Verse by Kay Macaulife (1940s)

Tribute to the Housewives

If you can bake a cake with wartime flour
And use dried eggs and make it taste the same;
If you can sit and shiver by the hour
before your fireless grate, and not complain;
If you can bear to see your dishes broken
and stoop and pick them up with unlined brow;
If you can hear the words, `It slipped, dear' spoken,
and never say `We can't replace it now';
If you can keep your points when all about you
are spending theirs, and borrowing them too;
If you can stand for hours outside the grocer's
and smile to find there's yet another queue;
If you can lend your husband clothing coupons,
and in your pre-war frocks look smart and neat;
If you can take a slab of frozen whalemeat
and turn it into something fit to eat;
You've won the war with your undaunted spirit
Facing each day the work that's never done;
You'll win the peace, and all the problems in it:
Here's to the Housewives, heroines every one.

 


From Me to You -- Christmas 1944

If I could think of some uncouponed treasure,
If I could buy some gift without a `point',
If I could only shop-gaze at my leisure
Instead of queuing for the weekly joint,
If I was of some art or craft the master,
If I could sew, and not reveal my shame,
If I could paint, and not incur disaster,
I'd send my effort in a handsome frame.
If I could only find a likely fish queue
I'd stand, with beating heart and hopeful face,
If it took all my heart and nerve and sinew,
I'd grab for you a noble cod or plaice.
If I still owned a cup or dish unbroken,
If I'd some rationed food-stuff stored away,
How gladly would I send you such a token;
But, failing these, here's what I wish to say --
Please read this verse in a forgiving spirit,
Accept its sixty seconds' worth of fun,
And here's the Christmas wish I'm sending with it,
Victory and Good Health to Everyone.

 


The Land of the Free

You lucky lot of people, pleased to meet you -- how d'ye do?
We hope you have a darn good time, and Bognor welcomes you.
This is the land of freedom -- so enjoy your holiday;
The Government is giving you a present everyday.

You own the plants, you own the mines, you own the railways too,
The more you own the less you get, you lucky people you.
You've got no cash, you've got no meat, you've got no coal or coke,
And since they put the prices up you can't afford to smoke.
If winter comes this summer time you're surely going to freeze,
While all the clothes and food you need are going overseas.
So welcome all to Bognor, have a happy holiday,
For the future's full of promise and its roses all the way.

You own the blinking railways, and you own the coaches too,
They're going to paint them up for you all red and green and blue,
They're going to paint them up for you, oh, won't it be a treat,
And wouldn't it be lovely if you sometimes got a seat?

They're building homes for Heroes at a rather distant date,
They're short of men to build them so the heroes have to wait,
For if they try to help themselves and build a house today
A lorry load of men arrive to cart the lot away.

Be gentle to the Miners, and allow them extra pay
A short week, a lot to eat and a longer holiday,
It is so nice to own a mine, but when the coal is sold
We find that, like the miners, it is worth it's weight in gold.

Now we've applied for Marshall Aid we've got to foot the bill,
Britons ·never have been slaves and Britons never will,
We fought the fight for freedom though we sometimes fought alone,
So now we'll fight with all our might to call our souls our own.

 

`If'', for all-women drama groups.

If you can keep your head when all around you,
Forget their words, and never give a cue;
If you can alter face and voice and bearing
And play a part that’s never meant for you;
If you can send your voice to every corner,
While whispering in accents soft and low,
If you can, with a dab of paint or powder,
Construct a face your Mother wouldn’t know;
If you can take production without question,
And never say I’ll know it on the night.”
If you can smile and speak and sound quite natural,
When every nerve and sinew shakes with fright;

If you can get into your husband’s trousers
And never show a bulge or split a seam,
You’ll be a star in every new production,
You’ll find a place in any Drama Team.
Yours is the task, and only you can fill it,
To play the parts no other member can,
Accept your fate and with a willing spirit,
Cast off your skirts, and Lady, be a Man.

 


Emerald Crepe de Chine

I bought myself an evening dress in 1939;
With big puffed sleeves and long full skirt
It really was divine.
Oh, how I loved my evening dress!
In it I felt a Queen,
And many a night I danced till dawn
In my emerald crêpe de chine.
But when the war and blackout came
My dancing days were done
There was no call for glamour then, in 1941.
I cut the skirt and made long sleeves
And wore a belt of green
So I was dressed for Sunday best
In emerald crêpe de chine.
The war went on, my frock grew old,
And shabbier it grew
I'd put a lot of patches in by 1942
I'd renovated little holes
And turned in every seam
In 44 I proudly wore my emerald crêpe de chine.
Then as we saw the war would end
and victory grew near
I longed to dress in something new
To greet the last all-clear.
So I cut up my dress again, that faithful evergreen
And on VE day my blouse so gay
Was emerald crêpe de chine.
And now the war is over
And coupons still grow less
And I must go to parties without a party dress.
But still I cherish one small piece
Of the glory that has been --
At fetes and shows I blow my nose
On emerald crêpe de chine.

