Catalogue of my grandmother’s sayings

Catalogue of my grandmother’s sayings
A bloody good hiding
Another egg chipped
Bent as a nine-bob note
Blood and sand
Blood and stomach pills
Broad as it’s long
Brought up in the bottle and seen nowt but the cork 
Could ride bare-arsed to London on them scissors
Could’ve written slut in the dust in that house 
Dogs in the same street bark alike 
Good clip under the lug’s what he needs
Like a blue-arsed fly
Ninepence to the shilling 
Not as green as he’s cabbage-looking
Queer as Dick’s hatband
Six of one and half a dozen of the other
Twined as a bag of weasels 
Well go to the foot of our stairs 
Well our Amy Judith Sarah Christine Claire
What a right bag of washing
You want nowt with that I tell you 
You want nowt with that 
Claire Askew

From This Changes Things (Hexham: Bloodaxe Books, 2016), reproduced by permission of the author.

Claire Askew

Claire Askew is a poet and writer living in Edinburgh; her first collection, This changes things, was published by Bloodaxe in 2016.

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About Catalogue of my grandmother’s sayings

This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2016. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2016 was Catherine Lockerbie.

Editor's comment:

What energy and skill explode from Claire Askew’s work!  She is surely going to be major poetic voice very soon indeed, if not already.  This poem – one of many I could have chosen from her first book-length collection –  may at first look easy, an alphabetical  litany of sayings, but has such an ear and rhythm. The oddity and tradition of these familial sayings have the power of a bizarre nursery rhyme.  Her grandmother – who also features elsewhere in the book – leaps off the page as a force of nature and language.

Author's note:

I think of this as a co-authored poem: my grandmother deserves at least as much credit for it as I do.  I'm not sure how she'd feel to know that her weird and wonderful sayings (and trust me, this is not an exhaustive list) have been catalogued in print, but I know she’d have had some choice words to say about it!  She died nearly a decade ago, but I thank her for continuing to supply me with inspiration, strength, and material for poems!  I'm really pleased to have this piece chosen for Best Scottish Poems, and pleased too that so many readers have been kind enough to tell me this is their favourite poem from This changes things.  My grandmother is an unlikely heroine, and a source of wisdom I have returned to throughout my life.  I'm happy to be able to share some of that wisdom with others.