Sunday, 24 April 2011

Spring Greens

Is your name Green?

by 'Nomenclator'

1. 10 years ago one Sally Barnes, who worked for a Yorkshire branch of Tesco's, spent £2000 on cosmetic surgery to make her look less like Su Pollard, an actress who enjoyed her hour or two of fame in a TV sitcom called Hi-de-Hi. This Su Pollard once entered a talent contest and came second to a performing dog. The contest, an early edition of Opportunity Knocks, was hosted by a certain Hughie GREEN.

2. Stanley GREEN, however, who died in 1994, was a London sandwich-board man, whose message, sometimes in pamphlet form, was that carnal lust is brought on by eating beans, meat, cheeseburgers and particularly by sitting down. This was the message he brought daily to the Oxford Street crowds and cinema queues, some members of which occasionally attacked him. He cycled daily from Northolt to his work, standing in the saddle.

3. Mary GREEN, maybe a 17th Century ancestress of the above GREENS, claimed to have a licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury allowing her to practise alternative medicine. She had cures for:

a) Windy Vapours
b) Glimmering of the Gizzard
c) Falling of the Fundament
d) The Scotch Disease
e) The Wombling Trot.

Mrs GREEN also produced publicity flyers in rhyme, one of which from 1685 read:

The Cramp, the Stitch,
The Squirt, the Itch,
The Gout, the Stone, the Pox,
The Mulligrubs,
The Bonny Scrubs,
And all Pandora's Box.


Please underline as appropriate:

I feel this is an honourable surname and I am privileged to be called GREEN

I am going to change my name by deed poll to GREEN

My name is/is not GREEN and I do/do not wish to be associated with this twaddle and refuse to read any of it.

Good morning.


Next week: 'Nomenclator' asks: Is your name Welshcreep?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Elephant's nest in a rhubarb tree

I don't know what might have triggered it, but during a wakeful moment in the night I found myself thinking about childish ripostes that passed for wit when I was a 9-year-old:

Q: 'What are you doing?'
A: 'MYOB' (Mind your own business)
A: 'Ask no questions, hear no lies.'

Q: 'What are you looking at?'
A: 'Elephant's nest in a rhubarb tree'

Q: 'What's for dinner?'
A: 'YMCA' (Yesterday's Muck Cooked Again)
A: 'Yum yum, pig's bum.'

Q: 'What's the time?'
A: [Whatever the time happened to be] 'Half past nine, hang your knickers on the line. When the policeman comes along, take them down and put them on.'

[The implications here are deep. Is the assumption that you only have one pair of knickers? Why the policeman? Questions of scansion aside, why couldn't it be the greengrocer, muffin-man, hall porter, lance-corporal, etc.? Why should the policeman cause this reaction, maybe before the garment has dried? Does the policeman's advent somehow speed the drying process? Or are there considerations of public decency to be taken into account?]

Then there was the immortal

Q: 'Wotcher, cock.' (Still current occasionally)
A: 'Wotcher.'
Q: 'How's your mother off for dripping?'

There was something obscenely suggestive about this, something I could never quite pin down. I went back to sleep before arriving at any conclusion.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Berkeley Square, all change

Awaking from a drowsy numbness the other night at about two o'clock, I was so struck by the fluting cascades of bird-song through the open window that I got up and went downstairs, opened the front door and stood for several minutes listening on the flagstones outside, still warm from the previous day's sun.

The nightingales are back. Hearing them for the first time in spring is something like hearing the first cuckoo in other climates. Mid-April is about right, though. Whatever it is that guides these little birds, slightly bigger than robins, on their migratory course from southern Africa back to Europe hasn't failed them. I don't think I've ever read anything about the effects of climate change on migration habits, but I don't expect I've looked in the right places.

A full moon silvered everything as I stood outside in bare feet with little else*. It was exceptionally still, with no sound apart from the ever-present distant murmur of the river. And, of course, the song of the nightingale. Nor was there only one: I could detect four or five, maybe more, each fainter as the distance between their territories swallowed them.

Experts say that it's only the males that sing. Opinion is divided as to whether they sing to mark their territory or to attract females. Maybe it's both. At any rate they sing until the summer heat closes in, but this coincides with birth and feeding of the nightingale chicks, so all the pairings-off must have been made some weeks before. And they sing during the day. There's one singing outside my window as I type this at 10 o'clock in the morning.

My small choir is preparing for a mini-tour of Northern Scotland in less than three weeks' time. They'll defend their corner, certainly, but how many will attract mates with their singing remains to be seen. If we make it, that is, because there's a question-mark over one of our songsters: he fell out of a tree the other day and injured himself. I haven't yet asked him if he was singing at the time. Fingers crossed for him, tho' I think he'll be all right.

*Yes, I KNOW