Leave a comment



Not only the Year of the Rat – not that!

It’s the Year of the Male Metal Rat.

Rats like hard work and their focus aims out

They prefer to be active, they don’t like to doubt.

They’re powerful and strong like the blade of a knife

They have rigid opinions on money and life.


Boy Rats are clever and quick to adapt

Girl Rats are homely, in family they’re rapt

Their houses are tidy, all things in their place

They care for their families with prudence and grace

Boy Rats are creative and keen to advance

They have good ideas but don’t seize the chance.


Rat is the first of zodiacal years

*He tricked the Ox and jumped over his ears!

They’re liked by most and they’re usually kind

They’re technical thinkers, by study refined.

Rat may design buildings, his detail is fine

Engineering is also a likely Rat line.


They’re gifted with brains but say things that may hurt

Rats tell you the truth but sometimes sound curt.

As workers in teams they’re not at their best

Creating’s their thing – with ideas they’re blest.

They’re said to bring wealth in gen’rous profusion

All Rats make good friends – that’s my conclusion.





*according to myth the Jade Emperor decided to allocate the zodiacal years by the order in which the invited animals arrived at his party. Rat tricked Ox into giving him a ride and when they reached the finishing line Rat jumped over his ears and claimed first place.

“Year of the Pig” by Jan Darling

1 Comment



I’m a Pig! I’m a Pig! I am patient and kind

I’m not the smartest but I don’t mind.

I’m trustworthy, indulgent, with a big sense of humour

If they say I’m lazy, it’s only a rumour.


Pigs born at morning are moody but reckless

They leap before looking, sometimes they’re feckless.

Pigs born in the noon, now they fight with heart

As long as they’re helped a bit at the start.


Pigs born at night, they’re full of fight

They alone know how to do everything right.

But these traits can be varied according to age

They’re only true at a certain stage.


Boy Pigs for instance are low-key and trusting

Easily fooled, they may just take a dusting.

Girl pigs are gentle and mostly seek peace

They’re given to kindness and not to caprice.


Luck and good fortune may bless the Pig

With honest sincerity showing up big

Understanding and giving, never spiteful or mean

The Pig is a really fine Human Bein’!

“Spirit of the Wolf” by Jan Darling


Spirit of the Wolf



The child sat still at the Wise Man’s side, her hand upon her chin

‘What is it that disturbs you, child?  What struggles are within?’

The child, wide-eyed, sized up the Man and whispered ‘What’s your name?

The Wise Man answered with a smile ‘I am who I became’.


‘What do you mean?’ the child replied ‘you arewho you became?

Aren’t you the same as yesterday – or is this just a game?’

‘It’s Life, my child, and that’s no game – it can be good or bad

You live it happy if you’re kind – or you can live it sad.


‘We each are one, but also three, there’s Dark and Light and Me

I am the Heart who works with love and the thief who cheats it free.

I am the Spirit of the Wolf – a prowler of the Night

By day the body still is Wolf – and yet the Soul is bright.


‘They’re part of every choice you make, to hinder or to help;

They wind you up, they let you down, they whimper or they yelp;

They’re always fighting for your Will, they both set out to win;

But one day You will win the match and welcome both within.


‘One Wolf is dark and angry, he snaps and he is mean

He sees the worst in everyone and often vents his spleen.

He’s selfish and he’s envious, he sneers at weakness too,

When he is loosed your friends will ask Is this really you?


‘One Wolf is soft and caring, his every act is kind;

He loves the world and all therein – with balm his soul is lined.

His days are filled with joy and love and tender-hearted care

He’s careful to live in peace, with everyone he’ll share.’


The child was quiet and then she asked ‘Do I have Wolves in me?

If there’s a place where they’ll be friends – will you give me the key?

I’m sometimes very angry, I stamp my foot and scream

And other times I feel so good, it’s like my life’s a dream.


‘I don’t know why I have these moods, they make me feel so funny

I don’t like grizzly grumpy days – I’d like to make them sunny.

