Wendy Cope, Serious Concerns

The other night I was bemoaning my lack of light reading before bedtime. My girlfriend suggested I read the copy of Wendy Cope’s Serious Concerns she gave me. I complied, and here’s a selection of my favourites from the collection.

‘Defining the Problem’

I can’t forgive you. Even if I could,
You wouldn’t pardon me for seeing through you.
And yet I cannot cure myself of love
For what I thought you were before I knew you.

‘Another Unfortunate Choice’

I think I am in love with A. E Housman,
Which puts me in a worse-than-usual-fix.
No woman ever stood a chance with Housman
And he’s been dead since 1936.

‘Men and Their Boring Arguments’

One man on his own can be quite good fun
But don’t go drinking with two-
They’ll probably have an argument
And take no notice of you.

What makes men so tedious
Is the need to show off and compete.
They’ll bore you to death for hours and hours
Before they’ll admit defeat.

It often happens at dinner-parties
Where brother disputes with brother
And we can’t even talk among ourselves
Because we’re not next to each other.

Some men like to argue with women —
Don’t give them a chance to begin.
You won’t be allowed to change the subject
Until you have given in.

A man with the bit between his teeth
Will keep you up half the night
And the only way to get some sleep
Is to say, ‘I expect you’re right.’

I expect you’re right, my dearest love.
I expect you’re right, my friend.
These boring arguments make no difference
To anything in the end.


She left two Premium Bonds
And what remained of that week’s pension,
Her clothes, photographs, and china ornaments
We’d given her as children.

Also the crotcheted mats
She made as wedding presents,
Babies shawls, the suit
My teddy bear still wears,
And fifty pairs of woolly socks
In drawers all over England.

Wendy Cope, ‘The New Regime’

‘The New Regime’

Yes, I agree. We’ll pull ourselves together.
We eat too much. We’re always getting pissed.
It’s not a bad idea to find out whether
We like each other sober. Let’s resist.
I’ve got the Perrier and the carrot-grater,
I’ll look on a Scotch or a pudding as a crime.
We all have to be sensible sooner or later
But don’t let’s be sensible all the time.

No more thinking about a second bottle
And saying ‘What the hell?’ and giving in.
Tomorrow I’ll be jogging at full throttle
To make myself successful, rich, and thin.
A healthy life’s a great rejuvenator
But, God, it’s going to be an uphill climb.
We all have to be sensible sooner or later
But don’t let’s be sensible all the time.

The conversation won’t be half as trivial-
You’ll hold forth on the issues of the day-
And, when our evenings aren’t quite so convivial,
You’ll start remembering the things I say.
Oh, see if you can catch the eye of the waiter
And order me a double vodka and lime.
We all have to be sensible sooner or later
But I refuse to be sensible all the time.


Wendy Cope (b. 1945) is a very popular British poet. She is a humourist, particularly interested in sexual politics, puncturing literary pretensions and poking fun at Britishness.