Monday, December 26, 2011

Cockney Rhyming Slang - On your tod

Being on one's tod is to be alone, this derives from Cockney rhyming slang.

James Forman Sloan was known by the name Tod, born in 1874 he was a world famous horse racing jockey with great successes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in the USA his successes there led to his demand in England where he rode horses for the then Prince of Wales and had victories in the 1000 and 2000 guineas, the Gold Cup and the St. Leger, the only major race to elude him was the Derby.

Such was his success in the UK that George M. Cohan wrote a musical about him, Sloan being immortalized as the character Little Johnny Jones who was the "Yankee Doodle Boy" of the famous song.

In 1915 Sloan wrote an autobiography "Tod Sloan By Himself", whether the title of the book came before or after the rhyming slang is not clear, although if it was after I'd have called the book "Tod Sloan, on his tod".

and Here's Mickey Rooney singing Yankee Doodle Boy

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Wombles

My knowledge of The Wombles is limited to the TV series of the 1970s and the songs of Mike Batt, I may have read the original novels written by Elizabeth Beresford, but the voice of Bernard Cribbins and the catchy tunes are more vivid in my memory than the books. I even went to see them live in concert in Wimbledon AND I had an Orinoco suit.

According to her page on Wikipedia Beresford grew up surrounded by some of the greatest writers of all time, who were friends of her parents (also writers), HG Wells, DH Lawrence, Somerset Maugham, George Bernard Shaw are amongst those listed.

The TV series were narrated and all the characters voiced by Bernard Cribbins, there were 60 5 minute episodes made, the narration style, with Cribbins telling the stories and being the characters seems quite primitive in times of CGI, yet it gives some truth to The Wombles ability to create things from what they find, a slick cartoon effect would not feel right for The Wombles, the stop go animation is perfect. The later 1990s series had countless voice artists and writers and may not have had the feel of the original, but the characters proved popular and a further 52 episodes were made.

Mike Batt's music for the show has remained popular to this day with albums still being released and even an appearance at Glastonbury. The songs were big sellers on release in the 70s, with several top 40 hits. Sadly Mike Batt rarely works with the Wombles these days preferring to count the bicycles in Beijing.

Elizabeth Beresford and Great Uncle Bulgaria
 So here is a bit of Wombles, wishing you a Wombling Merry Christmas and an episode following.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Friendly policeman on duty in Poundworld

So Christmas is a busy time of the year for cardboard cut out policemen.

Hopefully I'm not giving any security issues away.

Given that he is a cardboard cutout, I wondered why he couldn't look a little more sinister, or even why he needed to be a policeman, they could have had a cyberman, Darth Vader, Phil Mitchell, Anne Widdecombe or Dr. Price, my old French teacher, he used to terrify me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Famous Christmas songs by Jewish songwriters: Winter Wonderland

In a new and probably short lived series of bloggery, comes Christmas songs by Jewish songwriters.

The American Jewish songwriters seemed quite happy to pen a song on any subject matter, so Christmas was always going to get a look in, some of the most celebrated Christmas songs were written by some of the greatest songwriters who happened to be Jewish.

The Jewish Felix Bernard, co wrote Winter Wonderland with Richard B. Smith (religion unknown!). He was born in Brooklyn, New York and was the son of German and Russian immigrant parents.

So wander through this Winter Wonderland with Tony Bennett

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Fivepenny Piece's Weight Watchers

Long before Sarah Ferguson had become a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, there was a song by Lancashire singing outfit The Fivepenny Piece.

My parents loved this group, they were fun and funny. Their folk music style was pretty popular with songs of Lancashire and Lancashire folk, they were doing for Lancashire what Chas & Dave were doing for London. Songs of Fred Fanakapan, I'm in Love with Angela Rippon, I'm Powfagged, Stalybridge Market were part of their popular touring shows.

A later addition was this undervalued gem, Weight Watchers ("I LIKE CHIPS")

Monday, December 5, 2011

Giving my arse an headache

Just watching the semi final of the Junior Apprentice and during Lord Sugar's summing up, for some reason an old expression my dad used to use came to mind "you're giving my arse an headache". I actually thought my dad had made it up until I heard it used in an episode of Only Fools and Horses. If you hadn't worked it out it is used when someone has a touch of verbal diarrhoea.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bernard Cribbins' Right Said Fred

Like quite a lot of classic British comedy songs Right Said Fred was produced by The Beatles' producer George Martin.

