Change-Over-Day – Bert Biscoe

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Who’d be a vole,

Summer time,

Down St Buryan way,

On change-over-day?


That’s the day they Christians d’call

Saturday – day of Saturn – he with the rings –

Roman patron of slaves – that’s they

Who d’creep out of their hovels and Cornish Units

To clean caravans and chalets over Hayle and Carbis Bay –

Though, they never seen no Romans,

Cos Romans never come here for a holiday,

Nor to scout out second homes fer no mafia hideaway

Cos the A30 ain’t much cop fer no high-speed getaway) –


Ess! Being a vole,


Shortens your life

Down St Buryan way!


The odds of skittering across

The black-tar ground between hedges

Without getting your pads scorched by bitumen

Sweating in the noon-day sun –

Why, they’re only slightly longer –

(In gambling long and short is very confusing!) –

Only slightly longer………….

Than if you dive between the wheels of a departing, lurching Peugeot

And fetch out behind its rocking caravan – unsquashed!


A vole?


Down St Buryan way?

No way, Jose! No way!


Now! The swallow flits in without warning,

Its slipstream parts the grass,

It turns tighter than its tail so you only think you’ve seen ‘un

But, sure as talons is talons,

That swallow’s been seen by the buzzard

And down he swoops, old Billy Buzzard,

Black as a cloud,

Showing off to his fledgling kid,

Circling like stacked-out 747s over St Columb Airport –

And, dear Vole, if that Peugeot don’t get ‘ee

on Change-Over-Day, down St Buryan way,

then surely you’ll be prey

to a proud and feathery old buzzard Dad – odds on!


Being a vole

On Change-Over-Day

Shortens your life

Down St Buryan way!


And while odds are on offer – short or long! –

If you ain’t a vole-burger pegged out on Highway 61 –

Porthcurno side of Boskenna –

Or, your dignity stripped,

With most, if not all, of your flesh, flayed and swallowed,

If you ain’t dangling from the beak

Of old Boeing Billy, the jetliner buzzard of Buryan, by midday,

That Cornish sun, St Senara’s Star, blazing down

And bidding farewell, adieu, see-ee’gen, dew genes

To all they drenched-and-happy checked-out-by-Ten-AM souls,

And seducing the dry-and-stressed

To get in under they en-suite showers before ee’d rain,

Then, my little Vole, my rodent pal, you

Are bound to be caught by Granfer

Proud as a coachman perched up on his TVO, green ‘nd gold

ATCO Major – the old man’s tractor!


What a machine!

Just big enough to spread your legs round the bonnet

And flop your varicose toes down on they aching pedals

Without disturbing the sciatica –

There he goes! Old Granfer! One hundred and twenty years

Of tilling this ground, scything the corn, crying neck after neck

Till all the cows he’ve ever sold down market

Have come home! There he goes, sweeping round the campsite,

Round and round, in and out the frame-tent suburbs,

Slicing French Cricket’s six-hit tennis balls,

Mutilating Alcock & Brown’s crashed and mangled kites,

Snipping the odd guy-rope

In hope of catching some young newly-weds or livers-in-sin

At home in the day-time and ‘at it!’


His legs’ll be bowed as a blow-hole.

He’ll be wrapped and muffled against the wind,

The hotter the day, the thicker the muffling!

His blades’ll be razors,

His field’ll be his watercolour board,

And his mission?

To scythe down the sins of the grass, to render

Rough and ready sward something akin to velvet –

Green velvet!


He’ll have your tail or a careless leg,

Or, if you’re half-way-out, or half-way-in

of a Tesco’s bag of left-behinds, after you’ve

Sunk your Bugs Bunny incisors

Into putrified corners of a grease-lagged burger,

When you’re licking your lips from the hunt,

Then! He’ll whizz and screech past –

Dreamin’ of acres mown for victory, for harvest, for pride,

For the sake of it, for ‘Set Aside’ and, best of all, for no reason at all!

He’s been out there, round and round,

Since his Dad was the one who disappeared

Down market on Tuesdays, to come home quite contented,

Milk-cow sold and nothing to show in corduroy breeches!

Ess! That old bugger’ll have your whiskers;

Before you know it, you’re naked, de-frocked –

And a lay-rodent’s sermon to preach tomorrow!


And I ask again! Who’d be a vole

Down St Buryan way

With life cut shorter than a big-house lawn

On Change-Over-Day?


By six the fields are crammed!

