Little Mister Baggy Britches

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…

…for sure.

There Won’t Be Blood

Although I am in the rudest of rude health (touch wood), I am no longer allowed to give blood.

This is a source of some sadness and disappointment for me.  I still get the letters in the post telling me that my blood is badly needed and that people are waiting for me to come and donate but, if I were to show up at their door, arm at the ready, they would turn me away.

I always found blood donation to be very good for the soul.  That old adage about it being better to give than to receive could easily have been written specifically for blood donation.  If you don’t do it – and can – I would highly recommend that you do.  It’s good for the person who needs your blood, obviously, but it’s good for you too.  Try it, you’ll see what I mean.

Although I’m of Catholic extraction, I find it hard to buy into the notion that I can undo any or all of my sins by going in a little box and telling somebody all about it.  It all seems way too easy to me.  Deep down, I can’t help but feel there needs to be some actual  ‘Reparation’ for things I’ve done wrong.  Blood donation seemed to help me with that notion.  The pinch, the sacrifice of vital fluid, the sense of giving something back by way of making good.  I dunno… it seemed to work for me, is all.

Then one day I got a letter.  My blood was no longer usable by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.

I accept the reasons for this but I still think they are strange and a bit scary too. The reason I can’t give blood is because I lived in England between 1984 and 1997. 

That’s it, that’s all. 

From November 2004, people who have spent one year or more in the UK between 1st January 1980 and 31st December 1996 are excluded from donating blood here in Ireland.  This was apparently on account of the fear that Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) can be transmitted through blood transfusion and that the people who were most likely to have it were the ones who ate infected meat in Britain in that time.

That’s a lot of people taken out of the blood-donation loop and I’m just one of them.

And I miss it.  I really do.  I still wear my little Pelican donor pin on my coat but it’s an ironic gesture now rather then a proud one.

And then there’s that niggling worry, irrational but present nonetheless:  If they don’t want all this badly needed blood of mine, what on earth do they know that I don’t?  Is CJD still some time bomb waiting to explode in a proportion of the millions of us who ate meat in that decade?

And, if not, are they being just a tad too careful?

How To Cheat The National Lottery

This past little while, I have been polishing up a three-act theatre play of mine which has not (yet) been produced.  It’s called ‘Lottery Story’.

In thinking again about the play, I found myself running over many scenarios relating to the National Lottery.  A number of these lottery-related sequences ended up in the finished play but what I’m about to describe did not.

I want to describe a way of cheating the National Lottery – well, actually it’s a way of cheating your friends via the National Lottery.  First, though, I want to be perfectly clear about something.  I’m not posting this so that you can go out and cheat your friends, truly I’m not.  Rather, I’m posting it so that you, the friends, might see whether you are being cheated or not.

I thought up this cheat myself – I have rather a horrible mind in some ways.  I'm sure others have thought of it too but I would never dream of doing it to anyone.  You have to trust me on that, it is the truth.

Anyway, here’s what I dreamed up.

Form a Syndicate of your workmates.  Every week, collect their contribution and play the National Lottery over each weekend using random numbers.  You must play the Lottery for the Syndicate.  Somebody else can look after the money part, that doesn’t matter.  Every Monday morning, you pin up the Syndicate’s lottery ticket for all to see and inspect.  It is the correct date and the amount spent on it matches the amount raised from the Syndicate.

But it is unlikely to be a winner, is it?  Because you have conned your work mates haven’t you?

Yes.  You have…

When you went to the Lottery Shop, you bought a random number ticket for the amount the Syndicate put in.

Then – what else did you do?  That’s right, you bought another random ticket for the exact same value with your own money.

It’s Friday, work is over.  You bring both tickets home and you check both of them after the weekend draw.  Most times, you won’t win anything.  But occasionally you will enjoy a small win, once in a while a slightly bigger one and, one day, well, who knows?

Whenever a ticket wins, you keep that one for yourself.  On Monday morning you bring in the losing ticket and you nail it to the wall for all to inspect.  Once in a blue moon, both tickets will win something.  Then the Syndicate will enjoy the smaller of the two prizes.  How very nice for them…

“Is that it?”  you may ask, “Forking out all that money every week for such a long shot?”

Yes, that’s it.  It’s a silly idea really.  But here’s the thing – just make sure it’s not being done to you.

As I said at the front,  I’m posting this so that you can insure that you are not being conned.  It’s terribly easy to do.  If you are a Syndicate member, make sure your ticket is on display in advance of the draw and that somebody has signed the back of it.  That’s all it takes.

I used to buy the tickets for my little work-syndicate, until I described my scenario to them.  Now I don’t.  I’ve never done this to anyone.  I’ve never assassinated anyone either but I can probably dream up a  fairly neat way of doing it.

This has been a public service posting by your own in-house devious bastard...

... me.

The Cadence of your Voice

Said you were here forever,
that your heart left you no choice.
But your truth was hiding deep
in the Cadence of your Voice.

I should have listened closer,
I should have cocked my head
Studied all the nuances,
the tone of what you said.

But I was up above all that,
blinded by the noise.
While you carved my fate with mocking tones
in the Cadence of your voice.

We hear just what we want to.
We love just how we must.
We hold on tight until it spills
Through fingers like the dust.

The next time round I’ll listen
Won’t be so quick to rejoice
I’ll be sure your words are echoed
In the Cadence of your voice.

Ken Armstrong   2011