The removal men in the song are reminiscent of Laurel & Hardy's delivery men in their Oscar winning film The Music Box.

The now iconic star Bernard Cribbins had a hit with the song in 1962, it spawned the name of the pop group Right Said Fred. Cribbins has been in a Dr. Who film and  the TV series, an episode of Fawlty Towers, narrated the Wombles, three Carry On films (yes I included Columbus), he was even the voice of Tufty on the road safety ads.

Anyway Right Said Fred, here's an animated version in Lego!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Catching Genumphs with Chic Murray

I'm currently reading about the comedy giant that was Chic Murray. I'm sure there will be a post about him over on my comedy bio blog.

I've known some of his material and his act, but this gave a good workout to my chuckle muscle.

"I saw a wee man jumping up and down, clapping his hands together, I went over and asked him what he was doing, he said "I'm trying to catch Genumphs", so I said to him "What's Genumphs?" he said "I don't know I haven't caught any yet".

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You Very Much - for the Aintree iron, birds and bees and love

I write this on Thanksgiving day in the USA. Whilst I've been in the US and shared some special Thanksgiving days with my wife and her family it is a day that is hard to get. After all the British much prefer to say 'sorry' than thank-you.

The rather spiffing 1960s Liverpool trio of Roger McGough, Mike McGear and John Gorman, The Scaffold said it quite well in their song "Thank You Very Much".

The list of things to be thankful for being the Aintree iron (apparently writer Mike McGear has no idea what that is), birds and bees, the family circle, Sunday joint, cultural heritage, some other stuff and love.

So here's the song and me giving thanks for love, birds and bees, my growing new family circle and my missus

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NHS hospital in association with Coca-cola

Obviously not a reason to be cheerful. One of the biggest causes of obesity, diabetes and countless other ailments, manages to have pride of place in an NHS hospital.
I'm not sure if it's one step up or down from having a doctor sponsored by a tobacco company.
If we want to educate on healthy eating and drinking, surely hospitals should lead by example and have healthy food and drink?

Fred Karno

For the last few days I've been strangely fascinated by Fred Karno. I say strangely as I've known about Karno for some years. He was responsible for Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin going to America and for their early comedy education, both gave him credit for much of their early comedy knowledge.

Yet researching Max Miller, I saw Karno's name as having worked with Miller in the 1920s. The two men didn't particularly get along and Karno had an interesting take on how to keep dancing girls smiling when they were on stage. I have also read of Karno's casting couch, but he was a fair bit more than that too. By the time Max Miller came across him Karno had been one of the wealthiest men in the country, he'd bought an island, built an entertainment complex and casino on it (Karsino). He spent £20,000 in 1912 on a boat that is used today as a recording studio by Dave Gilmour!

In 1926 he was declared bankrupt and penniless he started again. Married with 8 children Karno had a mistress for 25 years who he also called his wife. He even crossed the Atlantic and Chaplin tried to find him work, which he eventually found with the help of Stan Laurel at The Hal Roach Studios. Karno wasn't happy with not having things done his way and ended up going back home and back in the theatre and eventually making some films there, which were again the ruin of him.

He ended up his days running an off-licence after a donation from Charlie Chaplin to fund the operation.

An amazing career that had started in the circus as an acrobat, he had runaway to join the circus after failing to become a plumber.

I'm sure I've got a more accurate post in this fascinating character. It seems odd that the last book about him was written 40 years ago and there doesn't seem to have been any great film portrayal other than in films about Chaplin (John Thaw played Karno in "Chaplin").

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bobbins - Cockney rhyming slang

I've known the word "bobbins" for quite a while. It is largely used in the North of England and the wondrously crazy Frank Sidebottom used to say it a lot.
Frank Sidebottom, he's just seen something bobbins.

Bobbins means anything of a poor quality, but the root of the word is in Cockney rhyming slang, here's a clue.

