It’s a few years now since I travelled to the London Palladium to see the musical behemoth that was Bellowhead on its farewell tour. In among the group’s set list for the evening were a number of shanties played in a big-band, party style and the header for this post is a line taken from one of them, Whiskey is the Life of Man.
Originally, sea shanties were call and response songs from the days of sail-powered ships and usually accompanied some form of synchronised, manual activity, such as working a capstan to raise an anchor or when hoisting a sail. The caller was known as the shanty man.
Other shanties comprised verse and chorus songs with the shanty man leading on the verse and the crew responding in the chorus. Nowadays, well…
Shanties have been re-discovered by the TikTok generation! According to the New York Times, a 26 year old Scottish postman, Nathan Evans, started the trend with a shanty on TikTok, Soon May the Wellerman Come, a follow-up to his earlier posting of another shanty, Leave Her, Johnny, and, now, even Kermit the Frog has jumped aboard ship and added his dulcet tones to those of Evans.
And the point of telling you all this? A limerick, of course…
A Millennial went down to the dock
Dressed up in a fisherman’s smock
Where he sang out with glee
Of ships and the sea
And gave rise to the tag: #ShantyTok!
I think the entire mindset of Trump’s dysfunctional politics was encapsulated by the surprised tones of a self-appointed ‘revolutionary’ from Knoxville who complained when her attempt to storm Washington’s Capitol this week was met with resistance from the police and she ended up being pepper-sprayed. You’ve probably seen and heard it, but, if not, you can hear her whinge about it in Hunter Walker’s Twitter post, here.
On a night that has cost five lives so far, ‘Elizabeth from Knoxville’ was lucky that being maced was the worst that happened to her (although I suspect her problems have really only just begun). And what now for Trump, whose seditious rhetoric led to America’s humiliation? ‘Make America Great Again’? He’s turned it into a tyranny of misrule.
A revolutionary said “It’s a disgrace!” As she wiped clear the tears from her face, ‘Cos her act of sedition Had met opposition From the police, who then sprayed her with mace!
So, Brexit was all about ‘taking back control’ was it?
Bollocks! It was an object lesson in how lies, sophistry and populism can be used to create a sense of grievance in the populace and to accentuate and make respectable the ‘little Englander’ xenophobia of the Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Telegraph, the Times and many of their readers.
Personally, I think a lot of chickens will come home to roost as a result. Indeed, given the emphasis placed by Brexiteers on ‘sovereignty’, I find it difficult to see how the UK government can rationally object to the current Scottish government’s desire also ‘to take back control’ and to assert its own sovereignty (and, ultimately, to rejoin the European project in whatever guise suits, either through membership of the EEA or the EU itself).
I say that as an internationalist, not a nationalist, and as someone who values ‘coming together’ rather than ‘breaking apart’.
As an internationalist, I don’t see that there is any contradiction between maintaining a country’s sovereignty and its ‘independence’ as a part of the European project. That ‘contradiction’ only exists in the minds of sophistrists and xenophobes that confuse sovereignty with interdependence.
So, my prediction for 2021 is that the Scottish government elections will herald a stronger mandate for the SNP (despite its factional in-fighting, and its own facility to create grievances to suit its political ends) and that the UK government will face substantially increased pressure to legislate for a 2nd independence referendum.
It certainly looks as if the country is on a trajectory for independence whether it be in 2 years, 10 years or 20. For my own part I’d have preferred to remain a part of the UK within the EU, but if the only option to becoming a European citizen again is through an independent Scotland, then perhaps ‘needs must’.
Here’s the limerick…
I think there will now come a day (And it might not be that far away) When all due to Brexit The Scots finally exit The Union and it’s ‘Goodbye UK’!
Words inspired by @calliebordeaux and her mournful look after I brought her home from the vet yesterday…
A young dog, so badly betrayed,
Told the world she was really dismayed
And felt discontent
‘Cos she didn’t consent
To be sent to the vet to be spayed.
Postscript: On a seasonal note, it’s Christmas. That means it’s beholden on me to take some of the joy out of your merriment (again!) by once more drawing attention to the tragic tale of young Lovell’s Christmas bride. Go on, remind yourself – you know you want to – it’s here.
Recent chatter on my, ahem, tap dance group’s WhatsApp, highlighted a 48 hour window in which you could watch the 2017 London stage production of 42nd Street on YouTube’s The Shows Must Go On channel. I’m not a great fan of a lot of musical theatre, but I settled down on a dark, dank Sunday afternoon to give this one a go.
The pluses were a couple of outstanding tap dance ensemble pieces and a few of the better known songs (Lullaby of Broadway, We’re in the Money, Keep Young and Beautiful). The minuses were the rather tired storyline (but probably novel in the 1930s when Busby Berkeley choreographed the original movie’s dance sequences) and, a real bête noir of mine, musical theatre acting.
And I don’t think these days it would pass muster in real life to have the director show how a romantic scene should play out by snogging the young wannabe starlet when alone in rehearsals!
Still, it was worth seeing the theatrical show on screen (once!) and I’d go and see a good production of it on stage if only for the big ensemble pieces, but, and here’s a smart tip, you can also see a truncated view of the highlights and save yourself about 2¼ hours of musical theatre acting by viewing the trailer instead!