How can I have my Wolves be friends? How can I make them happy?

I’d like them to help me be myself, the self who’s never snappy.’


‘That’s good my child because, you know, it’s all to do with diet

The Light Wolf solves your problems by thinking in the quiet,

He turns your actions into food that never causes pains

He helps with resolutions so all can count the gains.


‘The Dark Wolf fights against success, he hates to live in peace,

His job is to confuse you, so your anger will increase;

He feeds on your frustrations, your pain is his dessert,

He’s never ever hungry when a friend he makes you hurt.


‘Dark Wolf is ever prowling though the mazes of your mind,

When he’s in charge your kindest act is always undermined.

He feeds on negativity and loves to see you fail

When you feel strong, he cackles, convincing you you’re frail.


‘No stronger than the Light Wolf, but he can strike you dumb

He strokes your ego daily making out that he’s your chum;

He doesn’t want to help you, he’s looking for the nerve

That captures soul and psyche so he alone you’ll serve.


‘So, Child, I cannot tell you more, for each of us must choose

To find our ways in Light or Dark – our acts our souls infuse.

Our Wolves both hunger for success, and each does fight with zest

It’s up to you to choose the Wolf whose diet fits you best.


‘We change each day through what we do, what acts of love we offer

We live our lives within this love that we do freely proffer.

Each day we change, we snuff the spark – or fire we do reclaim

Tis thus I know for certain that I am who I became.’


She looked at him as still she sat, her hand upon her chin,

She looked as though she wrangled with two Wolves who fought within.

‘Which Wolf will win this fight?’ she asked ‘Which Wolf will now succeed?’

‘The Wolf who eats the most’ he said ‘the Wolf that sates his greed.’


‘And if I starve him of his food, if no lie I ever tell..

Will he starve and shrink and shrivel up, consign himself to hell?’

‘He will do that’ the Wise Man said ‘and you’ll have done your duty

To make a world of gentle Wolves who love you for your beauty.’

“The Polar Bears’ Secret” by Jan Darling

Leave a comment




Dear Jame-y you defame me

I’m not white at all.

This is a subject of confusion –

I’m just an optical illusion!


The colour white is made of light

All the colours blended bright.


But me – I’m a Polar Bear

Not one colour do I wear!

Except my skin – my skin is black!

But please don’t feel you’re taken aback.


What trick is it that shows me white?

A strange reaction of the light?

This strange reaction’s not refraction

But something closer to attraction.


I have two kinds of hair – one long and strong:

Tapered and hollow, if I’m not wrong.

It’s filled with air and called the ‘guard’

(Understanding this is really hard).


It’s made of stuff just like our nails

Not unlike a fish’s scales.

When sunrays hit my hollow hair

They bounce around while they’re in there,


They create a kind of incandescence

Something like a ‘transparescence

In Polar Bear’s it’s the quintessence

Of what is called our luminescence.


So – every time my hair sees light

It makes my coat look really white!




PS​ The other kind of hair I wear

is short and thick my warmth to snare.



Jan Darling

“Mummy Rabbit, Mummy Rabbit” by Jan Darling


My favourite plate when I was a child had a picture of a rabbit wearing a red jacket at the front of a group of little rabbits, with the last line of this poemprinted on it.           Jan Darling


‘Mummy Rabbit, Mummy Rabbit

Where did you put my Easter habit?’

‘Which one?’ she said (she was making his bed)

‘I have to wear the one that is red!’


‘Why red, my kitten, you’ve a yellow one, too;

And last year you wore the one that is blue.’

‘I promised the others back there in the shed

That I would be wearing the one that is red.’


‘Bunny, my kitten, where is it written

That you must wear a coat that matches your mitten?’

Bunny tried to explain that the man from the train

Had said that red jackets were the best in the rain.


‘I can’t wear the yellow, my eggs aren’t marshmallow

And I don’t like the eggs that are filled up with jello.

It says on the packet I must wear a jacket

That matches my mittens – or there’ll be a racket!


