Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

25 September 2009

A Children’s Ballad


Egbert was a bantam
But what he lacked in height
He made up for with feathers
Hundreds of ‘em, very bright.

On his head he wore a comb
As red as red can be.
The other end his rooster’s tail
Waved proud and gorgeously.

He liked to strut around the farm
Kicking up a riot
With other chickens twice his size
Who only wanted quiet.

His favourite occupation
Was getting up at dawn
And waking up the farmer’s wife,
Crowing like a horn.

With ‘Cock-a-doodle-doodle-do!
Wake up Mrs Jones!
Yo-ho. Nicky-nocky-noo!
Get up you lazy bones!’

One day, Farmer Jones awoke
Pained by Egbert’s racket
He slipped into his big gumboots
And big, thick woolly jacket.

‘You’re fired’ he cried,
‘Your awful squawk is like a fire alarm!’
He grabbed poor Egbert by the neck
And threw him off the farm.

As Egbert lay in mute surprise
Puzzled by his plight.
His world lit up, a golden glow
Bathed him in its light.

And from this wondrous shimmering mist
Materialized a spectre
A giant white rooster wearing jewels
And carrying a sceptre.

Egbert with his punctured pride
Was greatly overawed.
‘Who d’you think you are?’ he asked
‘Dressed up like a lord!

‘I’m your Fairy Chickfather,
I’ve come to help you out.
It’s in my power to grant one wish
But let there be no doubt

‘There’s only one and once you’ve made
Your choice of what to do
You’re stuck with it for ever more
Think carefully, Godchick, do.’

Poor Egbert, thrown into a tizz
His mind was full of questions
‘I just can’t think of anything
Please give me some suggestions.’

Chickfather said, ‘Invisible
‘Through time and space we’ll fly
To find out what exciting things
Your dreams could satisfy.’

He waved his sceptre round his head
And puffed his mighty chest
They took off in a shower of sparks
Young Egbert was impressed

They landed in a fire station
As jangling bells were pealing
The firemen slid down shiny poles
From holes up in the ceiling.

Dressed up in blue uniforms
With buttons all a-gleam
And big brass helmets on their heads
They looked a gallant team.

The siren wailed, the engine roared,
They raced all through the town
To help a cat stuck up a tree
They got the moggie down.

‘Well, what do you think?’ Chickfather asked
Said Egbert, ‘Thanks but no;
I don’t like cats or bells or speed -
Let’s have another go.’

* * *
A royal banquet next appeared
With courtiers grandly dressed;
Medals, ribbons, diamonds, pearls
Graced many a noble chest.

Candelabra, golden plate
And finest crystal glasses
Stretched as far as eyes could see.
God bless the upper classes!

Suddenly there fell a hush
As in came all the waiters
Dressed in velvet trimmed with gilt,
Silk shoes and jewelled gaiters

They bore aloft on silver trays . . .
‘Oh’ Egbert cried out, ‘Look!
‘That’s chicken roast they’re serving there
I’ll never be a cook!’

* * *
An ocean gale screams from the pole
And blows the tops off waves;
The rolling, pitching fishing boat
The polar weather braves.

Egbert and his Chickfather
Are standing with the crew
Dragging in the fishing nets.
They’re soaking through and through.

Poor Egbert looks distinctly green,
His feathers wet and droopy,
‘If you think I’d enjoy this life
You must think I’m loopy -

‘It’s not so much the ups and downs,
Or risking life and limb;
What really terrifies me is
I’ve never learned to swim!’

* * *
‘Egbert, I think you don’t like noise,
You’re peacable at heart,
Disliking things adventurous:
Let’s try the world of art.’

And suddenly we see our bantam
Dressed up in a smock
And beret; with a great big brush,
And palette chock-a-block

With brilliant colours, red and blue,
Orange, green and yellow,
And canvas, blank, what might he paint,
This most artistic fellow?

He tried to paint a motor car
Which came out like a boat.
And then he made a bowl of flowers
Look like a spotted goat.

Trees looked like bees and bees like birds
And birds like cows with paws.
So Egbert threw a tantrum
And stamped his bantam claws.

‘I don’t like cats or fire engines.
I’ll never be a sailor.
I cannot draw or paint or cook;
I’m nothing but a failure!’

* * *
‘There, there’ said Chickdad.
‘Calm yourself. We’ll have just one more try.
I’ve had a rather good idea.
Let’s do a spin and fly . . .’

* * *
The lights go dim, the audience stills,
The red plush curtain rises.
A wondrous scenery meets the eye;
A backdrop of surprises.

The orchestra like penguins dressed,
Brass, woodwinds, violins,
Accompany an opera queen,
(All chest and wobbly chins).

On struts the king in flowing robes
First, soft diminuendo,
Then, with his queen, their voices pure,
Soar up through a crescendo.

And as they hold their ringing song,
Descending from on high,
A giant golden cockerel comes.
(The audience gives a sigh).

The music and the singing stop.
The golden cockerel’s beak
Opens wide and from inside
There comes . . . an awful SQUEEEAK!

The king and queen and chorus cry,
‘Oh help, what shall we do?’
When suddenly from afar they hear,

Wake up Mrs Jones!
Yo-ho. Nicky-nocky-noo!
Get up you lazy bones!’

It’s Egbert to the rescue;
Alone he’s saved the show!
The audience rises to its feet
They cry ‘Bravissimo!’

And as they clap and stamp their feet
They crane their necks to see
Who owns the virtuoso voice.
What, where, who can it be?

Chickfather said ‘Egbert, my boy
It’s time for me to go.
You’ve had your wish.
Good luck to you. I’m off - prestissimo!’

And as he left in clouds of gold,
On stage Egbert appeared,
His feathers bright, his comb aglow;
Oh how the audience cheered.

The chorus gathered all around
To hoist him up on high.
He was an overnight success
And quickly by and by

He sang with all the greatest stars,
Became a household name.
But deep inside a humble bird
He was not spoiled by fame.

When in the Sydney Opera House
Or at Milan’s La Scala,
Covent Garden, New York Met.
Or any opera gala,

Listen very carefully
If Egbert’s in the cast;

Then you, I’m sure, will plainly hear
Above the trumpet’s blast

The Bantam of the Opera sing
In ringing, joyous tones
Thankyou Farmer Jones!

The moral of this story is
That when you feel depressed,
Nothing goes on getting worse
Things turn out for the best.




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By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.