Wednesday, 24 January 2018


Every town should have a poem written about it, though I'm not sure that the Derbyshire town of Glossop would have chosen this one, written in 1990, for preference. It's nothing personal, of course, but 'Glossop', being just two syllables, fits the metre of the poem well.
There's an old saying among writers of 'humorous verse' - 'If you're stuck for an idea, just grab an old joke and make it into a poem'. Which is just what has happened here. 
But never let me be accused of lacking the courage of my convictions, or of cowardice. I have performed this piece in the town of Glossop itself.. It was in  the late 1990s at a lovely old place called the Davenport Theatre. I also performed my epic trainspotter poem Crewe South Shed at the same gig, but that's another story. Suffice it to say that Glossop went down well in Glossop.
The origin of the classic first line is interesting. When I was at ERF Ltd in 1990 I worked with a young chap called  Steve Mountford. He was usually called Jimmy, although this wasn't his real name. Steve  could never remember anyone's name and habitually referred to everyone as 'Jimmy' so, naturally, as happens with these things, the name got itself transferred to him).
He came up to me one day and said, 'I was talking to an old friend of yours in Coppenhall last night. You must know who I mean. He went to Pakistan in a Gas Board van.'
I didn't know the person he was rambling on about, but I'd defy anyone to resist such a fabulous line.
So, suitably adapted, it became the first line of 'Glossop'.

Steve Mountford, whose mate 'went to Pakistan in a Gas Board van' and thus inspired this poem.
Photo used with permission

A few notes: In verse seven 'Derbyshire' has to be pronounced so as to rhyme with 'soul on fire'. In the last verse, you could substitute 'Network Rail' for 'British Rail', but I've found that 'British Rail', despite the fact that it went out of existence years ago, still has the required resonance.
The rhyme in the first line of verse five is sublime. Just perfect. And the fact that William, in the same verse, has a name that rhymes with Glossop is nothing more than an amazing coincidence.


by Dave Roberts

Well, I'd been to Pakistan in a Gas Board van,
I'd been threatened in Morocco with a knife;
And I'd been aboard a tanker which exploded off Sri Lanka,
But I'd never been to Glossop in my life.

Though I'd sailed to Indo-China on an ocean going liner
And spent time in Brisbane lying on the beach
and been swindled in Calcutta by a woman with a stutter
The elusive Glossop stayed beyond my reach.

So I caught a train to Paris with a gentleman named Harris
Who was first mate on a freighter from Quebec.
He had sailed the seven seas from Kirabati to Belize;
Had he ever been to Glossop? Had he heck.

And a paralytic sailor in a bar in Venezuela
(Or some other hot and God-forsaken spot)
Asked me if I'd been to Chad and I said of course I had;
Had he ever been to Glossop? No, he'd not.

I was eating a banana in my digs in Tijuana
When I heard a voice come from a nearby bed
Saying, 'my name's William Mossop and I'm from a place called Glossop,
But I don't suppose you've heard of it,' he said.

I shook him by the hand and I said, 'well this is grand,
'That's the one place in the world I've never seen;
'Will you tell me what it's like? Can I get there on my bike?
'Can I do it in a fortnight, if I'm keen?'

William told of Glossop's sights, and romantic Glossop nights,
And the magic of the hills of Derbyshire;
'Til I felt that I'd explode if I didn't hit the road
And head towards the town which set my soul on fire.

So I stole an old Ford car and drove it down to Panama
And stowed away aboard a steamer from the Clyde;
I was nearly going frantic as we sailed the broad Atlantic
For I had to visit Glossop 'ere I died.

Well, it took a month or two 'til old Glasgow came in view
But at long last, feeling haggard, tired, and gritty
And very nearly mental, I arrived at Glasgow Central
And I sneaked aboard a southbound Inter-City.

Down to Manchester we sped, and by now I'd lost my head
And had Glossop well and truly on the brain,
So I didn't think it silly to be there at Piccadilly
Waiting for the little local Glossop train.

Now the best laid plans can fail, thanks to dear old British Rail,
And the engine on the train had gone kaput;
But I didn't make a fuss, I just caught a local bus;
And when I got to Glossop, it was shut.

© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2011

Originally published on THE ODD EXCEPTION 10th September 2011

First published here 12th April 2017
Amended and re-published 24th January 2018

Monday, 4 September 2017


St Helen's Church, Northwich, aka 'Witton Church'                                                     Photo: WTFK Collection

by Dave Roberts

Here's a sad memory from my third year at Sir John Deane's Grammar School in  Northwich. 

Founder's Day was always a big occasion for the school and every October 21st we all made our way through the streets of Northwich from the school's preesent site in The Crescent, off London Road,  to St Helen's church (usually known, more simply, as 'Witton Church') to celebrate the life and times of Sir John Deane.

Really, it was the school returning to its 'Witton Grammar School' roots, as the site of the original school was close to Witton churchyard.

And when I say 'made our way' I really mean that we were marched to the church in the closest we could get to 'impeccable' school uniform. 
It was impressed on us all that we were 'representing the school' on this most important day in the school calendar and warned to be on our best behaviour.

I was astonished to hear the admonitory speech we were given each year before starting out spoken almost word for word by Michael Palin in 'The Life Of Brian'. This 'representing the school' schtick must have been a standard grammar school thing all over the country. 

My recollections of the service of thanksgiving for the life of SJD and his benevolence in founding the Grammar School are lost in the mists of time.

All I can remember are the school song: 'Floret, Floruit, Floreat Wittona' and the hymn 'God is working His purpose out, as year succeeds to year'.

I must have been a part of this Founders Day service five times from 1964 to 1968, but the only one I really remember was in 1966.

After the service I went home on the North-Western Road Car Co's bus to King Street, Middlewich and switched on the TV, where the story of a horrific happening in Wales was unfolding.

It was the day of the Aberfan disaster in which 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a coal tip above the village was undermined by water seepage, turning the whole structure into a mass of slurry which slipped down the hillside engulfing the school.
Dependable, friendly old Cliff Michelmore was there on the screen telling us of the almost unspeakable horror of what had happened.

It was the second major disaster to impinge upon our young lives (the first being the Kennedy assassination three years earlier) and it was all very hard to take in.

What gave me, personally, pause for thought was that I was at the time reading Robert Llewellyn's 'How Green Was My Valley' in which something like the Aberfan disaster is explicitly forecast. 

Even now, fifty-one years later, I can't hear 'Floreat Wittona' or 'God Is Working His Purpose Out' without thinking of that dreadful day.

Illustration: WALES ON LINE

© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017


Hot on the heels of the Artisan Market (June 2012 - March 2014) and the Makers Market (April 2014 - May 2017) comes a brand new and this time purely local venture, the Middlewich Mexon Market!


From Middlewich Town Council:
Middlewich Town Council, Middlewich Vision, partners and volunteers would like to announce the creation of a new market for Middlewich. The market will be a not-for-profit venture and all proceeds will be used to sustain the market over the coming months. It will take time to develop but we hope that you will give it your support to make it a success and a welcome enhancement to our town centre.


Find out more about the Middlewich Mexon Market at:


Middlewich Heritage Society   Photo: Salt Town Productions July 2017

There's a long history of markets in Middlewich, stretching back to at least the 13th century (our first Market Charter was granted in 1260), and the Mexon website features an article with information from Allan Earl giving a brief run-down of that history and explaining where the name 'Mexon' comes from. 
 'Mexon' doesn't appear in the OED, so it may be that the word is obsolete. Or it may be a word of purely local origin, like 'Lompon'.

Photo: Bill Armsden

Historical note: This is not the fIrst time that the name 'Mexon' has been revived. In the 1970s local businessman Steve Wells used the name The King's Mexon for a restaurant in Wheelock Street, where the Blue Ginger Indian Restaurant & Takeaway currently (2017) is. In the interim years this former furniture shop and warehouse has always been a restaurant on one form or another. After Steve Wells moved out, for example, it became Franco's.


And here's our celebratory MD Masthead for July 2017 featuring the advent of this

great new venture...

We wish the new Middlewich Mexon Street Market every success!