‘Please, Mummy Rabbit, could you find my habit

We have to rehearse with the new Jackrabbit.

I have the crème eggs, the ones that you like

I’ll bring you one home when I find my bike.’


‘Oh dear little Bunny I’d love a crème egg –

I’ll look for your jacket, you don’t have to beg.’

So Bunny hopped off to the hall at the church

Happy not to be leaving his friends in the lurch.


Bunny they cried as our hero was spied

‘If you don’t wear the red, it will damage our pride.’

‘Mummy Rabbit is searching from the roof to the ground

She won’t stop her looking until it is found.’


‘Thank goodness’ they sighed, ‘cos we can’t change the verse

Now Bunny is here, let’s start to rehearse.

Easter eggs will be shared and happiness spread

And it’s Bunny who led in his coat of bright red.’



“Is it a Zed or a Zee” by Jan Darling




You say Potarto, I say potayto

You say tomarto and ! say tomayto

Some say Zed and some say Zee

It makes no difference, not to me.

I dreamt I went to the Zoo last night

At the end of the alphabet – I had a real fright.


Dreaming, I found the A’s B’s and C’s

and continued on past the M, N, O, P’s

I followed the way to things starting with Zed

Then all those letters just went to my head

(I had plenty of time – dream visits are free)

A stripey horse whinnied and said – I’m a Zee.


We’re the cleverest animals in all the Zoo

Let me explain to you clearly just who is who.

This is family stuff, so you must pay attention

 Zedzees can appear in any dimension

We’re a family that’s full of multiple guises

If you remember them all – there might be prizes.


My dad is a Zebra, my mother’s a Horse

That’s how I was given my name – I’m a Zorse.

That makes me special, in the Zoo I’m a feature

I’m considered to be an amazing creature.

I’m built like a Horse but I wear a striped suit

My buddies here think that I’m really cute.


If the tables were turned and a Zebra my mum

My dad would be Horse – he’d still be our chum

You might think this idea is utterly mad

The first part of my name would reflect the dad

So welcome the Horbra into our poem

And still we Zedzees have much more to show’em.


The Horbra has stripes – you don’t know where they’ll be

Could be the neck, on the back or the knee.

His patches are stripey on a background plain

So many patterns, it’s really insane.

Each Horbra is diff’rent, unique to behold

Known for his strength and inclined to be bold.


Now – back to the Zorse, you remember of course

That he’s the offspring of Zebra and Horse

He has other names, too, and I’ll tell you a few

Zebrula, Zebrule, Zebra Mule – will that do?

The Horbra by more names can also be met

Such as Hebra, Zebrinny and even Zebret.


Have you thought of the mating of Zebra with Pony?

You’ll not be surprised, their offspring’s a Zony!

Now, if you’re not feeling dizzy, woozy or wonky

We’ll talk of the offspring of Zebra and Donkey:

Called Zebadonk, Zebrass, Zebrinny, Zebrilla

Zebonkey,  Zebonk and Zonkey – the killer!


Altogether these beauties are known as Zebroid

With so many names they must always feel buoyed

Starting as donkeys, asses and zebras and horses

These all are examples of natural forces.

When you go the Zoo, start at alphabet’s ending

And you’ll see how glorious is Nature’s blending.



“I” Iguanas by Jan Darling

Leave a comment



If you’re after a pet that’s canny and clue-y

Eager to learn and not all that Zoo-y

And you have the right ‘temps’ to keep your pet cosy

With a sun-baking place where it can be dozy

Iguana’s the guy to share your affection

Always obliging, they make good connection.


He’s not like a chameleon, not at all like him,

He’ll only change colour when things get grim.

Living wild, under stress he can change his shade,

Or in breeding season, to make the grade,

You’ll notice he changes while basking in sun

But he’ll never change colour if it’s only for fun.


In general, Iguana’s the best reptile pet

He’s surely the smartest a reptile can get

He’s docile, adaptive, found all kinds of places

Tropic forests, arid deserts, even watery bases.

