For Your Listening Pleasure

Two coronaballads…

A Viral Romance

A fine romance with no clinches
A fine romance at 78.7 inches
We should be making each other feel desirous
But we’ve been kept apart by this blasted virus.
A fine romance, with no hugging
If this is romance I’d rather have a mugging
We’re spaced out like a couple of desert plants
Our life is a set of can’ts
This is a fine romance.

A fine romance, with no dances
And no close-ups but distant glances:
We used to kick and twirl like a Broadway chorus
But now we keep apart like two lovesick walrus.
A fine romance, my good fellow,
With no love songs unless we bellow.
A fleeting kiss is simply too great a chance,
When we’re locked in durance,
This is a fine romance.

Original lyrics by Dorothy Fields Music by Jerome Kern

New lyrics by Richard Heller

Summer No Holiday

We’re not going on a summer holiday
No more travel until ‘22
Fun and laughter but they’re all now memories:
Lots of worries for me and you
For a week or fifty-two.

We’re watching where the sun shines brightly
We’re watching where the sea is clear,
We’re watching them on the movies
That we made when we went last year.

Lots of people having long summer holidays
In a place they never wanted to
Locked together on a summer holiday
With no way to make their dreams come true
And the kids are stuck too
With me and you.

Original by Brian Bennett and Bruce Welch
New lyrics by Richard Heller and Mick Hodgkin

13. May 2020 by rkh
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A Murder Of Note

The best screenplay what I have written this week. Available to investors as a fun way to make a tax loss.

Xander (have always liked names beginning with X) is a handsome young pianist of extraordinary talent. He is swindled out of his inheritance by his evil cousin Coron (I don’t think viruses can sue.) Coron moves into their dead great-uncle’s spacious apartment, with not only the priceless bibelots but worse still, the unique Steinway piano which had once belonged to the crooked composer, Shyster Kovich. In his, his (punches cliché button) garret, of course, poor heroes like Xander always live in a garret, although they don’t come on the market very often these days, certainly not at a price poor heroes can afford, anyway delighting the passing pigeons with scintillating arpeggios on his barely functional upright, Xander dreams of revenge. He has an inspiration and it is marked by a thick dramatic chord of D over E.

Xander assumes an impenetrable disguise, with the help of a beard previously used by Bingo Little to evade his creditors. He secures employment as Coron’s personal assistant. Stoically he squeezes Coron’s toothpaste, cuts crusts off his sandwiches and roars at his jokes. The worst of his ordeal is to listen to Coron at the piano, a Les Dawson without the talent. Such is his musical ability that he can recognize when Coron has reached the finale, and applauds wildly, scattering murmured compliments about “the interesting tempi, and so many of them”. Not recognizing his cousin, Coron laps up the appreciation.

Xander endures. He has a carefully prepared alibi. At the right moment he batters Coron to death with a former candelabra of Liberace’s. To sustain the alibi, Xander must pretend to be Coron at the piano for half an hour. But the effort is too much for him. After 32 bars he slides into the scintillating repertoire which delighted the pigeons.

Nonetheless his alibi seems to succeed. The police are ready to give up on the case as a murder by persons unknown. But one feature of the neighbours’ evidence puzzles the great private detective … Anyone but Hercule Poirot. Has no one noticed what a klutz he is? The Library is always littered with more corpses than the end of Hamlet before he says “Ow eez it, mon cher Aysteengs, that I have been so blind?” and names the killer. The same for Miss bloody Marple.

Anyway, not-Hercule-Poirot notices that the neighbours all testify that at bar 33 of his last performance Coron suddenly played a lot better. It is the clue not-H-P needs. He or she (let’s see who’s available and for how much?) uncovers the secret of Xander and his plot. He has betrayed himself by his musical standards.

In the last scene we see him in solitary confinement on Death Row. He has been allowed a piano in his cell and is delighting a lonely sparrow with his cadenzas. (Get leftover footage from Birdman Of Alcatraz.)

