In the dark age before Wikipedia
Brook Bond tea cards dished the data
in a week by week drip feed
of bet-you-didn’t-know-that facts.
You could buy an album for sixpence
or snap an elastic band around them –
your own bright almanac.
But couldn’t your family drink more tea?
– your mother refusing, stubbornly,
to open the packets until she was ready.
On the brink of closure
the sets might suddenly change.
A dab or a stickleback short
in shoals of British Freshwater Fishes,
how you lamented the ones that got away!
At least you knew your duplicates
were as good as cash in hand,
a bankable hoard to trade
in the playground. Assuming a poker face,
you could do straight swaps
or keep a mate dangling
until he delivered the goods –
some vintage card he’d got from his dad.
The hours you spent refining skills
at Knocksy-down and Topsy
were the best shot you had at the jackpot.
Does anyone living remember the rules?
One by one you’d pick them up
if you landed on them.
With a neat flick you’d cop the lot
once you had clipped the last card standing.