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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

"The Dutchman" by Steve Goodman

Stephen Joshua Goodman
The Dutchman is lovely song made (a bit) famous by the Chicago-born singer-songwriter Steve Goodman. He didn't write this particular song but his version is by far the best one.
I recommend listening here and coming back to read about it!
The lyrics are printed below if you want to follow along.

THE DUTCHMAN by Michael Peter Smith                      
The Dutchman's not the kind of man                                       
Who keeps his thumb jammed in the dam  
That holds his dreams in,                
But that's a secret that only Margaret knows.           
When Amsterdam is golden in the summer,
Margaret brings him breakfast,  
She believes him.
He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow.
He's mad as he can be, but Margaret only sees that sometimes,
Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes.

   Let us go to the banks of the ocean
   Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
   Long ago, I used to be a young man
   And dear Margaret remembers that for me.
The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes,  
His cap and coat are patched with the love
That Margaret sewed there.
Sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam.
And he watches the tug-boats down canals
An' calls out to them when he thinks he knows the Captain.
Till Margaret comes             
To take him home again              
Through unforgiving streets that trip him, though she holds his arm,
Sometimes he thinks he's alone and he calls her name.

   Let us go to the banks of the ocean
   Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
   Long ago, I used to be a young man
   And dear Margaret remembers that for me.

The winters whirl the windmills 'round
She winds his muffler tighter         
And they sit in the kitchen.
Some tea with whiskey keeps away the dew.  
And he sees her for a moment, calls her name,
She makes the bed up singing some old love song,  
A song Margaret learned              
When it was very new.           
He hums a line or two, they sing together in the dark.
The Dutchman falls asleep and Margaret blows the candle out.

   Let us go to the banks of the ocean
   Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
   Long ago, I used to be a young man
   And dear Margaret remembers that for me.

It's a sad story about growing old, dementia and long-lasting love. But, it's not entirely sad, having some wistful elements of nostalgia. I like the lines:
"And he sees her for a moment, calls her name,
She makes the bed up singing some old love song".
Such a clear picture is painted in those two lines.
Steve Goodman died of Leukaemia in 1984 aged just 36. He had known his illness was terminal for some time but kept on working and writing. His most famous song is The City of New Orleans made famous by Arlo Guthrie.

Saturday, 17 September 2016


I love one-liner jokes so I've collected a few favourites together to help lighten your mood!
From Tim Vine:
  • I phoned the local gym and I asked if they could teach me how to do the splits. He said, "How flexible are you?" I said, "I can't make Tuesdays."
  • So I went to buy a watch, and the man in the shop said "Analogue." I said "No, just a watch." 
  • I went into a shop and I said, "Can someone sell me a kettle." The bloke said "Kenwood?" I said, "Where is he?" 
  • So I went to the record shop and I said "What have you got by The Doors?" He said: "A bucket of sand and a fire blanket!" 
  • I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what - never again.
From Milton Jones:
  • Militant feminists: I take my hat off to them. They don’t like that.
  • I was mugged by a man on crutches, wearing camouflage. Ha ha, I thought, you can hide but you can’t run.
  • My wife... its difficult to say what she does... she sells seashells on the seashore.
  • My grandfather invented the cold air balloon... But it never really took off.
  • Hopefully I’ve got a book coming out soon. Shouldn’t have eaten it, really.
From Tommy Cooper:
  • I knocked on the door at this Bed and Breakfast and a lady stuck her head out of the window and said: 'What do you want', I said, 'I want to stay here'. She said, 'Well stay there' and shut the window. 
  • D'you know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen, it said "Parking Fine." So that was nice.
  • "Doctor, I can't pronounce my F's, T's or H's".  "Well, you can't say fairer than that."
  • So I was getting into my car, and this bloke says to me “Can you give me a lift?” I said “Sure, you look great, the world’s your oyster, go for it.’
  • I asked the waiter: “How long will my spaghetti be?” He said: “I don’t know. We never measure it."
From Stewart Francis:

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Parliament Square, London

View across Parliament Square with Westminster Abbey on the right.
Watercolour by Pete Scully,
Tower Bridge and The Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben are the two most iconic images of London. Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the building. It has a crack which has been there since it was cast and gives it the distinctive sound which is heard all over the world with the BBC time signal. The UK Houses of Parliament are still sometimes referred to as The Palace of Westminster because since the early eleventh century various royal palaces have stood on the site.  
William I had a castle there after the eleventh century Norman invasion.
Westminster Abbey: In the early eighth century a Saxon Church dedicated to St Peter was constructed on the site. The church became known as the West Minster ('west monastery'), while St Paul's, a few miles to the east was known as the East Minster ('east monastery').

Winston Churchill's Statue in Parliament Square
The modern square was laid out in 1868 by Sir Charles Barry and is famous as the site of London’s first traffic lights.  It is home to 11 statues of British, Commonwealth, and foreign statesmen. In anti-clockwise order starting with Churchill: This 12-foot bronze by Ivor Roberts-Jones shows him wearing a Navy overcoat. HIs 88-year-old widow Lady Clementine unveiled it in 1973, with the help of the Queen. Churchill chose the location himself in 1950. A mild electric current stops pigeons perching and snow forming on Churchill’s bald head!  
Jan Smuts in Parliament Square
Jan Smuts also has a statute, by Jacob Epstein, in the square. Smuts was the South African leader who fought the British in the Boer War but he was on Britain's side as a staunch ally in both World wars and is the only person whose signature is on the German surrender documents at the end of both wars. The other statues are of various British and foreign statesmen; Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are all represented.
However, my favourite statues are both just off the square in Victoria Tower Gardens. Firstly is the suffragette, Emeline Pankhurst, the only female in sight!
Emeline Pankhurst in Victoria Tower Gardens
Her statue was erected in 1930 just two years after her death, which is very quick by any standards. Her right hand seems to be indicated the way to the Parliament building at her side.
1908 cast of Rodin's Burghers of Calais
The second statue is a cast of Rodin's Burghers of Calais. This one was cast in 1908. The French Government strictly limits the number of casts that can be made of any of Rodin works. This one is the third. The maximum allowed would be 12.
View across the square toward the Houses of Parliament,aka The Palace of Westminster.
You can just see Churchill in front of the red bus.
And on another side of the square is Westminster Abbey......
but that's a story for another time!
I'm listening to Amoureuse by Kiki Dee. This version, on You Tube, has the beautiful lyrics displayed ("When I am far away, I feel the rainfall on another planet"). Helen Reddy's song Emotion is the same tune with different lyrics. That's because they are both new English lyrics added to an original French song.