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY

Sunday, 4 June 2017


Note: This originally appeared on QSC (and on our sister site The Middlewich Diary) as a straightforward plug for Lost In The Mist's annual appearance at the Middlewich FAB Festival. 

What we didn't know at the time was that circumstances would conspire to make this one of my last  appearances with the band, instantly turning this poster/flyer into something of a historical document.

I'd been working with Bob Webb, doing 'humorous' poems and the odd song, for around five years when it was decided to form a band, with melodeon maestro Ian Murfitt as the third member.

This band needed a name and Lost In The Mist was thought as good a name as any. The band celebrates its tenth birthday in May 2018.

 We had some good times and played some really fab places as well as some really naff ones - the lot of the 'pub band' for ever, of course.

Like any other band, Lost In The Mist's personnel changed over the years, and eventually, in 2017, it was time for another personnel change, when what might be called my 'musical career' came to an end and the sound of LITM was 'refreshed' once more.

No loss at all, of course, to the band. I was never a musician of any sort, and my singing voice was not the best.

But I like to think that, if nothing else, I added a touch of fun and good humour to Lost In The Mist.

I'd hate to be seen as pretentious, but I have to admit that I've always  identified with the words of the immortal Noel Coward:

'I believe that since my life began, the most I've had is just a talent to amuse...'

Better than nothing, though, eh?

Dave Roberts

February 2018

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Friday, 2 June 2017


by Dave Roberts

Winston's New Shoes is, quite simply, another old joke made into a piece of verse. Although it wasn't written in anything like a 'Northern' dialect it has its roots firmly in the Northern tradition as exemplified by Stanley Holloway and Marriott Edgar.
Ted's shoe shop could be anywhere in the country, I suppose (though Ted betrays his Northern origins with 'By the 'eck!') but there's little real doubt that it's somewhere north of  Watford.
This 'Northern-ness' has been magnificently exploited by none other than Monologue John, Master of the Monologue, who I first met back in the 1990s at the old Crewe & Nantwich Folk Festival. We worked together on  numerous occasions during the days of the Salt Town Poets and I was pleased to present the John Brunker Trophy (the last one ever, actually) to John and his then performing partner Dorothy Fryman in the days when they called themselves 'Song & Story'.
This trophy, named for one of my own early school teachers, was awarded for excellence and originality in performance, something 'S&S' had in spades, and John still has.

'Song & Story' ('Monologue' John Bartley and Dorothy Fryman) with the last-ever John Brunker Trophy
John has performed thousands of monologues over the years, and I couldn't help but be flattered when he latched onto Winston's New Shoes.
I suppose he must have seen the potential of the poem as a 'Lion & Albert' style monologue (for want of a better phrase) and pulled out all the stops.


Here he is on Youtube telling the tale of Ted, and Nellie, and Winston's odd shoe requirements in fine style. You'll note, if you follow the original text, that John has embellished the poem with even more Northern touches

Watch the gleam in his eye as he delivers the 'sting in the tail' ending.
That, my friends, is how it should be done!

Here's the original poem:


IN the shoe shop one cold morning, Ted was working very hard
Writing down the retail price of pairs of shoes on bits of card,
When suddenly the door flew open, and in came charging Nellie Hughes.
'Hello Nellie!' Ted said, brightly, 'have you come to buy some shoes?'

'Yes I have, they're for our Winston - him as lives with Auntie Rose'.
She looked around the shop, then pointed - 'they're nice, give me three of those!'
'By the 'eck!' said Ted, 'your Winston must be doing well at school!
'Three pairs of shoes! How very generous!' Nellie scowled. 'Don't be a fool!'

'Do you think I'm made of money? I can't afford three pairs of shoes!
'Three single shoes is what I'm after!' Ted said, 'they only come in twos.
'Besides, why would the lad need three shoes? That's one too many, can't you see?'
Nellie tutted with annoyance. 'I don't know, Ted, you tell me...

'It's been three years since I've seen Winston, back when he was only ten,
'Rose has written me a letter, saying how he's changed since then.
He's got a new school uniform, he's clean and neat, his hair's been cut...
'But here's the bit that's got me flummoxed - she says he's grown another foot!'

© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2017