Bobbins of cotton is rhyming slang for rotten, which is odd as bobbins are "reely" good.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Laurel & Hardy in Politics

With thanks to The Laurel & Hardy Forum.
A recent thread discussed Laurel & Hardy's (lack of) politics. Perhaps them not having any clear political thoughts (as for the characters in the films, no clear thoughts) has led to newspapers and political parties using their image to lampoon politicians. Over 60 years after their last film they still get wheeled out to mock the politicians of the day (usually over economic failings).
The first two are from the US, the rest British politicians, from PM John Major onwards. Given what a good Stan Laurel George W. Bush makes I'm surprised that was the only one I could find.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wilson, Keppel and Betty

Wilson, Keppel and Betty were a music hall act, who had success on both sides of the Atlantic.. Jack Wilson and Joe Keppel were born in Ireland and England respectively in the 1890s.

Whether their act would have got past the first stages of Britain's Got Talent is debatable, but they certainly had a staying power in a career that lasted 35 years and up to a dozen Bettys, a residency at the London Palladium and several Royal Command Performances.

Their act consisted of them dressing as Egyptians and performing variations on a sand dance. At the height of Variety, they were an ideal speciality act, bridging the comics and the singers.

To experience this legendary act, have a butcher's at this

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine

In the blue ridge mountains of  Virginia, Ballard MacDonald wrote the lyrics and Harry Carroll the tune to a song that was a top ten British hit in 1975 for Laurel & Hardy, it had appeared in arguably Laurel & Hardy's greatest feature film Way Out West in 1937. The song had previously been the title to a film and a play dating back to 1913. The singer is pining for what would appear to be the love of a summer romance.

In the Laurel & Hardy film, Oliver Hardy picks up the singing of the song as the tune is played by the wonderfully named Chill Wills in a saloon bar, Stan Laurel decides to join in and irritate poor old Mr. Hardy. Here's a clip that you can sing along to yourself.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thanks for waiting

As if by magic, about 18 months ago Marks and Spencer checkout staff started each customer with the phrase "thanks for waiting" a nice enough gesture if there had been something of a wait, a bit pointless when you were buying one sandwich and there was no one in front of you and you hadn't been waiting. The next words in the one sandwich situation, "do you need any help with your packing?", "not unless both my arms have just fallen off".

So it would appear that the pointlessness of apologising to someone for waiting when they haven't been waiting has not been lost and now they have stopped saying it, altogether. They now don't say it when you've been waiting for 20 minutes because they can't work out if the coupon to save 20p is a valid one or not and spend ten minutes checking it out.

It's a customer service dilemma in the UK, we really don't know how to be nice to customers, that's not to say service is inherently bad, an average shop assistant is generally helpful and polite, even in the US they aren't always tip top. Yet the culture between the US and the UK is totally different. In a US supermarket I was politely reprimanded for packing a shopping bag myself, I've never known of anyone in the UK voluntarily packing groceries, "do you need any help with your packing?", should be rephrased as "you DON'T need help with your packing, do you? if you do I may be able to find someone who will grudgingly do it, whilst staring at you wondering why you can't do it yourself, sir".

With the advent of the internet and review websites, customer service in general is starting to improve, whether we can get it as a culture will probably take a few more generations. Basil Fawlty was written as a man who was happier when he didn't have any guests staying at his hotel, the guests were always a hindrance, we seem to have moved a bit on that, perhaps we could start to teach staff to use stock phrases at appropriate times rather than learning them and saying them every time or not at all.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The weighty topic of the weight of toilet rolls

In a world where bidets have now been forgotten and newspapers dwindle away it would seem that we take for granted the humble toilet roll.

According to Wikipedia using toilet paper dates back to 6th century China. Modern toilet paper was introduced to the US by the rather charmingly named Joseph Gayetty. Colours and varieties only came into prominence in the 1960s and 1970s.

So recently the last couple of lots of store brand product I have purchased have both had perforation issues, now why the perforations are for such small sheets is beyond me, who uses but one sheet at a time anyway? I've not a problem if they perforate 4 times less than they do now, just perforate so that when I tear I don't end up looking like the human version of the Andrex puppy.

So I reverted to Andrex, arguably the brand leader and on this occasion on a decent offer. So I selected the two above, I'm sure one won't match the bathroom decor but I have no plans to decorate with it. The strange fact with the two packs is that one is at least a third heavier than the other, yet they are the same number of rolls and sheets on each. The one on the right is infused with Shea Butter (I haven't really got a clue, but it sounds good, nothing to do with Shea stadium as I understand), the one on the left is plain white comfort quilt. So obviously the one infused with the shea butter is the heavy one right? Well no (and I'm sure you guessed by my clunking attempt at tabloid journalism there), the infusion of shea butter only seems to serve as making the tissue lighter. Now I can't decide which is better to use, lighter or heavier.

