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The organ grinder’s gone from here,

From all the streets and thoroughfares,

But not his monkey – he’s still there,

Upon a different arm

Wizened like a walnut shell,

Tinkling his little bell,

Leaping like a bat in hell,

And tugging at his chain

The breed of owner now that’s new

Is one who leaps in front of you –

Click! Click! He goes, the picture’s through

The Polaroid’s entrails


At other times he’s not so quick,

But sidles, unctuous and slick;

No sudden movement does the trick;

The monkey’s on your arm!

Then, like a striking one-eyed snake,

His camera is on the make,

Another pound or two to take

Before the light is gone


And through all this, his simian slave,

A thousand days before, he gave,

A thousand more upon this wave,

Before the voyage is done


Sometimes I’d like to take him home

But don’t know what I’d feed him on

And anyway, his life is done

With hanging on that chain


This poem is from a bygone age – and perhaps it shows my age!

There was once a time when seaside resorts were infested with opportunistic freelance photographers who would appear out of nowhere, take your photograph without so much as a by-your-leave, and then demand half-a-crown for the print – which, by the miracle of Polaroid cameras, was available almost immediately.  

As an added gimmick, this predator, relying on the belief that you wouldn’t have the moral courage to refuse, once he had taken the photo, had a small monkey, which he would position on your shoulder for the snap.

So deft were these people at generating business that often it would be all over before you knew you’d been done! It catered to a sense of humour now considered to be politically incorrect.  What is half-a-crown ? Ask your Mother!


                                          Copyright 2001-2011 Joseph Kilhane: All rights reserved