If you keep him at home you must mimic his weather

It’s the way to be happy, to get on together.


Before we go further I want you to know

I think his Collective’s a really low blow –

You may share my horror (and I think you oughta)

That a group of Iguanas is called a Slaughter!

A Slaughter, indeed, a ridiculous thought

They’re lovable guys, each one a good sport.


Thirty-five different kinds of this lovable creature

Offer their friendship to student or teacher

In a range of colours that dazzle and stun

In various sizes – all of them fun.

Length starts at one hundred – *cms that’s to say

Ends at one seven zero – head to tail, all the way.


This biggie’s Grand Cayman, the king of them all

He’s the heaviest, too, and to keep you in thrall,

His natural blue makes him special and rare

It’s a hue that very few animals share.

In the mornings he snoozes and basks in the heat

And on waking he needs to voraciously eat.


What singular gifts your Iguana does offer!

Recognising your family, his friendship he’ll proffer

His memory is great for learning and faces

You’ll train him to eat and sleep in new places

He’ll learn toileting too, if you train him to time

He responds to the rules and leaves you no grime.


In the wild the Iguanas will play, work and rest

They’re cooperative planners, some of the best,

They care for their families, their friends and their siblings

And take on these tasks without any quibblings.

Problem-solving’s a skill they’ve learned on their own

It helps them succeed and ‘stay in the zone’.


The female will burrow a nest with her legs

And once it is ready she’ll there lay her eggs

She covers them over, hoping they’ll hatch

Then she makes off, leaving the batch!

Some four months later, the hatchlings are thrown

Into the world to survive all alone!


At three years of age young Iguanas are ready

To find their own friends and start to act steady

A successful Iguana can live sixty years

If it can survive the **“below 50” fears

For if caught in the cold and canopy bound

It may lose its grip and fall to the ground.

*centimetres, pronounced here ‘see ems’

** At 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) the Iguana starts to become paralysed by the cold as muscles begin to close down and if high in the canopy, may fall to the ground.  Such falls usually don’t cause death.   Forest Iguanas spend much of their lives in the canopy, only descending to mate, lay eggs or change trees.


What is the Collective Noun for Iguanas?

How many different kinds are there?

What average length is the smallest Iguana?

What average length is the Grand Cayman Iguana?

What do Iguanas have in common with Chameleons?

What colour is the Grand Cayman Iguana?

Is this unusual for Iguanas or unusual for all animals?

What is the incubation time for the Iguana egg?   Explain incubation.

Does the female Iguana sit on her nest?

Discuss Imperial and Metric measures.

Information not included in verses:

Iguanas make very little sound either alone or together.  They occasionally make sneezing or snorting noises.

The tail is usually about half the length of the body.

The tail is used for balancing when climbing or fighting.  It is spiky and can inflict pain and cause wounding.   

When held by the tail, the Iguana can shed it and later will grow a new one.  As on ordinary lizards, you can see how many times the tail has been regrown by the rings showing on the tail.

“H” Hummingbirds by Jan Darling

1 Comment




Of birds I’m the smallest in all of the world

And my eggs are the smallest as well

My fast-beating wings are always unfurled

They’re seldom allowed time to spell.


I fly forwards and backwards and sideways as well

Upside-down you can see me at work

I drink from the flowers but have no sense of smell

You wouldn’t call that such a perk.


I remember each bloom and where it did lurk

And soon as I drink I start countin’

To measure the time to return and not shirk

When that flower has refilled its fountain.


I build my nest high in forest or mountain

All velvety soft and elastic

It’s built of plant fibres, of twigs and of leaf

Bound with pure spidersilk – nothing plastic!


My nest stretches wide as I lay – fantastic!

They’re the tiniest eggs you can find

I mostly lay two, for more could be drastic

These two hungry beaks are born bald and blind.


Keeping two well-fed is a hard daily grind

A relentless search for good nectar

When I built my nest I was keeping in mind

The real need to find food in my sector.


