
tour railway train,
Teetotal trips to Conwy or Llandudno in the rain.
We can’t afford the airfares and there’s nowhere
we can fly
And all Cook’s planes are grounded (though no
one is quite sure why),
But those teetotal tours by train will suit us really
Though even Cook won’t help us when the leaves
are on the line.
It’s no go the foreign food, it’s no go my poppet,
It’s no go the Costa del, they said we have to stop it,
It’s no go the Citroen, VW or Beamer,
But Thomas Cook could still take us to Shanklin
on a steamer.
A goodly man there was with fertile brain,
Who organised some early trips by train;
His bright idea was a great success
And many townsfolk found new happiness
In travelling together far and wide
Led by a trusted, safely temperance guide.
He told such tales of many a foreign land
That soon there grew a promising demand
From pilgrims keen to worship sea and sun,
Thus ‘package holidays’ were first begun,
And from an altruistic, kindly start
Grew up a business, profit at its heart.
When Thomas Cook eventually became
A company’s, not just a person’s name,
The world of commerce proved a faithless place:
This project ended with a fall from grace.
Your next challenge is to compose a comically appalling first or final paragraph of the memoir of well-known figure, living or dead. Please email entries of up to 150 words to email@example.com by midday on 13 November.