Cockney singer and comedian, Gus Elen (below) made this little ditty famous at the end of the 19th Century. It’s a bitter-sweet number, lamenting the loss of the beautiful English countryside and the advent of the slums as London sprawled out over the South East in the name of progress and industrialisation.
A little over a century later, the urban streets, factories and gasworks which Elen mocked have been pulled down and swept away, but not to be replaced by the original green fields, but with Millennium Tents, Olympic Towers, Aquatic Centres and Velodromes. It’s hailed by some as progress, by others and the rape and destruction of our heritage. By others again as a fantastic money-making opportunity for a few lucky people at the expense of some of the poorest in society.
When reciting this one, the trick is to hone your cockney accent (and I know many of you have been practicing hard to perfect yours, yearning to be able to speak proper) just like Gus did when he first performed this on stage to East Enders (no, not that lot – the real ones) and sang to them as one of their own.
Once more I am indebted to The Talented Mr Rapley for reminding me of this one.
(This ain’t Gus singing , but it’ll give you an idea of how the tune goes)
If it Wasn’t for the Houses Inbetween
If you saw my little backyard, “Wot a pretty spot!” you’d cry,
It’s a picture on a sunny summer day;
Wiv the turnip tops and cabbages wot peoples doesn’t buy
I makes it on a Sunday look all gay.
The neighhours finks I grow ’em and you’d fancy you’re in Kent,
Or at Epsom if you gaze into the mews.
It’s a wonder as the landlord doesn’t want to raise the rent,
Because we’ve got such nobby distant views.
Oh it really is a wery pretty garden
And Chingford to the eastward could be seen;
Wiv a ladder and some glasses,
You could see to ‘Ackney Marshes,
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between.
We’re as countrified as can be wiv a clothes prop for a tree,
The tub-stool makes a rustic little stile;
Ev’ry time the bloomin’ clock strikes there’s a cuckoo sings to me,
And I’ve painted up “To Leather Lane a mile.”
Wiv tomatoes and wiv radishes wot ‘adn’t any sale,
The backyard looks a puffick mass o’ bloom;
And I’ve made a little beehive wiv some beetles in a pail,
And a pitchfork wiv a handle of a broom.
Oh it really is a wery pretty garden,
And Rye ‘ouse from the cock-loft could be seen:
Where the chickweed man undresses,
To bathe ‘mong the watercresses,
If it wasn’t for the ‘ouses in between.
There’s the bunny shares ‘is egg box wiv the cross-eyed cock and hen
Though they ‘as got the pip and him the morf;
In a dog’s ‘ouse on the line-post there was pigeons nine or ten,
Till someone took a brick and knocked it orf.
The dustcart though it seldom comes, is just like ‘arvest ‘ome
And we mean to rig a dairy up some’ow;
Put the donkey in the washouse wiv some imitation ‘orns,
For we’re teaching ‘im to moo just like a cah.
I was watching an old episode of Frasier the other day. I happened across it by chance, luckily catching one of the 48 episodes which my cable channel broadcasts every day. Frasier is the I Love Lucy of the modern age. Wherever you are in the world, some channel somewhere is broadcasting either Frasier or Only Fools and Horses. Bloody good that they both are, I’m beginning to sync-quote them as I was apt to do with Fawlty Towers. And there are only 12 episodes in total of Basil F. It’s bleedin’ obvious.
Anywhoo, there I was watching Dr Crane and Dr Crane argue about the younger one’s heart-bypass operation, and how he had been, quite frankly, a pain in the arse to all and sundry after the operation, telling any and all that would listen about his new perspective on life, having experienced being “clinically dead” for several seconds. His elder brother was of the opinion he was becoming a boring tit about it.
“That rings a bell”, thought I, and immediately pledged to the surrounded and listening world (just me, in reality) that I’d snap out of this feeling-sorry-for-myself bollocks, grab the bull by the balls and jolly well get on with it. Whatever “it” may turn out to be.
Then, just as I was girding my loins, stiffening my lip and pulling my massive self together, the postman dropped a bombshell through the letterbox, thankfully in a nice way – not a french satirical magazine way. I’m hoping above hope that the ABC Rowan Williams doesn’t throw anything nasty though my window just because earlier in the week I lampooned Mr Yeatman and ‘is Reverence. I’m all in favour of poking fun but the followers of Islam are not known for their humour, nor their tolerance. My flag-waving, liberal rabble-rousing and calling-to-arms suddenly hides under the table in the face of loonies with petrol bombs. I love my free speech. But you have to pick your targets, I reckon. As Frank Spencer once said: “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old,bold pilots.”**
Ditto satirical magazine editors, I reckon.
Anyway, back to my own bombshell. On opening the one letter the postman had delivered that morning I pulled out a long piece of folded card. It was a luncheon menu from a cruise liner.
Seared scallops, poached pears, cod, lamb…the menu went on and on. It made me feel quite peckish:- well it was 10.30 in the morning and I’d only had 2 breakfasts, thus far. I started to tremble, but not because of the hunger (though that can’t have helped). No, I was trembling because I turned over the menu and there, running the length of the menu was a get well message from a legend.
