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Poetry Pleases: Ceremonial Headgear

Ivor Murrell’s vivid poem tells of a man who always wore a hat while going about his daily business which on some occasions was pungently unsavoury.

He always put his hat on when the doorbell rang,
a tired green trilby, the Jay feather in the band
his only gesture to anything aesthetic.
This was no sense of style, that was long past,
but a pragmatic automatic action.
The hat had purpose, if the caller was business
he was ready, if not he was just off out.
He always worked with the hat on.
In the Fifties there were few lorry owners
who would take any small or awkward task
but for the right price, he would.
I never heard him quote without the hat on
it seemed part of the process, producing a price
often before the job was fully described.
So fast sometimes that the hat underpriced.
Customers from the higher social orders
generated some respect within the hat,
but never enough for its removal.

Removing manure from the local hunt kennels
was obviously considered a status role,
the hat priced fast and low, a deferential bow
to the local gentries’ effulgent sporting soul.
But after inspecting the task in daylight
his son was enlisted to join him at the site,
an unspoken promise of a memorable outing,
for which the boy should wear his wellingtons.

It was memorable,
over fifty years later it is still memorable:
the sour stench of sheep carcasses and horse shit,
ribs and skulls struggling from the steaming greasy mound
had a rancid thickness that dissolved on the tongue
and tainted instantly everything it touched,
as the boy discovered when he sank up to his knees.

Much later that day, with the load on board
The hat decided on reward, and the lorry stopped
just outside the crowded West End Chip Shop
when the son protested at the length of the queue
the hat tipped back, and the judgement ensued,
“Go in, they won’t keep you waiting boy”.

**

Do visit Ivor’s Web site www.versifier.co.uk

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