the weekly


Michael likes his atlas pink,
Likes, one half-suspects, the birch,
Likes his gills and pints to drink,
Loves the rod, the pole, the perch.

Michael chinwags with his Maker:
Proudly shows a ten-bob treasure;
Never hectare – God’s small acre
Is their shared and favourite measure.

All night long, the logarithm
Haunts his shortened back-and-sides;
Off he goes, his Scout troop with him,
Segregated from the Guides.

Michael is a happy boy,
Measuring his inky nibs,
Mixing with the hoi-polloi,
Sharing sherbet dabs and dibs.

Equations? Make his hard, quadratic,
For they are his best distractions:
Michael thinks, and he’s emphatic,
Decimals aren’t cool as fractions.

Watch the chap unscrew his Parker,
Watch him closely as he counts his
Miles down to the furlong-marker,
Dwell on stones and pounds and ounces.

Most of all, he loves his inches,
Cuts the centimetre dead:
Sniffing snuff in simple pinches,
This is what runs round his head:

If you want to feel my conkers,
Deep inside my pockets, delve:
Little children will go bonkers
If they can’t times twelve by twelve.

Click here for an article in The Independent

Click here to buy a copy of Bill’s poetry collection Ringers

Click here for Bill’s New Statesman research project



Michael Gove’s new national curriculum (unless you’re in a free school or academy or private school, in which case, it’s not compulsory) insists that young children will learn their twelve times table.

11 July 2013


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