The Heathrow Tales

If you liked the Canterbury Tales (I don’t really know anyone who read them, but I love the sound) you’ll love this; It was in a British book a friend had – not available in the US.

The Heathrow Tales

Whan that Aprille with his taxe-formes drere
Comes, draggynge in a new fynancial yeere,

Thenne many folke loke round to see how theye
May kepe the Inlande Revenue atte baye;

And hardly has the litel month begunne
Thanne journalystes start trekkinge to the sunne,

To write of places off the beaten trackes,
And sette expenses off agaynst thir taxe:

A pilgrimage, in shorte, not for their soules,
But (as it is wyth modern mankynde’s goales)

To keepe a few bob backe. Thus, did I wende
To Heathrowe, there my further steppes to bende

Towards some sunsoked costa; and I founde
The spotte was thikke wyth pilgrims! All arounde

They milled and chattered, singlie and in groupes;
And everywhere, the bright-emblazon ‘d troops

Of Travail Agents hopped and chyrped like sparrowes,
Dyspensing labels, poyntinge uppe at arrowes,

Dyscharging these to Lourdes, and those to Rome,
And others who were off to see the home

Inne wich Lorde Byron lived, or John Keates died,
Or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart cryed

When (being seven) his Daddye would not lette
Him staye uppe to compose a stringe quartette. And yette,

for all the bustle and the cryes,
Not one soule saw I takynge to the skyes,

And eek my own flyte no man came to call;
We merely mobbed the grate departure hall

And gayzed uppe at the indicator-bord,
For such bleeke gleenings as it would afforde

Of flytes not inne, not oute, not onne, not knowne,
Of strykes and goe-slowes; and muche else (not showne)

Like drunken crewes, lost rear doors, and the sou,,
Of tickynge baggage, kept us onne the grounde.

Thus was it thatte it came aboute by chance
As we poore pilgrims trodde our loanly dance

Upon the Heathrowe tiles, thatte one of us
(Drop ‘t there two dayes bifor by airporte bus)

Suggested thatte we wile awaye the time
With tales thatte eech wold tell the reste, in ryme 1

We clap’t, we cheer’d, our weery eyes grew bryte;
We sang the praises of thatte worthie wight!

Then satte we downe, wyth whiskey, beere, and 1?
And wayted for the firste one to biginne.

But lette me, whyle I have the tyme and space,
Ere thatte I ferther in this storie pace,

Sette downe the manere of thatte companye,
And wich they weren, and of what degree;

And eek in what array thatte they were inne! ‘
And at a clericke wol I firste biginne.

A BISHOPPE hadde we wyth us in thatte place,
A slimme yung manne whose bryte and beerdles

Glowed wyth a pinkish-white cherubicke hue,
Broughte on in parte by prayer, but most by Brui

This worthie manne had turned his mohaired ba
Upon the easeful parishe life: no hacke

For Christ was he, to pat the wrinkled hande
Of borynge windowes, or each weeke to stande

Inne some raine-sodden pulpytte, there to speeki
Some low-paid sermon to the grottie meeke.

Westward he turned his course, towardes those isles
Where heathen soules pursued those living-stile:

Thatte frighte the Christian; where the idle rich
Have found atte laste a litel taxe-free niche

Whereinne to set thir. golden calves; to pounce
Whenne golde goes up to ninety-five an ounce,

And where, to ease thir soules, they oft invite
The better class of prieste to spende the nyghte;

Or three months, if the truth were told.So thatte
They ease thir conscience, as we worm a catte.

The prieste in his turn, for the boone thus given,
Makes sure the taxe-evaded soule is shriven,

And coming home all tanned, white teeth a-gleem,
Turns out for cricket wyth his village teeme

Hee fyndes the countryside the place to dwell;
For theologians writing What Is Hell?