As chicks grow big I become the collector

Using the tiny hairs on my tongue

From the reddest blossoms I steal the nectar

To nourish best healthy growth in my young.


As mother, my efforts by others, unsung,

My wings sing with constant vibration

Eighty times each second, that’s really high-strung –

Beautiful iridescent creation.


We’re tiny and bright and love admiration

Our pure beauty is known to disarm

No wonder then we discover causation:

Our Collective noun – a Hummingbird Charm.


A Charm of Hummingbirds, a wonderful scene

Fluttering, swift, by our eyes unseen

Such beauty born size of a tiny wee bean

Nature’s best gift’s in the Hummingbird seen.



In how many directions can a Hummingbird fly?

What is the Hummingbird’s nest made of?

What is unique about the nest?

What colour flower attracts most attention from the Hummingbird?

What is the Collective noun for Hummingbirds?

How many times a second does the wing of the Hummingbird beat?

80 times a second is too fast for the human eye to see.

Has anyone noticed the rhyming pattern of each verse?


With the final verse KKKK.

Has anyone counted the beats to each line of each verse?

11 9 11 10

Explain that rhyming poetry is often written to specific structures of rhymes and beats to the line.

Information not included in the verse:  

There are 300 different species of Hummingbirds. 

Hummingbirds have brilliant iridescent feathers, 

Being the smallest bird in the world it’s often mistaken for an insect.  

Each bird needs to drink its weight in nectar every day, the hairs at the end of the tongue help to drain all the nectar from each flower.  

The bird knows how long it will take for that nectar to be replaced in each blossom and returns the drink again.  

This also performs the task of pollination for the flowers.  

Hummingbirds seldom rest, their average heart rate is 1200 beats per minute – the average heart rate for a 12 year old person is 55 to 85 beats per minute!   The Hummingbird when resting takes 250 breaths per minute – the average 12 year old person takes between 18 and 30 breaths per minute.  

Hummingbird wings beat up to 80 times a second!!!  

Their legs are so tiny and weak that they can’t support the weight of the bird – that’s why they hover.

All this – and they can build their nests in trees up to 27 metres high.

Only a few make vocal sounds – mostly their sound is created by the vibration of their wings and tail feathers.

Hummingbirds, surprisingly are very aggressive towards each other when competing for food.

“G” Goose by Jan Darling

1 Comment



A Goose is a Goose is a Goose is a Goose

She’s a sociable gal who’s not on the loose

A gal?  Not a pal? To whom does she pander?

Her boyfriend of course – he’s called a Gander.


They’re sociable birds – faithful and kind

Once got together – as family they bind.

Goose lays the eggs and sits on their nest

While Gander the loyal, stands guard east through west.


The larger the bird, the longer the wait.

From laying of eggs to arrival of freight;

Depending on kind it’s four to five weeks

‘Tween no-one to feed, then up to nine beaks!


At two to three months they take their first flights

And have their first chance to see home from the heights

When the nest’s full, the babies are jostling

While living at home, the young are called Gosling.


With family they fly to see some of the world

Through all kinds of skies and clouds that are curled

When they reach the place where each one was hatched

They catch up with their friends and all are despatched.


When Goslings join up to fly round the clock

So many together we call them a Flock.

They seek new adventures and these they will find,

With new friendships made leaving no one behind. 


When Geese fly so close that they look like a lump

There’s a special name – they’re called a Plump.

A Plump of Geese, many a sister and brother –

How do they not bump into each other?


When adult geese fly in great numbers we say

They’re a Skein or a Team and no one will stray;

When they fly in a V-shape, that’s called a Wedge

As neat as can be from edge right to edge.


There’s a special technique they use for migration:

They gather their thousands in V formation.

Each bird flies above the bird right in front

Creating a marvellous aerial stunt…


This flight reduces resistance to wind

A clever technique with science twinned

To maximise effort and save the birds’ strength

For a successful migration, no matter the length.