12. April 2020 by rkh
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A Horse With No Chance (after America)

Hoping that punters worldwide might appreciate this take on the rock classic Horse With No Name by America. Check this brilliant rendition by a self-isolating couple. https://twitter.com/americaband/status/1241782311269457920 Wonderful performance of a horse’s ass, against such daily competition from Donald Trump. Pedant’s note: names of horses in second verse are from the “Fugue For Tinhorns” in Guys And Dolls.

My journey began in the OTB [or betting shop for UK]

I was glad to get out of the rain.

I saw runners and riders on all kind of screens

And I thought that my luck might change.

The first horse I saw was called Paul Revere

But they told me he didn’t like mud,

Then I took a shine to one called Valentine

But some guy said that he was a dud.

So I put all my money on a horse with no chance,

I can’t even remember his name:

His rider felt all kinds of shame

To be mounted on something so lame.

La la la-la-la-la

La la … Lose

La la la-la-la-la

La la … Lose.

I was staring hard at the TV screen

As they opened the starting gate

And I looked for my horse in the spray of mud

But it gave me a very long wait.

And then I got all excited

When my horse took second place

But when I tried to collect all my dreams were wrecked

Because he’d started in the previous race.

I’d put all my money on a horse with no chance

I can’t even remember his name

His rider said that he wasn’t to blame:

He was mounted on something so lame.

La la la-la-la-la

La la … Lose.

La la la-la-la-la

La la … Lose.   

Long slow fade out. Like the horse.

© new lyrics   Richard Heller

richardkheller@hotmail.com

11. April 2020 by rkh
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Everybody Gets A Chance To Shine

Composed years ago for Chance to shine at the launch of my children’s character Harry Bear MP, but never used. Revived now when the world, especially the cricket world, seems to want and need uplifting lyrics.

The night may seem too dark for you to dream

But a new day is waiting there in line.

Somebody wants you in their team:

Everybody gets a chance to shine.

The rain never lasts your whole life through,

The sky will unlock and turn out fine.

So reach up and paint it red and blue:

Everybody gets a chance to shine.

There’s nothing that you can’t hit,

There’s nothing that you can’t throw,

There’s nothing that you can’t catch,

And nothing that you can’t know.

You can squeeze the whole world inside a ball,

And stitch it tight with thread and twine,

So catch it on the run, don’t let it fall:

Everybody gets a chance to shine.

You don’t always need to be so strong,

But just to use your bat in perfect time,

And watch your world-and-ball go swift and long:

Everybody gets a chance to shine.

There’s nothing that you can’t hit,

There’s nothing that you can’t throw,

There’s nothing that you can’t catch,

And no way that you won’t grow.

You don’t have to live inside your past:

The scorer will make another sign.

So play each innings better than the last:

Everybody gets a chance to shine

There’s nothing that you can’t hit,

There’s nothing that you can’t throw,

There’s nothing that you can’t catch,

No seed that you cannot sow.

So don’t lock yourself inside your space:

There’s a game going on, it’s yours and mine,

It’s being played in every living place:

Everybody gets a chance to shine.

© Richard Heller

richardkheller@hotmail.com

10. April 2020 by rkh
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This Side Of Paradise? The Cricket Club Of India

My tribute to the CCI published in the brochure for the Lords and Commons CC tour of India in 2004-05

When I die, assuming I have any choice in the matter, I would like to spend my afterlife in the Cricket Club of India. I would happy to donate my ashes to even out any bumps in the ground.

My last over on the ground – six deliveries of decent line and length – went for 24 runs, and I spent the rest of the innings retrieving the ball from distant parts for my colleagues in the Fleet Street XI. This of course will not be repeated in the afterlife… instead the first five deliveries will be met with nervous defence by the former Indian Test star, until the last draws him forward, clips the edge of the bat, an appeal from the wicketkeeper, the crowd is stunned.

Playing at the CCI encourages fantasy. No, in fact it is beyond fantasy. Where else in the world can a visiting cricketer in the sunset of a mediocre career be treated like a star of 100 Test matches? Where else can you wake up, take a leisurely breakfast, stroll into the dressing room to change into your whites and use the same peg as Gary Sobers once used? There the courteous attendants indulge your every need and whim – a drink, a towel, a deep massage on the table where previously unknown muscles are teased back into life.

