Ian McMillan: Glib tidings I bring

Ian McMillan
Ian McMillan
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I took on extra work this year to fill the family purse; I agreed to pen the occasional original Christmas greeting verse. You know the kind of thing I mean: behind the snowy Yuletide scene, the sentiments both loud and clear expressed in rhyme that drips with cheer, that fizzes like the brightest beer or tugs the heartstrings, brings a tear.

The brief was tight and expressed thus: short verse is best, don’t make a fuss; use the clichés, use them well, it’s a simple story that you tell. So on a Monday morning I began. I had a fine and simple plan: fifteen verses then kettle on. Merry Christmas, Grandma, Grandad, Son. Merry Christmas to my wife. My lines were sharp as a carving knife and light as a winter’s sighing breeze blowing snow from December trees. My words they shone with Christmas light that cut right through the chilly night. My poems were truly sentimental, never using language that was detrimental.

I wrote things like: At this precious Christmas time I bring you greetings with a rhyme and you are my Christmas star, I send you love brought from afar. Merry Christmas to my brother, this Christmas will be like no other. I even wrote: Merry Christmas to my pet and may this be the best one yet.

But then I found I couldn’t stop; I talked in rhyme in the paper shop. “Can I have a Yorkshire Post, the paper that I like the most?” I spoke in rhyme to folks I’d meet: “I saw you walking down the street; are those new shoes upon your feet? I see they are just the right size and I see they’re brown to match your eyes.” Then I’d go home, pick up the pen and write a verse or two or ten.

Writing cards just swamped my life; didn’t see the grandkids, kids or wife. “Where’s Ian gone?” said my brother John, ‘I’ve not seen him for ages!” “He’s in the back room,” said my wife, “filling his pages and pages.”

I became addicted, that’s a fact. I couldn’t stop the versing act. I’d spring from bed at 3am when I thought of a rhyming gem and then when I was on a train I’d scribble ideas from my rhyming brain. Sometimes I wrote ten a day then I am ashamed to say my problem it got out of hand and I wrote 100 a day but please understand, there was no diminution in quality: number 86 was just as good as number 33.

Then I’m afraid the bad news came. The card firm said: “Your rhymes are tame. They’re not as sparkly as you claim. They’re becoming tired and lame. To put it bluntly, they’re all the same. Here’s your red card in the Christmas game. You’ll have to hunt elsewhere for fame.”

Devastated, I sat back. From writing verse I’d got the sack. I was now a former poet. I was upset but I didn’t show it. Instead I sat and wrote this ditty: “May your Christmas be fine and your presents pretty. When the washing up comes may your relatives be willin’. Merry Christmas from your friend Ian McMillan.”