I'm now quite impressed that I haven't resorted to anything even slightly rude with this post, no shit.

Now here's an ad for shea butter Andrex featuring the puppy, who judging by the packs actually prefers the quilted as he looks kind of bored on the shea butter, but no matter.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The unhealthy world of NHS hospitals

I've unfortunately spent more time than most in hospitals, mostly as a visitor, my dad especially spent over 6 months as a patient and I was his only daily visitor, sometimes spending several hours there.

There are an amazing amount of stupid things that happen, in that period I witnessed a cleaner who seemed to only appear on a Friday afternoon, his modus operandi was to mop the floor and while it was drying to then take a sweeping brush and sweep the floor he had just mopped! Fire hoses that may or may not have worked but were probably 30 years old or more and had layers of dust that were probably the same age. Alcoholic handwash is all very well, but surely ceiling tiles with a 12" square patch of green mould is probably more risky to patients and the public than anything else.

My main point of this topic now is the entrance to hospital, one of the first things to notice (after you get through the half dozen smokers outside) is a sign with direction to vending machines, the sign has a large advertising logo for Coca-Cola and points to vending machines selling the soft drink and the one above, full of confectionery. I'm not totally against these items in general use, but surely a hospital of all places should encourage some healthy eating, fruit perhaps, vegetable snacks in fact anything remotely healthy. Given that one of the biggest causes of health problems in the world is diabetes, and a personal estimate would be that at least a third of hospital patients would be diabetic, a major factor being what people drink, be they high or low sugar drinks. Research is now starting to show that diet drinks can be worse for diabetics than high sugar ones. I am by no means an expert, my dad had long term complications from diabetes, kidney failure, vascular problems, mood swings, blindness and ultimately death, so I have personal experience and researched some of the problems he had and their causes.

The diabetic recruitment drive doesn't end there. Having visited the pre-natal department in the same hospital, there is a wall devoted to statistics on diabetes and dietary advice as to how best avoid it, yet in the same department is a volunteer canteen, who's offerings are cakes, sweets, chocolates, crisps, coca-cola and other sugar drinks, in fact general diabetic recruiting products, I wasn't initially inspecting what they sold, I was looking for a healthy snack to eat, there wasn't one, nothing for expectant mothers (or fathers!).

Perhaps the managers of the hospital would argue that people don't want healthy food, maybe they have sold carrots or celery sticks and they have gone to waste, but that really isn't good enough, a hospital should only have healthy food, their staff and patients should only eat healthy foods, there shouldn't be any other option. Hospitals should lead the way in healthy eating, leading by example would surely save money long term, 'training' patients to eat well whilst in hospital may lead to them eating well outside and mean no return visits.

An association with Coca-cola, even in a tentative manner is not too far removed from being sponsored by Benson & Hedges.

Runcible and other made up words

Apparently William Shakespeare introduced over 1700 words into the English language, I wonder how many he'd heard on the street and how many he actually made up.

There's a great page at with a lot of the more famous words. I was personally surprised by bedroom and eyeball, but he didn't do much more than put two words together. I don't recall being told in school that Shakespeare made up lots of words, I would probably have dismissed all the bits that didn't make sense as being made up nonsense.  It has long been a tradition to make up words either for new inventions that didn't naturally have a name or morphing older words.

Some modern new words that have appeared as if by magic are scrappage, cyberspace, jeggings and even internet, all words that weren't words but now are, some will survive and some will not. The word television is now over 100 years old. Also in a book called 500 Years Of New Words by Bill Sherk is the fact that the word nudist didn't appear before 1929, the same year that the words foreplay and spermicide first appeared. I guess with the financial crisis at the time there wasn't much else to do!

The word 'runcible' was used several times by the writer Edward Lear, often in his poems and limericks, most notably in The Owl & The Pussycat.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
    Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
    They danced by the light of the moon,
          The moon,
          The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

I hadn't really thought too much about this blog post when I started it, as Adrian Monk would say it's a blessing and a curse of mine that I don't always plan ahead, sometimes it leads to unexpected delights and others down a dead end. My main aim was to change the name of my blog, I had thought that no one else would have used the name "The Runcible Spoon", how wrong I was.