Abraham Lincoln’s first draft of the Gettysburg Address was first scribbled down on a lunch napkin. There are apparently many John Lennon artworks and poems milling around which he hastily wrote down on the back of beer mats, menus or fag packets. There’s a Warhol sketch of some butterflies which is worth in the region of $30,000 and yet he knocked it out on a tissue (steady), in a couple of seconds between courses over lunch.
But all that pales into insignificance compared to what I held in my hands:
Get much better soon !
It was too good to be true. In an instant I knew all my worries were over. Forget being out of work. Forget what little remains in my pension fund. Ignore the equity which Tories and the recession are audibly eroding. Let the Greeks do what they want. Have a referendum, don’t have one. I could not one tiny fuck give any more. Double-dip recession ? Pah!
A pal of mine who occasionally works on the boats had risked life and limb, camped outside Bonnie’s cabin for days, then related the plight of his old fat mate, Mike, in order to secure the most sought-after autographs in show-business (not counting that of Dustin Gee.)
When the time comes and I’m down to my my last Bobby Tambling jockstrap and quilted smoking jacket, which on their own will not pay the bills, I shall march up to Sothebys with The Langford Menu under one arm and my signed copy of The Very Best of Chas n Dave under the other, put them both up for sale and my money worries will be a thing of the past.
It is rare that one, let alone two prized items come up under the hammer and I expect intense media interest, similar to that created by Monet’s Water Lillies, Katie Price’s autobiography I Did it All Wiv Me Tits Out, and Amy Winehouse’s yet-to-be-unearthed-by-her-father fourth album Three Large Doubles (and One for Yourself).
So I’m now thinking of stringing this illness-thingy out a little longer. If I could lay my hands on signed well-wishes from, say, Billie Piper or even Colleen Rooney then the sky is the limit. So, ooh-err, missus, I’m having another one of me funny turns. Quick nurse! The Screens: it’s happened again.
**Purists will recognise this quote from the Some Mother’s Do Ave Em episode: Oooh Betty! Here come the Mad Mullahs
There are things you just know.
During your lifetime you pick up knowledge. Stuff that is just true and there’s no row about it. You know it’s true because, not only did mum and dad tell you, your teachers told you, the tv news told you and even Hollywood told you. Stuff like “all scousers are funny”; “all cockneys are the salt of the earth (they only slaughter their own)”; “all trombone players wear sandals”; and of course “all welshmen can sing and would never ever intend to break your neck on the rugby field because they’re nice blokes and just not like that”.
These are the sort of rules, the kind of guiding principles which allow you to steer your ship of life between the shifting sands of the Bay of Uncertainty and the hard, jagged rocks of the inlet of Oh Fuck it’s Really Happening. It’s now 47 years since people started telling me stuff. I stopped listening to most of them some years ago. Like Homer, there’s only so much I can fit into my brain before something else gets pushed out. The ravages of age, a stroke, and a life of heavy drinking, along with the distraction of the oncoming steam train of certain Alzheimer’s severely limits the amount of new information I can take on board. Or as Terry Pratchett might put it, I’m fucked in the ‘ead.
So imagine the confusion it causes one so fragile as me, when stuff you just know is fact turns out to be untrue, at least for the sake of selling a few books at Christmas time.
Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun didn’t take their own lives, shortly after making a few dodgy videos for YouTube. Not according to the new book Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler they didn’t. No, they fled to Argentina, aided and abetted by the Yanks in exchange for Nazi rocket scientists and the information within. According to a report in this week’s The Daily Mail (and who among us could argue with them ?) Mr& Mrs Hitler legged it through Europe and escaped across the sea to South America, presumably free to go on the piss with their chums Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann and countless other Nazis we let get away after 1945. The couple brought up their two kids, at some stage divorced, and Mr Hilter (as he then was) finally threw a seven in 1962 at the grand old age of 73.
The Russians claim they captured what was left of the Hitlers from a bunker in Berlin in 1945. What they apparently have are the charred remains of a early version of a McDonalds Breakfast Wrap (Another Fact: These are horrible. Keep away from them and go for the Double Sausage McMuffin.)
It’s a good job Vincent Van Gogh isn’t alive today. He’d be forced to go to Gateshead (up in the frozen North somewhere) where this year’s The Emperor’s New Clothes Prize has been moved to. Presumably Londoners have finally given up pretending that “Pile of Shite in Aspic” is art, and the organisers have decided to move to the Third World in search of new mugs to jump on the “oh-but-you-dont-understand-what-art-is” bandwagon. Howay.
The aforementioned Vincent is no longer with us, of course, having topped himself in a wheat field in 1890 in northern France.
