Saturday, February 13, 2016

Goodbyee


 As I was wandering round the house today in ever-decreasing circles, 
gathering together and packing everything I need for my trip, 
I found myself humming some of the songs of the Great War 
which still echoed through my post-WW2 childhood.

Sometimes I heard them sung at local village concerts, 
or even joined in singing them myself. 
Sometimes my grandfather would sing a snatch or two to me,
 which is how I heard the first French words I can ever remember hearing, 
Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parley-voo?

Sometimes they provided the background music
to a TV or radio programme on the First World War,
 especially the haunting 
There’s a long, long trail a-winding.

Some of them, such as Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire 
I only really heard when I was older, 
as the words wouldn’t have been considered suitable 
for me as a young child.

Some seemed to me, even then, incongruously cheerful for such a terrible event, 
until the wonderful, bitingly-satirical Oh, What a Lovely War 
gave them a context and interpretation 
which made complete sense to me. 

As I say goodbye until my return next weekend, 
I’ll leave you with one of these, 
which I’m sure will stay with me as I visit the haunted landscape 
where so many fought and died 
and pay my respects to them and to one young Yorkshireman in particular.



Image via Google

20 comments:

  1. That clip was new to me - it's a good one.
    What a sad time that was. As you go off to pay your respects and to keep alive the memory of one young Yorkshireman, I wish you a good journey with your sister. It's a bit of a pilgrimage, as well as sister-trip isn't it?

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    1. Glad you likes the clip, Pondside. I'm not sure how wide the distribution was for Oh What A Lovely War. It's a very British film based on a hit 1960s musical.
      Yes, it does feel rather like setting off on a pilgrimage and it looks like we're going to be blessed with good weather - cold and sunny - as we visit battlefields, cemeteries and memorials. I think it will be overwhelming, so it will be helpful to have one young man from the multitude to focus on.

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  2. I remember seeing Oh What a Lovely War on the stage in Stratford(East London) - for me too it put songs I could always half remember knowing in to context.

    Came as quite a shock to discover much later that the director of the theatre, Joan Littlewood, was yet another of the loveys mixed up with the Krays.

    Keep warm!

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    1. I remember reading the rave reviews of it, Helen, but never managed to see it on the stage and had to wait for the film.

      Yes, I too remember reading the revelations about Joan Littlewood and he Krays. Shocking but not incredible, given their shared East End upbringing and Joan Littlewood's anti-establishment views.

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  3. Hari OM
    Oh yes - to say one 'loves' these songs is somehow not correct... but they hold a special place, without doubt. Safe and meaningful trip to you "P"! YAM xx

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    1. No, one couldn't 'love' songs sung by so many men who didn't come back from the war which they came to symbolise, but they are overwhelmingly evocative of time and place. I expect I'll be hearing them in my head all week.

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  4. My Dad played the piano and sang ... at home for our entertainment ... and There's a long long trail a-winding was one of his favourites.
    Thinking of you on your pilgrimage.

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    1. It's a lovely and haunting tune, Shirley, and I'm not surprised your father liked it so much. My mother played the piano too, but it was mostly classical music, though we did sing carols round the tree at Christmas to her accompaniment. If we sand songs from the war it was unaccompanied.

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  5. My father would sing Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parley-voo? (yes, with parley-voo), and even incorporated it into an hilarious skit for our church. Don't know why I remember these things, but, I do. :)
    Save travel and what I'm sure will be a meaningful time with your sister at destination's end, where you pay homage, respect to your uncle.

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    1. Those catchy songs lent themselves to this kind of use, Penny, and we remember those childhood pleasures. In my case it was chapel concerts and socials where I heard them played and sung.
      Thankfully we should have calm weather for travelling and cold and sunny weather while we're there, so I'm hoping for some good photos to capture the memories of what I think will be a very emotional time.

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  6. Yes, very catchy songs, Perpetua. Since quickly reading your post this morning, I have had Goodbyee in my head all day :) I have never seen Oh What a Lovely War but the end of the song in the film clip is very sobering and haunting, reminding me of the young Australian's who cheerfully went off like that. Safe travels, and have a wonderful trip.

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    1. Thanks, I had a marvellous time, of which more anon. If you ever get the chance to see Oh What a Lovely War, I do urge you to take it. It's an old film now, but still so piercingly accurate about the terrible waste of it all. The cheerful going-off was certainly true in many places early in the war, before the sheer scale of the slaughter became apparent.

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  7. Good-byee, Perpetua. Good-byee. Now I have that tune in my head. I loved the costumes, and the song certainly did have a catchy tune. I wonder why I have a tear in my eye?

    I hope your trip is a good one. It is wonderful to know you are paying homage to your dear predecessor.

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    1. Goodbyee is definitely a bit of an ear-worm, Sally, and it was running in my head on the coach as we travelled. The trip was wonderful and I have so much to sort through in terms of information and photographs in order to make sen se of it all.

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  8. Growing up in the 1950's I heard songs like these all the time. It wasn't until I was much older that I discovered that war was not such a jolly jape after all.
    I hope you find your visit to the graves as moving and memorable as I did.

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    1. Yes, the songs were still everywhere in the 50s, Jean, but I think the 60s and the Vietnam war and well as the wonderful BBC TV series The Great War helped to open my eyes to the reality of war.
      Both my sister and I were very moved indeed by so many aspects of the trip, especially seeing Walter's name on the Menin Gate.

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  9. I am so excited about this trip of yours, Perpetua. I have written before of my interest in World War I history, and it as at that time you called attention to the story of your uncle's death in that costly war. I am so thrilled about your trip, and I can't wait to hear all about it. I know that this must be amazingly meaningful. I will be paying attention upon your return!

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    1. Oh, Debra, I do wish you weren't halfway round the world from Western Europe! You would so much appreciate the tour we were on, wonderfully well organised and so very informative and moving. I'm starting to make sense of it all and will try to get my first impressions down in print before long.

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