There are several blogs called The Runcible Spoon or just Runcible Spoon, there's even a cafe with that name (I'd have gone for "Mince and slices of Quince" for a cafe), so I had to rethink, what would Lear and even Shakespeare do?

Well old Bill was prone to making up words from established ones, making nouns out of verbs and vice-versa and sticking two words together, so I decided on the former and here we have "Runcibilities".

So what are "runcibilities"? They are reasons to be cheerful and things that "get your goat", things that put a fire in your belly.

Up to now in the blog, the majority of the runcibilities have been reasons to be cheerful, I won't be stopping with those and insisting everyone becomes miserable, I'll just be testing out the extremes of my runcibilities.

So welcome to my runcible world, grab a spoon and dig in.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Umbrella Man - Flanagan & Allen

Written by James Cavanugh, Vincent Rose and Larry Stock, it dates back to 1924 and as far as I know is the only song with the word "thingamujig" in it. Rose & Stock also co-wrote the song Blueberry Hill, amongst many other credits.

Bud Flanagan & Chesney Allen were the most famous British stars in the early 20th century, comedians, singers, actors, they were stars of stage, screen and record.

The Umbrella Man was one of Flanagan & Allen's most successful recordings, the image of the Umbrella Man when sung by Bud & Ches conjures up an image of a poor East End London worker patching up poor peoples umbrellas so they can continue to wander the streets a little drier than normal, on their way to spend another night Underneath The Arches. Perhaps this view is far removed from the images conjured when sung by Louis Armstrong & Dizzy Gillespie. I'm cheered by a song that is about a man who repairs umbrellas, possibly a profession that no longer exists judging by the umbrella skeletons I've seen abandoned in the streets.

Here's a recording of Bud & Ches and below that Dizzy & Louis (I bet y'all wish you were on first name terms like me?)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Clint Eastwood: Son of Stan Laurel

It has long been a suppressed piece of information that Clint Eastwood is in fact the son of comedy legend Stan Laurel. I suppose Clint has never wanted his tough guy image to be associated with the simple character that Stan portrayed in over 100 Laurel & Hardy pictures.
In these pictures it is difficult to tell a young Clint Eastwood from an old Stan Laurel.

Clint was born 16 days before Stan's 40th birthday.
Stan Laurel produced a series of westerns in the 1930s.
Dirty Harry was originally called Dirty Hardy.
Clyde the orangutan in Every Which Way But Loose would prepare for the role by watching footage of Stan that Clint loaned him.

The name Clint is short for Clinton,  derives from the old English place name of Glinton, Northants, less than 200 miles from where Stan was born.

Stan Laurel and Clint Eastwood both had hair that stood on end.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A grass

A grass, a snout, copper's nark, a stool pigeon, slang terms for a police informant. Snout and nark are slang terms for nose, the latter being of Romany Gypsy origin. Stool pigeons were essentially pigeons that were tied to a stool type frame to attract game birds that could then be shot, this started in 19th century America and the term "stool pigeon" was used as a term for someone who lured someone else into a trap, during the wars it was used as a term for spies and now more commonly as a police informant.

Grass has its origins in Cockney rhyming slang and here's a clue

It's a grasshopper, now the rhyme part is either for copper (policeman) or shopper (as in "one who shops"). To 'shop' was also used as a term for informing ("I've shopped him to the police"), "shop" was a 16th century slang term for prison, originally the verb to shop was used as slang for putting someone in prison and evolved into having someone put in prison.

So now you know, remember where you heard it first, just don't rat me out to the old bill.

Apples, pears and other cockney rhyming fruits

I think the most well known bit of Cockney rhyming slang is probably 'apples & pears' meaning stairs, but fruits are used in other phrases too.

Apple itself is used a fair bit, apple tart means either heart or fart, apple-pie is the sky, apple core is a score meaning £20. Apples and pears is also used in the criminal fraternity to mean court, there being stairs between the dock and the cells beneath.

For your summer holidays you may spend time on the apricot (apricot & peach = beach).

A cherry is used for face (cherry ace), a dog (cherry hog, cherries=cherry 'ogs = the dogs, ie greyhound racing).

Lemon (squeezer) = geezer, a "prune and plum" is the bum and of course raspberry (tart) is also a fart. Orange is used as a (racist) term for a Japanese person, "orange pip" being the full rhyme. Orange squash is rhyming slang for dosh and refers to money.

The list goes on, bananas tend to have a lot to do with bowel movement, banana splits for the shits and banana fritter for a toilet (the shitter)!

Kid Creole's Annie I'm Not Your Daddy

Songs about paternity are less common now DNA is readily available, yet in the early 1980s they were all the rage. Michael Jackson vehemently denied that Billie Jean's son was not his and Kid Creole was quite quick at refuting Annie's claim that she was his daughter.

"If I was in your blood then you wouldn't be so ugly" he calmly reassured her.

The line "your mama was in search of love but all she got was used" I always thought was "all she got was you" which is a much funnier line, so ner.

'Kid Creole' was also used as rhyming slang in the 1980s and 1990s for that thriving British institution, the dole.

Anyway here is a rather odd video of a fun song

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Richard The Third

Richard The Third wasn't just a play by Shakespeare, he was also an actual bona fide King of England in 1483.

He has also entered into the Cockney rhyming slang lexicon as rhyming slang for a bird

 or a bird (the one on the left!)

It is also used for a turd, but I've happily dispensed with that picture.

The term 'bird' for a lady dates back to mid 19th century when bird was used for all young living creatures and thus a term of endearment for a young lady (filly was similarly used). It continued to be used in the UK throughout the 20th century but around the late 1970's started to be seen as  degrading to women, I'm not sure if it had anything to do with that "tough old bird" Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister, but who knows?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The missing 8% of breastfeeders

On a recent hospital visit I was intrigued by the two signs encouraging breastfeeding.

79% of men are apparently pro for their own children

Yet only 71% of men want their partner to do it, so do 8% of men hire someone in to breastfeed their child? Do they ask a passing stranger? Do they just want their partner to do it, but not when they're around?
Perhaps these are unrelated statistics, after all the second one doesn't say the men want their own child fed.

Fortunately this is a cheerful blog, otherwise there'd be a rant about a hospital that has signs about the perils of diabetes in pregnancy and a careful diet, yet the only food available to buy whilst waiting is sugary snacks and crisps.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Currant Bun

Currant bun is used as rhyming slang for at least 4 different things.

The sun

The sun

A son
and a nun

Some fatherly cockney advice may be "my dear currant bun, never catch yourself reading the currant bun in the presence of a currant bun whilst out in the currant bun"

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pork Pies

Pork pies manage to give me 2 reasons to be cheerful, it would be three if I actually liked pork pies.

First up is a bit of common Cockney rhyming slang, largely in everyday speech "porkies" is a shortened form for pork pies and is rhyming slang for lies.

"Someone's telling him porkies if he thinks he looks good in that titfer"

So the second reason is the titfer, the wonderfully named pork pie hat, worn by such legends as Buster Keaton, Dean Martin and the bears Yogi Bear and Fozzie Bear from The Muppets.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

George Formby's Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock

George Formby was a legendary British star of stage, screen and record. At the height of his fame in  the 1930s and 1940s Formby was probably the most famous man in the land. A gifted entertainer and musician, Formby is still highly regarded as one of the UKs greatest entertainers.

Blackpool Rock was one of, if not the very, first song that had to be edited to be played on the BBC, back in 1937, Formby's double entendres were impressively sophisticated, especially if all the ones we can see now were intended.

The song was written by Harry Gifford and Fred Cliffe who wrote many of Formby's songs, George occasionally altering some of the lyrics.

Looking up the songwriters, Gifford it appears also co-wrote a song called Underneath Your Mushroom Umbrella, which I have never heard but my imagination is doing a good job writing it.

The song includes lyrics such as

It may be sticky but I never complain, it's nice to have a nibble at it now and again

More on George Formby here

and now a bit of Blackpool Rock

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brighton Rock

'Rock' is sold in many seaside towns across the UK and then around the world, mostly with a high UK expat settlers or British visitors.
Known for having writing through it, rock was the holiday gift of choice for the neighbours you didn't like. The scourge of NHS dentist and friend of private ones, rock is essentially a lot of sugar and glucose syrup and part of the diabetic recruitment drive.

'Brighton Rock' is the title of a Graham Greene novel that has now been made into two films I haven't seen.

