I found out this week there was a version of the children’s song, “Ten green
bottles, hanging on a wall” sung during the Second World War, “Ten German
bombers… and if one German bomber…”. Wikipedia tells me English football
supporters sing this when England face Germany. Anachronistic,silly,
jingoistic, but dangerous? Both the FA and UEFA have declared the chant
“discriminatory” and threaten that supporters will be banned from the stadium
if they sing it.
I came to this information while wondering how to explain that British children
sing of ten green bottles *hanging* on a wall, but Americans sing of
ninety-nine bottles on a wall and with beer in them. Children singing of beer
seems somehow un-American.
I’m thinking about songs that pass time because we’re traveling again. In a
cemetery in Regensburg, Long Island we made a pilgrim’s visit to the grave of
P.G. Wodehouse and his wife, Ethel. It’s decorated with cow creamers, champagne
glasses and a copy of a Jeeves book. Also a golf ball and a pig with wings, all
brought by folk who have enjoyed the master’s words.
My attention turned to Ethel, who was a dancer, and twice a widow before she
met him. They were married more than sixty years. L and I are approaching
It was fun to see where they lived and he wrote and walked Hampton lanes.
The cemetery was a moving memorial to infant mortality—lots of small headstones
grouped near the parents, some noting not only the number of years of age but
also months and days.
We visited an art museum. In addition to contemporary pieces with blah blahs
about “de-skilling painting,” there was a room of older and smaller work. I
loved a seascape that measured maybe five inches by three, painted on a piece
of cardboard. Nothing de- skilled about it.
When I meet with J. it’s customary to riff, to lark about with words. Most of
it is in private language, shared references built up over time. We hiked on a
sunny day in a nature reserve. Through woods with ticks we wandered, very aware
that it is deer-hunting season. On the bright side, there were no sharks and
the rattlesnakes were pining for the fjords. We heard shots, and looked to
shelter in a cave behind a waterfall like the one in “The Last of the
Mohicans.” We decided it must have been harvested like a Christmas tree, moved
closer to the city and rented out for Bar Mitvahs and weddings.
All of it blither.
While driving, I watched for what was unusual. Two doors down from a place
called The Bikini Bar was the New Covenant of God Assembly. And an election
sign said “We’ll all be better off with Federov.” Maybe we are.
At one point when the car stopped there were migrating geese overhead, talking,
“We should have turned right at the light.”
“Nonsense… been this way a thousand times.”
“I know a shortcut.”
“Maybe we could stop and ask for directions?”
Two in the back were singing.
“Ninety-nine Berlin doughnuts over the wall…”
That’s an Eddie Izard reference.
Mimo et al? The house- sitter assures me they’re all fine. And we survived a
walk in the woods. Now for some chicken.
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