Hilaire Belloc bought King's Land (in Shipley, Sussex), 5 acres and a working windmill for £1000 in 1907 and it was his home for the rest of his life. Belloc loved Sussex as few other writers have loved her: he lived there for most of his 83 years, he tramped the length and breadth of the county, slept under her hedgerows, drank in her inns, sailed her coast and her rivers and wrote several incomparable books about her. "He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows, Or dares, persistent, interwreath Love permanent with the wild hedgerows; He does not die, but still remains Substantiate with his darling plains."

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Monday, 7 October 2013

Christoper Howse's Cautionary Tale...

''Rewriting Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for the 21st century is the latest craze. A new collection, out this week, is directed at children. But I feel it is time that adults had a few cautions of their own. So here one is.''

Poppy - Whose addiction to social media led to general misery, except in Japan

The mobile phone, to Poppy Trend,

Had seemed to be her only friend.

In company or on her own,

She’d always fiddle with her phone.

While waiting in the bus-stop queue

She’d social network cud to chew:

New Facebook photos to inspect

And status updates to dissect

And, most of all, for Poppy Trend

The unknown people to Unfriend.

While settling in the last free seat

She’d text to say she couldn’t meet

The girls who’d messaged her to say

They’d meet up for a drink today.

While eating salad all alone

She snapped it with her camera phone

And emailed copies for the sake

Of those whose lunch she couldn’t make.

The only living person known

To breach her strict exclusion zone

Was on-off boyfriend, faithful Josh,

Whose Pa, Sir Monty, made his dosh

By heading up the powers that be

At Mega Media plc.

But Josh would never go so far

By focusing on his guitar –

And that of the acoustic kind.

His friends would say, “Well, never mind,”

When clips on YouTube failed to bring

Stampedes of fans to hear him sing.

And Poppy, keen to mix with stars,

Complained at dim and seedy bars,

Fetid and often underground,

Where Josh’s gigs were to be found.

So Poppy planned to have a row

One evening in the Purple Cow,

A beery tavern, some way down

From fashionable Camden Town.

Arriving late and tired and vexed,

She yelled: “Did you not get my text?

I said that I’d prefer to meet

In that new bar in Albert Street.”

But Josh’s battery was low,

And so of course he didn’t know.

But that was him all over, he

Had claimed no sort of mastery

Of smartphones, Facebook, texts or Twitter

While strumming in his small bed-sitter.

When Josh, abashed, had slunk away

For Poppy’s glass of chardonnay,

She sat with thumbs athwart her phone,

As was her wont when left alone.

Some more celebrities, that day,

Had by the judge been put away

For shocking crimes while placed among

The star-struck, vulnerable and young.

The TV showed their erstwhile fans

Jostling to bang their prison vans.

Like something from the Scottish Play

(As actors call it, so, they say)

Both Poppy’s thumbs began to twitch

For in her mind she had an itch

To tweet – it hardly mattered what;

They’d lap up anything she’d got.

Those thumbs had life in their own right,

Like Redgrave’s scene in Dead of Night

(To madness he’ll at last succumb – he

Is taken over by the dummy).

So Poppy’s demon drive’s complete:

Her thumbs, not she, began to tweet:

“Paedo? Sir Monty? [frowny face],”

And launched it into cyberspace.

Tweets were retweeted, gossip spread;

Much more was read than had been said.

The tabloids splurged, Newsnight went mad

The bloggers gave it all they had.

Next day Sir Monty shot himself.

Poppy was left upon the shelf.

There she remained and gathered dust

As narcissistic tweeters must.

But Josh, freed from paternal stress

Soon went abroad and found success,

In Japanese nostalgia clubs,

Which paid far more than London pubs.


To those who are but virtual friends

It’s very hard to make amends.

Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

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