‘Dictionaries of National Biography’, by Brian Turner

My father’s father, quirky
and inquisitive till the end,
was the first to tell me

you never stop learning.
Well, I don’t know about you
but this fine December morrning

I learnt that Krishna Menon
was deemed devastatingly’
attractive to women, Jane Austen

showed few signs of having
much of a sense of humour,
Florence Nightingale, the Lady

with the Lamp, was ‘a good mimic’
and Thomas Batty, the first man
to train an elephant to stand

on its head, died in a lunatic
asylum. Also, the not always grand
Duke of York succumbed

to dropsy. So what about me,
then, as 62 approaches?
As my father caustically said

each time he saw me
for months before he died,
I need a haircut.


  1. Once upon a time I used to think that well-educated people were ‘learned’. Not any more Bruce.


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