(A six-part series for the Sunday Tymes)
Need peace and quiet; rural life, too, chimes

Wyth tearynge uppe to towne one day a weeke
So thatte the national presse may heer him speeke

His piece on porno in the House of Lordes,
Or rayle on telly about Christian frauds.

Biside him satte a NOVELISTE, al pale,
Who once, tenne yeeres bifor, had writ a tale

So true, so deepe, so geered to thisse darke age
Thatte, ere the reeder turned the final page,

He knew Roome Atte The Botom was the one
To acte on Eng. Lit. lyke the mornynge sunne,

Who sheddes his warmynge beemes on soggie soyle
To maturate the plottes where seedlynges toyle.

Thus, al arounde, we saw the seedlynges bask;
The noveliste, meenwile, clove to his taske,

And lo! Ere yet a litel yeere had trip ‘t
He hadde terned out a stunnynge movie scripte

Based onne the boke. It won sixteene awardes
(And, naturally, reeped other fatte rewardes:

The noveliste moved to the South of France). t
The nexte yeere saw a wonderful new dance,

The Botom (fromme the musical), by wich
The noveliste now waxed exceedynge rich.

And still the grate creative juices flow’d!
For, after thatte, thisse noveliste now show’d

How righte Roome Atte The Botom prov’d to bee
In ninety-seven parts on ITV.

Whereat this prodygal son of his tyme
Turned his unrestynge hande to pantomime:

Roome Atte The Botom Meets Dick Whittington
(Wyth Tomie Steele and Twiggie) was put on

Atte the Palladium. It ranrie and ranne!
Was there no stoppynge thisse creative manne?

Alas! His ice showe flop’t. His Muse, for once,
Now founde her litel lyre reft of stunts.

And now, with tenne yeeres gone, the noveliste
Muste needes revyve. And his psychiatriste

Together wyth his agente and, of course,
His thirde wife, feel a visyte to the source

Of his firste inspiration mighte wel loose
His writer’s block; and-who can tel?-produce

Downe Atte The Botom, or some other sequel
Whose spynne-off possibilities mighte equal

The pickynges of the firste. So here todaye
He goes in serche of Ernest Hemingwaye

(Whose nice short werdes our man always admir’d:
The hand, with polysyllables, growes tired);

He trekkes to Paris, thence to Rome, and soon
Will lie beneeth Pamplona’s risynge moon

And fille his dreggy cuppe at thatte fresshe spring
Where Papa roared, biside the bloodstayned ring.

But things are not quyte alwayes as they seem
Hee has wyth him an Outsyde Broadcast teeme.

Acrosse the aisle, two HIPPIES sat entwyned,
Hopynge, ere longe, to blowe their tiny minde

Upon the Golden Roade to Samarkand,
Then on across the Kush, through Kashmir, and

At last drop out in distant Khatmandu,
Where grass is not just greene, but cheeper, too.

And there, atte some sleeke Maharishi’s foote,
They wil spil oute the necessarye loote

To buy such solace as the saint may proffer
Wythinne the termes of Thysse Month’s SpeciaLOffer.

I fynde I greeve for thysse unhappie lotte
Whose yung lyves runne increasingly to potte;

Who shal we b-layme if, spaced out, zonked, they roame,
Seekynge some mysticke cobblers far from home?

Since we, all shackled in our bourgeois harness, Can
only crie: Yes, we have no Nirvanas!
Behynde these satte another lovynge paire,
Thir fingers loste in one another’s haire;

A fond GAY couPLE, bounde for Old Tangier (
A pilgrimage they mayke yeere after yeere).

These worshyppe atte the shryne of Oscar Wilde,
And Andr6 Gide, thatte othere faerie’s childe,

Whose fin-de-siecle wand ‘rings inne the soukhs
(So taystefullie recycled inne his bokes)

Soon gayve Moroccan tourism a booste
Stil undiminished; for they have produced

(I feere I rayse uponne the reeder’s neck a Hackle)
a kind of homosexual Mecca;

Where all the flockyng hordes of gay devoute
May-in the jargonne of thir faythe-come oute.

