Poem of the year

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The Independent Online

If headlines are what starts your car The year was anything but dull

If headlines are what starts your car
The year was anything but dull
Yet 'Noughty-one was scarce begun
Before the reader craved a lull
With rain and sleet the winter beat
The city suburb and the town
While foot-and-mouth went north to south
To close the cowering country down
New rules ordained our ailing trains
Could only crawl, if move at all
Resultant traffic chaos reigned
Which brought the nation to a stall
And if this wasn't bad enough
The raging virus now gave grounds
For over-keen authorities
To put the footpaths out of bounds.
With nowhere left but sides of roads
To cycle, walk or take the dog,
The sight of burning cows and sheep
On fields and farmland turned to bog
Was final straw of final straws
For farmers who'd been so depressed
And had to end an awful winter
Under virtual house arrest.
So when at last the season passed
And spring sploshed up the sodden lane
Unprecedented verdancy
Brought scant relief in teeming rain.

The teacher shortage made the news
And offers came of better pay
But when the register was marked
With Sir and Miss both still "away"
Our frantic education chiefs
Like poachers gathered round a map
Now scoured our former colonies
For teaching staff to fill the gap
Though as with ailing National Health
We've dawdled 20 years or so
And never twigged that private wealth
Brings public poverty in tow.

In spring a young man's fancy turned
To: could elections now be fought
With burning cattle in the shires?
As if it merited the thought
With voters mired in apathy
And Opposition in a mess
The agony and enmity
When Labour walked it – more or less
The turnout low and Hague too slow
Meant Labour punched above its weight
Quite literally, in Prescott's case
By thumping the electorate.

As Blair and Brown rolled up their sleeves
A chill wind blew across the sea
Recession in the salty breeze
And show-time for the MPC
A half-point here, a half-point there
A phoney war? The summer sun
Shone on. Until the towers fell
Eleven, nine, two thousand, one.
The date, embossed on images
I'm not inclined to dwell upon
Would yield more column inches then
Than pillars of the Parthenon
It left less room for other news
Like Jeffrey Archer in the stocks
Or laws relaxed on cannabis
In autumn rocked by aftershocks.

The cult of the celebrity
Had perished, so we'd later hear
And just to put the pennies on
The eyes of an appalling year
The youngest Beatle passed away
"All Things Must Pass'', our headline said
As will this year eventually.
Let's hope for better times ahead.

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