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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fred Fernackerpan and Mr Kartoffel

Yesterday I had at least two pleasing experiences.

The first was seeing an anonymous response to my first ever blog story, posted in September 2010. I don't know who Anonymous is and I'm unlikely ever to find out, but he or she was referring to Clive James and Spike Milligan.

I said in response:
I also loved Milligan's work but found especially appealing his nonsense poems. One of them I taught my Grade 4 pupils in those old days when I was a schoolteacher. It was about Fred Fernackerpan and if I tried hard enough I could probably recite it myself.
Oh wait - it's online in a score of places so I'll steal it:
I am a mystery fellow,
I'm Fred Fernackerpan,
I wear one sock that's yellow
The other dipped in jam.
I walk about the countryside
I walk about the town,
Sometimes with my trousers up
And sometimes with them down;
And when they were up they were up
And when they were down they were down
And when they were only half way up
He was arrested.
Spike Milligan
The kids adored Spike's poem, but some of them got an even greater kick out of a second one. I thought it was another of his, but as is too frequent these days with my skewed memory, it turns out it was by a different poet altogether, one who wrote brilliant verses for children.

His name is James Reeves. He died in 1978, and his biographer said this of him:
It is a melancholy fact that, in the thirty years since his death, James Reeves has become an almost forgotten figure. 'I am a fanatic for poetry' he said on one occasion and much of his working life was spent in writing poetry, in editing volumes which eventually gave us a companionable clew through the labyrinth of English verse, and in seeking to improve teachers' understanding of its riches and thus to find ways outside the dead conventions of the classroom to inspire children to a lifelong love of the art. He was a widely beneficent fanatic.
James Reeves and his Collected Poems for Children: Brian Alderson
The world is always in debt to such poets. Here's the poem:
Mr Kartoffel
Mr Kartoffel's a whimsical man;
He drinks his beer from a watering can,
And for no good reason that I can see
He fills his pockets with china tea.
He parts his hair with a knife and fork
And takes his ducks on a Sunday walk. 
Says he, "If my wife and I should choose
To wear our stockings outside our shoes,
Plant tulip bulbs in the baby's pram
And eat tobacco instead of jam
And fill the bath with cauliflowers,
That's nobody's business at all but ours." 
Says Mrs. K., "I may choose to travel
With a sack of grass or a sack of gravel,
Or paint my toes, one black, one white,
Or sit on a bird's nest half the night -
But whatever I do that is rum or rare,
I rather think that is my affair.
So fill up your pockets with stamps and string,
And let us be ready for anything!" 
Says Mr. K. to his whimsical wife,
"How can we face the storms of life,
Unless we are ready for anything?
So if you've provided the stamps and the string,
Let us pump up the saddle and harness the horse
And fill him with carrots and custard and sauce,
Let us leap on him lightly and give him a shove
And it's over the sea and away, my love!"

❁     ❁     ❁     ❁     ❁
I also found today another set of splendid writing tips, this time by C S Lewis, who wrote the Narnia books. It's well worth going to where I found it but I'll try not to go off at a tangent here. It's in a collection of letters that famous people have written to children.
1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.

With love
C.S. Lewis
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So what was the other thing that pleased me today?

After the spine fracture thirty days ago, I'd groaned each time I had gone from lying down to sitting up. When I woke up after a sleep this afternoon, I went to the bathroom and washed my face. I dried my face. 

I came back into the bedroom and realised something had happened that was wonderfully new – so new and yet so ordinary that I didn't notice it.

I had no back pain. Well... not much, anyway.

If you've never been aware of the difference, you can't imagine just how good that unawareness feels when you suddenly become aware that it's no longer there.

1 comment:

  1. C.S. Lewis .. friend of my Great-Uncle Walter Richard Hooper, who wrote "The History of Devon", and close friend of J.R.R. Tolkien. They all attended Oxford together. I wish I'd met him .. I think I would have liked him.


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