Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition winners: poems about HS2

Spectator competition winners: poems about HS2
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The idea to ask for poems about HS2 came to me as I was listening on YouTube to W.H. Auden’s poem ‘Night Mail’, which he wrote to accompany a section of the terrific 1936 documentary about the London to Glasgow Postal Special directed by Basil Wright and Harry Watt (who described Auden as looking like a ‘half-witted Swedish deckhand’).

Not altogether surprisingly, the tone of the entry was less celebratory than Auden’s, with the notable exception of Carolyn Thomas-Coxhead’s prize-winning submission, written in the finest MacGonagallese. Her fellow victors are rewarded with £30 apiece and George Simmers snaffles the extra fiver.

George Simmers

There’s a thunder down the line at eleven fifty


And there’ll be another due at twelve o-six.

Yes, several times each hour a train of massive


Is hurtling busy townies through the sticks,

And leering through the glass of a window in

      first class

(At meadows trashed and woodlands bulldozed


Is a vicious tabby gent claiming dubious descent

From Skimbleshanks, the famous Railway Cat.

His moggy grin is mirthless, mocking dwellings

      rendered worthless

By the track that’s scarred the centre of the


Skimble Junior (‘Call me Skimby!’) hisses scorn

      for every nimby

Who’s inclined to sob at rural devastation.

There’s no mercy in his features for otters or

      such creatures

Who have lost their fine and ancient habitat.

‘Businessmen demand a beeline!’ mews this

      hard efficient feline,

Skimble Junior, the modern high-speed cat.

Basil Ransome-Davies

It’s as pointless as cheating at patience,

As cuckoo as ironing the cat,

A businessmen’s scheme, a commercial wet


In the shape of a formal diktat.

Though the magic words ‘northern’ and


Pronounced like a mystical spell,

Are combined to inspire, setting all hearts on


They exude a pestiferous smell.

Prepare for those time and cost overruns

As it links cities already linked

But at much greater speed, like a junkie in need,

All reason and judgment extinct.

Perhaps in some dim, distant future

A drone locomotive will zoom

Through environments grey with exhausted


And a dreamlike, Ballardian gloom.

D.A. Prince

This monster-clogging transportation

with costs outstripping past inflation,

loading despair on expectation

across the whole mistrustful nation;

this can’t be simply job creation

to give a workless population

something for hope and exultation

instead of permanent stagnation;

this hare-brained scheme is suffocation

of countryside and preservation,

revealing London’s concentration

on rural life’s elimination;

the HS2 is pure damnation

from birth to final destination.

And what would bring us some elation?

An end to this embuggeration.

Carolyn Thomas-Coxhead

All success to the project HS2!

It’s designed by Her Majesty’s Government for

      people like me and you

Who want to get very quickly from London to


And be able to do so in great comfort, all built

      on the proceeds

Of enormous private investment and revenue


(’Tis one of the Department for Transport’s

      greatest dreams)

Which is very good news since it looks as though

      it’ll cost dear

And George Osborne hopes that China will see

      its way clear

To stump up for some of those three hundred

      and fifty one miles of new track

Which will pass through, under or above several

      beautiful places, to which some cry ‘Alack!’

These high speed trains are most beautiful to see

And may possibly prove quite handy for people

      like you and me.

Brian Allgar

Well, here I am, in keen anticipation

Of travelling on the splendid High-Speed train.

Gone are the days of feckless cancellation

Provoked by fallen leaves, or heavy rain,

Or unexpected sunlight on the rails,

Or snow, or fog. We’ll soon be setting off...

But shouldn’t it be here?

The speaker wails

And crackles into life; a furtive cough,

A disembodied voice: ‘Regrettably,

For passengers who’ve booked with HS2,

The train that was announced on Platform Three

Is cancelled. We apologise. It’s due

To fallen leaves and snow at Watford Junction

And unexpected sun in Kentish Town,

Which caused a massive system-wide


And brought our whole computer network


Your next challenge is to submit an acrostic poem containing some predictions for the next decade, in which the first letters of the lines read NOSTRADAMUS. Please email entries, wherever possible, to by midday on 30 December.