The Red Tablecloth

Have been sent this poem by a long standing friend.

Thought you would like to see it too.


The Red Tablecloth

I took it from the top of the freezer where it had lain

cocooned in plastic

Spread it across the kitchen floor, a royal carpet

And knelt in obeisance with a small bowl of water

And a Vanish bar, gradually shuffling forward on

Ancient knees as I scraped away the smears of festive foods.

Later, pulled from the womb of the washing machine

It hung flag-like on the linen line, deep red,

The people’s flag (not the Scarlet of Flanders poppies or The Letter),

Sometimes writhing like the cloak of a toreador, sometimes sailing high

in the sky like the Banksy balloon.

The red of pillar boxes, the red of holly berries, the red of Christmas,

it now drapes the ironing board with an accusatory glare

as if it would like to say:


When are you going to press me and put me away?


It has only taken me three months to wash it.


Let us hope that when the next festive season comes

The world can spread its tablecloths again.






Washed on 25th March 2020.

Written on 25th March 2020.

Pressed on 29th March 2020.


Jo, 2020.


  1. Sally Beaumont
    April 14, 2020 / 3:44 pm

    MY TABLECLOTH is still in the ironing basket hidden in a cupboard. However I now realise I did not have a Christmas table! I wonder how long it has been there.

    • Sue Sokal
      April 14, 2020 / 6:03 pm

      Not just in my house, then? 😉

  2. April 14, 2020 / 7:33 pm

    wonderful! i’ll treat it as a mission from you – the blues brothers style, and go hunting my closets for the likes of it 🙂

  3. jemima
    April 14, 2020 / 8:37 pm

    hi everyone.
    i, too, am on a mission. during this genuine “staycation”, i’m drawing up a list of everything that’s good about it. so today’s addition to the list:
    that my ironing can’t talk to me
    that i don’t have a difficult-to-wash-and-iron red christmas tablecloth

    but i agree entirely with the sentiment ~ whether it’s a table cloth or a picnic blanket, i am looking forward to a joyous get-together doing as many of the currently disapproved of activities as i’m capable of, and watching the grandchildren doing the ones i’m no longer able to.

    so please say thank you to your friend
    and to everyone else: happy hibernating

  4. jemima
    December 25, 2020 / 1:37 am

    it is now the second hour of christmas day 2020. does that make it the ideal moment to wish everyone on this blogspot a HAPPY CHRISTMAS?

    no wise words about difference and change. last year i couldn’t visit my loved ones because i was “enjoying” the delights of the shingles virus. now in 2020 it’s “another year, another virus” we probably all have less people visiting to make their “smears of festive food” on the festive tablecloth. will it sit for any less time in the laundry basket?

    would it be too miserable to mention that with my personal combination “clinically extremely vulnerable” and tier 4, i must abide by the “do nothing” set of rules? i’m not even allowed to look in the mirror for fear of passing myself something more unpleasant than the glutinous gravy or the marvellous marmalade. [would that be the brilliant brussels?]

    anyway, my porpoise is to spread some good cheer. after so many years of following (or avoiding) tradition, this is surely the year to truly do what we want. quiet contemplation or loud singing. i’ve already had an over-the-phone game of “name that christmas tune”. clearly hilarious in its own right, the delights were increased because no one could master the kazoos that came with the set. and i confess that i went off piste because i couldn’t recognise the names of most of the non-carol songs on the cards. so i made up my own which went well until someone got a card with a carol i’d just hummed, and i was forced to confess!

    if anyone else has games to suggest, now’s the moment. or, more technically, any of the next 22 1/2 hours-worth of moments.


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