Sunday, February 27, 2011

What a Contraption!

asks us to consider 'improvisation'.


A 'Heath-Robinson contraption'; a phrase not heard any more;
Yet one that's firmly embedded in my early-childhood lore.
Heath-Robinson was an artist who created crazy scenes,
With improvisation looming large and 'elastic-band' machines.
If anyone did a botched-up job, with safety-pins and such,
Someone was sure to comment 'That's a Heath-Robinson touch!'
Say it to someone modern and they wouldn't have a clue
About the zany pictures that an ancient artist drew.
Things go in and out of fashion, often with the speed of light;
Things that once loomed very large have faded out of sight.
Take the scene below, a cartoon which was valid in the past,
But full of little aspects that were destined not to last.
The converted bath was the comic touch when this little scene was drawn;
'Sexism' wasn't heard of in the days when I was born.
But improvisation still exists, and it can be good or bad,
And not, as with Heath-Robinson, verging on the mad.




In a little country town, in a little dusty room
That called itself 'Museum', just for show,
I found this ancient artifact among the aged junk
And it brought back days of very long ago.
I can see them gathering round when the miracle arrived,
All shiny and so modern and so bright!
I can picture eyes wide open at the new technology;
They'd see Washing Day in quite a different light!
'Mum! It'll do the wringing!' Little Tommy is amazed
At the clever things that grown-up people do!
'It looks a trifle difficult!' That's Mother looking shy
For she's always rather scared when things are new.
'You'll get the hang of it, my dear!' That's father, looking proud,
For the gadget is from Dad to Mum, a gift;
'The children need not help you when you do the weekly wash!
You'll find the sheets are easier to lift!'
Mum tries to turn the handle but it's heavy and it's stiff;
She views her new contraption with dismay.
So now she'll have to manage without any help at all.
She just can't wait until it's Washing Day!


Kevin Musgrove said...


I love Heath Robinson's work. His series of pictures showing how to build a house from the bath downwards is a treasure.

vivinfrance said...

Your improvisations are superb. And yes, I remember Heath Robinson very well, and still use the expression! As for the mangle, didn't the children fight to turn the handle? We did.

Lois Evensen said...

I remember my Mom's wringer washer. :) We didn't have a dryer so the clothes were hung outside and smelled wonderful when they came in. On rainy days, though, all the laundry was hung in he basement. It didn't smell bad when dry, but it didn't have that sunshine and breeze smell. Ah, yes, I remember....

flaubert said...

Love your poem and that conversion
cartoon is too funny.


Wayne Pitchko said...

nicely done with the prompt....thanks for sharing

Unknown said...

I learned a lot reading your posts, and adore the images shared.

I also see you lived in Brighton for a bit. My daughter lives there now and loves it.

Here’s mine, better late than never, for the Writer’s island prompt: