Poet, 50, with a veritable cornucopia of verses, stories and observations. Specialises in motivational poems for cats and for people. Rachel is many things: the best-dressed woman on the poetry circuit; the woman who won the 2004 Glastonbury Festival Poetry Slam, although she only entered it for the experience (and was perhaps the only person on site wearing court-shoes); and the author of the well-known story-books about Cheesegrater Leg-Iron Lion. In short, a most peculiar talent. She has had her poetry broadcast on Radios 1, 3 and 4, and is still holding out for Radio 2. Till then, she is sustained by the cherished memories of her glory years. The great lost act of the noughties. "Technicolour suburban entertainment" - John Hegley "I was weeing myself" - Sue Perkins "I love Rachel Pantechnicon" - Josie Long ***** - Three Weeks magazine, Edinburgh Fringe
LADY OF SHALOTT DAY Don’t you hate it when it’s Lady of Shalott Day? Don’t you don’t you? Tirra lira tirra lira goes the alarm on my bedside cabinet and here’s one problem that can’t be solved by reaching out and grabbing it – because today is Lady of Shalott Day, only once a year, when you have to go into work in all your Lady of Shalott gear and if you forget and wear your cardigan and your pop-socks you have to put some money in the Lady of Shalott box. And there’s Derek from Wages in his armour and his stupid plume making a tapestry of the timesheets in the next-door room; and it’s rosemary for remembrance a pomegranate in your sandwich-box when all you want’s a Penguin biscuit but you daren’t risk it, not at all. And meanwhile in the typing-pool we’re not allowed to look directly at our typewriter keys – the Qs the Ws the Es the Rs the Ts – we have to look at them in a mirror; and it’s rosemary for remembrance Tippex for typing-errors. And we’re not allowed to look directly at the window-cleaner cleaning windows leaning on a major supporting pillar with his little ukulele singing Tirra lira and his Lonsdale sweatshirt reading Eladsnol. But it’s nice when you go home for a shower where a shower-curtain hangs aslant the bath and the eight-hour Shalottathon is on with Philip Schofield as King Arth * * * * * * * FOUR MAGNOLIA WALLS Four magnolia walls was all I wanted, four magnolia walls was all I wanted. Once you were a geography teacher, now you are a decorator. All I wanted was my four magnolia walls and what I didn’t want was what I got: you painted me a mural of a diagram of an aerial view of a bird’s-foot delta – alluvial deposits yellow, bright blue for the water, the course of the river corresponding to an existing hairline crack. Geography teacher decorator, geography teacher decorator, geography teacher decorator, don’t come back. All I wanted in my bathroom was the normal style of tiling – white tiles, horizontal, every seventeenth tile with a picture of a seashell. What I didn’t want was every seashell annotated in Humbrol paint, approximately dated to its nearest geological era, telling me if it’s a bivalve, a brachiopod or a lamellibranch. Geography teacher decorator, geography teacher decorator, geography teacher decorator, don’t come back. Underneath the ceiling, ornamental frieze: stencilled lettering spelling out the principal industries of the principal towns in Northamptonshire – Wellingborough: boots & shoes Kettering: boots & shoes too Corby: steel Brackley: wool Daventry: unknown. Geography teacher decorator, geography teacher decorator, geography teacher decorator, actually that’s quite useful – could you do me something similar with Rutland in the vestibule? * * * * * * * GREAT GOD QUETZALCOATL GREEN HOT-WATER BOTTLE COVER No more eiderdowns for me, no extra sheets or electric socks - there’s a new accoutrement in my blanket-box: I’ve got a great god Quetzalcoatl green hot-water bottle cover - a present from my aunt and uncle from their trip to Central America – Uncle Barry Auntie Erica, both explorers, that’s how they met - they both simultaneously discovered the source of the River Ganges. Half an hour either way, they’d’ve missed each other, wouldn’t have met. Life’s funny like that. Anyway, they said 'Rachel, we’ve got you a great god Quetzalcoatl green hot-water bottle cover. We hope you like it - it was either that or a pillowcase shaped like the god of spring with a skull for a face and his liver on the outside, but they didn’t do them in lavender and we know you like lavender.' But I like my great god Quetzalcoatl green hot-water bottle cover: one half’s feathery, the other half’s scaly, because of the dual nature of the deity - part