Myths We Can’t Do Without

Myths We Can’t Do Without

 

The unicorn is a mythical beast whose existence is problematical
But it does not really affect us if its hooves we ne’er hear patter
Because belief in such a horned horse is still quite enigmatical
Unlike other myths forming part of our life which really do matter

For instance our belief in money, not just those shiny new notes
But bank balances held on computers and displayed on multiple screens
Such numbers represent our current cash and even our future hopes
And of our right to this mythical money we’ll let no one intervene

Another great myth is democracy, which of itself is a fragile substance
It relies on collective agreement to accept the will of the people
And thus laws are created that seek to prevent injustice
And high respect is accorded to the principle that all of us are equal

Then there is incorporeal property, anything which is quite intangible
Unlike houses, furniture, equipment, clothes and the like
Mortgages, shares and bonds, and other paper whose value is changeable
Our collective trust in unreal things seems to be almost childlike

Then there are many other “myths” which we seem unable to do without
Social conventions, long standing traditions, original sin and the life of faith
The passage of years and modern thought have failed these notions to wipe out
Despite our sophistication they provide an anchorage that’s still safe

So while belief in the unicorn may now be outdated
And Santa Claus can safely be given his pension
Trusting in myths is by no means outmoded
Thus our modern society demands their retention

Ken Fisher

 

Harvest Thanksgiving

Harvest Thanksgiving

I wonder if anyone, other than farmers, gives thanks
For the in-gathering of the harvest?
Yet it is that time of year again when churchgoers
Are reminded to be grateful for the yield of the earth
Perhaps we are so removed from it that pumpkins or pineapples
Flown in from China and Colombia don’t have the same impact

But we do realise that we all have to eat and it doesn’t
Materialize by magic on to supermarket shelves
Like sanitized meat portions of which we decline
To enquire further of their provenance, so too with the
Fruit and vegetables and everything else we consume
Our only thanksgiving is by paying the price demanded

Of course in the background we are aware that
all this is not achieved without multiple efforts –  physical,
logistical, technical and political – perhaps spiritual
if we credit God with any participation
And this may introduce a moral dimension as we consider
Climate change, migrant workers, and fair trade, even Brexit!

Of course our problem is that for most of us
We are remote from ever getting our fingers dirty
By the soil, or raising a sweat by physical labour
Perhaps our greatest suffering is backache caused by
Squinting at computer screens, and frustration
At slow down-load speeds and threats of hacking

And yet economists will tell us that all our efforts
contribute to the national ‘harvest’. Whether simply the classical
Factors of production – land, labour and capital
Or the new ‘knowledge economy’ which seems
To conjure wealth from mere ideas
And in the future will there be thanksgiving for
the robots who will take our work?

Ken Fisher

Unfettered Catastrophizing

Unfettered Catastrophizing
[One man’s description of our press and media]

No such thing as Good Tidings of Great Joy
News only news if it conveys catastrophe
That’s the creed that editors live by
News only news if it trumpets calamity

A world serene, characterized by peace
Not news unless interrupted by disaster
A diet of accident, fire, bloodshed and disease
Such graphic scenes described by the newscaster

Of course we know we cannot deny life’s tragedy
The press does have a moral duty to report
To sanitize news bulletins would of course be calumny
But is it not surprising how little good news they exhort?

Must our media ever resort to catastrophizing?
Every incident, every misdemeanor, every commotion
Showcased into something quite tantalizing
Designed to evoke the strongest of emotion

Shock, horror, the watchwords of our press
Perhaps this is the dying cry of a threatened tribe
The slant of their news reveals their own distress
In a world which increasingly ignores the scribe.

Ken Fisher

Traffic Jams

Traffic Jams

The bane of modern living is the daily traffic jam
When the flow of vehicles forms a metallic dam
We sit there a prisoner in our little solo cell
With no easy escape from this very private hell

But somehow we seem prepared to endure this daily grind
As commuters we have been sensitized to problems of this kind
After all we’re not alone as we crawl along the highway
Surrounded by mass travellers as we take a quick glance sideways

As long as we keep moving we seem to be appeased
But when others break lane discipline we surely are not pleased
A string of shiny red lights ahead is a warning we don’t like
And if we stop completely we might be tempted just to hike

But of course we won’t leave this cosy little capsule
Even if lack of progress will destroy the daily schedule
Because we are safer just to hang on in there, however long it takes
Missing all the deadlines and the subsequent heartache

We are tuned into the traffic news which brings us little comfort
And we know a stern warning awaits when our boss we must confront
But we will tell her we were not alone on that crowded motorway
Not the only worker with a bad start to their day

Unfortunately there is a thought in our head which will not go away
No matter otherwise the progress of the day
And that notion is the prospect looming ever closer
The journey home in twilight’s gloom might well be even slower

Ken Fisher

[This poem is published on the day the new Queensferry Crossing
on the Forth opened to traffic (30 Aug 2017)]

 

 

Would You Credit It?

