Welcome to Roger Miller's La-La-Land
While listening to BR2FM, a new ' oldies' radio station (it's good to get your oxymorons out of the way early doors). Roger Miller came on warbling his self-penned 'England Swings.' It's irritatingly catchy, but irrationally dumb even back in 1965, never mind today. Here's, pretty much the entire opus in a verse.
'England swings like a pendulum do. Bobbies on bicycles two by two. (Today, would this combo really scare the starch out of some knife-wielding terrorist nutter?).
Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben. (Today, you won't get near the former for Royal weddings and Ben is covered in scaffolding).
The rosy-red cheeks of the little children.' (Today, probably exacerbated by Ritalin and too much junk food).
I'd not been back to London for a good while, so I decided to test Mr. Miller's reverie and popped back recently (look it's my time to waste). Gods Boots! What happened to my families city? Talk about a stranger in a strange land where 250+ languages are now spoken. On Oxford Street, a woman looking very distressed asked me “Do you speak English?” For a heartbeat, I had to think “Yes, yes, I do, I was born here.” “Oh! thank heavens, can you tell me how to get to Kings Cross?” As I 'hummed and hawed' - a nice Albanian gentlemen came over and gave her precise directions. The other eye-opener was to see cops so tooled up, never mind about 'Bobbies on bicycles two by two' - these lawmen made Robocop look like Dixon of Dock Green. Mr. Miller should have penned a reality ditty like 'England grumbles through like we always do' as we coped with 1960's non-swinging everyday life. No central heating, we had the Coal Man. Covered in soot top to toe, he'd lug a hundredweight of coal off the lorry and dump it down the coal hole into the cellar. Otherwise, he had to tramp through the house while mum frantically laid down newspaper to save the carpet (that's if you were a wee bit posh with a whiff of Wilton). Another small pleasure was the Corona delivery. The truck would trundle up the street with their spring-topped bottles of fizzy pop jingle jangling away like Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man. On top of chug-a-lugging my favourite (Cherryade) I got cash back for the empty bottle the next week (how much? I can't remember. I need your razor sharp recall).
Now, the Rag & Bone Man astride his horse and cart I remember well.
He was a regular feature up our road and us ragamuffin kids would shovel up the hay You've read Chris' writing rambles - now listen to his radio rambles Monday-Friday, 9-12 on www.br2fm.com - great tunes from the 50s - 80s. burner's doings (I really wanted to use a more prosaic description here, but our esteemed Editor's blue pencil was quite rightly poised) and sell it to uptown posh pads with large gardens, unlike our 2 up-2 down and one around the back, where Granny Gertie didn't take to anyone calling around without a prior invitation. On top of that, she wasn't too fussed on folk from foreign parts – which was anywhere south of Woebegone Worthing's pier. So, the 'Onion Outsiders' from across the English Channel (not La Manche, merci beaucoup) beret wearing, boneshaker riding Frenchies pitching up every summer shallot selling were not as welcome as say, Yves Montand, who she'd make an excep- tion for even though not from our neck of the woods. She got as silly as yard-full of ewes when she saw him with Marilyn Monroe in the film 'Let's Make Love' describing him thus; “He looks like a nice bit of Brie to me. Yum Yum.” (no me neither). Gran did, however, harbour a lifelong loathing of Marilyn for snogging her fictional fancy man. The only person she would unequivocally allow to cross the donkey stone scrubbed threshold unannounced was the gypsy woman selling lucky heather with a side order of dolly pegs, knife sharpening and your fortune told. She firmly believed a rebuff would incur a curse which would bedevil our family for an eternity all because we didn't buy the damn nosegay. Spookily, in many ways, Gran was spot on (but that, is a tale for another time)