My thanks to Vivienne for these extra photos of AGM XXII
In this blogposting...
*J Arthur Smallpiece’s Small Piece
*J Arthur Smallpiece: The Ghost Of Christmas Past

*La Vie en France/Life In France


Stand at the gate of the year, open it - and walk on..

Pictured below is the trinket spat out by a Christmas cracker pulled by J Arthur Smallpiece at AGM XXII. The teaspoon is in the photo to give you a sense of proportion.

The item itself is made from a strip of sheet metal about half an inch wide, bent into the shape you see, with the ends welded together.

Which is all very well. But - what is it?

Several truckshunters, and a few other people besides, have not unreasonably pointed out that there’s little purpose in our Honourable Society appointing its own Poet Laureate if the results of his musings are kept hidden under a bushel, as it were.

With the sting of these criticisms very much in my thoughts, I grasped the artistic nettle and asked J Arthur Smallpiece for permission to reproduce one of his odes here. Without any hesitation, he graciously agreed.

It is therefore with an intellect-curdling amount of pleasure that I present to you The Ghost of Christmas Past, which Laureate Smallpiece sent to me, tucked inside a Christmas card.
I know you will agree that it is as seasonally cathartic as anything that Dickens came up with.

And it’s not just the poem you’re about to have the pleasure of reading. I have also included J Arthur’s explanatory notes, his preamble (in the form of an ‘Author’s Note’) and his post-amble as well (if there is such a thing as a post-amble).


'Author’s Note:
There have only ever been two deep and meaningful passions in my life, viz the barmaid to whom these verses are dedicated - and beer. As you will discover, in recent months I have been embarrassingly dispossessed of one of my objects of affection.

Which one will become apparent as the gruesome details of my disempowering experience are revealed by the lyrical narrative of the enclosed poem.

Now - read on (if you have nothing better to do).

But be warned....If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.

(This work is the intellectual property of J Arthur Smallpiece. And less of the cheek.)

by J Arthur Smallpiece - Flaneur, Tragedian and Unpublished Poet
Being a Love Song Disguised as an Appreciation of Real Ale

My favourite pub’s the Old Dun Cow but I hardly ever go there now;
Not since the barmaid upped and left. I’m morbid, downcast and bereft
And miss her more than I can say. Her name was Daffodil O’Day.
I’d always hoped that we would gel, once she got to know me well.
I dreamt she’d bring me unplumbed cheer (ie romance combined with beer)
And love would flow when she was ready - lively, sparkling, bright and heady,
Effervescent, strong and hale - like Tolly Cobbold’s Nut Brown Ale.

(Look - don’t be cheeky. It gets better anyway; honest.)

On her first day behind the pumps, my skin came out in prickly lumps.
I subsequently trembled when she handed me my Speckled Hen.
Her Pedigree was up to par - this was averred throughout the bar.
She was, it seemed, a doorman’s daughter who pulled a perfect pint of Porter;
As luscious and refined, no doubt, as Sam Smith’s scrumptious Oatmeal Stout.
The Landlord fancied her as well - he hushed it up, but I could tell -
And other bar-flies, I dare say, were lusting for her IPA.
(Of course, this didn’t bother me - I much preferred her XXB.)
At closing time, I liked to linger - in hopes of getting Bishop’s Finger.
I was transfixed by Cupid’s dart. She was so Special in my heart.

(Don’t be rude! You won’t get a poem next year, mind.)

Last Christmas Eve I filled a jug* and got her cornered in the snug.
‘Daffodil my dear’ I said, ‘Let’s sup this off and go to bed!’**
I haven’t seen her since, you know. How cruel of her to hurt me so!
Rejection is my biggest dread and, realising what she’d said,
I went all pale and weak, you see - like Jimmy Deuchar’s Number 3.
I’m crushed and cope as best I can and go down to The Mortal Man
To dull the pain I feel inside with floods of Fuller’s London Pride.

Please dispose of this poem in an environmentally-friendly manner.

*With Courage, appropriately enough. Director’s, naturally.
**A striking example of the silver-tongues Geordie.'

Personally, I think we can each walk away from this poem having learned a salutary lesson. At least, I hope we can.

A treasured Christmas gift I received from Hildie was Wisdom of the East, a page-a-day calendar which reveals a new pearl of mystical Eastern wisdom every day. The first two are:

You should be attentive today. Waiting until tomorrow is too late.


Those persons who have perceptive eyes enjoy beauty everywhere.

Which is what shunting trucks is all about.

I’ve been here in France since New Year’s Day and was pleased to discover an unusual custom still going very strong indeed - at least, it is here in Beaujolais.

The first Sunday in January is ‘Kings’ Day’. Families gather together and each person eats a slice of galette des Rois - ‘kings’ cake’ - a kind of large, sweet, marzipan pie. They’re lovely.

Hidden inside the galette is a little pottery token - called a feve - just as a coin or two used to be cooked inside Christmas puddings in England. Whosever slice contains the feve becomes King (provided they haven’t choked on the feve or broken a tooth, of course).

Patisseries are open all day on Kings’ Day and each family has its favourite supplier.

Each galette comes with a golden paper crown which the King wears for the rest of the day - giving him the right to issue orders to his family, which they must obey.

I have sometimes wondered if ‘folk’ traditions similar to our English Pancake Day or Bonfire Night existed in France. I needn’t have worried. This gratifying local way of celebrating Epiphany is alive and well - and great fun.

Our next AGM will take place during the week beginning Saturday 24 January. If there is a day of that week (including Saturday and Sunday) on which you would be more likely to be able to attend, please get in touch.

I thought we might meet at somewhere accessible in South Shields this time. What do you think?

Post comments on this blog or email me:

1 comment:

mim said...


I think that the cracker object is a cutter to make candy cane shaped biscuits or decorations from icing , marzipan etc. I got a lovely gift this year of cookie cutters from Germany where they still give tins of home baked cookies as gifts.

Did you check out the clogs Ian?

Love Margaret xx