Sunday, June 10, 2007

For Marriott Edgar

Internet Ronin's comment on Northampton on my previous post started me thinking about local identity, mine in particular. At once two lines of verse came into my head - 'In a place you'll have 'eard of called Bury;/You know, where black puddings is made.' This is from a sublime piece of nonsense called Three Ha'Pence a Foot by Marriott Edgar. Edgar wrote comic poems for the performer Stanley Holloway and there was a book of them in my house, which was, indeed, near Bury. Neither Edgar nor Holloway came originally from the north-west, but their work together displays an astonishing grasp of the flat, slightly detached humour of the place. I used to know the best of these works - Albert and the Lion, Marksman Sam, The Battle of Hastings, Gunner Joe - off by heart. Reading them now, I see they are touched by genius - mere talent could not come up with 'Where they'd lions and tigers and camels/And Old Ale and sandwiches too', nor with the line with which Noah introduces himself to Sam Oglethwaite in Three Ha'Pence a Foot - 'Came an old feller fair wreathed wi' whiskers;/T'ould chap said,'Good morning, I'm Noah.' The story of this latter poem is a joy. Edgar's verse yarns still makes me laugh out loud. And they remind that I came from a real place that I shall never leave.


  1. And they remind that I came from a real place that I shall never leave.


    Thanks for the link to my profile, Bryan! Anyone tempted to click through to my blog ought be warned that there are a number of pictures currently displayed of one of my cats (both British shorthairs, by the way). Anaphylactic shock is not pretty.

    Had I considered the possibility of a link from someone, I might have put up a few new posts. As it is, most of my time these days is given over to working with my mother as she struggles with Guillain-Barré Syndrome or attending to the myriad details involved in winding up my father's estate. (He unexpectedly died the morning after she returned home from 8 weeks in the hospital.) About the only posts worth reading on the blog are under the header, "Parents."

    This reminds me that, if my mother does recover her ability to walk, we are going help her realize one of her lifelong dreams, and visit the UK next Spring. Any and all suggestions of out-of-the-way B&B's, picturesque villages and gardens would be greatly appreciated, particularly the best time to see various flowers in bloom (she's an avid gardener).

  2. Tell me when you're coming, IR, I'll fill your schedule with wonders.

  3. philip wallingJune 10, 2007 9:25 am

    And not forgetting 'Sam pick up tha musket' which must be up there with them.
    I've been given a CD of Stanley Holloway reading a goodly number of 'monologues' and it's a joy - they used to be on request programmes on the BBC when Ah were a lad - and on such prgrammes as Desert Island Discs.

    'Real place that you shall never leave'?
    Are you not one of a generation of clever people who ought to have stayed where you belong, but were encouraged and enabled to leave 'real places'? (I was one) To go to where, and why? I ask.
    Are you expressing the nostalgia of exile, or something else?

  4. Internet ronin; There are many areas of the UK which are truly lovely, and it depends on the interest of the person where best to base oneself. Where Bryan has a love, Norfolk, has beautiful tiny villages in abundance, is as flat as a pancake, a coast one can actually see disappearing. It has one of the oldest sites of pilgrimage at Walsingham. But in Spring, it also has wind driven sleet which has its birth in or beyond the Urals.
    For my money, in Spring, the west is the place. Cornwall, Devon, Somerset.
    Gardens in abundance, relatively warm. And Rick Stein with his food.

  5. Mainly, Philip, a growing awareness that one can never leave what one is.

  6. As you know, Bryan, I never left my 'real place' even physically (apart from the odd misguided interlude). Sorry I haven't been blog-active lately - training the cat for a suicide mission against a high-profile target. The farewell video is made, all is in place, he is ready (tho I must admit I have my doubts about his grasp of reality - he's probably going to target me. Bastard. Never trust a cat)...

  7. Ah those misguided interludes! I seem to recall you were an Edgar fan also, Nige.

  8. Ah yes - What price your bird's-eye maple now?

  9. I think your identity would be enhanced if you reminded you readers to vote for you. You're only a single vote behind 'Captain Smack Special Edition' in the Blog Power Awards. You still have time to steal this one...

  10. Marvellous... Last night I was at a reception at Leigh Masonic Hall. The opening remark made over the microphone was 'Pies 'ave come...' (homage to Colin Crompton and the Wheeltappers and Shunters Club). I recall reciting Albert and the Lion to a group of wannabe actors in New York. I was somewhat peturbed when they seemed upset that Wallace had 'swallowed the little lad whole...' Eventually they saw it was a pre-war prototype Simpsons episode. But the episode reflected well on both halves of the transatlantic divide - English irreverence and American earnestness and fellow feeling. Genius line from Albert? 'There were no wrecks and nobody drowning/In fact nothing to laugh at at all..'

  11. Thanks, Bryan. Very kind of you (& much appreciated).

    FWIW, I wrote something similar a few days ago, but I must have hit "preview" not "publish" and then closed the window.

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