Spectator competition winners: Nursery rhymes for the pandemic

14 August 2021

9:00 AM

14 August 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3211 you were invited to submit a nursery rhyme inspired by the pandemic.

When I set this challenge, I had in mind ‘Ring-a-Ring o’ Roses’, the rhyme that is said by some to date from the Great Plague of 1665 (though its origins are a subject of hot scholarly dispute).

In a medium-sized entry, Brian Murdoch, Nicholas Lee, Leslie Bresnen, David Shields and Barbara Jones caught my eye and earn honourable mentions. Equally impressive was Tom Singleton’s clever twist on the ‘Hokey-Cokey’: ‘Keep the public in, let the public out,/ In, out, in, out, you mess them all about,/ You make a slow decision, then you turn around, that’s what it’s all about… Oh, the jokey blokey! Oh, the jokey blokey! Oh, the jokey blokey! U-turn, never learns! Rah-rah-rah!’.

But the prizes go to those entries printed below, which earn their authors £30 apiece.

Blow, blow, blow your nose, queue up for vaccine,
Fight your friends for toilet rolls. Infectious? Quarantine.
Self, self, self-isolate, as the law demands,
Home-school your beloved kids, scream into your hands.
Wash, wash, wash with soap, lockdown boredom reigns,
Wear a mask for every task and curse the Delta strains.
Book, book, book your trips while travel bubbles hold,
rooms at boring local spots are worth their weight in gold.
Work, work, work from home, say you’re on the job,
catch up with your Netflix queue, dressing like a slob.
Bake, bake, bake your fifteenth batch of sourdough bread,
stuff your face with homemade cake, watch your waistline spread.
Tap, tap, tap your app, let them test and trace,
pray you weren’t in contact with the sixty-seventh case.
Keep, keep, keep apart, distance socially,
cancel all events again, we’ll wed in ’23.
Janine Beacham

If you’re thanking all the nurses, clap your hands,
Thanking Heaven for small mercies, clap your hands;
Make a lot of noise and show it,
Making sure the neighbours know it,
Blow a whistle, bang a pan and clap your hands.
If you think they’re underpaid, stamp your feet,
If you think they’ve been betrayed, stamp your feet,
Underfunded down the years,
It could only end in tiers,
Blow a whistle, bang a pan and stamp your feet.
And does Boris give a damn? Shake your head; 
About Jonathan Van Tam? Shake your head.
Do you think that it’s a pity
They don’t listen to Chris Witty,
Blow your whistle, bang your pan and nod your head.
David Silverman

Mary had a little cough 
That caused her lots of woe 
And everywhere that Mary went 
The cough was sure to go. 
It went with her to school one day 
Which was against the rule 
It made the children leave their play 
And some got very ill. 
Then children’s friends and friends of friends 
Caught Mary’s cough as well. 
How many thousands picked it up 
Was very hard to tell. 
Some people who caught Mary’s cough 
Went travelling north and south 
And so across the globe was spread 
The bug from Mary’s mouth. 
Frank McDonald

Dr Foster went to Klosters 
Double-jabbed and tested, 
The Alps turned red, so home he fled, 
And promptly got arrested 
Dr Foster went to Costa’s 
For Americano, 
The Trace and Track are on his back — 
Insanus re corpore sano 
Dr Foster went to Tosca
Took along his lawyer; 
Whose words on tort availeth naught — 
They never left the foyer 
Poor old Dr Foster’s lost a 
Battle with Compliance; 
Now he stays home, and all alone: 
He’s following the science 
Nick Syrett

Girls and boys are at the gate, 
Teacher’s had to isolate, 
No more lessons, ting-a-ling, 
Leave with a whoop when you hear the ‘ping’. 
Half the school has started sneezing
Just in time for the PM’s ‘easing’, 
Will they or won’t they get a test? 
Leave it to Boris, ’cos he knows best. 
Come with your playmates into the street, 
It’s the place where boys and girls can meet, 
We’re off to the market and no one will ask 
Why we’re not hidden behind a mask. 
A ha’penny loaf is all we’ll find, 
The shelves are empty, but we don’t mind, 
We’ll play with our playmates and give them a hug, 
No one’s afraid of the Covid bug! 
Sylvia Fairley

No 3214: face time

Portraitists always have the final say on their sitters. For the sake of fairness, you are invited to choose a well-known painted portrait and let it speak for itself, in up to 16 lines or 150 words. Please email entries to by midday on 25 August.

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