by Elly Robinson
Doggerel & Worse is the first collection of Elly Robinson’s poignant witty and delightful verse. For twelve years Elly ran Printworks, a successful gallery specialising in East Anglian artists’ original prints. Her sense of humour was honed in her writings about the many artists that the gallery showed and supported. This collection brings her insightful views of life and the world around her to a wider audience and includes a touching introduction from her brother Bruce.
My sister’s name is Elly May Bags, at least that’s what I’ve always called her. Our parents had named her Elaine Margaret, but she despised E-Lane and later Margaret more, hence Elly May Bags for as long as I can remember. We didn’t have a happy childhood. There was no money and a constant stench of divorce. One of my earliest memories is sitting with Elly May Bags at the top of carpetless stairs, listening to rows and tears in the empty rooms below. We had some chairs. Then the next memory up is a recurring nightmare. We are three feet tall with our parents on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, just outside Bristol. Three hundred feet below is a great river full of drowning. I later understood that it was called the River Severn. One of the adults, a man wearing a trilby and evidently an associate of my parents, picked up Elly May Bags and held her over the side of the parapet. Such a gesture initiated much amusement amongst the grown-ups, my mother wittering in communal mirth. I stared at them in alarm. I was four years old and apparently the only person there who was horrified. I’ve never seen fear like I saw in my sister’s face. Sixty years later and it’s still on the night-time slate. Except this was no dream, it happened. We didn’t know we were unhappy as kids because we had no one to compare love with. It was an age of lino round the edges with no carpet to cover the boards in between. In winter we dressed in the kitchen with the oven door open and never had a fire until our grandmother supplied thirty seven shillings and sixpence for a few sacks of coal. In 1951 the tortoise died of hypothermia. Elly May Bags and I were already more angry than we knew. I expressed it with asthma and she escaped with art. She drew things all the time. Mainly doggies. I passed my art exam at school in 1961 because she drew a transistor radio for me and everyone thought I had talent. I suppose it was one of the first great fraudulences of my life. But Elly May Bags’ talent was real. She was accepted at St. Martin’s School of Art and I started writing poems. I can still smell ink in the ribbon of a clapped-out Olivetti my grandfather had given me. But I was never any good at poems. She got a boyfriend I called “the Tottenham Hammer Yob” and our lives went their separate ways. I love Elly May Bags. Over half a century has passed and I’m proud of her doing what I could not. To my surprise she’s written poems, and the reason I think they’re good is because they’re honest, and funny, and angry; valuable, because she nearly got thrown off a bridge..
B.R. September 2014
Bruce Robinson, creator of “Withnail & I”
What could be merrier than a wire-haired fox terrier?
(Apart from a glass of champagne)
There’s nothing so sweet as those four furry feet
Except when they’ve been in the rain –
She makes doggy prints on my nice flowery chintz
So? I’ll just do that washing again!
She’s my most faithful friend – loves me without end
Without her – where would I be?
I could spend summer days on sun-kissed holidays
Blue skies, silver sand sparkling sea –
I could stay out all night, catch a show, drinks and a bite
If she wasn’t waiting at home for me
I’d go to lectures and talks instead of long walks
Wouldn’t play in the park with a ball
I’d see every movie while dressed up so groovy
No more muddy boots in my hall!
And when I got home, I’d be all alone!
That would be no fun at all
Jardine Press 2014.
210 x 148mm, 60pp