Ladies, gentlemen, fellow poets, after many promises and many more false starts, I finally give you my one hundred and seventy line 'Epistle to Jeremy Paxman On the State of His Sock Drawer'. Monumental and epic in its scope, it stands as a worthy tribute to our favourite 'Newsnight' presenter and, in my humble opinion, it is one of this century’s finest poems written in English. And it even made Judy cry.
My dear old Paxo, you inspired my muse to soar
On the trouble that lately grew from your sock drawer.
How did you get them into such a pitiful state?
Did your socks rebel? What left them so irate?
Could it be that you have no love for your noble socks
That stop your feet from turning into twin icy blocks,
As cold as the frost sitting on Kirsty Wark’s smile
Which is as pleasing as a night in a Glasgow jail?
Ah, now I see how this condition came to pass,
You are such a foolish and somewhat foppish old ass!
You mixed coloured silks with your hoses made of cotton
And holes you let grow in every poor sock’s bottom.
Your big toes poke out of your official BBC pair
And look how the heel is worn through right there!
So let us, Paxo, mucker, mate, and jesty pal of mine,
Embark on a worthy tale that’s so sure to entertain.
On the nature of sockdom, drawers, and blessed Newsnight,
This note will answer, better than any show put on late,
And without all the signing, that so annoys my muse,
Who really prefers it when Huw Edwards reads the news.
It is a misty morning, in London South West Four,
When Paxo hears knocking from inside his sock drawer.
He says ‘Hello, by wonder! What makes this lively din?’
And up he gets, gown on tight, and he dives right on in,
To investigate the nuisance, coming from across the room,
He shuffles over, ear on wood, hears a mighty boom.
The drawer he opens slowly, and what a sight he sees,
A battlefield of underwear, of fighting lingerie.
Wave on wave of socks, advancing in their finery,
Chasing packs of garters, and warring demon hosiery.
‘Stop that at once,’ cried our confused man of Pax,
But socks heeded not his call; oh woe and, indeed, alas!
He grabbed a toe, he thought he’d won, but it was his mistake.
It pulled him in, just like that! He could not believe he was awake.
‘Get back!’ came the cry. ‘I assure you this is quite real’,
Said a battle-scarred comrade sock with well worn heel.
‘Do you come to aid us now, in our hour of need?
Or are you here to scoff, while good socks bleed?
Look at yon mighty thermal pair, see how they fight,
Do you care to mock such spirit with your typical spite?’
Paxo looked on, never believing what he saw,
A epic warzone, it certainly was, in his own sock drawer!
‘Grab a sword, choose a spear, fight at my side!’
The voice it was of a martial sock and on a glove it did ride.
‘You are the man who made us thus, hardened by your feet
And now this war, of your own design, battle we must meet.’
‘This is not mine,’ said Paxo sure, he did not plan this fight.
‘I’m a man of peace, for goodness sake! And I present Newsnight!’
‘Then that’s your sin,’ said a sock, with a well-sewn frown,
‘You never cared for all the good socks you have cruelly trod down.’
Alas, this sock never finished his worthy little speech,
The defensive line across the drawer, the foes they did breech.
Paxman watched as the field was filled with new attackers
And cowered as towards him ran a fierce pair of undercrackers!
‘Retreat,’ came the cry, ‘to the shoebox, we all must flee!’
And Paxman fled, like many socks as far as his eye could see.
A last stand was stood in the box that was quite spacious
Where Paxo kept all the things he considered the most precious.
It was there he saw, for the first time, the man most ready,
The chief of socks, the Caesar of his age: Grand Marshall Oddie.
He was the oldest of all of Paxman’s old odd socks,
Years had passed since its pair had been somewhere, somehow lost.
He stood nearly half a foot, greying at the muzzle,
With a slack elasticated rim, and a larger, slacker middle.
‘Come gather you brave socks, this field can still be ours,
We will make these walls a fortress, these knickknacks our towers.’
‘Hang on,’ said Paxo, ‘what on earth do you mean by “knickknacks”,
These things are awards for journalism and aren’t given to hacks!’
There was widespread laughter, which broke the dreadful mood,
As socks mocked Paxman, who thought it all quite rude.
‘I say,’ he said, ‘mock not my place in this nation’s heart.’
To which an old garter snapped, as if answering with a fart.
‘Listen friend,’ said Oddie, ‘you are now in a sock-run world.
We care not for Newsnight and all the abuse that you hurled.
This is a time for spirit, for socks with a steadfast seam.
Are you with us, man, or do you choose bat for the other team?’
‘I’m with you, ay,’ said Paxman sure, ‘I’m always with my socks,
But respect I want from every garter snapping in this box.’
A roar went up, as all the socks made ‘Paxman!’ their cheer,
Before Oddie with careful voice, issued orders loud and clear.
‘We attack at once, lest the underwear get wind of our few numbers
Paxman will lead the charge, but beware of his unwashed chunders!’
‘I beg your pardon,’ cried the Pax who was feeling quite abused,
‘Everything here is very clean, I wouldn’t return a pair I’d used.’
