In Competition No. 3221, you were invited to submit an ode on the Marble Arch Mound. The 25 metre-high artificial hillock, dubbed ‘Teletubby Hill’, has drawn near universal mockery and derision, leaving Westminster City Council red-faced and poorer to the tune of £6 million. But it inspired a funny, imaginative entry, with a strong whiff of Keats and Wordsworth. The Bard of Dundee, channelled by Brian Murdoch, speaks for many:
When the Mound next to Marble Arch was first erected
You had to pay to walk up it, which made many good folk dejected…
Commendations go to Bob Trewin and George Simmers; the winners earn £25.
I hail thee, Mound! O mightiest of peaks,
That towereth o’er adoring Oxford Street
Like high Olympus, thronged by ancient Greeks,
Or Pan’s Parnassus, paced by pilgrim feet!
As mighty Rome is crowned by Palatine,
Whence her Imperial power proudly flowed
Through arch of Titus and of Constantine,
Thou, Mound, surveyeth glorious Edgware Road!
I watch — as Moses, by God’s edict banned,
Once wistfully beheld from Nebo’s heights
The milk and honey of that Promised Land —
The streets of London, where I spend my nights;
My cardboard home, its corrugated lid,
The conscience cup of Costa whence I sup
Beneath a Mound that cost six million quid —
O Mound! Art thou what’s meant by Levelling Up?
My knee aches, and a weary glumness drains
All hope of ever climbing to the top
Where from a grey and gloomy sky the rains
On soggy sedum turf begin to drop.
’Tis not for want of keenness I advance
Nor fear of failure though the way be hard
But for an opportunity, perchance,
To spot the distant London Eye or Shard!
Thou wast not built to last, O transient mound
Raised on a skeleton of scaffold poles,
But for a while to soar above the ground
And thrill with glorious views our earthbound souls.
Yet once atop, forlorn I stand and gaze
Through mist at naught my eyes had longed to greet,
And in the gloom of drizzle drear and haze,
I barely see the turf beneath my feet.
Unravish’d Mound, a bride without her bouquet,
Requires a star attraction as her groom.
Not Nelson’s Column (boring stick, too tacky),
The Gherkin? Crass, and lacking in aplomb.
Madame Tussauds? Mon Dieu, the place is tasteless.
The Chelsea Flower Show? Too posh and quaint.
The London Eye? Its views are much too different,
St Paul’s; how dull! She couldn’t wed a saint.
She looks towards a cleaner, greener city,
While urging shoppers back to Oxford Street.
Big Ben’s a bore, the Globe is mediocre,
The Tower of London simply can’t compete.
No, she’s the Marble Arch bride; what a couple!
They’ll draw the tourists, praise and lasting fame.
Uncounted fans will climb to view the city,
While old attractions bow their heads in shame.
Mountain of steel and rolled-out sedum turf,
crag-girded cynosure of Oxford Street!
Your moonlit zinc draws lightning down to earth
and in your skirts High Art and Commerce meet.
O happy mound set in a sea of goods —
who could disdain you? Only misanthropes,
if Primark naiads nurse the mile-high hopes
of goat-legged boyfriends from Arcadian ’hoods
while hamadryads boss your bosky woods
and hi-vis nymphs patrol your terraced slopes.
Below dull Marble Arch and London clay
long lurked your slippery orogenous zone,
soft strata silked like Mayfair lingerie
against tectonic plates of Marylebone,
until your mons amoris breached the day
to gladden roving eye and mobile phone.
Hillock of fake and threadbare barrenness,
Sad foster-child of fairground and waste time;
Joke-installation, how can we express
Our thoughts except in old form, borrowed rhyme?
Who are these coming with their entrance fees?
From what flat fen-scapes, lacking height or hill,
To climb your iron steps with shaking knees?
What needs, what empty hopes could you fulfil?
Has Nature nothing genuine to give?
Hampstead, perhaps, with its superior views?
A lofty place where lofty people live,
But free to walkers, dogs, and those who choose
To shun such toy-town novelty, this plan
Drawn up in airless rooms with desperate frown;
No beauty and no truth, and no more than
An artefact awaiting levelling down.
Looking at you, mad man-made mound,
I couldn’t help but wonder why
A public body tore up ground
To interrupt the London sky.
Your presence is embarrassing
Beside John Nash’s stately span.
You are an ersatz zombie thing,
The dream child of Westminster Man.
You drag the shoppers off the street
For half an hour or more and then
You redirect their plodding feet
To wander and consume again.
I’ve visited mounds, smooth and bare
Or covered by an overgrowth,
And loved them all, both dark and fair,
But in your case I’m more than loath.
No. 3224: Tourist misinformation
Now that we are allowed to travel more freely, it’s a good time to resurrect an old favourite. You are invited to submit snippets of misleading advice either for tourists visiting Britain or for British tourists travelling abroad. Please email entries to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 3 November.
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