One of my own favourite posts in this blog concerns my late Mother and how we finally got to sing together. You can read that one here.
One of the key points of that post was that, although Mum never sang in public, she was always singing and humming around the house and quite a few of the songs I heard in that way have never been heard by me anywhere else, before or since.
Now and again these songs turn up – on the radio, in a movie – and it an odd experience whenever I hear one.
One such song turned up out of the blue about a week ago. It wasn’t on the radio, nor in a movie, it was in my head. I was watching Twitter when someone mentioned in passing that they were thinking of re-lining their coat rather than getting it done professionally, to save a few quid…
Pow! There it was – a fully formed song in my head - a song I hadn’t thought of in over thirty years, a song I had only ever heard in one place.
The song was all about stitching and patching, you see, so that’s why the coat-lining thing brought it back. I thought it was called ‘Little Mrs Patch-Me-Britches’ because that’s how Mum sung it but it turns out it was actually called ‘Little Mister Baggy Britches.’ The chorus went like this:
Little Mister Baggy Britches
I love you
If you'll be my Sunday follow
I'll patch them with pink and with purple and yellow
And folks shall say
As we lean on the old sea wall
Lena's been patchin' his britches
Til he's got no britches at all.
I went looking straight away but there’s no YouTube or Blip of the song that I can find. I found nowhere to hear it except in my head.
So I did a little research and some Twitter buddies helped. Together, we found that the sheet music for this song is available and there’s a forum where people have discussed it and posted much more lyrics than I ever knew. We also found out that the song was recorded by Carol Deene in 1970 and was the flipside to her single ‘Windmill in Old Amsterdam’.
That’s about all we got though. Not very much at all. So, sod it, I thought, I can’t just let the memory go again. I’ll write a blog post, I thought, that’ll do it.
But that doesn’t really do it, does it?
I know how the song goes, don’t I? What am I supposed to do about that? Let it go?
Can’t do that… so brace yourself. This is me in ‘lullaby’ mode, something I still do every night though my song is Bob Dylan’s ‘All The Tired Horses’. So it’s not any good but it does give an idea how the song’s chorus went – the lyrics aren’t exact but they are how they were sung in our house years ago.
Now don’t start – I know I don’t sing well. But there are two reason for embarrassing myself like this. The first is that this post will now become first in the search engines for any other poor bugger who comes looking for ‘Little Mister Patchy Britches’ so I might actually be doing a public service by collating what little information I have on it.
The second reason is trickier…
Although this song was released in 1970 on the back of a single, it goes back way before that. Mum was singing it before that. I believe (but can’t be sure) that she sang it as a lullaby. It’s more likely that I heard it being sung to my younger sisters rather than me but again can’t be sure.
So here’s a little piece of memory that has popped to the surface after a long time. It deserves to be cleaned up and kept, doesn’t it? It is incumbent upon us to keep the memory of the dear-departed alive in whatever ways we can – by laughing about them, telling stories about them, including them in our day, by remembering them.
So long as we do that, there is at least a little bit of life after death…