Having said all that…
… I almost stopped watching the full show quite early on when some of the footwork entered the ‘I can do it really, really fast’ school of tap dance. Maybe it’s because I’m not very good and will never be ‘fast’, but I do think there is a place for well choreographed rhythm-orientated tapping. Take, for example, this piece inspired by Anna Kendrick’s Cups routine from the film Pitch Perfect (one of the BTL comments on the video is a bit too close to home for me: This called me untalented in 800 languages!).
If anyone likes rhythmic theatrical productions sans ‘musical theatre acting’, I can also recommend a trip to see Stomp if there is ever a stage revival of it – it ran for 15 years in London’s West End until January 2018. I saw it twice and would happily see it again. You can still catch its trailer on YouTube…
Here’s the limerick:
An enthusiast thought t’would be neat To rhythmically stomp in the street But a tragic mishap When he started to tap Was to find that he had two left feet!
… I’d arranged to meet a former colleague to walk our dogs in the Country Park at Haddo House in Aberdeenshire. The house itself is a Palladian-style mansion owned, along with its gardens, by the National Trust for Scotland. The Country Park is an adjacent-but-separate entity run by Aberdeenshire Council
En route I’d slowed down to pass through the village of Pitmedden and was rather glad that I had as there was a police car lying in wait for speeding motorists. A pair of Aberdeenshire’s finest boys in blue were toying with a lidar gun.
“No bother”, I said to myself as I smiled for the device’s camera. The speedo showed that I was comfortably within limits, so you can imagine my consternation – and considerable surprise – when, just a few minutes later, I was apprehended by a constable.
“Evenin’ all”, he said (actually, he didn’t – that’s just literary licence), “I have reason to believe that you are driving an uninsured vehicle”.
I quietly considered my options. Telling him that I had reason to believe he should eff off and mind his own bleedin’ business would, on the whole, be counter-productive. Instead, I assured the officer that to the best of my knowledge I was fully compliant with the laws of the land.
“Fair enough”, he said, “off you go, sir, and have a good day”.
Actually, he never said that either. What he did say was that my vehicle was not registered on the Motor Insurance Database (MID) as having any valid insurance; hence the blue flashing lights.Now that rang a bell, as a few weeks earlier I’d received a letter from askMID telling me exactly that.
“There’s a thing”, I thought, “the filth has got me bang to rights” … or they may have done had I not contacted my insurer on receipt of the askMID letter and been assured that I was, indeed, insured.
It seems that the MID had not been properly populated with the company’s July insurance renewals. Nevertheless, despite my call to them, any follow-up action had seemingly failed to get the database updated.
Consequently, it took a while for my innocence to be proven. The Old Bill had others to call who, in return, had their own calls to make before I could feel the leaden hand of Plod lift from my collar.
Meantime, I conversed politely with the constable. He liked my dog and thought Haddo was a great place for walkies. He also liked my van, a bijou campervan, but was concerned that his oversized frame would be too large for it and, anyway, his wife wanted a big one, not a wee one.
In return I asked him when you should pull over if ‘blue lighted’; immediately or only when it is safe to do so? I was confused by his answer so, sadly, I’m no better informed
Eventually I was allowed to leave a free man and to continue my journey without hindrance or any stain upon my good character, albeit I was by then very late for the dog walk and left wondering quite how I could avoid the rozzers on my return journey!
Here’s the limerick:
It appeared to Plod, I’d ‘offended’ (Though no crime had e’er been intended), But the law’s blues and twos Soon conveyed me the news That shortly I’d be apprehended!
Postscript: When you are in sight of the police automatic number plate recognition system, either from a fixed unit or mounted in a patrol car, your vehicle registration is ‘captured’ and checked against a number of databases such as the Police National Computer, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Motor Insurance Database. The technology then flags up any anomaly, such as an uninsured, untaxed or non-MOTd vehicle or any other matter of interest to les flics. If the system is mounted in a patrol car, then the patrolling officers are alerted in real-time to the apparent transgressor and it’s let’s be havin’ you time!
Meantime, not only have you been observed, but you have also been recorded and even if yours is not a vehicle of interest, that observation will, ordinarily, be held on the system for 12 months.
If you are interested, the Home Office has published an impact assessment on data storage rules that can be found here. So, now you know. #BigBrother
It’s probably best to cut a long story short and simply tell you that this week’s ALAW was inspired by a couple of events a few years apart – one on a riverside walk in Tewkesbury and t’other at a café in Arbroath.
A woman whose bosom was large Once asked the tattooist in charge If she loosened her robes And paraded her globes Would he draw on her décolletage?!
… and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day
I am indebted to Laurence Fox, erstwhile leader of the newly minted ‘Reclaim Party’, for inspiring this week’s ALAW. His most recent populist tweet, seeking once more to belittle the British Broadcasting Corporation, brought a crushing response from a bunch of Anglo-Irish rapscallions:
So, here we go…
An actor once entered stage right And tried to Reclaim the light But that parcel of rogues That we know as The Pogues Just beasted that herrenvolk sh*te!