Out on the field, drenched in heat and history, everything you do steps out of the ordinary. You feel instead that you are part of an epic drama, a special from Bollywood. The spectators help sustain the illusion, by applauding anything at all which is eye-catching even if it represents failure. When, as frequently happens, you chase the ball over the boundary you are surrounded by autograph hunters. You find yourself playing up to them, making extravagant gestures of triumph or agony.

And when the match is over, and the solemn courtesies of speeches and presentations, you can jump straight into the pool and float away your aches and pains, blank out your memories of disaster on the pitch and retain only the triumphs or near-triumphs to tell your grandchildren. Then if you still have any energy you can flop into a chair and be brought cold drinks.

All visiting cricketers are automatically stars in India, but you feel this in spades in the CCI. It is not just the experience of playing in a Test match ground and being treated as if you belong there. It is not just about strolling through the public rooms, under the gaze of the historic figures in the portraits and photographs on the walls, or drifting into the Library, where little reading seems to be done and where it is very easy to drift into a nap in the over-stuffed armchairs.

To be at the CCI is more than all of these things. It means sharing a part in rituals – tea and plum cake in the afternoon, the evening walk around the ground, where friends and families greet each other, reminiscent of the Spanish paseo – and being given an admission to a special part of Indian life.

Its character is reinforced the moment you step outside. The CCI is surrounded by the vibrant city of Mumbai, humming with energy and commerce. In less than an hour you can cause serious damage to Britain’s balance of payments in the shops.

The Lords and Commons are very privileged to inaugurate this historic tour in the CCI in Mumbai. Whatever the results of our two matches we will try to provide the drama and ritual which this great setting deserves.

Richard Heller has paid two previous visits to the CCI with the Fleet Street XI. His autograph fetched a top price of 5 rupees.

05. March 2020 by rkh
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Blair speaks!

From my 2005 play Waiting For Gordo a bleak existential drama of backbench life in the Labour Party. Spoken by my character Placebo Lackey MP, but all passages by Tony Blair

I believe – passionately – that it is important – to greet the world with a celebration that is so bold, so beautiful, so inspiring that it embodies the spirit of the future for the many not the few in 45 minutes or less. A modernized social democracy with eye-catching initiatives that are entirely conventional in terms of their attitude to the family. Sixty million undergraduates in India who are tolerant, fair, enterprising, inclusive, relaxed, not tribal.

As a young boy in short trousers I stood and waved my flag which makes a rational discussion of serious issues difficult. The Asian Tigers – co-operative as well as competitive, selfless as well as self-interested – appeared indifferent to the family and individual responsibility, which was wrong. Every client has an interview with a personal adviser in a suit and not pyjamas. Hard working people and their families with comfortable chairs, many with facilities for children. Rights and responsibilities hand in hand with 213 new heart surgeons mindful of our determination to do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties. Renewal and cohesion go together in the clean-up of beaches and bathing waters.

The people’s princess funded by patient and committed provision of capital from the financial sector paying for most of the cost of VAT on repair and refurbishment work carried out on listed buildings in the faith sector. One thousand days to prepare for one thousand years of reformed local government which will be exhilarating like Disney World – yet different. A young country. A stakeholder society. Coming home. The enabling state. The Third Way. An Age of Achievement. Tough on verbs, tough on the causes of verbs.

Sir Stanley Matthews is a culture but there is more to be done at a European level. To be powerful we have to build partnerships with others in grandad’s old Morris Cowley. I do not want women to be chained to the sink.

A vision that strikes a chord with the British people. Milestones which are also yardsticks of achievement and benchmarks of progress, stretching and ambitious and setting new targets each year. Working to decrease the amount of photocopying paper used in the National Maritime Museum by 300 reams in three years. The hand of history marching yobs straight to the cashpoint. Over 800,000 members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, confident, influential, with a real sense of identity. A tough and coherent framework for macroeconomic policy but I prefer Bambi, honestly.