They’ve cruised from pitch to pitch,

Four-by-fours and roof-racked Fords,

They’ve calculated wind-direction against distance from ‘facilities’

‘I don’t want to sleep with my toes in the air’ –

All they tractors, power-steering, diesel-belching

All the way from Chelsea – and the know-alls

Flipping up their frame-tents,

Stacking up the charcoal – igniting

And talking in loud, cultured tones

About the ‘sweetness of country air’

And the ‘need to make the polluter pay’

Granfer pitches up on the Atco,

Sent round by Mother with the leather bag –

“Staying all week, are’ee?  Aw! Just tonight!

Tenner, boy!” And the kids get the kites up.


They kites! Bleddy contraptions!

Not your Icarus Sun Cruisers dripping myth,

Nor your dangling diamonds – these kites

Re-enact the bombardment of Guernica –

Stuka-banshee wails meld

With max-manouverability – live effects –

Pterodactyls sporting laryngitis

Cackle over who’s poo’s whitest,

Who’s chicks scrawniest,

This is get-away-from-it-all ptero-terror-dactyl –

Makes ya wanna say: ‘Don’t come back till….

Change Over Day’.


Remember! To be a vole,


Shortens your life

Down St Buryan way!


And there it is. Change-Over-Day.

A weird religious festival,

A strangely Cornish feast

For a patron saint of visitors –

….“and he shall be blessed with no name

who has stripped away the smile

and laid bare the outstretched hand…”

You might intone from a pulpit,

It’s a text, O Whiskerless Priest,

A text to your whiskerless sermon!

Tis a pagan ritual, Change Over Day,

It turns good souls –

Makes ‘em rush out into streets

To lay palm-fronds on rough stones

To ease the bunions of weary pilgrims,

To polish up the brown signs,

To touch up the red roses!


Invented by Q and Sylvanus Trevail,

Visitor One come one glorious day –

Come on the train,

Paintbrush, straw hat, tubes of paint,

Snuffbox full of life-after-mining powder,

Diversification-after-farming, harbour-trips-

after-fishing – all snuffed up the nose –

The long ponderous moment…the SNEEZE!

Visitor One told Visitor Two

And then they invented the motor car –

Well! That was Dick Trevithick,

Who should’ve known better but couldn’t see –

‘Twas Henry Ford discovered how to make cars make money!

All they empty houses, skivvies and waiters

And towns snowed under by gulls –

Dick couldn’t see the pillow over the face

Of life and love, and language – for the clouds of steam I s’pose!


Now, tis Change-Over-Day!

The mighty St Buryan vole

Ain’t got no place to hide,

No quiet place to feed his soul!


The Fittest Survive!

A bit of fun, you understand,

A little entertainment for a rainy day,

For visitors! At twilight, the crows

Gone hunting, out of earshot,

The Vole, the Swallow and the Buzzard

D’meet up behind the shower block

To come to a little arrangement – tomorrow,

When they’re all discovering tailbacks,

Soft pale flesh, yellow sand everywhere,

In the food, in the book, in the car –

Rising with the sun to trudge the dew,

The early-morning queue for a pee,

‘We’re going fishing!’ Declare these three,

The Vole, the Swallow, the Buzzard.


‘You may think it strange, rodents and birds

Gone fishing! What we mean is,

Like a lot of fishing species

We’re going to find a rocky place far away,

Far, far away from every-every-where.

We’ll have a flask, half of yesterday’s pasty,

Maybe a bit of old Mother’s saffron cake,

And we’re going to sit, hour after hour,

We, vole, swallow and buzzard, we will watch

The tide come in, the tide go out, come in, go out –

Till we’ve had enough. Then, we’ll stand up,

Stretch our claws and paws and snouts and beaks,

Pack up all our bits – leave a crust

For the mermaid, in case she’s peckish later –

We’ll grunt quietly to each other,

Without sadness, without joy: and we’ll say,

Each to the other: “Nothin’ doin’ today Billy.”

“Never mind, Boy. Never mind!”


And that’s how, if you’re a vole

Down St Buryan Way

On Change Over Day,

You stop your life getting shorter,

And with a bit of luck

You stop the lamb and the dying duck

Going to slaughter in a thunderstorm –

All the animals, all the birds,

Spiders and beetles and curly worms

On Change Over Day…..

They go Fishing; t’stay outta the way!

‘Now you knaw!’


(Photo Steve Tanner)

Vyager gans Geryow (Bert Biscoe) lives in Truro. He is a poet and songwriter whose work draws on his interest 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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