‘Steady there, good fellow,’ said Oddie, now with calm,
‘Save your complaint for the battle, I meant you no harm.’
So out they rushed, in hectic flight, with Paxo screaming louder,
Charging the lines of Y-fronts swelled with antifungal powder.
If you never thought it in him, you should have seen him fly there,
Paxo the warrior! Paxman the mighty! Pax the long john slayer!
With his bare hands he choked the life out of an old string vest,
And tore asunder a pair of boxers long past their best.
Oh, how he grappled with nylon and how he wrestled with briefs,
Till, he came at a pair of undies made in the old Far East.
‘You cannot win,’ said the large white pair, ‘I’m sure I’ll best ya!
Can’t you see that I’ll defy your strength since I’m 10% polyester!’
Paxo stood tall, to the height of nearly six inches,
‘I never wore you! Don’t you know that artificial fibre itches?’
‘You lie,’ roared the Y-fronts, and swung a mighty kind of blow
Which Paxman avoided like all journos do, by ducking very low.
He responded with a fist, right into the fiend’s gusset,
‘Take that,’ he cried, as if with one blow he hoped he had bust it.
But the pants were strong, they hardly felt his tiny mortal hand
And Paxman fled knowing that a deadly blow he couldn’t land.
‘That beast may yet win the day,’ said Oddie looming nearer,
‘We need a weapon to defeat it, but I know of nothing keener
Than the old mystical tie pin you used to keep at the other end
Of this drawer, but of that journey, I wouldn’t know who to send…’
With not a word, Paxman bent his back and walked away
To march to Drawer’s End and to reach it by the end of day.
He roamed for a while, across the drawer’s landscape out laid,
Until the sound of battle dimmed and he began to feel afraid.
He travelled long, he travelled fast, until he came to a little nook,
And there with welcome eyes he spied his old notebook.
And from it’s end, he could see an old pencil with sharpened tip
He took it and then on he went with it hanging from his hip.
At last he reached the darkened end of his sock drawer,
Where what little jewellery he owned lay spread across the floor.
‘Where is the tie pin I need,’ cried Paxman, now quite scared,
‘It is the weapon to defeat that beast in Hong Kong manufactured.’
He fell and cried, bewailed his luck, and why things never happen
To that other bloke, who reads the news… the one who’s not called Paxman.
‘Is this what you seek?’ said a simple voice, whispering with a waver
From an old discarded metal case, containing his spare electric shaver.
Out came a glove in fine silk dress, from an interview long forgotten,
With Meryl Streep who had playfully touched Paxo on his bottom.
The glove advanced and in its fingers, nestled rather tightly,
Was the old tie pin, the finest steel, still shining very brightly.
‘You may take this lance, Paxo dear, if you cross my palm with silver,
Or failing that, if you would do me just a very simple favour.’
‘Whatever you wish,’ said Paxman, now even more determined
To have the weapon that once ensured his ties were well pinned.
‘Beyond this nook there lies a shade in which you hid a Christmas tie
You rightly saw it, learned to hate, and left it to fester here and die.
It is a thing of ugliness, orange with a picture of a baboon,
You destroy it now and this pin I promise will be your boon.
‘I won’t be long,’ said Paxman fair, ‘I’ll kill that funky gibbon!’
‘Oy! Watch it!’ shouted Oddie’s voice, though the reason remains well hidden.
So Paxman went to kill the tie using his short pencil sword,
The tie fought valiantly but Paxo dispatched it without a word.
Christmas ties are wicked, the kind of present we should rue,
So fret you not that Paxman ran this monkey tie through.
‘You’ve done a great deed in this,’ said Meryl Streep’s glove,
‘You may take this tie pin back, and have it with my love.’
Paxman took the sword and raised it to the light,
This was the weapon, he knew to win an underwear fight.
So back he raced, not sparing heel, to the sock battlefront,
Where the underpants stood cruel and tall, and so very arrogant.
Up he ran and to the sockish hoards raised the sword and shouted
‘This is for every hose and heel I have so cruelly mistreated!’
And to the pants did Paxman plunge the fierce blade in deep,
Until the gussets did wail and the elasticated waist did weep.
‘Hurrah!’ cried the all socks to see their enemy outfoxed,
By Jeremy the Paxman, standing proud on the vanquished crotch.
The rest of this epic tale, I think you’re well aware,
Of Paxman triumphant and vowing to never again wear
A sock he did not name or treat with utmost care
Or cast aside on the floor or lose down the side of a chair.
To him a sock was a thing revered, that made his eyes go misty,
Like Fiona Bruce, Anna Ford, though never the Kaplinsky.
You know the socks, themselves, lived happily every after,
Treated well, with wounds repaired, and with extra fabric softer.
And once bigger than his sock drawer, Paxo to his room returned,
He went to work that day with martial honours earned,
And told his tale to a man much bemused called Clarkson,
Who later described him ‘a loon’ to the readers of ‘The Sun’.
And how the Dimbleby (the David) listened to this story
Before snootily declaring it must be a toenail allegory.
Oh, my dear Paxman, I think I have reached the end,
Where I declare that you really are the oddest of my friends.
© Richard Madeley, 2007