There has been an explosion in the health food industry. At least 80 tonnes of mustard gas are unaccounted for. Labour wants Britain to be respected in the world for the best pop music – the Beatles, Blur, Oasis and Simply Red. I have no doubt that the inspectors will find evidence of chewing gum on the streets. New Community, New Individualism. A transatlantic flight can now cost the equivalent of a three-minute phone call. Bringing young people together in teams capable of transporting the entire contents of the British Library in less than a minute. Tough on sense, tough on the causes of sense.

18. January 2020 by rkh
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Wanted: A Labour Leader (serious applicants only)  

full text of article published in the Yorkshire Post  December 16, 2019  (some zingers omitted)

 

There is an old maxim in American politics: the best time to kick a man is when he’s down.

 

It certainly applies to Jeremy Corbyn and his clique. In charge of the  Labour party they were incompetent, self-indulgent and immoral. They destroyed it as an agent of change. They especially betrayed those most in need of a Labour government, those sick or poor or stressed or otherwise vulnerable, and all the children forced to live like refugees in their own country,  dependent on handouts and rations and wearing all their clothes in bed at night.  The Corbyn clique never examined their impact on Labour’s appeal. They built a house with no windows on the outside world, only mirrors.

 

They made even Labour loyalists, never mind the wider electorate, believe that the party had become anti-semitic and in league with terrorists and tyrants. They gave houseroom to cranks and fanatics. They crafted a manifesto which was not so much a programme as a series of letters to Santa Claus. Compared to 2017 (another election they lost) they drove away over two and a half million votes and brought Tory MPs to Labour heartlands, including nine new ones in Yorkshire. All this they achieved against an opponent widely dismissed as dishonest and uncaring, and repudiated by senior members of his party.

 

The kicking needs to be repeated fiercely and often. The Corbynites still control the party and are full of excuses for Labour’s performance. Amazingly, Corbyn and his followers claim that Labour won the election argument, but those pesky electors were so obsessed with Brexit that they did not notice. Jon Lansman, chair of the far-Left cheerleaders’ group, Momentum, claimed that the manifesto was popular because it won the (heavily Remain) London seat of Putney. There’s an exciting prospect: if Labour could win one seat at each General Election it could be in power again as early as the year 2600.

 

Corbyn wants to linger until the new year. His opponents among surviving Labour MPs should not let him: delay increases the chance of a Corbynite successor to lose the party another election. They still have the numbers to oust him as leader of the Parliamentary party and nominate his would-be replacements. Each could be given a crack at Prime Minister’s Questions. MPs should also give themselves a new Shadow Chancellor, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary.

 

To give Labour any hope of recovery, the new leader will have to show that Corbynites have no influence over any part of it. That entails winning a long series of civil wars in local parties, in trade unions and affialated bodies, and over the party organization and policy apparatus.  He/she will have to create a new means to expel instantly anyone whom a reasonable person might view as an anti-semite or any other kind of hater or an enemy of democracy.

 

Those civil wars will produce constitutional and courtroom battles and raucous and bitter personal warfare, abuse and threats of violence. All this is necessary simply to get the Labour horse into the starting gate for 2024, with no guarantee of winning the race.

 

So far no contender looks the equal of Neil Kinnock, who reconquered and re-cast the Labour party after a similar catastrophe in 1983. But he surprised friend and foe, and perhaps someone else will do the same.

 

Kinnock is a reminder that even “normal” Labour parties with attractive leaders and plausible policies regularly lose elections. Corbyn’s successor will have to provide new reasons to win back the voters who deserted the party – and more.

 

He/she cannot rely on Boris Johnson doing that job for them, although I still believe he will contribute.

 

Labour can certainly enjoy making him take full responsibility for Brexit and all its consequences. For now, it does not need its own Brexit policy, certainly not a commitment to Remain imposed by Londoners who have never tried to understand why so many Labour voters elsewhere wanted to Leave.

 

Even without a second independence referendum, the new leader will have to give Scots new motives to vote for the party as part of the United Kingdom.

 

The new leader would be wise to avoid the endorsement of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson. He/she still needs the commitment and passion of those in the party who wanted something better than New Labour. They need to be uncoupled from Corbyn and his cheerleading claque, Momentum (which would be more aptly named Stasis.) He/she should therefore appeal to all those who want the Labour party to achieve something for other people, not serve as an echo chamber for themselves.

