A few days back I made a comment in the blog Filed and Finished- Finally about poking the fates with a stick.
Every time I hear the expression I have a visual – a young boy called Albert, poking a lion through the bars of its cage at the zoo, and the dire consequences of those actions.
Anyone around my age who grew up in England will know what I mean. It is a scene from a comic poem called Albert and the Lion by Marriott Edgar, and was recited on the radio regularly by a well-known comic of his time, Stanley Holloway. It belonged more to our Grandparents time but humour is timeless and this was passed down the generations. As a child it delighted and appalled in equal measure.
Sometimes we need to take the journey back to childhood, to remind us of things that made us feel safe and comfortable, something we often long for as adults in a strange place a long way from that childhood home.
I found the poem and the recording by Stanley Holloway and would like to share. Listen to Mr Holloway reciting as you read the words – it is his voice that gives it life and humour. It’s read in a northern England accent, which some people seem to have difficulty understanding. Unbelievable that should be so, but there you are.
Consider it Lagniappe for today!
Albert and the Lion by Marriott Edgar (1880 – 1951)
There’s a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That’s noted for fresh air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.
A grand little lad was young Albert,
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle,
The finest that Woolworth’s could sell.
They didn’t think much of the Ocean:
The waves, they were fiddlin’ and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.
So, seeking for further amusement,
They paid and went into the Zoo,
Where they’d Lions and Tigers and Camels,
And old ale and sandwiches too.
There were one great big Lion called Wallace;
His nose were all covered with scars –
He lay in a somnolent posture,
With the side of his face on the bars.
Now Albert had heard about Lions,
How they was ferocious and wild –
To see Wallace lying so peaceful,
Well, it didn’t seem right to the child.
So straightway the brave little feller,
Not showing a morsel of fear,
Took his stick with its ‘orse’s ‘ead ‘andle
And pushed it in Wallace’s ear.
You could see that the Lion didn’t like it,
For giving a kind of a roll,
He pulled Albert inside the cage with ‘im,
And swallowed the little lad ‘ole.
Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence,
And didn’t know what to do next,
Said ‘Mother! Yon Lion’s ‘et Albert’,
And Mother said ‘Well, I am vexed!’
Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom –
Quite rightly, when all’s said and done –
Complained to the Animal Keeper,
That the Lion had eaten their son.
The keeper was quite nice about it;
He said ‘What a nasty mishap.
Are you sure that it’s your boy he’s eaten?’
Pa said “Am I sure? There’s his cap!’
The manager had to be sent for.
He came and he said ‘What’s to do?’
Pa said ‘Yon Lion’s ‘et Albert,
‘And ‘im in his Sunday clothes, too.’
Then Mother said, ‘Right’s right, young feller;
I think it’s a shame and a sin,
For a lion to go and eat Albert,
And after we’ve paid to come in.’
The manager wanted no trouble,
He took out his purse right away,
Saying ‘How much to settle the matter?’
And Pa said “What do you usually pay?’
But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone.
She said ‘No! someone’s got to be summonsed’ –
So that was decided upon.
Then off they went to the P’lice Station,
In front of the Magistrate chap;
They told ‘im what happened to Albert,
And proved it by showing his cap.
The Magistrate gave his opinion
That no one was really to blame
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.
At that Mother got proper blazing,
‘And thank you, sir, kindly,’ said she.
‘What waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy Lions? Not me!’