The Kirk Douglas look-a-like was shot by a couple of brothers in a dispute over a stolen pistol. We know this from the new book imaginatively entitled Van Gogh: The Life (available at all good bookshops, makes the perfect gift). In their book the two American authors trash the widely-held belief that the absinthe-riddled, ginger paintist, having reached the end of his tether with a lack of sales and Anthony Quinn’s acting, took himself off and fell on his own pallet knife. (Sadly for me they make no mention of the time Gauguin asked Vincent if he’d like another canvas. “No thanks, I’ve got one ear” Van Gogh replied. As the book doesn’t mention this, I now know it to be true.)
The fact that he was shot by a young boy, and didn’t just succumb to the inner-demons of the mad genius that he was has not only rocked the art world, with the sky-high prices of Van Gogh’s work potentially under threat (nutcases sell for more) but worse, Don McLean is having to rewrite one of his songs.
This morning the descendents of Robert Falcon Scott‘s fateful expedition to the South Pole have joined in the campaign to diss everything I thought I knew about everything. There’s a new exhibition in town showing many images, some not seen before, by the trip’s snapper Herbert Ponting (not to be confused with the Ricky Ponting, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes) which for a century have graphically shown the anguish and despair the Brits felt by narrowingly losing out to the Norwegian group led by Roald Amundsen (who’d already seen off the plucky West Germans in the semi-final). The downhearted and disheartened Limeys finally gave up their attempt to return home and were swallowed up by the icy wilderness. Amundsen and his Scandinavians went home to a heroes welcome and a recording contract.
But wait a minute, according to the British ancestors, Scott’s men were not the least bit disappointed to lose. There was, in fact, no race to the pole. There’s was a purely scientific expedition to gain knowledge of the surrounding area for King and Country, with no-one giving a toss whether Amundsen won or not. Ponting set up the most southerly branch of Pront-a-Print, charging a farthing for a photo of the pole and pony on a tee-shirt; Captain Oates left the tent and was never seen again. He is oft quoted as saying “I am just going outside and may be some time”. The end of his sentence was lost in the chill wind. What he really said was “I am just going outside and may be some time. I’ve got all this bunting and balloons to erect for when we see the Norwegians again”. In truth, Scott should not have been played on screen by John Mills but by Norman Wisdom.
So there you have it. Hitler died in 1962, just missing out missing Ronnie Biggs. Van Gogh covered up his own murder and his relationship with young boys and, just like the retreating soldiers at Dunkirk, Scott of Antarctic had nothing to be sad about. It’s a pity they didn’t make it back because The Titanic was waiting for them just off Antarctica to take them home on her second voyage.
99 years later, a ship was moored off the coast of Libya, waiting for President Muammar Gaddafi who was due to escape on her . However, the ever-popular Dictator would not make it on board nor never get to feel the warm embrace of his old mate Tony Blair again as he died of the multiple bullet wounds he received to the back of the head while resisting arrest.
Honestly. It’s a fact !!!
We’ll be right back after these messages from your local stations. So if you’re not interested, go put the kettle on. No sugar for me, thanks.
If you have no interest in the above, enjoy the music anyway. It was just
a shot in the dark.
Artist Aelita Andre might only be four years old, but that has not stopped her opening her first art exhibition in New York.
She is said to be the youngest ever professional artist with nine of her paintings on show at the Agora Gallery, in Manhattan, already selling, with pieces priced up to $9,900 (£6,000) each.
Angela Di Bello, the director at the gallery, said Aelita had already developed a style of her own.
Her parents, Nikka Kalashnikova and Michael Andre, who are also artists, both agree that their daughter’s art has an innocence to it.
(BBC NEWS, June 5, 2011)
Doesn’t that tell you everything that you need to know about the art world ? I never know whether to laugh or cry when this sort of stuff comes up. You tend to find the people who defend this sort of bollocks are the same mob who can’t wait for this year’s Turner Prize winner, or Tracey Emin‘s latest con-fest.
When I see this sort of stuff, I inexplicably start humming The Emperor’s New Clothes (the Danny Kaye version, of course). It never fails to amaze me how many hitherto intelligent people get conned – year after year – by Man Shits in Bucket or Lump of Old Rope by the latest Brit Art genius at The Tate. They really are geniuses judging by the amount of cash they screw out of the art world and its followers.
Every now and then some elephant (usually in Germany) gets hold of a brush and makes a few daubs and is hailed as the next Jackson Pollock. A chimpanzee rubs his arse over a canvass and is predicted to have as much talent as the elephant, or even, indeed Emin herself (which is actually true). Brilliant. Well Done. Open a gallery and have a peanut. (Or can I tempt you with some German beanshoots?)
But these are not new arguments of course. There have been old farts moaning about new art (I desist from call it modern) for hundred of years. I dunno why we get ourselves so upset? Leave them too it. I have several mates who despise my views on art. They get very defensive indeed when I scoff and try to tell them they have been conned by a charlatan and a pile of old tutt. I just can’t help myself.
But my doctor has told me not to get so angry any more. So I shan’t. I’ll leave it to someone who can explain and expose rather more eloquently than I ever could. This is over 50 years old, and remains as spot-on as it always was.
You’re all raving mad.
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