Would You Credit It?
The Credit Crunch – Ten Years on
August 9th 2007 was acknowledged to
be the start of the notorious Credit Crunch

We’ve lost those days of easy spending
Supported by our banker’s lending
Good-bye to wine, blooms by the bunch
Thanks to the wretched credit crunch

How has this happened, what has gone wrong?
Failed to save for far too long?
Or in our dealings with the bank
Not always been entirely frank

The truth it seems is more elusive
The money men are quite evasive
You might have thought they would be frank
Helping us to trust our bank

Unknown to us behind the scenes
Our cash obscured by complex screens
Was sweetened up like golden honey
But ended up as “funny money”

In former days banks held deposits
And lent from only their own closet
But now-a-days that’s not enough
Competition’s far too tough

So out into the money market
Like Mother Hubbard with her basket
To multiply her store of cash
Nothing ever seemed too rash

To profit from this increased store
The banks got ready to explore
Lending out to whomsovever
Re-inventing the “never-never “

It mattered not how you would pay,
Or from the contract you might stray
The banks were there to do a deal
No matter how that made you feel

If soon you found you’re out of luck
Re-payment made you come unstuck
Instead of payments made on time
You very soon became “sub-prime”

The US bankers took the lead
Meeting every borrower’s need
But very soon the world at large
Ensured they too had joined the charge

A new regime came into place
To grant huge loans and win the race
Thus none of us need ever wait
To meet our needs however great

Every banker now must sell
To prudence they all said farewell
But every spender really happy
Credit granted very snappy

But then it all became unstuck
Spenders seemed to lose their luck
As they began to hit the red
Bankers could not sleep in bed

Suddenly their glorious plan
Amazingly “had hit the fan”
Borrowers gathered at the dole
Bankers seemed to lose control

This enterprise had somehow stumbled
As one by one the moguls crumbled
Thus had begun what seemed quite viral
Disease around the world did spiral

Quite suddenly as if by stealth
The end of our financial health
No longer ever in ascension
Our house, our shares, indeed the pension

Well is there any consolation
Word of comfort for the nation
Perhaps it’s this – why do we trust
In things so quickly turned to dust?

Ken Fisher

Do we deserve what we earn, and earn what we deserve?

Do we deserve what we earn, and earn what we deserve?

[Prompted by recent press reports on salaries paid
to BBC high earners] 

The press has been full of reports of generous pay
Of high profile broadcasters in our modern day
And this has prompted a lively debate
Some giving praise, but others berate

Perhaps it’s just envy that they are paid so much
Astronomical amounts that we’ll never touch
But the discussions seem charged with heavy emotion
As we can’t get a raise or even promotion

I suppose it ‘s because many of those who gain such a lot
Seem to have jobs that demand limited thought
And the public are funding their celebrity status
With little regard as to how all this affects us

We are told that in matters of remuneration
The market demand results in inflation
So with such unique skills and rare attributes
Celebrities expect to taste sumptuous fruit

But what of the millions on the so-called living wage?
It is not surprising if they work up a rage
For surely they deserve a bigger slice of the cake
As a fair reward for the effort they make

Of course whatever our place in the hierarchy of work
We should all do our best, no-one should shirk
We must deserve what we earn for whatever we do
But how much we earn must be equitable too

And perhaps we must question the rewards some folk gain
Funding a lifestyle of caviar and champagne
While others struggle each week to survive
And seriously question how they might ever thrive

Ken Fisher

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

“Wake up and smell the coffee” is apparently a call to action
A set of circumstances, an affair, demanding our reaction
It would appear that we might have been caught sleeping
Time now for us to act, and wake from idle dreaming

Some say the expression is used to tell us we are wrong
Time for a sharp rethink to move our thoughts along
Others say it is just a phrase to say we must wake up
To harsh realities, so many problems piling up

Wake and smell the coffee tells us to become aware
Not hide below the duvet or even turn to prayer
For although prayer may have its rightful place
Nonetheless these issues we simply now must face

So when someone reminds us of that beverage we should smell
It’s obviously something helpful that they wish to tell
And if we are truly wise we will produce a prompt reaction
A timely answer to advice which springs us into action

Ken Fisher

The Singer Clock

The Singer Clock

 

Singer is a name you won’t easily forget
For decades this brand ruled supreme in
the world of sewing machine production
from treadle power to sophisticated control

Even today you will find Singer machines
in Asian sweatshops and chic fashion houses
But in Clydebank, Singer was also renowned
for its massive factory clock on a tower

For miles around, this monstrosity could be seen
Signifying industrial power and market domination
But like so much of Scottish industry it met with decline
And even the clock gave its final tick in March 1963

When the clock first appeared in 1885 in Clydebank,
then the European headquarters of this early multi-national
It signified the wealth and importance of the enterprise
And its enormous timepiece was a symbolic crown on success

