Michael Wyndham

The Great British Ritual

Sir Ranulph Fiennes jogging solo

to the North Pole, yet forever

unflappable in the fight

against brutal frostbite; for

he’ll fretsaw necrotic fingers

and soldier on to his goal. As

schooled in salad days at Eton

or in the Royal Scots Greys

or when Bren-gunning Omani

‘Commies’ for the Sultan’s medal.

O Sir Ranulph! you were installed

by glory to Britain’s hierarchy as

the saintly icon for the ritual of

rigid adherence to futile endurance.

An inspiration for the nation’s heroes:

for here comes ‘Bear’ Grylls festooned

with the Scout logo and trumpeting

Baden-Powell’s motto for foiling

the immorality of the idle. For he’s

prepared to rebuff smashed vertebrae

and being strapped to a backpack

of a cannonball; for he’ll conquer

Everest in record summit and

be welcomed home by a TV deal

and a seat at the table with the royals.

Michael Wyndham © 2014

Kate Sharpley


Caged days without charge

in a cell stunk out

by the sweat of the coppers

as they pummelled me

with fists and truncheons

until the mirror view was a horror show

yet, the sergeant grinned

there’d be more of the same

if he saw my ‘ugly anarchist face’

on the streets again.


For I was expected to be agreeable in grief

and stood proud before Queen Mary

as she doled out medals

for my dead father, brother and lover

who were expected to forever

be ‘chirpy Tommies’ cheerily

dying as bullet-full tangles

mangled on miles of barbed wire

with thumbs up and smiles

for King George who’s busily

anglicising his German titles.


So I flung the medals back at the

waxwork face of Her Majesty crying:

“If you think so much of them, you keep them”

But England entrenched in worshipping

royalty gasped: “outrage!”

for the blood trickling

down the Queen’s cheek

was thought a more shocking loss

than the blood of the dead

fathers, brothers and lovers

drowning the fields of Europe.


“Queen Mary was handing out medals in Greenwich, most of them

for fallen heroes being presented to their womenfolk. One 22-year

old girl, said by the local press to be under the influence of anarchist propaganda, having collected medals for her dead father, brother and boyfriend, then threw them in the Queen's face, saying, 'If you think so much of them, you can keep them.' The Queen's face was scratched and so was that of one of her attendant ladies. The police, not a little under the influence of patriotic propaganda, then grabbed the girl and beat her up. When she was released from the police station a few days later, no charges being brought, she was scarcely recognizable”. http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/0zpcq4

Michael Wyndham © 2014