‘I was one of those chosen
to row the barons
to Runnymede, where waited
the King, quill in hand,
to sign the now famed
charter, the charter of greatest
magnitude, for the rights of everyday
people. The king could no longer
just help himself to another man’s
property. It was
from round Battersea Reach
we rowed, near where the Old
Swan stood. A good alehouse, that,
like a second home to us river rats.
The barons that day? Toffs, to a man.
The knights, too. Oy! We all were.
We had made the king see
we couldn’t be pushed around,
like pawns, one of my mates said.
Now there’s a game for you,
pretty much like life.
We had checkmated the king.
Oh, for blokes like me, not much changed.
We didn’t have any property
for the king to help himself to, anyway.
But we were more equal to him now.
We had more ground to stand on.
Listen to me, an oarsman,
talking about ground to stand on.’
(7 February 2017)