Take a pin, and winkle out the meaning
Tuesday 10 June 1997
Picture, if you can, a
Marching bravely through
Friendless, yes, and
Picture, if you can, a
Merry Christmas! Same to
The above bit of verse has been running through my mind for the last few days, and I didn't see why I should be the only one to suffer, so I am bringing it to you today. It may, as far as I know, be the only poem about winkles in English. Not about shellfish: we already have "The Walrus and the Carpenter", about oysters.
Care for some more? The next bit is not about winkles, or indeed, about anything.
"Can you ...? No, perhaps
The question's not a fair
You don't know the
So of course how could you
knew? Er, know.
Woe is me and woe is you,
And woe is all of us, I
I hate woe unless it's cod's
Let's adjourn and have a
What is this all about? I'll tell you. Years ago, I loved my father's old 78s of Arthur Askey songs. There is a man called Michael Comber who lives in Preston and sends out lists of 78s for sale. Not long ago I noticed one on his list which was called "The Quest" by Arthur Askey, which I had never heard of, so I sent off for it. But it wasn't a song at all. It was a dramatic recitation about a winkle.
Here's another bit.
"Picture, if you can, a
With a face like New Year's
Clean and shiny, most
Here's a loofah - come on,
Days may come and days
But where they go is hard to
Where they come from we
The days themselves don't
know as well."
This wonderful nonsense is well in the tradition of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, but, of course, as it is on an Arthur Askey record, and not written by a well-known writer, you will not find it in any anthology. It is, in fact, written by Kenneth Blain. I once asked my old friend Brian Blain, who works for the Musician's Union and knows everything about musicians, what he could tell me about Kenneth Blain, and he said: "Nothing." Let's have a bit more.
"Picture, if you possibly
can, a winkle ...
That last line seems wrong
It should be: Picture, if you
can, a winkle.
That's much better. Pardon
Watch the little children
Keep on watching them, I
If you don't, the little brats
Will pinch your coal and
What's wonderful about all this is that within living memory a well-known record company (His Master's Voice) had the confidence to put out a whole side of a man just reciting. "Unaccompanied talking", it says on the label. In those days people had novelty records and spoken records and doggerel records and Stanley Holloway. When was the last time anyone put out anything like that? Today we are all so cowed by the dreary dictatorship of rock and pop music that nobody dares do anything different.
"In the wilds of Piccadilly
Dwells a maid with
She is dying of croup and
You don't care? No, nor do I.
There's a candle on the
Slowly burning down, you
Look, it's out! But where's
the flame gone?
What's the point of asking
Picture, if you can, a
In December's biting breeze,
Singing carols at the
Accompanied by the Stilton
Lonely, oh dear dear, how
Tightly caught in hunger's
Why so lonely, little winkle.
Mother's gone to have a
I think that must mean, "have a drink". And so to the final, philosophical verse.
"Dwell upon his sad
He who once was blithe
For, you know, each one of
May be a winkle one fine
Thank you for listening. Back to reality tomorrow.
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