For this blog and my occasional entries on Cockney rhyming slang, Brighton rock has entered the Cockney lexicon in the plural, Brighton rocks, which tend to be worn in pairs and in yellow are one of Ian Dury's Reasons To Be Cheerful, they are indeed socks.

Cockney rhyming slang - George & Zippy

George & Zippy were star puppets in the long running British TV series Rainbow. Voiced by the late Roy Skelton (who also first brought the menacing voices of the daleks in Dr. Who to life), George was a pink hippo and Zippy was some kind of creature who had a mouth that could be zipped up, Zippy's head resembled a rugby ball, other than that he was one of a kind.

Zippy was loud, brash and irritating. George was a polite voice of reason, often calming Zippy down.

The Rainbow programme actually predates the Rainbow Pride flag by a few years, yet any retrospective viewer could be forgiven for reading a little more into the show than was actually there. George and Zippy could even be the forerunners for Cameron & Mitchell on the US sitcom Modern Family!

So in the world of Cockney rhyming slang how has the names of the most infamous gay couple become used?

"It's getting a bit George & Zippy in here, put a few bob in the meter and put the heating on"

George & Zippy = nippy, meaning cold or parky*

*Parky is a British slang word for cold. a word with no clear origin, possibly a variant of 'parka' which has been in the English language since the 17th century.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Scrambled eggs and Paul McCartney

Scrambled eggs have sometimes been found to irritate me, some hotels inability to make them well has, it almost seems impossible, but they manage it.

There aren't too many interesting facts about scrambled eggs, although on the Wikipedia page they do tell of an interesting preparation using a steam piping wand as found on espresso machines.

But what, I hear you ask is Paul McCartney doing in the title....

If you didn't know, Scrambled Eggs was the original title Paul gave to Yesterday. Now I was going to use my vast knowledge of some of the original lyrics and other useful Macca info, but then with exhaustive internet research (OK a Google click) I discovered that Paul had sung a version of Scrambled Eggs with Jimmy Fallon on US TV in December 2010, there are some grainy You Tube videos and then this version with the lyrics and some Spanish to add to the joy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A witty riposte

Webster's gives a rather charming definition of riposte as "a retaliatory verbal sally".

The celebrated star of films such as The King's Speech and TV programmes like Dr. Who, Winston Churchill has many a riposte in his back catalogue.

The more famous riposte is said to be an exchange with MP Bessie Braddock who told Winston that he was drunk to which his famous riposte was along the lines of "and madam you are ugly, but in the morning I will be sober". Sadly it's unlikely this ever took place and a similar quote can be dated back to a 1934 WC Fields film, It's A Gift.

When George Bernard Shaw invited Churchill to the first night of his play "and bring a friend if you have any", Churchill replied "I can't make the first night, but I will be free for the second if there is one".

Possibly the most famous is Nancy Astor's comment "Winston if you were my husband I would put poison your coffee", Churchill's reply "madam if you were my wife I would drink it".

Another famous riposter was Groucho Marx, not only scripted ones but also as game show host on You Bet Your Life and whenever the occasion called for it.

One that is attributed to Groucho to a woman who had a large amount of children he asked "Why so  many?",
"Well I love my husband" was the reply. The riposte was "Well I love my cigar but I take it out of my mouth once in a while".

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cliff Richard's Move It

Released in 1958, Britain's first rock & roll hit pre dated the Beatles by 4 years, John Lennon is quoted as saying that before Cliff & The Shadows there was no British music worth listening to.

Written by Ian Samwell, who also wrote the Cliff & The Shadows hits Dynamite and High Class Baby, Move It reached number 2 in the charts for a then 17 year old Cliff Richard and his backing band (then known as The Drifters a name they later changed to The Shadows to not confuse with the US group of the same name).

The opening of Move It is a match for any classic rock & roll track and the fact that Cliff and the song are still going strong 50+ years later is testament to that.

So here is Cliff and The Drifters singing the song live, check out how cool Cliff is trying to be!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Teletubbies before The Teletubbies - Harry Enfield.

Five years before The Teletubbies hit the screens in 1997, there were a series of sketches on the BBC's "Harry Enfield's Television Programme".

