January 1st 2021


Playtime as puppies, we bundled together,

Free from a tether.

This was our scrum down, our huddle of bums,

Arms around shoulders, our cuddles of tums,

Our primary school fun day, our game of rough tumbling,

Dumped inhibitions, it’s all up to us,

No monitors mooching and making a fuss.

End of term freedom, new sisters born,

Bristling haircuts, spikily shorn,

Clusters of skirts, embarrassing shorts, long trousers too;

Sprawl balling of bodies’ in hullabaloo.

No brakes to restrict us, we’re celebrating,

Chartists’ votes counted, feels so liberating.

Doing it our way,

For our Very Ecstatic day,

Cuddling pushes and tugs,

With British bull dog[ii] pin-down hugs;

We’re puzzles cracking Christmas in knotted arms and legs.

One second we’re nestling,

The next we’re all wrestling,

And feigning cruel clenches,

With headlocks and wrist-snapping wrenches,

Released with a twist to our whirring cartwheeling,

Bouncing for drop-kicks, sending pals reeling.

We’re swimming along through currents of strangers,

 Familiar friends, no chance of dangers.

Loved ones returned from our present past.

We engaged with clear headed James Connolly at last.[iii]

We felt the itchy worsted waistcoats of Tyler, Lilburne, Kett.[iv]

Snuggled in the flowing sashes of suffragettes,

Whisped the tickling tashes of Burns, Mann and Tillett.[v]

Whooping miners from the first deep mines smudged us in coal dust,

And throated the choir with the steel men in trust.

The match girls[vi] and mill girls joined in and flinging

Warm arms around us whirlygig singing.

Mudlarking the Thames, the Taff, canoeing the Clyde,

Dockers threw contraband sweets for our fairground ride.

Everyone kicked off our victorious dance with raucous songs.

The chimney sweeping kids and tanners,[vii] oblivious to their pongs,

Stuck out their chests,

They knew at last they are the best

And nimbly tumble through our joy,

Welcome, just about, to share our bath toys.

Winstanley[viii] with his Wigan twang,

Anne Askew,[ix] so pure she sang

The truth that no Church can

Interpret the word of god to man.

We are human, god is no more,

Our own humanity we must adore.

Some couldn’t understand how Cockney consonants got lost in Bow.

Some thought Cornish a bit creamy, slow,

Others thought the Geordie accent was Glaswegian squashed,

And East Anglian was Bristolian coshed.

And as for Scousers – they were like a crocodile of cycling kids with musical spokes

Clattering cracking fast firework jokes.

Young Welsh speaking shepherds whistled from the sodden Valleys,

Confusing the gangs from back to back, back alleys

Who’d never heard such alveolar, or glottal palatal fricatives,

With their bursting plosives

Crashing on the dental;

All the Essex estuary oiks went mental.

Highland Gaelic aspired across the glens, curled with supple seals and heather,

They found more words than us for types of snowy weather.

The Lancs rolled rs, the Dorsets all said Oy not I,

While, to mix it up, the Yorkies in place of yes said aye.

Big Bob[x] bundled in and we were properly hell raising,

No prisoners, all guns blazin’.

Stop the talkin’, start the shootin’,

When they’re down, just put the boot in,

First stranglehold, and upper cut,

Then finish ‘em off with a cracking head butt.

We discovered, as we carnivalled,

Our dialects kept us enthralled.

Our hoose and our harse, our owce and our hem

Were never a hice[xi] as it is for them

So dumb in their globalising syndrome,

Instead, this mongrel language is our only home.

All of us now, with you and me,

Together we are this shared country.


Doug Nicholls


[i] At primary school there’d occasionally be a ‘bundle’ in the playground. Everyone would suddenly jump onto each other to form a human ball of wriggling, giggling, flailing laughter and semi-serious fighting influenced by old school Saturday afternoon wrestling, all phoney pain and exaggerated moves. It was the opposite of social distancing and expressed a primitive desire to get physically close in the litter. I imagine in this account that kids and campaigners join us in the bundle from all over the country and our history as we tumble with pleasure for the newly free Britain on 1st January 2021.

[ii] British bull dog is a child’s game a bit like tag with cage fighting rules. Runners between two lines at either end of the field of play are all fair game for pinning down as cruelly as possible for three seconds by the initially randomly selected ‘bulldogs’ who menacingly shout British bull dog 1,2,3 as quickly as possible to give their supine prey no chance. If so pinned for three nano seconds, the victim becomes a new bulldog hunter themselves and chases others ferociously. The last toddler standing has the forlorn task of taking on the entire savage pack and usually gets flattened one step across the starting line.It was once a staple game in cub and scout groups , it was eventually banned in schools for its tendency to overburden hospital A&E wards.

[iii] The Scottish born Irish trade union and socialist leader.

[iv] Wat Tyler peasant rebel leader, John Lilburne Leveller leader, Robert Kett leader of the often neglected 1549 rebellions.

[v] John Burns, Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, socialist and trade union leaders.

[vi] The great Match Girls strike 1888 that inspired so many.

[vii] Leather tanners were not always welcome guests at parties due to the time they spent at work with gallons of urine and other unxious potions of animal fat and brains used in the tanning process.

[viii] Gerard Winstanley, leader of the Digger Movement in the mid seventeenth century and great prose writer of early pre industrial communist ideas.

[ix] One of the many Protestant martyrs whose role in creating our post feudal world and democratic character is often neglected.

[x] Bob Crow socialist and trade union leader who formed No2EU in 2009 and really got things moving.

[xi] Hice is the received pronunciation of house as in, snootily, the Hice of Lords. Christ Church College in Oxford is often referred to as the Hice.

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