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Open Garden Squares Weekend

The weather was not exactly kind to Open Garden Squares weekend – but there was not too much rain and the sun put in a cameo appearance on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Although Saturday morning visitors were a small band a hardy few came early to pick up their ‘Symmetry Breakfasts’ which became the excuse for a silly on-the-spot piece.

 The Symmetry Breakfast Song 

Bilateral and axial, rotational and radial
In mirrors, photos, breakfasts and in figures most rhetorical,
Chiasmus or tricolon and of course the anaphorical
In fact there’s almost nothing that you cannot make symmetrical.

You may not be a genius or very mathematical
but if you have two sausages arrange them so they bracket all
the beans, black pudding, mushrooms eggs and then to cap it all
fried bread and bacon lavishly, a breakfast highly practical
for those who have two stomachs and who will become quite spherical.

You may have guessed these words fit roughly to the ‘Major General’ song from Pirates of Penzance (though perhaps no more roughly than the original). In defence of the company providing the breakfasts they were a good deal healthier than the song and included a half-bottle of champagne!

Our ‘tree naming’ activity on Saturday drew in 35 contributions from visitors and I was able to read the resulting poems on Sunday afternoon. The highlight of Sunday was the Poetry Choir – four brave souls plus me in a rendition of a chant based on the botanic names for the trees in the garden. Our extensive rehearsal schedule (ten minutes beforehand) and Jeffery’s steady hand on the Bhodrun were the secrets of our success(?) and the audience were generous with their applause!PoetryChoir

Some trees seemed to attract more names than others, that might have been because they were particularly attractive, or because they were easier to find! The two most successful poems were drawn from the names given to one of the old olive trees and the Himalayan birch. I took the view that I should use all the names, although sometimes a degree of selection might have produced a better poem. So here they are!

Himalayan birch

Janina, Chandi Kangaal,

Silver Blemish, La Sylphide

In the dusk you flutter by
a luna moth, a snow cloud,
never incognito, no bramble,
no bit player in Olivier’s shadow.

A zebra in the shade,
burning magnesium at dawn.


Your name might be Tyrian, purple,
straight out of the sketch pad
the slow fist of you, beauty and warts.
Cauliflower ears. You split and mend and split
from inside like the continents, old Calvary.
Or your name might be Agatha, happy
one, smiling your cracks, still
alive, olive, I love.

I’ve really enjoyed being involved as poet in residence. I hope the visitors, the audiences at the readings, and the community gardeners themselves enjoyed it too: and I’m very pleased that I’ve been invited back to be involved in the Summer Fete!