bird, part snake, part snake, part bird. The feathery half keeps me awake, tickles my middle, makes me laugh; the scaly half gives me nightmares about lizards and in that respect it’s a lot like life – partly nice and partly nasty. * * * * * * * * * * * * * HOOTING IN THE DORMITORY Have you forgotten those nights in the dormitory? Didn’t we have a hoot? Hooting like owls on the end of a promontory, each night eight hours of unlimited jollity - Didn’t we have a hoot? Part One: When Gwendoline brought a tree into school - into the dorm, a tree - and we disguised it as one of the girls, smuggled it into Geology. Mrs Septimus didn’t suspect us, not for one second, until “Will that girl with the colony of spoonbills up in the tip-topmost bough of her uppermost branches please see me after the lesson. And do take off that ridiculous No Poaching sign.” Hoot hoot hoot hoot hooting in the dormitory Part Two: When Jennifer brought a hermit into school - an anchorite, if you will - and we disguised him as one of the girls, smuggled him into Spanish Conversation. Mrs Septimus didn’t suspect us, not for one second, until “Will that girl on the pallet of straw with her head crudely cushioned on a stack of Old Moore’s Almanacs please see me after the lesson. And do stop fashioning rudimentary furniture from tea-chests. Wad of dry bread - spit it out.” Hoot hoot hoot hoot hooting all night in the dormitory except at midnight when we’re feasting in the dormitory - feasting on yeast-extract and jam-sandwiches, crisps and Dundee cake, piping hot. Spoonbill paté? Bit of straw? Oh go on then, why not? * * * * * * * * * * * * * TEENYBOP THEOLOGIAN When I was teenage - difficult age - I was into the Protestant Reformers: posters of Calvin and Zwingli on my wall, autographed copy of the Papal Bull (“To Rachel, love Leo X, PS you’re excommunicated”). My enthusiasm could never be sated: on the phone to my friend Katie - “Did you see him yesterday? You know who - in the churchyard at Wittenberg - isn’t he dead gorgeous though?” Oh Saturday morning, meeting Katie in the Wimpy or the Golden Egg - tartan trousers halfway up our legs, tartan armbands, tartan anklesocks, tartan scarf saying “I Love John Knox” - because this week in Jackie they did Presbyterians (Questionnaire: How Presbyterian Are You?) and now we’re doing scrapbooks. I said to Katie “I know who you fancy” “Who?” she says “That bloke out of the Lollards” I say “No I do not, Rachel you old moo - anyway, I believed in rejecting the doctrine of transubstantiation before you.” Oh Saturday night, youth-club disco, can of Tizer in my hand growing warm - boy comes up to me, looks at my t-shirt, says “Hello, I see you’re into Reform” “Might be” I say “Yes, me too - what do you think of the Edict of Worms?” “It’s all right” I say “Yes, it’s good, isn’t it? What do you think of the Edict of Nantes?” So I slapped him round the face - next he’d be asking me if I wanted to dance. But he was all right, though - really quite nice and he did look a little like Martin Luther - but don’t they all under the disco lights? * * * * * * * * * * * * * * DON”T HURT YOUR COCCYX My mother bounced me on her knee - in fact she bounced me on them both, 1, 2, 1, 2, alternately, to cut down the wear on any one kneecap. “All right, Rachel,” she said “let’s recap the things I told you, little lady – always make sure that your cot is tidy, don’t bolt your rusks at breakfast-time and the greatest of the three, most importantly, look after your coccyx - it’s the only one you’ve got.” And then she sat me down on the ground on the light brown carpet with the dark brown background, gave the telly half an hour to warm up – an old steam television with a spindle and a shuttle – and I watched a public information film with an animated squirrel saying “Always tell a grown-up if you think you’re going to hurt your coccyx; always wear a coccyx-guard on elastic round your middle, properly fitted if you're able, properly knitted, with your name on a label. Don't hurt your coccyx. God save the King." And when I went to visit my Grandfather Pantechnicon he told me that he'd lost his coccyx at the siege of Mafeking and he’d had a gold one put in its place but he still kept the old one, just in case – hung from a rafter in a jar it was company, you know, like a budgerigar. And when he blew in the little holes, he could use it to tune his guitar.
All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.
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Thursday 06 January 2011
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