The Porthleven Goose versus Old Will Temby – a poem written and spoken by Bert Biscoe

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This month we have another of Bert Biscoe’s poems. Sit back and listen to the engaging sound of Bert’s voice as he relates his story of The Porthleven Goose versus Old Will Temby.

More of Bert’s Cornish themed poems can be found on this site by making a word search on his name.

 

 

The Porthleven Goose versus Old Will Temby

Mrs Carter looked us up and down,

Two short disheveled boys from town,

Pulled her boots on in the room

And handed each of us a broom –

‘Follow me!’ she barked. ‘Wait there!’

There was a trace of wood-ash in her hair,

A converted Pullman beside the Yard,

Scrap metal mountain, a Goose for Guard!

She entered first, gripping her broom –

‘Keep yer eyes peeled, Boys! Don’t presume

That this bird has any kind of respect

Or fear or curiosity to politely inspect –

Nope! Ee’ll go for yer groin, or yer throat,

Ee’s as tough as a boot and quick as a goat!’

As we watched Mrs Carter’s unladylike

Fight to enable our scrapyard klondike,

To find an engine for our prog.rock van

To get the band to England to ‘make it, Man!’

I recalled from the pool of unreal dreams

A morning in the village riven with screams –

The Port’leven merchant with freshly caught

Mackerel, ling, hake and crab, had brought

To sit on his scales like the Devil in-car-nate,

With muscular neck, and a head full of hate

And wings which stretched when fully spread

From Helston town clock to Mullion Head,

Like the spirit of King Arthur’s chief mechanic,

Whose vicious machines, designed to cause panic,

A conjuror’s engines made of shadows and spells

And mistletoe riddles and oceans in shells,

To move among Saxons, wraiths of the night,

And choke the invader with a grail of spite….

Mother had hesitated, her purse gaping wide,

Port’leven’s finest had struggled to preside,

But pulpit and hellfire crushed Anglican pride,

Coins jingled reluctance across the divide,

Till Mother possessed a bird, wild-eyed,

Four foot tall and five foot wide,

And madder than a hatter in a trouser press

With time to kill and an emperor to dress –

This deposed monarch of a farmer’s yard,

Took the shift to Doctor’s shed mortally hard!

He sat on a black mountain of Anthracite

Stored to warm old widows on Christmas night,

And Doctor, a healer, a General Practitioner,

Who’d no stomach for Lord High Executioner,

Stood at the door of his occupied shed

And scratched till it bled his medical head –

‘This is no way, my Dear, to keep our house!’

(Tho’ he’d said the same when trapping a mouse!)

‘We’ll freeze t’Death with an empty scuttle

A goose for our good, and fear for our chattel,

I’ve patients to visit, and sickness to cure,

A goose in my shed – O what trouble I endure!

By this time the whole village was alive

And standing in wonder on Doctor’s drive –

‘Ee’ve a goose in the ‘oose’ Old Granny Pryce

Whispered to Annie. ‘Ain’t that nice?’

Mrs Bowden and Mildred suspended discussion

Down shop of matters tickly and hotly flushin’

To whistle between their National Health teeth:

‘Best do somethin’ or else there’ll be grief!’

While Doctor was wondering if a sleeping pill

On a stick might assist, somebody said: ‘Will!

What you need Doc is old Will – his son’s wed

To my second daughter, and I believe tis said

That in the war his protected occupation

Was slaughtering pigs to supply the ration –

Tho, for each pig killed for the Ministry

Another one squealed for the Vestry,

To grace the reverend’s Sabbath table,

And a joint on his step for the PC Con-stable!

 

This village never lacked for rashers nor chops, 

Some pigs never made it to butchers’ shops –

But, Doc, old Will have got the slaughterin’ skill,

Offer un a leg and ‘ee’ll go in fer the kill!’

Before you could utter ‘Boo!’ to that old Goose

Will was ready, string-tied trousers, nothing loose,

A spark in his eye, the bit ‘tween his teeth,

Old Will went in, you could hear a spider breathe!

‘What’s this?’ Goosey says to hi’self. ‘An ape,

A human, an adversary to knock into shape!