I wysshe them wel : for chacun a son gout,
And who am I, or (wyth respeckte) are you

To say that lit’ry pilgryms shal conforme
To sum olde-fashioned arbitrarie norm?

That onlie those who trek to Bront~ doors
Shal be allowed enjoymente on the Moors?

Another wyth us wold not see this waye:
He stoode and stared atte them; he was not gaye

Inne any sense: al pinstryped stoode he there,
And close-cropped, groomed and gleemynge, was his hayre.

His firme grippe held a newe attache-case,
Sharp-edged, with snaplockes (not unlyke his face).

A BUSINESSMANNE was he, and that an able,
Reared, thoroughbredde, in some goode British stable:

Eton, the Guards, perhaps an LL. B., –
Or else (from Oxenforde) a Greats degree.

At all eventes, a manne wyth Greeke and Latyn,.
As polished as the leather chayre he satte in

At Knatchbull, Breene & Smythe (Precision Tools),
His father’s firme. He wold not suffer fooles

Gladlie or otherwyse: a chappe who coulde
Not shoote, hunte, fishe or choose the proper woode

Or iron, or thoughte thatte footeball was a gayme
Played with a rounde ball, did not fynde his name

Among the list of clients at KBS.
Wich may explayne the roten bluddy mess

The companye was inne; and why this wighte
Was waytinge for a (cheep excursion) flyte

To Boston, and the Harvarde Bisnesse Schoole
In wich this upryte, dapper, sportynge foole

Had been thatte weeke (agaynste his wil) enrolled
By al his borde. For they had herde it tolde

Thatte at this founte of holy bisnesse writ
A sowe’s eer mighte be processed and made fit

To be a purse, and thenne investment cashe
Would beate a path and begge the righte to stashe

Itself therein. And KES wold rise,
A pheenix, to amayze the doubtynge eyes!

It maye be so: myself, I cannot feel
Much hope of succour to the bisnesse weal;

I saw his luggage: rods, a rydinge hatte,
Four tennys racquettes and a cricket batte.

Not far from him, a small, svelte figure satte,
Be-cloked, carnationed, in an opera hatte;

(He wore his opera hatte one day a weeke,
One day his anti-Russian one, and eek

A thirde, reserved for twittynge Wedgwood Benn.
A MUSIC BUFFE (and Conscience For All Men),

Now bounde for Bayreuth and some Wagnerfest,
That shryne he worship’t above al the reste

(Thrilled by the thought that it was Wagner, who
Wold happilie have turned him into glue?)

Surely you’re Bernard Levin, sir!’ I cryed;
He turned, he smiled, he hummed awhile, he sighed,

And then began a sentence. But, alas!
Hardlie ten minutes were allowed to pass

Bifor they called Flyte BE 151,
And stil his sentence was not half-waye done.

(Wich onlie shows how German influence
Wil sometymes lead to compromise with sense;

How, with my aircraft throbbynge atte the kerbe,
Could I hang onne for Mister Levin’s verb?)
Thus, on a suddenne, was I called awaye,
Torne from my felaweship, the straighte, the gaye,

The godlie and the mammonite, the freak,:,
And al the reste I have no tyme to speke

Of. All those goodlie soules, I feere, remayne,
Stil earthbounde, meeklie waytinge for thir playne.

While you, deere reeder, for thir grippynge tales,
Muste needes hange on, and trimme your eeger sayles

Until such tyme as they returne once more
To shayre the riches of thir blessed store.

I have no doubte, though, that thir diff’rent tripps
Wil much improve what falls from al thir lipps,

Wen, havynge trod their spiritual paths,
They laye the fruits bifor us: how the baths

In Bethlehem were filthy, how the flies
Were everywhere in Lourdes, and what grate lyes

The brochures tolde! And how the bluddy guides
Robbed Martha blind! We’ll heare it all, wyth slides.

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