So long before The Teletubbies set of to conquer New York, a less colourful look appeared on our screens.
These aliens being taught English were not that similar to The Teletubbies, but they did have various antennae and spoke gibberish. Anne Wood and Andrew Davenports wonderful creation of The Teletubbies caught the imagination of children worldwide across 365 episodes until 2001. Anne Wood went on to create Boohbah and worked again with Andrew Davenport on In The Night Garden.

Back with the programme, here is an excerpt from the Harry Enfield show.

Friday, September 30, 2011

See Saw Margery Dawe

Impending fatherhood has made me think and ponder what I can do to help with a new baby, so I decided nursery rhymes would be my job.

My first entry appears to only be known in the UK despite it having been around for 250 years.

Brought up from the folk tradition of workers complaining about anyone in authority (one of my favourites was "I'm the fat man, the very fat man who waters the workers beer"!)

It is possible that workers using a saw would cut to the rhythm of the rhyme to work faster, given the possibility of two workers at either end of the saw would give credence to this. The workers then taking the rhyme home and singing it to their kids could be how it ended up being a long running nursery rhyme.

See Saw Margery Daw
Johnny shall have a new master
He shall work for a penny a day
Because he can't go any faster

Some other places on the internet use Jenny, Jack, Jackie and even other names, but I've always known it as Johnny so that's correct and don't argue.

Here's a twee video of the rhyme

Oliver Twist, Brahms and elephants

So what do Brahms,

 Oliver Twist

 and Elephants have in common?

Well they are all cockney rhyming slang for the state of inebriation. Brahms (and Liszt) is quite a common rhyme for pissed (British slang for drunk) as is Oliver Twist.

Elephants? Well this is short for "elephant's trunk" rhyming slang for drunk.

There are quite a lot of others, Schindler's List is another. One I've never heard said but have seen written down is "Newton and Riddley" rhyming slang for "tiddley", this seems funny as Newton & Ridley is the name of the brewery on long running British soap opera Coronation Street.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What A Mouth, What a North & South

So for those not in the know "north & south" is rhyming slang for mouth. A song recorded in the 1960's by Tommy Steele and originally written by music hall comedian Harry Champion and arranged by R.P. Weston, between them responsible for a host of comedy songs.

Champion, himself immortalized in song (Harry Was A Champion) by Chas & Dave, was responsible for such songs as Any Old Iron, Boiled Beef & Carrots, I'm Henry The Eighth I am and other rather curiously titled songs A Little Bit Of Cucumber and It's Cold Without Your Trousers. A generation ahead of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, Champion was a music hall giant in the early 1900s.

R. P. Weston could also be considered a music hall giant, but behind the scenes as a song and monologue writer (mostly with Bert Lee), they co-wrote My Word You Do Look Queer and my favourite Brahn Boots, about a man who turned up for his mother's funeral in brown boots (no, it really is funny, I'll probably mention it again another day).

So back to the topic, the person who made this video seems to be a fan of Rowan Atkinson (no bad thing) and there appears to be no footage of Tommy Steele singing it or indeed any recordings of Harry Champion.

Boat Race

The Oxford/Cambridge boat race. Dating back to 1829, it has been an annual event since 1856. The tradition is for the losing team to challenge the winning team to a rematch the following year.

The race is held every spring on the last Saturday of March or first Saturday of April. The two boats race along over 4 miles of the River Thames.

Hugh Laurie was a competitor for the 1980 (losing) Cambridge team.

"Boat race" or often just boat is used as cockney rhyming slang for face. "Look at the miserable boat on that".

Here are the jubilant boat races on some winning Boat Racers

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mancunian rhyming slang - Money - Whalley Range

Whalley Range is most notably the place just outside Manchester city centre, there is also a Whalley Range in Blackburn which is probably where the Manchester one gets its name from as Samuel Brooks, who built the area then known as Jackson's Moss, and was born in or near Whalley in Lancashire.

Anyway I digress. Now most of my Cockney knowledge comes from my dad who was a bona fide cockney and I often heard him use Whalley Range as an expression. Doing a bit of research it is possible that this isn't cockney rhyming slang and a Manchester based alternative.

Since most Cockneys never leave the East End and have no knowledge of any places beyond West or East Ham they would not have heard of Whalley Range so wouldn't have known of its curious use as rhyming slang for change. I have of course slightly exaggerated that, Cockneys do occasionally experience other parts of the world, I believe Peggy Mitchell is currently living it large in Spain and she's even been there before.