Bread and butter for a mad old bird

Locked in a coal shed – tho I should have preferred

To go out by fallin’ from a flying wedge

Filling the sky to see the sun drop over the edge –

But such a glorious setting is not for me,

Sold by a fish man, plucked and roasted for tea –

 

So, we’ll give this old fool a run for his money

Before turning brown and baisted with honey!’

All the village stood outside that lowly shed,

Feathers flew and curses too, awoke the dead,

The Vicar implored the onlooking Lord

To forgive old Will his profanities, his hoard

Of obscenities and guttural exclamations –

‘O do shut up, Vicar! I need no explanations –

 

If you spent less time preaching Gospel and Word

You’d see that I’ve got a fiver on the Bird!’

And when the odds tempt the gods to put on a bet

Even I might utter a blasphemous epithet!

Go to your church and preach and pray

And I’ll look in to see you another day!’

So, the Vicar retired to hoover the nave

And bound the plot of his pastoral grave.

The noise was beyond the terror of battle,

Made worse by Doctor hammering his scuttle

With the back of the blunt old carving knife

He’d use to slice his anthracite guardian’s life,

Once Will the Slaughterman had prevailed

And this crazy flying zealot was at last impaled,

And he could purr like a carolling choir

Before the flames of his sitting room fire –

But hours flew by, the curses grew dark,

The village settled-in, a flint found a spark

And a fire was lit, and carols were sung

And old Will breathed feathers into his lung –

Hot chocolate and cold sausage rolls,

Blankets and forgiveness for these village souls

Gathered there in the Doctor’s Yard

To see if goose or Will, bloody and scarred,

Would emerge the victor of this third world war

And leave the other spread over the floor –

Suffice to say that evolution has equipped

The ape with a brain to master the script

And it was, of course, old Will who emerged,

To declare:’ At last this goose is mortally purged’.

Covered in feathers clotted with blood:

‘I’ll need some patchin’, Doc. Is that old God?

 

Well, my ‘ansum, I’ve sat in pews to hear your word;

Nowhere in Genesis did you mention that bird!

I gotta say, though almighty you may be,

And the Devil downstairs you’ve fought incessantly,

You ain’t no match for a Port’leven goose

Sold in Stithians, soused in orange juice

And served up with taties and gravy stirred –

Good Lord, you ain’t no match for that there bird.’

And the Lord turned from his heavenly throne

To look down upon Will, standing alone.

‘Have you no pity, for a Deity in debt?

Damn you, William. Your Lord is in debt –

I had my eternal shirt on you to lose,

Don’t think of me, Son. I backed the Goose!’

And Mother, she never again tempted heaven

For a bargain from a fishman from awver Port’leven!

Bert Biscoe

Vyager gans Geryow (Bert Biscoe) lives in Truro. He is a poet and songwriter whose work draws on his interests in history, politics, social justice and language. He represents the people of Boscawen Division on Cornwall Council. The Division was formerly called ‘Moresk’ – an unbroken link from civic administration to the hurried escape of Tristan and Iseult from the vengeful wrath of King Mark – Bert tries to invest Cornish values into the demand of modern life. His work is fun, and best read aloud – which he does whenever the opportunity arises, especially with fellow Cornish poet, Pol Hodge. ‘Living in Trurra’ he says ‘means that there is a constancy of running water beneath your feet – there are two clocks which ring the hours dissonantly and out of step – a good environment for poems to flourish in the cracks and shadows. Nowadays, the mullet listen attentively in the lee of the Old Bridge’

 

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Vyager gans Geryow (Bert Biscoe) lives in Truro. He is a poet and songwriter whose work draws on his interests in history, politics, social justice and language. He represents the people of Boscawen Division on Cornwall Council. The Division was formerly called ‘Moresk’ – an unbroken link from civic administration to the hurried escape of Tristan and Iseult from the vengeful wrath of King Mark – Bert tries to invest Cornish values into the demand of modern life. His work is fun, and best read aloud – which he does whenever the opportunity arises, especially with fellow Cornish poet, Pol Hodge. ‘Living in Trurra’ he says ‘means that there is a constancy of running water beneath your feet – there are two clocks which ring the hours dissonantly and out of step – a good environment for poems to flourish in the cracks and shadows. Nowadays, the mullet listen attentively in the lee of the Old Bridge’.

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