The Tales of Flashover House – From Bard to Verse

“I have been contacted by a long lost cousin.” said Angus “I don’t know much about him but he says he would like to come and stay with me for a few days. I have cleared it with head office and they say he can have the spare room, his name’s McGonagall McPhee.”

“Is he a radio ham?” enquired flees Morgan.” No. I don’t think so”. said Angus

“Perhaps he is a gardener “said Harbottle.

“Sorry to disappoint you Harbottle” said Angus” but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is a poet.”

A bit of a gasp went up from the hams. They regarded poets as wild-eyed lunatics with shoulder length hair, but, if this one was a relative of Angus he couldn’t be all bad.

When McPhee arrived he appeared to be reasonably normal if you were prepared to overlook the kilt, but the first sign of trouble came when Angus introduced him to Matron. His eyes flashed and he let her have it with both barrels.

    “Oh radiant moon of my desire,
        You have set my heart afire.”

“Ah well,’ said Matron, slightly taken aback. ‘” guess some of us have it and some haven’t. Angus. why don’t you take Mr. McPhee to your shack and make him a nice cup of tea?”

“Good idea”, said McPhee, and just to show there was no ill-feeling he tossed another couple of stanzas over his shoulder for good measure.

    “There is no finer thing my laddie,
    Than the sound of spoon on caddy.”

“When Angus brings him back I will take him and show him round the garden” volunteered Harbottle. “That will keep him out of your way for half an hour.” This offer earned him, from the hams and Matron something very close to hero worship.

“Yes,” said McPhee. “He would very much like to see the garden.” In fact he was so moved by the prospect that he was compelled to render another masterpiece.

    “Behold, behold, the red red rose
    How the smell gets up your nose
    And see the slender tall bluebell
    That gets up your nose as well.”

We may never know what Harbottle endured during that visit to the garden, but when he re-appeared through the French windows he had the look of a man who had supped too deeply from the well of despair. Mc Phee. on the other hand was still in full spate.

    And lo the compost thickly lay
    Where the slugs did leap and play.    

But the out pouring of genius is a tiring thing and the great poet expressed a wish to lie down in a darkened room for a couple of hours

When he had retired, Harbottle was the first to speak. ‘Would you like to hear something absolutely awful?”

“Put us out of our misery.” said Matron.

‘Well, while I was showing McPhee round the garden, he confided in me that that he Is arranging a special treat for us all tomorrow night.”

“He’s giving us a private reading of all his poems. It will take just under four hours with only a brief interval.”

“I am already looking forward to that interval.” said G2.

“Don’t look forward to it too much” said Harbottle “Because, during this interval he is going to play us a tape of his latest madrigal!’

The following morning at breakfast McPhee was in sparkling form and dashed off a quick ode to a lonely cornflake.

Then a little later while Matron was preparing the lunch, he was inspired to wilts;

    “O colander of stainless steel
    How regally you stand
    Our guarantee that wayward sprouts
    Won’t get the upper hand.”

All too soon It was evening and time for what 62 referred to as trial by poem.

MoPhee started off with what he claimed was his greatest triumph entitled “How the Great Gale of 1896 Took the Roof off a Tram Depot in East Lothian.” This contained two of the most beautiful lines in Scottish poetry.

“The winds did rage and roar through the great city And a length of east iron guttering Knocked a Mr. McTavish of Dundee right off his bike, which was a pity.”

The hams gritted their teeth determined to ride out the storm until the interval. Surely the madrigal would be better. It wasn’t of course.

    “Oh sing tra Ia and lackaday
    And sing throughout the land-c
    Come sing with me what do they see
    In saucy Mistress Dando.
    
    Oh sing tra Ia and all the day
    And sing it with the band-a
    Gaze at the leg of Mistress Gregg
    And not at Mistress Dando.”

Before Rees Morgan could get his apoplexy into top gear, there was a phone call for McPhee. When he returned he was looking very down cast.“ Bad news I’m afraid. That was my agent and he has arranged a poetry reading for me at a meeting of tone-deaf Rumanians. I will have to leave you first thing In the morning.”

The hams hoped that their expressions of regret sounded genuine and the following morning they were seeing him off in his taxi.

There was something about the way the cab driver swerved and mounted the pavement that led them to believe that a poetry recital may have been taking place.

The first one who sings “Will you no come back again with get the rough I end of my rolling-pin.” said Matron. “It’s funny” said a kindly G3, “I think this is the only time I have ever felt sorry for a Rumanian.”

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