In this blogposting...
*rhymes without reason
Now, read on, Macduff...
Hildie recently spent a few days in Manchester and made it her business to seek out the sculpture of Alan Turing (about whom, see blogpostings passim). And, in Sackville Gardens, she found him. The proof is above, for all to see.
RHYME OR REASON
I’ve had an email from Matt ‘King’ Coal (yes, him again). He said he sent it because he was - frankly - bored and couldn’t think of anything else to do. How very dare he?
As a matter of fact, Matt’s email sparked an orgy of nostalgia (if that’s possible) in what’s left of my mind. He quoted a nonsense rhyme which he said he remembered from his schooldays in Sunderland.
One fine day in the middle of the night
Two dead men got up to fight.
Back to back they faced each other.
Then drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise.
Came out and killed the two dead boys.
If you don't believe this lie it's true.
Ask the blindman - he saw it too.
I don’t remember that rhyme at all, but it brought to mind some of the many ‘counting-out’ rhymes and skipping songs from my early days in East Durham.
Inkey pinkey ponkey
Daddy bought a donkey
Donkey died, daddy cried
Inkey pinkey ponkey.
I’m sure there’s a lesson there for all of us. And how about...
There was a man, he went mad
He jumped into a paper bag
The paper bag was too narrow
He jumped into a wheelbarrow
The wheelbarrow was too nasty
He jumped into an apple pasty
The apple pasty was too sweet
He jumped into Chester-le-Street
Chester-le-Street was full of stones
He fell down and broke his bones.
It’s still a bit risky jumping into Chester-le-Street.
Trimdon troughlegs stands on a hill
Poor silly Fishburn stands stock still
Butterwick walls are like to fall
But Sedgefield is the flower of them all.
And that mention of Butterwick brought to mind yet another of my Nana’s weird sayings - she was infamous in the family for her axioms and catch-phrases, many of which made no sense at all to her enraptured grandchildren. Many of them are still impenetrably obscure; what on earth does ‘you’d be a genius if you had a glass arse!’ mean? Unfortunately, she’s not around to ask.
Anyway...another of the wry remarks she was fond of dropping into conversations was ‘going to church at Butterwick’. She used it to imply that a task was fruitless and pointless. And it wasn’t until I mentioned the phrase in the early days of Paul’s Saturday programme that I found out why. A listener called with the explanation.
There is no church at Butterwick!
Keep your votes coming in for the date of AGM X. The venue is the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
I naturally have many memories of the Big Blue Bus programme Paul and I presented for four years - yes, it was that long - from all over the north-east. Each show seemed to develop its own ‘personality’ within moments of ten o’clock. Some of them were chaotically wayward from beginning to end; others were ‘learned’ and inspirational; some were positively educational; some were fanciful and flippant; yet others were contemplative and thought-provoking. Amongst this latter group were the programmes we broadcast on Armistice Day.
I have to be honest here. ‘Remembrance Sunday’ genuinely annoys me. The ceremony - with its accompanying two-minute silence - was originally decreed (by King George V) to be held, famously, at ‘the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month’; that is, of course, at 11 o’clock on November 11. But during the 60s, this solemn act of remembrance was moved to the nearest Sunday to November 11 because otherwise it interfered too much with business, commerce and the daily round of ordinary life.
But surely, interfering with business, commerce and the daily round of ordinary life is the whole point. Whatever else we are doing, whatever other pressures and concerns are crowding in on us, we should stop, just once a year - and just for two minutes - to remember those who died - or sustained terrible injuries - on our behalf, and to bring to mind those who are still doing so today, whether they are fighting and dying or suffering here at home.
So it’s only right that, a few years ago - and thanks to a campaign by the British Legion - the two-minute silence was restored to its proper date and time.
And it’s the Blue Bus programmes we broadcast on Armistice Day that come most vividly to mind.
The armistice hooter sounding across the decades in Swan Hunter’s shipyard and the eerie, wind-blown silence that followed before the hooter sounded again.
And, perhaps most moving of all, the Salvation Army band playing Deep Harmony as the eleventh hour approached on Bedford Street in North Shields. The shopping centre clock struck the hour and everyone - there were no exceptions - stood still. Everyone stopped. No-one moved. Many heads were bowed. There were many tears.
To me, there is very little in human experience to compare with a large crowd of people standing in total and utter silence, each one lost in thought and contemplation. It’s awesome to witness and even more awesome to be part of.
I don’t agree with those who say ‘it’s all in the past’ and we should move on. Countless lives were lost and countless hearts broken so that we can enjoy the life we have today. Two minutes out of that life - just once a year - is no sacrifice at all compared to the sacrifice they made.
I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year
And I to my pledged word am true
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
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