Unfortunately this chronometer probably hung like
an albatross around the neck of the business
It was powered by massive cast iron weights
driving the mechanism that required twice weekly winding

Over the years of the 20th century several changes
were made to the clock. The dials and numerals
were redesigned and various forms of illumination
were employed, inside by gas, outside by spotlights

None of these was very successful, being too dim
or casting unwanted shadows from the internal machinery
In 1928 a total of 145 lamps were attached to the hands!
Then World War II snuffed out illumination and almost Clydebank

After the war, when some normality was restored
The clock came back into service with new enamelled
“Singer” signs re-lit for all to see from far away
But the fate of the clock was on the horizon

In 1963 the clock was finally ceremonially stopped
“As part of area reorganisation in the interests of
production with a smaller labour force”
The aluminium hands were made into souvenir ashtrays!

This was before smoking (and domestic sewing machines) became much less fashionable!

Ken Fisher

Background material from International Sewing Machine Collectors’ Society website.

Get Wired In

Get Wired In
[for National Paper Clip Day]

I wonder if like me, you had no idea
That there is a useful device that brings us cheer
It’s a humble item of office equipment
Which ensures our papers get proper treatment

I am referring to a widget often overlooked
But is ever so useful to keep our sheets hooked
Together in some storage container or file
Where they need to reside for quite a while

This simple device, just a bent piece of wire
To greater fame it would never aspire
But the service of the humble paper clip
Is vital to ensure that loose pages don’t slip

So today I am told is National Paper Clip Day
And coincides with another office holiday
So perhaps all the paper clips will straighten themselves out
And leap from the desk-tidy as they dance and shout

For we certainly should celebrate the paper clip
Whose value our minds will often let slip
We should rejoice in its power to keep things together
An example we humans might sometimes remember

Ken Fisher

 

typo

typo

Discovering you have made an unfortunate typo
Is enough to turn a sane man into a sycho
After you’v checked every word of the script
Your reputation for accuracy has suddenly sliped

Typos come in many different disgises
Sometimes in ways that would even surprise us
You find them as as unintended duplication
And ocassionally with ones’ wrong punctuation

Spelling as you see is very often a trap
Resulting in many a ritten mishap
And of course there is the sin of omis ion
Its something that would justify strong admonision

Of course such prolbems we can quiet easily solve
And a good spell-chequer would these mostly resolve
Typos might simply be caused by a smelling mistake
And with determination the foul habit we’ll brake

An example of a typo I will never forget
Caused the passing public quite an upset
A sculptor, on a statue, carved out the following inscription
“This monument was paid for by pubic subscription”

Ken Fisher

Cyber Safe

Cyber Safe

 

All of a sudden we have become more aware
Of the potential dangers lurking out there
When we had assumed that all our data’s secure
And of our privacy we felt we could still be sure

But news of the latest world wide hacking
And of storage devices the blatant ransacking
Our sacrosanct records hitherto inviolate
Some unknown intruder sought to liberate

And not only did these felons seek to gain access
Their aim was by blackmail to achieve much success
And by extortion derive a profit quite handsome
By demanding from us a large bit-coin ransom

If we did not accede to their outrageous demands
They would wrest possession out of our hands
And we could no longer govern our business affairs
Or financial assets held in banks, bonds or shares

And health authorities that maintain records of patients
Found that not only people but systems acquired complications
And so the way in which we run things in all organisations
Were subject to widespread data starvation

And when we reflect on the risks around cyber security
When so many computers now have little immunity
One wonders if perhaps we should take a step back
And use chalk and slate – much less easy to hack!

 

Ken Fisher

White Van Man

White Van Man

 

If I am honest with myself I am filled with prejudice
Because I view the white van man as if he were some vice
In recent years he has come to dominate our streets
And this type of vehicle seems to come in fleets

He (or she) weaves their way throughout the heavy traffic
At speeds as good as any Jeremy Clarkson fanatic
And when they decide to stop and block the thoroughfare
For the other road users they simply don’t seem to care

Of course the rise of this modern entrepreneur
From humble tradesman quite obscure
To ubiquitous solution for all that we desire
Gives a quick and easy nostrum if only we will hire

Apart from all the crafts and trades traditional
White van men now handle things much less conventional
So pet grooming, dog walking, or if your walls need scraping
Portable discos, barbecues, or even some landscaping

White van man has found a way to access all locations
The sat nav easily pinpoints any house throughout the nation
And despite the fact he may cause mighty road congestion
He will eventually get there, of that there is no question

Because we have fallen in love with on-line shopping
All these parcels will then need rapid shipping
So the white van can be detected night and day
He must meet his target-time and never go astray

Perhaps instead of getting peeved at the sight of white van man
We should be thankful for all that’s concealed inside his van
Whether it is his skill and the tools to meet our needs
Or on-line goods from Amazon and favourite books to read

Ken Fisher