In Competition No. 2751 you were invited to paint a portrait in verse of Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot. In his Turf column last year, Robin Oakley wondered what the poet who, in 1823, described ‘the Thursday goings-on as “Ladies Day …when the women, like angels, look sweetly divine”’ would make of today’s proceedings. Well, the entry is a fulsome tribute to the Ladies of 2012, urging us to delight in the life-enhancing antics and ensembles that raise them hats and shoulder pads above their ‘angelic’ predecessors. The winners pocket £25 apiece. Brian Allgar gets £30.
The ladies are charming, although it’s alarming
To see how they jostle and chatter —
‘And guess what he said, dear…’ — while wearing
So fragile I fear it may shatter.
We’ve the usual collections of fruity confections,
But this year they’re mostly organic;
The rotting bananas would fill up a barn as
The hats grow increasingly manic.
Here’s one that’s quite ‘dishy’: a hat that is fishy,
Embellished with flounders and kippers.
(And bottoms are flaunted, their owners
Though few as delightful as Pippa’s.)
The girls are angelic, and only a relic
Could wish that these beanstalks were fatter.
But as for the hats, I’ve just one word, and that’s
That their wearers are mad as a hatter!
You would not mistake them for ladies
In the old-fashioned sense of the term,
These brazen young floozies from Hades
Who make Ascot’s upper crust squirm.
They move in a pack or battalion.
Their handbags are loaded with gin,
Their colour sense rather Italian
And orange the shade of their skin.
They tweet like a bevy of lemurs;
They smoke like a broken exhaust;
Their skirts soon ride up to their femurs;
But their natural joy is unforced.
Don’t address them with sour admonitions
As they frolic and blare in the sun.
Try to shake off your own inhibitions,
And nuts to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.
Horses, course, the runners, riders
Form the backdrop while the rich
Take their place as rank insiders
In this festival of kitsch:
Men are decorous in toppers
Parading ladies round their paddock —
Some wear soufflé, some wear whoppers;
Some look louder than Ruth Madoc.
Flanks unsweating, nostrils flaring —
Milliners are whipped who’ve idled —
The fashionistas, stared at, staring,
Strut and preen, their style unbridled.
On the Ascot catwalk teeter
Goddesses no suns diminish —
Each one is a female praetor
Hoping for a photo finish.
Ladettes and golden lasses — all
these angels undone in their Fall —
whose starting-gate is Waterloo,
this giggling gaggle’s rendezvous —
who teeter, totter in tall heels,
who grate the air with steel-sharp squeals,
and, breakfasted on Chardonnay,
are lit up for the coming day.
The Ascot scene is set ablaze
in ever more outlandish ways:
is that a skirt, or bandage? Yes!
she’s really knickerless! Who’d guess —
although they’re wriggly, squirmier —
some will get hypothermia
plus, next day, being exposed (front page!)
to righteous readers’ morning rage.
Bowls of fruit, bouquets of flowers,
Things like feathered cocktail mats,
Boldly geometric towers,
Birds on bobbing habitats,
That, my dears, was just the hats.
Thigh-length boots and silver slippers
Six inch heels in reds and blues
Wedgies shaped like sparkling flippers,
Obviously Jimmy Choos.
Such impracticable shoes!
Then a storm blew up from nowhere,
Clouds disgorged from skies turned grey:
Surely fashionable rainwear
Is a safer card to play
On an Ascot Ladies’ Day!
When the women like angels look sweetly divine
In their frocks and their hats of exciting design,
When the Widow’s on ice and the weather is fine,
It’s a wonderful day at the races!
The hampers from Fortnums are bursting with
The sun on your face is remarkably pleasant,
And nobody here is a pleb or a peasant,
A marvellous day at the races!
There’s nothing to smack of deceit or skulduggery,
No foul-ups, no punch-ups, no theft and no
Just gee-gees all shifting their arses like buggery,
A fabulous day at the races!
Lovely ladies, sweet ladies, how graceful your gait,
As you teeter and totter in rather a state,
And my nags all come in at a-hundred-to-eight,
An astonishing day at the races!
No. 2754: political verse
You are invited to submit an example from the Selected Poems of a contemporary politician (16 lines maximum). Please email entries, where possible, to email@example.com by midday on 3 July.