 

The new leader could do something totally radical and tell the truth to the British people.

 

In or out of the EU, whatever the final terms of Brexit, they face colossal tasks at home and abroad. To name only a few: meeting the national demand for health and social care, and housing;  relieving family poverty; creating viable well-paid jobs in a global economy where billions of people now produce more output more cheaply than the average British worker; living sustainably and combatting climate change; facing down Putin and confronting the far greater menace of Xi Jinping’s China.

 

Achieving these tasks entails huge adjustments in the way all of us live, in which few can expect any increase in living standards – certainly not the perpetual one which conventional politicians still offer voters in every democratic country. Labour alone can ensure that Britain makes these adjustments promptly and fairly.

 

If Boris Johnson maintains in government the feckless, shallow approach he took on every issue in the election, Labour has much to gain from becoming the Serious Party.

 

Ends

 

Richard Heller was chief of staff to Denis Healey and Gerald Kaufman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16. December 2019 by rkh
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John Donne anticipates the UK election results declared on St Lucy’s Day

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,

Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;

The sun is spent, and now his flasks

Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;

The world’s whole sap is sunk;

The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,

Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,

Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,

Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.

13. December 2019 by rkh
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Zingers Against Boris Johnson

Belittling Boris: A Users Guide   by Richard Heller

I have appointed myself Insulter-General against Boris Johnson. I offer this personal list of zingers to anyone, anywhere seeking to belittle him.

Most carry a core message:

 Boris Johnson has the lowest personal standards of any Prime Minister. He does not understand – let alone, respect – the standards which voters follow in their lives.

Having delivered the core message one can then present the corollary:

In this Parliament full of Tory stooges and crawlers he has total power to do everything Dominic Cummings and Donald Trump tell him to do. (Wait for listeners to appreciate the surprise twist and the double-whammy: BJ is a bully and a puppet.)

Now one can elaborate on the core message:

Every day  I meet people who are making some sort of sacrifice to make life better for others – usually their loved ones but sometimes for people they do not even know, by commitment to a good cause. Some of them do this in desperate circumstances. I’ve met lots of parents and carers who have given up all hope of better things for themselves to give them to their children. I’d like to bring Boris Johnson here to meet them and see if he dares look them in the face. I’d like him to answer: when did you ever make any kind of personal sacrifice, and was it more than a repeat visit to the dessert trolley?

Or possibly:

We all know the expression Me Time. That period – it may not be more than five minutes – when we’re just not available to anyone else, our best friend, our partners, even our children because we want to do something for ourselves. For Boris Johnson every second is Me Time. How can I use it for Me?

Or again:

Boris Johnson’s amazing career has never been hampered by honesty or principle.

I really owe this to Huey Long, populist American leader in the 1930s, who said: “The time has come for all good men to rise above principle.”

 

In family settings: For most parents and carers, the first lesson they try to teach children is taking responsibility when they do something silly or wrong. Boris Johnson never meets that standard. He has never taken responsibility for anything he has written or said or done, certainly not for lying. If he is caught out in one lie he simply tells another one. He even lies when he is correcting his lies.

Or: For Boris Johnson, the truth is an unimportant, dimly-remembered acquaintance at a reception. “I’m sure we’ve met somewhere before.”

Or simply:

You can’t believe anything from Boris Johnson without independent proof. If he says “Nice day, today” look out of the window.

The next is a bit erudite but it can work if the audience is kept teased and in suspense until the resolution:

There are sub-atomic particles which last less than one yoctosecond (a septillionth or ten to the minus 24). [A beat. Look around the setting.] But that is a longer life than any promise by Boris Johnson.

The next is now slightly nostalgic but should still hold up:

This government is like an extended new episode of The Office. Boris Johnson is David Brent: idle, ignorant, incompetent, with the impregnable illusion that he is a popular team leader and an entertainer.

Or simply: Boris Johnson is a variety turn which has gone on too long. 