 

My White Evening Dress

I’ve never been much of an actress,
I’m usually left in the wings,
But I’ve always been fond of the Actors,
So I’m proud when they borrow my things.
And when our local Amateurs staged a week's run
Though I longed for a part I'll confess
I was willing to sit in the wings with the book,
And they borrowed my white evening dress.

'Twas for Lady Macbeth and she scored a big hit hit
with her rendering of `Out damned spot!'
But the grease from the candle she spilt on my dress
Didn't really improve it a lot.

Mrs Cheyney wore it next
For her strong bedroom scene
But she showed such emotional stress
choosing prison of course
to a fate worse than death
that she tore a large hole in my dress.

They ended the season with Hamlet, no less,
and they scored a tremendous success
but Ophelia's madness caused me great distress
when she writhed on the floor in my dress.

well, I’ve always been fond of the drama,
Though I can't claim dramatic success
At least I have sacrificed something for art
Though its only my white evening dress.

 


Passengers

I’ve been working on these buses ever since I was a lad
I started oiling wheels — it's the only job I’ve had.
I worked long hours with not much pay and overtime at nights
Before they thought of One-way streets and Halts and Traffic lights.
Now we’ve got a ruddy Union, and no work stands alone,
We’re going to own the buses, -- and can't call our souls our own.
When they tell me that it's Progress, I say `Call it what you like
But how’re you going to progress if you’re always out on strike?

Still -- I’d never leave the buses, for I do like meeting folk,
And you’d be surprised at all you hear and see,
While you take the fares, and help folk off, and perhaps exchange a joke,
Yes -- it’s the Passengers that make the job for me.

I liked the topless buses, where you got a breath of air,
You’d find the courting couples all a-travelling up there,
Though the seats were only wooden, and it sometimes poured with rain,
Still they’d travel al1 the way with you, and then come back again!
Then they started Pirate buses, coo! that was a bit of fun --
Though I 'ad a sneaking feeling that they ought to let 'em run --
But we’d sandwich every pirate so he couldn’t get a load,
Till the competition broke them, and we forced them off the road.

We1l -- you’ve got to have a system and a proper Highway Code,
It's the only way to keep the roadway free,
And while Passengers are waiting for a lift along the road,
Well, there'll never be another job for me.

We took the buses through the Blitz, cor blimey! Wot a game!
There was times we almost lost our way, for no street looked the same.
And the crowds that packed our bus each night, like sardines in a tin,
Well -- you can’t keep rules in war-time, and, somehow we packed 'em in!
Sometimes we had to leave the bus and shelter with the crowd,
The way those Passengers behaved it fairly made you proud,
They’d sing out fit to bust themselves, they’d show they weren’t afraid,
Till the kids’d yell out -- “Shut up, Ma, I want to hear the raid!"

They all knew how to take it, and they took it without fuss,
They faced the darkest hours with a smile,
They missed a lot of sleep those nights but never missed the bus,
Yes -- it’s the Passengers that make my job worth while.

But now the war is over folk seem different somehow,
People aren’t so friendly and they never chaff me now.
They did their bit al1 through the war, and did it with a grin,
But now the fight for peace is on they’ve lost the will to win.
They’re sick to death of rationing, and coupons, and BUs,
Of filling forms and licenses and standing hours in queues,
They’re shabby now, and down-at-heel, and tired of asking why
The things they need to cheer them up are all in short supply.

For Passengers, like buses, get run down and out of gear,
When the wheels don’t run smoothly any more,
[in brackets here, underlined -( `Very weak line I will alter it)]

Well -- we don't get any younger and the future's far from clear,
But -- there ‘s something left that's well worth working for.

There's -- Passengers -- who never knew the years of Peace at all,
Who’ve never had the little treats we had when we were small.
The Kids we reared in shelters, without even much fresh air,

They’re the Passengers that matter, though they only pay half fare.
They’ve never had fresh fruit and sweets and toys like us --
But they’re that full of health and spirits that they nearly wreck the bus.
You ought to see 'em after school come running down the street,
They’re up to every kind of trick, they fairly get me beat,
“Four Penny Halves, please, Mister”. “Now come on, kids, don’t cheat,
Four Penny Halves? And who's to pay for the boy under the seat?”

