The March of Progress


In the absence of a Susie Cooper plate, this Clarice Cliff bowl will have to do!

This plastic film
is dangerous —
suddenly after all these years
the experts say.
But wait —
in order to allay our fears and cheer us up
here’s what to do about it:
put the food into a bowl
and cover it with a saucer…
Well I never did! Oh my!
The March of Progress.
I can see my mother
putting that Susie Cooper plate
on top of a half-eaten jelly
in that orange and green fruit bowl.
I can see her quite clearly
and that was 1938.

Charlotte Mitchell

Another of my favourite poems… partly because it sums up our modern world and partly because it mentions Susie Cooper, an Art Deco potter working at the same time as my great aunt, Clarice Cliff.

Like previous poems I have quoted, this is with the permission of Candy Guard, Charlotte Mitchell’s daughter, and is from Just In Case: Poems in my Pocket  published by Souvenir Press, 1991 ISBN 0285630601. Currently out of print, but available secondhand from Amazon.

Poems in my pocket

Don’t you find it sad when books that you love go out of print?

Last week one of my favourite poets, Charlotte Mitchell, was featured on Radio 4’s Poetry Please programme and listeners were clearly desperate to read her work. Sadly, her books are out of print and so the only place searchers on the internet could find anything was here on my blog. I discovered this because of a spike in my statistics for a post featuring one of her poems – Just In Case.


My copies

So, rather than bemoan the issue I thought I would do something about it. Sadly Charlotte, who was also an actress, died in 2012, but I knew that she had children and so I decided to make contact and sent a message to her daughter, Candy Guard who is an author, illustrator and animator, to ask if I could quote some of her mum’s poems in full here on the blog. And Candy has very kindly said that I can! She also mentioned that she has been thinking of getting the poems published as a ‘collected works’, so maybe they won’t be out of print too much longer – fingers crossed.

I also discovered that Candy’s animations are really worth looking at; in her own words they always concern ‘feisty yet wobbly female protagonists’ and, like her mum’s poems they speak to me about real life. I am particularly fond of ‘Alternative Fringe‘, which sums up exactly why I have long hair and never go to the hairdressers!!

Anyway, without further ado, here is a poem that (somewhat outdated with the advent of mobile phones and disappearance of student grants) made me giggle, but mentions Candy, to whom I am tempted to send a gorillagram by way of thanks!!

The Passing of The Telegram

I wanted to alert my phoneless daughter —
a student on a grant —
that a later train than first advised
would contain an aged aunt.
The man at British Telecom was useless,
I put the phone down with a slam,
he said the only thing to do
was to send a gorillagram.

I had to send some furry ape
to Newcastle upon Tyne
to read the following message:
Aunt Win arriving sixteen forty-nine.

And this one just had to appear here:


I’m very angry with those snails,
They’ve eaten my mesembryanthemum,
I didn’t ask those snails to come.

I’m very angry with those snails
In spite of their beautiful, silvery trails.
They’ve munched the glory out of my garden,
The succulent stems and the brilliant pink.

Said the snails: ‘We weren’t looking for visual pleasure,
We were looking for food and drink.’

Both poems are from Just In Case: Poems in my Pocket  published by Souvenir Press, 1991 ISBN 0285630601. Currently out of print, but available secondhand from Amazon, as is I Want to go Home: Poems Through a Day, 1990 ISBN 0285629956.

If you come across some writing or a picture that you like and want to include on your own blog – why not contact the author/artist/photographer and ask if you can share it? Our experience is very positive in this respect… Mr Snail contacted Tom Gauld some time ago to ask for permission to use one of his cartoons in a blog post and was delighted to be told that using it was fine. I know I’m always happy when someone asks to share one of my pictures.

Anyway, I have a couple more of Charlotte’s poems to include in future posts, so keep a look out… or better still, seek out her books.

I’m going away for the weekend

…. about 20 minutes down the road to have a little reunion weekend with three of my friends from university… packing for it brings to mind my all time favourite poem:

Just In Case

I’m going to the sea for the weekend,
in a couple of days I’ll be back,
so I’ll just take my little brown suit and a blouse
and a beret and carry my mac.

But what if the house is a cold one,
the house where I’m going to stay,
no fires after April, no hot drinks at night
and the windows wide open all day?
I’d better take one – no, two cardies
and my long tartan scarf for my head,
and my chaste new pyjamas in case they decide
to bring me my breakfast in bed,
and what about church on Sunday?
I could wear my beret and suit,
but if it were sunny, it would be a chance
to wear my straw hat with the fruit.
I can’t wear my little brown suit, though
not with the straw and the fruit,
so I’ll just take a silk dress to go with the straw
and a silk scarf to go with the suit.
I’ll just take my jeans and that jumper
in case we go out in the car,
and my Guernsey in case we go out in a boat
and d’you know where my swimming things are?

D’you think I should take that black velvet
in case they’ve booked seats for a play?
And is it still usual to take your own towel
when you go somewhere to stay?
I had thought of just taking slippers,
but they do look disgustingly old,
I’d better take best shoes and sandals and boots
for the church and the heat and the cold.

I daren’t go without my umbrella
in case I’m dressed up and it rains;
I’m bound to need socks and my wellies
for walking down long muddy lanes.

I’d rather not take my old dressing gown,
it is such a business to pack,
but s’pose they have breakfast before they get dressed
I’d have to have mine in my mac.

I’m going away for the weekend,
in a couple of days I’ll be back,
so I’ll just take my little brown suit and a blouse,
two cardies, my long tartan scarf,
my chaste new pyjamas
my straw hat with the fruit,
my silk dress, my silk scarf,
my jeans, that jumper,
my Guernsey, my swimming things,
my black velvet, my towel,
my slippers (no one need see them)
my sandals, my boots, my umbrella
my socks, my wellies
my dressing gown, no, not my dressing gown,
Ok my dressing gown,
and a beret and carry my mac.

Charlotte Mitchell

from Just In Case: Poems in my Pocket by Charlotte Mitchell, published by Souvenir Press, 1991 ISBN 0285630601. Currently out of print, but available secondhand from Amazon. as is I Want to go Home:Poems Through a Day.

Many thanks to Candy Guard, Charlotte’s daughter, for giving me permission to quote this poem in full.


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