Now on Brexit, a formula which should appeal to Remainers and Leavers alike, and the huge swathe of voters who are bored rigid by the whole subject:

Boris Johnson’s biggest lie is his biggest promise – to get Brexit done. Of course he is not going to get Brexit done. The most he can do with a Parliamentary majority is to pass his Withdrawal Bill – the one he cribbed from Theresa May. All that does is establish a timetable for hammering out the terms of our messy divorce from the EU. All the big questions – ones that are vital to the jobs and well-being of everyone in our country – are totally unsettled, and you’ll be hearing about them and Brexit non-stop next year if he wins. How are we going to trade not just with the rest of the EU but with more than forty other countries? Boris Johnson thinks we can reach trade agreements with them all within a year. If he believes that it proves again that he is a lazy twerp with a bit of Latin and Greek. [A good general description which could be used elsewhere]. The future of British farming and fisheries. Regulations for dozens of industries, including financial services. All things at risk in Boris’s Brexit Not Done.

The next comparison will enlist the millions of voters who have suffered from bad builders.  You decide to remodel your home in a big way. A builder offers to do the job. You ask if he has done major jobs like this before. He tells you No but makes a promise to finish it some time next year. He then asks you to pay his whole bill upfront. Would you pay it? That’s what Bodger Boris wants. [Bodger Boris is another good all-purpose insult.] If Boris Johnson offered to work in my house, I’d send out for Laurel and Hardy.

A variant on the last: Boris Johnson says he’s got Brexit “oven-ready”. If Boris Johnson offered to cook me an oven-ready meal, I’d throw myself on the nearest mousetrap and eat the cheese.

Now for some general abuse. The next is not original but I think it would have much resonance.  Boris Johnson is a tourist in his own country. To him, the British people are just part of the sights. Or backdrop and extras in the endless movie of which he is the author, director, and star.

 

A slight variant:  To Boris Johnson, Britain’s history is a long parade with himself taking the salute.

 

 

For use in any run-down High Street: Here we are in High Street Boris, part of Boarded-Up Britain.

 

 

Highlight Tory donors and call him  Britain’s first pre-paid Prime Minister.

 

When Boris bottles out of anything I’ve seen more backbone in a jellybaby. Or  More yellow than his hair. More yellow even than Donald Trump’s hair.

 

On his fakery: Everything about Boris Johnson is phoney. It takes him hours to look so untidy. His suits are hand-rumpled by a leading Savile Row tailor.

 

 

 

And finally a switch on Winston Churchill (Johnson’s supposed hero) and his line about Clem Attlee: Boris Johnson is a very conceited person with a great deal to be modest about.

 

Ends  Richard Heller was chief of staff to two masters of political invective, Denis Healey and Gerald Kaufman. He has also been educated by the caustic responses to five novels and a dozen or so screenplays. His latest book, White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, was written with Peter Oborne, creator and editor of the website calling out Boris Johnson’s false statements https://boris-johnson-lies.com/

 

 

 

04. December 2019 by rkh
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Every election speech

Candidate 1 (Mr Aardvark): In all my time in politics,
My friends will all agree
I never dodge the issue
I say just what I see.
That’s why I tell you firmly
(It’s what I’ve always said)
The past is now behind us
The future lies ahead.

All together: Politics, quick fix, old dogs new tricks,
Spend, spend, spend, I’m everyone’s friend.
I spin, he spins, she spins, sweep in –
No matter what you choose, we win you lose.

Candidate 2 (Ms Abacus): My friends, you know my record,
It’s there in black and white,
I’ve heard what you’ve been saying –
And you’re absolutely right.
We’ve always been together,
And I say it now with pride
Whatever is the issue
I’m always on your side.

All together: New wealth, new birth and promise the earth.
Mom’s apple pie in the clear blue sky:
I talk, he talks, she talks, de-tox –
Trust us if you choose, we win, you lose.

Candidate 3 (Dr Acula): The other guys have failed us
On every policy.
We need a new beginning –
Begin right here with me.
I’ll get us moving forward
To somewhere really new.
A vote for me, I promise,
Will be a vote for you.

All together: Hope on a rope and the old soft soap
Clear belief and a clean set of teeth.
I smile, he smiles, she smiles, free style,
Smile back if you choose, we win, you lose.

03. November 2019 by rkh
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