Clapham Common Clowns. Photo: Tim Marshall, poem: Tim Turnbull. (1/4)

Sir Robert Fosset’s Circus. © Tim Marshall 1984

Clown Rapture Imminent

See them assemble under tarpaulin,
raggy-arsed, rowdy, dim-wit conventicle,
googling their eyes, goofing and pratfalling,
red-nosed and panstuck, no two identical.

The Jingles and Joeys, Buttons and Beppos
stream, in their thousands, the dusty back roads
trudging with bindles and holes in their boot toes,
arrive in jalopies which promptly explode,

but nobody’s certain why they are here –
on the ramshackle outskirts of showbiz –
none of them has the remotest idea
who ought to feed, what, even, the joke is.

So, on they caper, cavort through the night,
dance by the light of a torched charabanc,
engaging in ever more savage pie-fights
with nail-studded slapsticks and ironwood planks.

They wake where they fell, spent and depleted,
clown-pants beshitten, all covered with flies
as Weary Willy, throwing back his head,
howls ‘We are forsaken!’ to an empty sky.

… for The London Column. © Tim Turnbull 2012.

Dmitri Kasterine. Text: Tim Turnbull. (4/5)


Hailing a cab, Mayfair, 1965. © Dmitri Kasterine.

Black Cab Blues by Tim Turnbull:

All Hail! All Hail! the cabbies of London,
who are rammed to the gunwales with Knowledge;
so stuffed to the gills with it that it would turn
any lesser bloke’s brains into porridge.

Wave! Wave your brolly! and preen there bespokely,
the cut of your coat won’t persuade them to stop;
they do if they want, and for that reason only –
they’re nothing if not democratic, Old Cock.

Hark! O Hark! to their myriad opinions
but don’t venture yours, they’re never impressed –
you’re not in chambers, they’re not your minions
and so, for all your rhetorical prowess,

you’re bleeding mistaken if you think they might
go sarf uther river at this time o’night.

… for The London Column. © Tim Turnbull 2011.

Comics. Photo: John Claridge, text Tim Turnbull (3/5)

Frankie Howerd, at home in Devon, 1991. Photo © John Claridge.

That’ll Only Make It Worse by Tim Turnbull

No. Stop it. Get a grip on yourself, Francis.
We know it’s not RADA or the RSC,
darling – [purse lips] hardly. No, the brilliance
is in the ooing and arring, campery,

cattiness, common-as-muck-i-ness
leavened with baritone working claas plum –
ideas above station, dear – and we’re blessed;
for are you not belovèd, pallay-di-um

of the national character – it’s true –
and repository – as I said to Thing –
of the cardinal comedic virtues:
Shame, Insubordination and Timing.

So, enough with the Grimaldian hangdog:
And now,
…………[lick teeth–compose–smile]
………………………………………….the Prologue.

… for The London Column © Tim Turnbull 2011