They’re the Passengers that matter, though they only pay half fare,
And when they grow up they’ll take the wheel from us,
So let's keep the traffic moving and the road in good repair,
And make certain that we never miss the bus,
For the Drivers of the future are our passengers today
Till they grow up we've got our job to do,
So when they’re ready to take over, let’s make sure that we can say --
“The road is clear, and now -- it’s up to you!"

 

Looking the Other Way

I'm retiring from the Police Force, and I’m very glad to go,
For my job gets more confusing every day.
Now when I started in the Force my duties were quite plain
And laws were passed that folk could all obey.
A Policeman passing on his beat was looked on as a friend,
And honest folk all knew Crime didn’t Pay.
But now they've passed so many laws you’re bound to break a few
So a copper's learned to look the other way.

For if Policemen did their duty now as they was taught to do,
And arrested every sinner without fail,
AlI the blooming population would be standing in a queue,
Just waiting for a chance to go to jail.

We used to pace our beat at night to stop thieves breaking in,
And burglars we would quickly put to rout.
But when we see folks smashing locks and breaking in today,
We pause before we plunge -- and work it out.
Perhaps they’re squatters setttling in, with all a squatter's rights,
Or tenants turning in, who've been turned out,
Or perhaps it’s just the Bailliffs — well, a copper can’t touch them,
So we look the other way if we’re in doubt.

For before we do our duty we must study every case,
Most intruders can’t be turned out any more,
But if the bloke who’s breaking in can prove he owns the place,
Then we run him in -- for that’s against the law.

When Policemen were ambitious, well it used to be a help
Each night to cop a drunken man or two,
For it showed you knew your duty, and it did a bit of good --
You got promotion when you’d nabbed a few.
But now beer’s as strong as water and supplies each day get shorter
So it’s difficult to find the stuff to do it,
If a Copper sees a tipsy bloke he’ll go and join the queue,
All hoping that perhaps he’ll 1ead them to it,

It used to be our duty to go round the pubs at night,
To see they shut on time, and sold no more,
Now their shelves are often empty and they’d like to close all right
Well, we have to see they're open — that’s the law.

If a Policeman looked for customers, he'd die of overwork,
But there’s jobs you’ll find no Coppers ever do;
He could go down any High Street and arrest the people there —
For you’re b1ocking up the highway if you queue;
He'd be safe to nab a builder, for they have so many forms,
He’d be bound to find mistakes in just a few;
He could trip up any Baker, if he counted his BU’s,
He’d be sure to find he'd missed just one or two;
He could fill the ruddy jails, and empty all the shops,
But, somehow, well -- thc Coppers never do.

So, be patient with the Police as they strive to keep the Peace,
For they didn’t make the laws you must obey,
And till the flow of forms and licenses and streams of red tape cease,
You’ll find they sometimes look the other way.
Till the Country’s turned the corner we shall never interfere
With the folk who struggle on from day to day
For we try to do our duty, and to us our duty’s clear
It’s to know just when to look the other way.

 


Glamour

They say that I've got Glamour,
They tell me I've got `It'.
And when I play a bathing belle
I always make a hit.
But Glamour Girls alive today don't get a lot of fun
I only wish I had the life they had when I was young.
I'd have surely wed a title
and Viscounts, Dukes and Earls
Would drink champagne from my slipper and offer diamonds and pear1s.
But titled people nowadays
Are all too poor too wed.
I'm looking for a miner, with a house or flat, instead.

I'm glad that I've got glamour
And it's nice that I've got `It.'
But when Shinwell turns the heat off
Well, it doesn't help a bit.
It's hard to look attractive on such chilly days as these
When your skin all goes to gooseflesh and you' re giving at the knees.
When the hero starts to kiss me
Though to you it looks divine
It's not so hot when chilly hands are meeting round my spine.
His burning words may warm your hearts
But I'm too cold to care
While wearing my most charming smile and chiffon underwear.

I'm always typed for glamour
And I try to dress the part
But with only sixty coupons
It's enough to break your heart.
Girls used to drip with diamonds, with ermine coats, or mink,
But nowadays to look the part's not easy as you'd think.
I've used up all my coupons
For the clothes I wear in plays,
And now I've nothing suitable for ordinary days.
I've swim suits, yes, and evening dress,
And dainty underwear,
But of ordinary day clothes, well, I'm now completely bare;
And how can I go shopping if I've nothing fit to wear?
If I queue up in evening dress think how the butcher'd stare!
Oh, Mr. Dalton, hear my plea, and give a second share
Of coupons to the glamour girls whose lot is hard to bear.