4 July 2016

I WAS AT HOME IN EUROPE



AS I CAME HOME...

Well, I am at home, but it doesn’t feel like it and in many ways I’m ashamed of what's happening to my country.

The referendum has happened and the result was not to my liking nor to the liking of 99% of my friends. We are divided and suspicious. I suppose the nearest I've experienced before is the aftermath of the Miner's Strike in 1984. It's a bit like after a civil war! No, that's too much of an exaggeration, but you see what I mean. It is too early to see what is going to happen yet and there is a lot of complacency around—'see the Markets haven’t crashed that much…’ But I suspect that the dominoes have only just started to tumble. One of the most horrible aspects of the result is that some people have decided to drive unwanted immigrants out now—particularly the Polish for some reason. Not long ago it was the Romanians who were singled out. Ironically some of those I’ve heard dishing out the ‘immigrants go home line’ have been 1st generation British of Indian or Pakistani origin! They must have short memories. Another thing I don’t quite understand is why the Poles have been particularly chosen as the target, why not the Danes or Latvians or Hungarians?

There have always been Polish builders in Britain. When I was small—about 5 or 6 years old—we moved into our first proper family home on a new council estate. (Previously we had been in a prefab). We were one of the first families to move in and much of the estate was still under construction—by Polish builders. Well, not all of them were Polish but the pair who somehow befriended my family were. Sylvester and Marion had escaped to Britain after the war and couldn’t return for some reason all linked up with the Communist government, but I was only young so I didn’t understand much of that. I think Mum made them cups of tea and in return they used some ‘spare’ concrete to make us a garden path and things like that. I remember them coming to tea one Christmas and doing party tricks like attaching an apple to a string, swallowing it, and then pulling it back up! They even got Dad drinking and playing cards! Not things he’d usually do. We lost touch when the work was finished and they moved on.



For quite a long time I played Romanian music with the band Popeluc and that influenced my English music a lot—listen to my CD Mearcstapa or Popeluc’s Blue Dor. Now I help run a U3A World Music group and a lot of the music I choose to play comes from Eastern Europe.
  
The more I study folklore—both songs and stories—the more I become aware of how we all share a common heritage. We listen to the same stories, we sing songs about the same things. The tunes and chords might be different, the accents of the stories vary, but the ideas and plots are the same.


Here is a perfect example.
Way back in the 1960s The Dubliners had a Top 10 hit with a truncated, cleaned up version of an  Irish folk song Seven Drunken Nights. For several decades I’ve been singing an English version As I Came Home which was collected by Fred Hamer in Bedfordshire. 

Listen to it here:
 Pete sings As I Came Home

Last year there was a Danish series on TV about the 1864 war between Denmark and Prussia, a stupid war fought by stupid politicians if ever there was one. It definitely proved that David can’t always beat Goliath and sometimes you need to know when you’re on to a loser!
At one point towards the end of the series, when the Danes were being slaughtered in their trenches, there was a brilliant rendition of a Danish folk song. A gang of war-weary soldiers bellowed out a piece of bawdiness in a truly authentic way. It was exactly the same song as I mention above.It's in Child (#274) as Our Goodman




 Here is a transcript taken from the subtitles:


The man into the farmyard came
Oh see, oh see, oh see,
Three guardsman's horses all lined up
And one and two and three.
The man then asked his wife
What the horses were doing there
They are three Greek cows
That my mother sent to me.
Oh well, oh well, all's well,
Greek cows all saddled up
I am a man and I have wisened up.

The man into the hall then came
Oh see, oh see, oh see,
Three guardsman's boots all lined up
And one and two and three.
The man then asked his wife
What the boots were doing there
They are three dice cups
That my mother sent to me.
Oh well, oh well, all's well,
Dice cups all booted up
I am a man and I have wisened up.

The man into the hall then looked
Oh see, oh see, oh see,
Three guardsman's hats all lined up
And one and two and three.
The man then asked his wife
What the hats were doing there
They are three milk pails
That my mother sent to me.
Oh well, oh well, all's well,
Milk pails all brimmed up
I am a man and I have wisened up.

The man then peered into the bed
Oh see, oh see, oh see,
Three guardsman's heads all lined up
And one and two and three.
The man then asked his wife
What the heads were doing there
They are three cabbage heads
That my mother sent to me.
Oh well, oh well, all's well,
Cabbage heads all nosed up
I am a man and I have wisened up.

The man then saw beneath the covers
Oh see, oh see, oh see,
Three guardsman's cocks all lined up
And one and two and three.
The man then asked his wife
What the cocks were doing there
They are three carrots
That my mother sent to me.
Oh well, oh well, all's well,
Carrots all eyed up
I am a man and I have wisened up.


I think that is a very fitting contribution to the EU debate!

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