So far we have Geese in Plump, Flock and Skein

In the Team and the Wedge, not together in vain.

They’re all in the air, but when Geese are grounded

It’s a Gaggle of Geese, ‘cos that’s how they sounded.


They’re creatures of habit with hearts that are true

Once they are mated it’s always the two

Each year they return to the nest made together

Regardless of age, regardless of weather.


If times are good and food is a-plenty

Your fortunate Goose may live up to twenty.

When one mate dies, the other does mourn

Often living its life alone and forlorn.


It’s true that Geese will find comfortable quarter

Their only real need – being close to the water

They eat nuts, grass and berries, mixed with some seeds

It’s much the same for all of the breeds.



What is a male Goose called?

What is a female Goose called?

What is a young Goose called?

How old is a Gosling when he takes his first flight?

Do Goslings stay with their parents all their lives?

What do you call a group of Goslings?

How many names can you think of for groups of Geese?

What is the special name for a group of Geese on the ground?

What shape do migrating Geese fly in?

Why do Geese fly in a V shape?

How long can a Goose live?

You can listen to the honking sounds made by Geese on YouTube.  Just type in ‘Sounds of…..” and you will be directed to an appropriate website.


“The Queue” by Jan Darling

Leave a comment


‘Oh please let me in’ said the bear who was grizzly

‘I’m doing a show, I don’t want it frizzly.’

He tugged at his hair, that fussy old bear

‘I’ve just had it dyed, it used to be fair’.

Those waiting in line just smiled at each other

Ev’ryone happy to help their brother.


A worm who was third from the start of the queue

Was shivering hard and fast turning blue

‘What’s wrong with this bus? It’s broken down?

Will anyone ever get into the town?’

The town was twinkling and bright with its light

Some in the queue were starting to fight. 


A big bird with a bandage around one wing

Started to dance the highland fling

A pelican said to a stork ‘It’s outrageous,

I do hope this madness is not contagious.’

The stork looked at him squarely and quietly said

‘I wish I were home and tucked into my bed’.


Three canaries were singing (they’d been to a dance)

The song they were singing was written in France

They yodelled and trilled all over the scales

They even tried singing the song of the whales.

They ordered some orange and cherry ice cream

Enough to feed a whole basketball team.


The ice cream arrived and the queue they went crazy

Except for the piglets – they’re terribly lazy

They wanted some oak nuts, acorns they’re called,

They said they grew hair and no-one was bald

Maybe it’s true that nuts cover the scalp

But nobody there needed that kind of help.


The crowd suddenly hushed and fell into silence

Somewhere behind was an outbreak of violence 

A basketball team had arrived with some melons

Those in the crowd believed they were felons

(people who steal from others their treasures)

Getting caught redhanded was one of their pleasures.


The whole scene looked stupid to Harry the Horse

Who was trying to study the subject of Morse

He tapped and he paused and waited for action

His hoof immune from outer distraction

He tapped dah dah dit, di dah, dah and dit

If it worked he would make a quick dash for it.


Did you hear of that Harry’s ultimate fate?

His message was read and – opened the gate

Harry leapt forth and came in number nine

And met a young filly he thought divine

When Harry proposed she promised to tryst

‘Cos Harry had asked with a flick of his wrist.


Well you might think that this is all rot

That all horses can do is gallop and trot

But Harry believed he could dominate fate

By placing his faith in the power to create

A message he’d sent by dah and by dit

Had stretched his talent and used his wit.


Dah dah dit, tapped in Morse will give you a ‘g’

Di dah gives you ‘a’, dah and dit ‘t’ and ‘e’

So Harry the Horse repeated his offer

Confirmed he was humble and empty his coffer

But Tilly the Filly was thrilled with his Morse

And she happily neighed ‘Oh Harry, of course’.


Sorry I am, about this diversion

I have an aversion to total immersion

The queue got itself rattled 

They all tittle-tattled

The bus arrived late and was slow to unload

But who jumped out first?  Of course – the toad.

Continue Reading »