My Mother was very keen on light verse, both on reading it and writing it.  Pam Ayres and John Betjeman were her stalwarts, as were songs and verses learnt as a Girl Guide.  She wrote several poems, mostly about how my father’s obsession with the river and boats and the local Yacht Club left her having to do everything herself, including mowing the lawn.  

This is one of the ditties that she recited to us when she thought we needed cheering up.

Cheer up!

It may not happen.

And even if it should

You will not think it half so bad

As now you think you would.

For troubles are but bubbles,

And though life may seem rather rum,

Life’s biggest troubles

Are the ones that never come.

Another was a racy epic story that she used to sing when my sister and I were driving with her to see her mother and father who lived by the seaside.

RIDING DOWN from Bangor, on an eastbound train
After weeks of hunting, in the woods of Maine
Quite extensive whiskers, beard, mustache as well
Sat a student fellow, tall and slim and swell

Empty seat behind him, no one at his side
Into quiet village, eastern train did glide
Enter aged couple, take the hindmost seat
Enter village maiden, beautiful, petite

Blushingly she faltered, “Is this seat engaged?”
Sees the aged couple, properly enraged
Student’s quite ecstatic, sees her ticket through
Thinks of the long tunnel, thinks of what he will do

Pleasantly they chatted, how the cinders fly
Til the student fellow, gets one in his eye
Maiden sympathetic, turns herself about
“May I if you please sir, try to get it out?”

Then the student fellow, feels a gentle touch
Hears a gentle murmur, “Does it hurt you much?”
Whiz! Slap! Bang! Into the the tunnel quite
Into glorious darkness, black as Egypt’s night

Out into the daylight glides that eastern train
Student’s hair is ruffled, just the merest grain
Maiden seen all blushes when then and there appeared
A tiny little earring, in that horrid student’s beard.

It was only when we flew to America last year and I spent a very long time looking at the map in the front of my seat, hoping that we would be there soon, that I realised that this song was not about Bangor in Wales, but quite a different Bangor.  My Mother’s version of the song had a lot of train noises, choo-chooing and hissing just before the final stanza.  I never tired of hearing the story, nor stopped feeling the frisson as the earring was discovered in that naughty man’s beard.  I remember that when I first became a student my Mother – not given to talking about difficult subjects – wrote to me to warn me about male students.  I wonder if in her imagination they were all as this song describes.

Link to “Bubbles” screensaver

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